What could be more beautiful than making up your own, very personal, individual, vows of love for the person of your dreams, and proclaiming these vows in front of all your friends and family so that all might know how very much you love him or her? This is a huge privilege and you can see from the face of the bride here how much it means to her to be able to do this.
Here are some of my thoughts…
It really is a fantastic idea – but it is also more difficult than it might seem! You will want whatever you say in public to feel real, sincere and important, so not just something different. And after all, there is something rather beautiful about using the traditional vows and making the same promises as your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents did before you. (Allowing for the changed status of women these days, of course.)
A place to start might be with the traditional vows, here are some examples:
[In the presence of God and] before these witnesses I, [A]… give myself to you, [B]…, to be your wife/husband and take you now to be my husband/wife. I promise to love you, to be faithful and loyal to you, for as long as we live.
These are simple vows (from the Church of Scotland ‘Common Order’), that briefly say it all, and for this reason, they are very popular. You could use them with or without the statement ‘in the presence of God’.
GROOM/BRIDE: I, (name), take you, (name), for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part, according to God’s holy law. In the presence of God I make this vow.
Again, these (from the Church of England ‘Common Worship’) are popular and familiar, and again could be used without the mention of ‘God’ for a style that is more humanist.
Handfasting, or traditional pagan vows are usually made in the form of questions by the celebrant followed by the response of bride and groom, as follows.
GROOM and BRIDE, will you be each other’s faithful partner for as long as love lasts? Will you be to each other a constant friend and one true love?
GROOM and BRIDE respond
The first cord is tied (and so on)…
So you could follow these formats and make similar vows with a few small changes that would be meaningful to you.
Otherwise, if creating your own vows from scratch, think about the following questions:
- What do you love and appreciate most about your partner?
- What would be important for you to promise to each other?
- What are your hopes and dreams for your future together?
You will find you can come up with something like the following:
‘[NAME] I love you completely and without reservation, and especially I love your [QUALITIES]. You are like [BLANK EG NAPOLEON ] to my [BLANK EG JOSEPHINE]. I give myself to you today in the presence of [THESE WITNESSES / OUR FAMILIES AND FRIENDS / THE GODDESS] to be your [WIFE/HUSBAND/PARTNER]. I promise you my lifelong [LOVE, LOYALTY, SUPPORT AND/OR OTHER QUALITIES]. Together we will build a life of [HAPPINESS, SECURITY, ADVENTURE AND/OR OTHER QUALITIES].’
You could end with something like ‘I am happier today than I ever thought possible and my greatest hope is to make you happy too.’
If it seems too daunting to learn your vows off by heart you can write them on a small card and read them out, or you can hand-write them beautifully on expensive paper and tie it with a ribbon as a memento for your partner to keep for ever.
As an alternative to creating vows, you could, in addition to traditional vows, make a personal Declaration of Love to each other. The advantage of this is that there is no pressure at all to make these the same, and the content can be a complete surprise to your partner, so they really are more individual.
Since your vows are a contract between you, as will be the case if your ceremony is a legal one held in Scotland, it would be desirable to make yourselves equals in your undertaking. I should mention here that if you are planning to create your own vows with me as your celebrant in Scotland, I would need to see them in advance to ensure that legal requirements are met, and may require you to say some additional words after your own to make sure that this happens. I also have quite a number of alternative versions of vows which you could choose from.
Here is a good website link which give more examples of vows to get you thinking about creating your own: http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/06/wedding-vow-examples/
Or try http://offbeatbride.com/how-to-write-your-wedding-vows/ for more ideas.
There are lots of ideas to be found, but you will need to strike a balance between something that feels real without being too personal in that ‘too much information’ sense. Remember this is a solemn occasion and a test might be to ask yourself how you might feel about repeating these vows in 25 years’ time … Good luck with this, and even if in the end you decide not to create your own vows you will find it a very interesting, illuminating and bonding exercise for you to have done together.