Your wedding vows reflect the essence of your relationship and direct what happens after the wedding.
They state what actions you commit to doing to create your marriage. Even if your ceremony has pre-set vows, you can share your own personal vows as part of the reception, perhaps before the toasts.
And after marriage?
Anniversaries are great for reviewing the promises you made in your vows and setting goals for anything that’s off-course. And, if you didn’t write down before marriage what you want to have together, it can still be helpful to do it now.
Writing your own vows:
1. Provides Couple Reflection Time: Your vows will reflect what’s important to both of you if you talk about them as you write them. This is true whether they are individual vows or a mutual one you both craft together. Couples sometimes get stuck on the romance of hearing individual vows for the first time at the wedding. But then do they truly reflect your united hearts and minds?
2. Highlights Potential Challenges: Sometimes you don’t realize that the two of you are on different pages until you write your vows. It’s wise to pay careful attention to where you have differing visions of your marriage. Do you change course? Do you get some counseling from a family member or professional? It’s vital to address any differences and not just push through to the wedding hoping for the best. It’s unwise to leave creating your vows until the last minute!
3. Creates a Commitment: Thinking through what’s vital in your relationship and what you want your marriage to look like in action gives voice to what you truly commit to create. You can include how you will speak to and act with one another and what activities you will do together as marriage partners. You can envision your marriage and family and what it will take to fulfill it.
4. Connects You to Family and Community: When you make your vows public in front of people who care about you, they can help you with fulfilling them. They can also hold you accountable at times through reminding you what you promised and holding you to it.
5. Reflects Your Personal Beliefs: You can align your vows with what is most important to the two of you. For example, as couples increasingly embrace equal partnership in their relationships, the word “obey” often does not work. The new model for marriages is respectful and joint consultation and decision-making. A wife might occasionally defer to a husband and a husband to a wife, but practicing equality means neither has the right to dictate to the other and expect obedience. Your vows could reflect a perspective like this.
Some couples may simply create a vision statement for their marriage and share it at the ceremony. Here is one given as an example by John Curtis, Ph.D., in All-in-One Marriage Prep: 75 Experts Share Tips and Wisdom to Help You Get Ready Now:
“Our vision for our relationship is one where we will have complete trust and honesty, free of fears or anxieties, and full of acceptance and support. We each will be devoted to helping one another reach our full potential through the ever-increasing exploration of who we are as partners and parents and by expressing our individuality. We will be close to God, Who will bless us with lives full of deep meaning. We will continue to explore our world and include our family members whenever possible. We will be free of material burdens while living a rich and full life.”
Other vows will be more complex. Here is a portion of the detailed one used by Terri Muuss (a life coach), and Matthew Pasca (a teacher) of Long Island, New York, when they married:
• Treat each other with love, honor, respect, courtesy, and integrity.
• Be examples of service to ourselves, each other, our families, friends, and communities.
• Deal with issues that arise as soon as possible.
• Be playful, have fun, and incorporate humor into daily life.
• Act with integrity in all things, particularly in our finances, our work, and our service commitments.
• Enrich our lives with the arts.
Terri says, “Designing concrete, specific vows as opposed to more general ones has made it so much easier to remind ourselves of the importance of tending to our partnership on a daily basis. Being of service, laughing, and dealing with issues immediately have just become part of the routine of our lives, as opposed to a grandiose claim made once many years ago at our wedding.” [An expanded list of possible vow items is in All-in-One Marriage Prep.]
Whatever way you choose to do your vows, the key is to do them together and weeks in advance of the wedding. And then have a great time making your promises come true in your marriage!