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Writing your own vows - Part 1
Writing your own marriage vows? Not sure where to begin? Today's blog is the first of two parts - written by TCN Celebrant, author and today's guest blogger, Susanna Jose from Canberra, ACT.
The following two blog posts are extracts from the chapter on writing your own vows in my book ‘Marry Me! A guide to couples planning their marriage ceremony.
The vows you make to each other are among the most important parts of the marriage ceremony. A vow is a promise or pledge. You make vows in front of others because you want to make a public declaration about the strength of your love. Even if your marriage ceremony involves just yourselves, the celebrant and the two witnesses, the essential element is the legally binding vow you make to each other.
Other promises in the marriage ceremony, may include those made to the couple by family, by the couple as they answer the Asking question or as they exchange rings.
When do we say the vows in the ceremony?
The following brief structure of a marriage ceremony (without readings, other rituals or music) shows where vows and promises arise:
- Welcome and introduction
- Couple’s story/words about marriage
- Pledge of family support
- The Asking question
- The Monitum
- Legal marriage vows/personal vows
- Exchange of rings
- Declaration of marriage
Legal marriage vows
The legal vows are said by each person to the other, usually phrase by phrase after the celebrant. Each person says,
‘I call upon the people here present, to witness that I, (Full Name), take you (Full Name) to be my lawful wedded wife/spouse/partner.’
Most couples, even those planning the simplest of marriages ceremonies, want a small personalisation or addition to the legal vows.
While couples want to make their vows unique, personal and about each other, they may not know where to start. Your celebrant can make suggestions. Of course you can Google ‘vows’—so long as you are willing to sift through the ads—and make sure you are able to use someone else’s words.
Wendy Haynes, in her book Create Your Own Inspiring Wedding Ceremony, suggests that a good way to start the process of writing your vows is to write a love letter to your partner.
I’ve developed a two-step method of tailoring your own vows. It is best for each person to have a go at this, even if you end up with shared vows. It helps you be very clear about your feelings.
Jot down five things you love about the other person. As an example, if I was writing about my husband, my five things would be:
- Supporting and caring
- Easy to talk to and get along with
Next, write five ways you will show your love to the other one. My five ways would be:
- Giving my love
- Supporting in good times and hard times
- Laughing at his ‘Dad’ jokes
- Doing things together.
The last list is to write five ways in which you will show your commitment to the other and the marriage. My five ways of showing commitment:
- Promising loyalty
- Fidelity or (being faithful)
- Working together to resolve conflict
- Having shared dreams
- Being a friend as well as a lover.
Once you’ve written your lists, you’ve done the hardest part. The next steps help you to create your personalised vows.
Step 2—Using the lists to create your personal marriage vows
The personalised marriage vow goes either before or after the legal marriage vow. To demonstrate this vow, I’m going to my first list to say how I feel about the other person, and then looking at the other lists to say what I will do in the marriage.
‘I call upon the people here present to witness that I, Susanna Helen Jose, take you David Alexander Moncrieff to be my lawfully wedded husband.
‘David, to me you are loving, caring, easy to talk to and get along with, funny and generous. I promise to be a good listener, your biggest supporter, to work with you to resolve conflict, to laugh at your ‘Dad’ jokes and to give you my love always.’
Marriage ceremonies can include other declarations or promises, in addition to the legal and personal vows. These may be words spoken by the couple or others involved in the ceremony.
Declaration of family support
This is a really nice alternative or addition to the old and often stereotyped question: ‘Who brings this woman to be married to this man today?’ The families of the bride and groom, or the parents of the couple, stand and make a declaration of support for the pair, for example,
‘Do you Maria, Jack, Chloe and Bill promise to provide ongoing love and support to Mary and John, helping them to build a loving, happy and resilient marriage?’
Mary and John’s family members then answer:
The family support declaration or promise can be adapted for various circumstances. Step-parents or extended family can be included, adult or teenage children may take the place of the parents and make the promise of love and support.
The Asking question
The Asking question is the one which is answered with, ‘I do’ or ‘I will’. To illustrate, again using the list I wrote about my husband, my Asking question could be:
‘Do you Susanna, take David to be your husband, promising to give your love, your support in good times and hard times, and to build your shared dreams together?’
Including children or blended families
Where one or both of the couple being married has children from a previous relationship, it is great to include the children in the ceremony. Acknowledging the children of the previous relationship in your vows makes a very strong public statement of support.
A promise with the exchange of rings
The ring is a visible symbol of the marriage vows you make. Go back to the lists you made as you were preparing the marriage vows, draw on any of the points you have not yet used, or repeat the words most important to you. Add a time frame like, ‘always’, ‘forever’ or ‘as long as I live’ and you’ll have your ring promise.
It does not matter how many times you repeat the word ‘love’ in the marriage ceremony!
Stay tuned for part 2...
If you would like to contact Susanna, here are her contact details:
Thanks for this blog. As a new celebrant it gives me ideas for my web page. I’ve bought your book too.