June 20, 2009

Should you write your own wedding vows?

"In the traditional vows, the institution — marriage — makes and forms the couple; the vows set out what marriage is and what it requires. In today's write-your-own or instant-download vows, the couple picks and chooses the promises they make to each other — they make their own definition. The more casual attitudes toward the vows are probably a symptom of our more casual attitude toward marriage."

I don't know about all that. What I don't like about couples writing their own vows is that the writing is probably going to be bad. Attention is drawn away from the awesome reality of vow-taking to the particular words these 2 characters thought were so profound. You have to think about how the vows compare to the traditional vows and, before you know it, you've gone all judgmental and then you feel like you're doubting the quality of the couple's relationship and that seems pretty shabby of you.


Jim said...

There's nothing a couple can say to each other that isn't encompassed by "love, honor, and cherish."

George Orwell was a famous proponent of precision in language and brevity of thought. It was his opinion that allowing people to get away with overcomplicating simple ideas with extra flourishes and ultimately meaningless phrases gave rise to the ability to excuse even the most horrendous crimes against humanity.

(I'll spare you the details, but if you're interested then go to Wikipedia and look up Orwell's essays on the subject.)

But back to the point: there is nothing to be gained by saying in 100 words what can be succintly said in 4.

"Love, honor and cherish" cover every situation a couple will ever encounter. Everything else is just so much fluff.

jimbino said...

Just remember that marriage for love, companionship, financial security, sex and breeding is silly. You can have all those without marrying.

Marriage should be reserved for immigration, tax breaks, health insurance and windfall wealth, since those are what you need to marry for.

"Love, honor and cherish" should really read "green card, benefits and money."

Anonymous said...

klingon vows just include a proclamation;

you are now un-alone.

considering i am unemployed, uninsured and know these things well, i find the phrase so apt. that is how you know you have met the right person. You are actually feel un-alone. To know the difference is to know so much.

former law student said...

Attention is drawn away from the awesome reality of vow-taking to the particular words these 2 characters thought were so profound.

Most of what's said at a wedding is sappy. I was asked to read a poem at a friend's, years ago, from the oeuvre of Susan Polis Schutz, co-founder of the Blue Mountain Arts greeting card company. It was sappy and the marriage barely lasted seven years.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Althouse and Meade should let Titus write their vows for them.

Lem said...

You have to think about how the vows compare to the traditional vows and, before you know it, you've gone all judgmental and then you feel like you're doubting the quality of the couple's relationship and that seems pretty shabby of you.

I'm sorry but I cant help it.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Most of what's said at a wedding is sappy. ....(snip)....It was sappy and the marriage barely lasted seven years.

Neither my husband or myself can remember what was said at our own wedding 15 years ago. Our friend, who officiated, helped us pick out some verbage that was sort of non secular from the Bible. Luke, I think it was.

It really doesn't matter does it? As long as the love, honor, cherish and un-alone part work, who cares.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

We also don't really remember the exact wedding day either. It was a Saturday Memorial Day Weekend 15 years ago. They keep moving Memorial Day around (the bastards) so we just figure....close enough. I suppose I could go look it up, but why bother?

Pretty sentimental...huh?

RLB_IV said...

Just a thought, ad lib the vows in a podcast. Be sure to have Sir Archy and Blogging Cockroach as witnesses.

Lem said...

Just make sure they get the names right.

KCFleming said...

Love is a decision, made every day, to act because of another, to consider their interest, to try to do what might please them, to make them smile. Some days are harder than others.

The exact words spoken to convey this idea on the wedding day aren't particularly important. Little actions, taken every day, will write the paragraphs and chapters of the story.

The vows are just the opening sentences.

EnigmatiCore said...

If the writing on the vows is good or bad is irrelevant.

The follow-through on the vows is all that matters.

former law student said...

Titus [should] write their vows for them.

"Do you, Meade, take this pair of tits, forsaking all others, to feel, to view, to milk, to suckle, so long as you both shall live?"

- I do.

"Do you, Althouse, take this hog, forsaking all others, to jerky jerky till the Fage yogurt comes out?"

- I do.

Maxine Weiss said...

Vow -vs- Proclamation

A "vow" ... is a solemn promise intended only for the two individuals;

...and a "proclamation", is a display solely for public consumption.


Synova said...

I'm actually half convinced we should keep "obey" on the theory that the older and more traditional something seems (even if we understand that some parts aren't to be too worried over) the more weight it has.

The lady who performed the ceremony for my sister and BIL actually included a little speech about why the bride wasn't going to be "given away".

Frankly, seems to me, that the little rhetorical clues that the ceremony is OLD OLD OLD would make it richer overall. Everyone knows that times have changed, but how nice to be reminded that you're repeating a tradition that you can envision happening a thousand years ago?

rcocean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Synova said...

"It was a Saturday Memorial Day Weekend 15 years ago."

Ours was Saturday Memorial Day Weekend 22 years ago.

Too funny!

Meade said...

LOL at fls

knox said...

Should you write your own vows?

Just promise not to include the phrase "I'll always be there for you..."

bearing said...

The worst one I ever heard was the couple promising to stay together "all the days of our love."

My husband and I actually flinched, in unison, when we heard that one.

Joe said...

Best wedding vows:

Waponi Chief: Do you want to marry him?
Patricia: Yes.
Waponi Chief: Do you want to marry her?
Joe Banks: Yes.
Waponi Chief: Good. You're married.

Freeman Hunt said...

We wrote our own because my husband was a Christian, and I was a non-Christian theist. We wanted Biblical verbiage, but I was adamant that no references to Jesus be included. Of course, this was for the family dinner and exchange of vows which took place three months after we had eloped and been married by a justice of the peace. Those vows, the first ones, we didn't write.

Ralph L said...

the little rhetorical clues that the ceremony is OLD OLD OLD

My sister combined some Elizabethan verbage with a modern Quaker structure. It would have been more effective if she hadn't had a laughing fit in the middle.

traditionalguy said...

What we have here is a failure to communicate. Marriage is a contract and its terms can be negotiated. The obey part can also be left out, or said by both, or said only man to woman. The other concept under dicussion is of a Vow. A vow is religious in nature. Vows are made to God, and require a faith in God as a party to the marriage relationship to have any meaning.

Ken Pidcock said...

My partner and I spoke our own vows 28 years ago this day. We had no wish to be nontraditional. This was meant to be a ceremony of sacred commitment, but without supernatural pretense. We cherish the memory.

KCFleming said...

Congrats, kynefski.

We're 25 years in July.

I mostly remember it as yes.
The rest is rather a blur.

Freeman Hunt said...

Oh, and I'm pretty sure we didn't have "obey" in there. I'll have to pull the file to check, but I can't imagine I would gone for that. Especially not at twenty-one.

Freeman Hunt said...

I went to a wedding where the people had written their own vows, and they included a modern poem that was terrible. I think others are right in suggesting that vows should sound old.

Freeman Hunt said...

The worst one I ever heard was the couple promising to stay together "all the days of our love."

Heh. Did you ask for your gift back?

Ralph L said...

Really, Freeman, how do you keep him under control without that "obey?"

Jennifer said...

I was going to say that people should focus a little more on the marriage and a little less on the wedding, but Pogo already said that better.

Synova said...

I wouldn't have put "obey" in there at 22 either. ;-)

Cabbage said...

I had a traditional religious wedding ceremony, and there were no vows. We're both Orthodox (for reference, see the wedding scence from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding") and the gist of it went:

Priest: Either of you being coerced?
Us: Nope
Priest: Either of you married to someone else?
Us: No.
Priest: Ok, the Church therefore declares you married. Now here's what you've got to do...

I'm quite thrilled that I didn't really have a choice in how the ceremony went. It stood as an excellent beginning lesson for married life: this might be about you, but it's really not about you.

Kirk Parker said...


I can top that:

"... To live with you, and to lie with you, ... "

(To quote Dave Barry, I swear I'm not making this up. And no, that marriage didn't last. Why do you ask?)

Freeman Hunt said...

Psychology Today not getting it...

For example, you can promise that you will always strive to treat your spouse with decency and respect, even when you are angry. Or you can promise that you will never engage in an extrarelationship sexual liaison.

But then...

But can you solemnly vow that you will experience love for your partner not only tomorrow, but also in 20 or even 50 years from now? There's a decent chance that you really will love your spouse until death do you part, but promising that you will do so seems dangerous, especially if you're the sort of person who takes your solemn vows seriously.

Ignoring the obvious misunderstanding of what vowing to love someone means...

So we're more likely to fall out of love than to say something a bit disrespectful in the heat of anger? Oh, no, my bad. It says "promise to strive." What is that? Lame! "I VOW to try..." That would be the lamest set of vows ever. Why would you even bother to vow trying?

Kev said...

In the world-wide Web of wedding options, instantvows.com offers a competitive "Instant Vows Wedding Package" ($17, limited time offer).

I initially misread the name of the above website as "instavows.com," which made me think that Glenn Reynolds was operating a side business. I can imagine how those vows might go:

MINISTER: Do you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife, [snip], as long as you both shall live?
GROOM: Heh. Indeed.

knox said...

JOe, The African Queen has an excellent brief "wedding" scene as well.

Paddy O said...

We thought about writing our own vows. For about five minutes. Then decided against it. Then sort of changed our minds. We decided not to write something up from scratch, but rather to have a redacted version.

The pastor marrying us had sent us a page of sample vows to choose from. We figured that we liked elements of some, but not the entirety of any. We looked at what he sent us, went online to look at more, and pieced together a version. What we came up with together was not entirely original, but it expressed what we we felt were strong and meaningful vows, not just words to repeat.

Here's the vows and the ring exchange we threw together:


Do you, _____________, take _______________, to be your wife/husband; promising before God, and your family and friends, to be a loving and loyal husband/wife, to cherish and keep her/him for better or worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, to be faithful only to him/her as long as you both shall live?

Answer: I do.


I _______, take you _______, to be my wife/husband.

I humbly give you my hand and my heart as a sanctuary of warmth and peace, and pledge my faith and love to you.

I give you this ring as a symbol of my love; and with all that I am and all that I have, I honor you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

amba said...

It would be interesting to know how the quality and durability of the marriage correlates with the crappiness of the writing.

I'm also suspicious of people who play Pachelbel's Canon.

Ralph L said...

I went to an "Endless Love" wedding in the 80's. Divorced 2 years later.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

Why reinvent the wheel?

Gabriel Hanna said...

My dear wife and I used the traditional vows (well, we used "love honor and cherish") but with no mention of rings, as we didn't have wedding rings then (we couldn't afford them).

My wife was raised in Beijing, and I haven't been a Christian since I was old enough to think about such things for myself, we didn't have religious reasons for wanting the vows.

But we wanted the traditional vows, because marriage is bigger than us. It's not something we are making up. It is something that's been going on as long as civilization, and we are joining it, as did our ancestors before us.

Scott said...

Wedding vows? Maybe people should read their prenuptial agreements instead. Those are the only vows that will get you in trouble if you break them.

Scott said...

Oh, while we're on the subject:

Synova, thanks for the marriage proposal, but I'm going to decline.

Old RPM Daddy said...

Our vows were pretty traditional. I don't think we even considered writing our own.

Some years earlier, I attended the wedding of my girlfriend's brother. They had written their own vows, which seemed to say what the traditional script said, but took a lot longer to get through. Adding to the bad memory was the musician, who played the "Wedding Song" on his guitar (you know, the one that goes, "There is Loooooove"). As I recall, the song has no more than five or six chords, but he had sheet music, and had to pause to turn the pages. I heard people compliment him after the wedding, but I hadn't the stomach for it.

Freeman Hunt said...

Scott, if you think you come off well in that exchange with Synova, you are mistaken.