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Vows are an incredibly meaningful—and personal—part of a wedding
ceremony. They provide the contractual (both formal and informal) basis that will guide the newlyweds through their shared life together and set the tone for what is to come. While there are many creative variations of the lifelong promises, some couples prefer to recite powerful, centuries-old wedding vows from many different faiths and cultures. These tried-and-true words set a strong foundation for a lifetime of unity and marital bliss together.
While there are so many versions of the exchange, there are several core principles and beliefs that transcend both culture and faith. The ubiquitous statement of purpose (marriage) and consent may not trigger any sentimental tears from the guests, but the shared promises of lifelong commitment, partnership, love, companionship, kindness, honesty, patience, and intent to ride out any storm that may come are sure to do the trick. Plus, let’s not forget the ever-present prayer for a blessed and happy union from a higher power and expression of gratitude for having found a life partner that can be so moving and evocative.
Here are 17 traditional wedding vows to use in full or as inspiration to write your own wedding vows.
Jewish Wedding Vows
During a Jewish wedding, the couple may say these words (in Hebrew) as they exchange rings:
"I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine."
or, more traditionally:
"Harey at mekuddeshet li b'taba'at zo k'dat Moshe v'Israel."
These words translate to "Behold, thou art consecrated unto me with this ring according to the law of Moses and of Israel."
Along with the ring exchange, the Seven Blessings (Sheva Brachot) are recited. Here's a translated excerpt:
Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the universe, gladden the beloved companions as You gladdened Your creatures in the garden of Eden. Blessed are You, Adonai, Who gladdens this couple. Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the universe, Who created joy and gladness, loving couples, mirth, glad song, pleasure, delight, love, loving communities, peace, and companionship. Adonai, our God, let there soon be heard...the voice of the loving couple, the sound of the their jubilance from their canopies and of the youths from their song-filled feasts. Blessed are You Who causes the couple to rejoice, one with the other.
We bless God for creating joy and happiness, bride and groom, mirth song, gladness and rejoicing, love and harmony, peace and companionship; and we thank God for letting this bride and groom to rejoice together.
Hindu Wedding Vows
Traditionally, a Hindu nuptial union is represented in the exchange of floral garlands during the Jai Mala. More modern or fusion weddings include a ring exchange after the spouses have adorned one another with a garland.
"Let us take the first step to provide for our household a nourishing and pure diet, avoiding those foods injurious to healthy living.
Let us take the second step to develop physical, mental, and spiritual powers.
Let us take the third step to increase our wealth by righteous means and proper use.
Let us take the fourth step to acquire knowledge, happiness, and harmony by mutual love and trust.
Let us take the fifth step so that we are blessed with strong, virtuous, and heroic children.
Let us take the sixth step for self-restraint and longevity.
Finally, let us take the seventh step and be true companions and remain lifelong partners by this wedlock."
Muslim Wedding Vows
Ring exchange rituals vary greatly among different muslim cultures with many taking place during the engagement festivities rather than the wedding. For Arab muslims, the newlyweds make a show of changing their rings from the right hand to the left during the zaffe, or grand entrance of the reception. For South Asian muslims, the wedding ring may be presented before the wedding during the mahr, or dowry reveal. More contemporary or fusion ceremonies include a ring exchange during the nuptials.
Traditionally, the Muslim wedding ceremony, or nikkah, does not include vows. Instead the imam, or cleric, will provide a short sermon and marital blessing and the newlyweds will offer their consent. If Muslim brides and grooms do choose to include a vow exchange, it typically follows the recitation below.
Bride: "I, ___, offer you myself in marriage in accordance with the instructions of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him. I pledge, in honesty and with sincerity, to be for you an obedient and faithful wife."
Groom: "I pledge, in honesty and sincerity, to be for you a faithful and helpful husband."
Protestant Wedding Vows
Traditional Protestant wedding vows may be the most familiar to you. If you're nervous about slipping up, ask your cleric to perform the vows in a read-and-repeat style.
"In the name of God, I, ______, take you, ______, to be my (husband/wife), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow."
After the vows are repeated, the cleric blesses the union and rings are exchanged with the accompanying words:
"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."
Methodist Wedding Vows
These vows are a call-and-response. The only words a couple needs to remember to be wedded: "I do."
Officiant: "Will you have this (woman/man) to be your (wife/husband), to live together in holy marriage? Will you love (her/him), comfort (her/him), honor, and keep (her/him) in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to (her/him) as long as you both shall live?"
Bride/Groom: "I do."
Once the officiant blesses the union, the rings are exchanged with the following promises:
"I give you this ring as a sign of my vow, 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. Amen."
Lutheran Wedding Vows
Similar to other Christian religions, Lutheran vows can be read by the officiant and repeated by the to-be-weds.
"I, ______ , take you, to be my (wife/husband), and these things I promise you: I will be faithful to you and honest with you; I will respect, trust, help, and care for you; I will share my life with you; I will forgive you as we have been forgiven; and I will try with you better to understand ourselves, the world, and God; through the best and worst of what is to come, and as long as we live."
The officiant then blesses the union and rings are exchanged along with the following words:
"I give you this ring as a sign of my love and faithfulness. Receive this ring as a token of wedded love and faith."
Baptist Wedding Vows
There are two options for traditional Baptist vows. The first is a call-and-response from your officiant:
Officiant: "Will you, have _____ to be your (wife/husband)? Will you love (her/him), comfort and keep (her/him), and forsaking all others remain true to (her/him), as long as you both shall live?"
Bride/Groom: "I will."
The other option is a shorter version of vows—one line said by both partners:
"I, _____, take thee, to be my (wife/husband), and before God and these witnesses, I promise to be a faithful and true (husband/wife)."
The ring exchange follows along with the following words:
"With this ring, I thee wed, and all my worldly goods I thee endow. In sickness and in health, in poverty or in wealth, till death do us part."
Presbyterian Wedding Vows
Traditional Presbyterian vows offer another moving interpretation of those of other Christian religions. One variation is a simple call-and-response with the officiant.
Officiant: "______, wilt thou have this (woman/man) to be thy (wife/husband), and wilt thou pledge thy faith to (him/her), in all love and honor, in all duty and service, in all faith and tenderness, to live with (her/him), and cherish (her/him), according to the ordinance of God, in the holy bond of marriage?"
Bride/Groom: "I will."
Alternately, couples can speak their own vows.
"I, _____, take you, _____, to be my (wife/husband), and I do promise and covenant, before God and these witnesses, to be your loving and faithful (husband/wife) in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live."
The couple then exchanges wedding rings while reciting the following:
"This ring I give you, in token and pledge of our constant faith and abiding love."
Catholic Wedding Vows
Before you get to your vows, Catholic brides and grooms usually have to answer three questions from the priest:
"_____ and _____, have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?"
"Will you honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?"
"Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?"
You will respond with either "I will" or "yes," then continue onto the vows themselves:
"I, _____, take you, _____, to be my (husband/wife). I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life."
The priest then blesses each ring before the newlyweds place them on each other's fingers. As they exchange rings, each spouse recites:
"In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, take and wear this ring as a sign of my love and faithfulness."
Episcopalian Wedding Vows
In Episcopalian tradition, the to-be-weds engage in a simple call-and-response with the officiant.
Officiant: "______, wilt thou have this (woman/man) to be thy wedded (wife/husband) to live together after God's ordinance in the Holy Estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love (her/him)? Comfort (her/him), honor and keep (her/him), in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others keep thee only unto (her/him) as long as you both shall live?"
Bride/Groom: "I will."
Couples can also choose to speak their own vows, similar to those of other Christian religions.
"In the name of God, I, _____, take you, _____, to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until parted by death. This is my solemn vow."
The rings are then exchanged along with the following sentiments:
"_____, I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow, 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."
Quaker Wedding Vows
In a Quaker nuptial ceremony, each partner recites the traditional wedding vows while holding hands.
"In the presence of God and these our friends, I take thee to be my (wife/husband), promising with divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful (husband/wife) so long as we both shall live."
The newlyweds typically do not exchange rings.
Apache Wedding Vows
In Apache tradition, there may not be an exchanging of vows. However, a wedding blessing is read to the couple:
Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years. May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.
Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together. Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness, and kindness that your connection deserves. When frustration, difficulties, and fear assail your relationship, as they threaten all relationships at one time or another, remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part which seems wrong. In this way, you can ride out the storms when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives—remembering that even if you lose sight of it for a moment, the sun is still there. And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight.
Assign the reading of blessings (if appropriate) to dear ones as a way of both incorporating the messages and traditions into the ceremony and recognizing friends and family members that weren't a part of the bridal party.
While ring exchanges are not a traditional component, the newlyweds may present each other with symbolic gifts.
Cherokee Wedding Vows
In another Native American tradition, Cherokee also read a beautiful wedding blessing:
God in heaven above please protect the ones we love. We honor all you created as we pledge our hearts and lives together. We honor Mother Earth and ask for our marriage to be abundant and grow stronger through the seasons. We honor fire and ask that our union be warm and glowing with love in our hearts. We honor wind and ask that we sail through life safe and calm as in our fathers' arms. We honor water to clean and soothe our relationship—that it may never thirst for love. With all the forces of the universe you created, we pray for harmony as we grow forever young together. Amen.
Ring exchanges are not a traditional component of Cherokee weddings, but the newlyweds may present each other with symbolic gifts that are brought out by each of the newlyweds' mothers.
Buddhist Wedding Vows
In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the couple answers the first set of vows read by the officiant together. The vows are longer than in many other religions but create a sense of companionship as the two respond in unison. Here’s an excerpt:
Officiant: "_____ and _____ do you pledge to help each other to develop your hearts and minds, cultivating compassion, generosity, ethics, patience, enthusiasm, concentration, and wisdom as you age and undergo the various ups and downs of life and to transform them into the path of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity?"
Bride/Groom: "We do."
Officiant: "Recognizing that the external conditions in life will not always be smooth and that internally your own minds and emotions will sometimes get stuck in negativity, do you pledge to see all these circumstances as a challenge to help you grow, to open your hearts, to accept yourselves, and each other; and to generate compassion for others who are suffering?"
Bride/Groom: "We do."
Officiant: "Understanding that just as we are a mystery to ourselves, each other person is also a mystery to us, do you pledge to seek to understand yourselves, each other, and all living beings, to examine your own minds continually and to regard all the mysteries of life with curiosity and joy?"
Bride/Groom: "We do."
Officiant: "Do you pledge to preserve and enrich your affection for each other, and to share it with all beings? To take the loving feelings you have for one another and your vision of each other's potential and inner beauty as an example and rather than spiraling inwards and becoming self-absorbed, to radiate this love outwards to all beings?"
Bride/Groom: "We do."
Traditionally, Buddhist ceremonies do not include a ring exchange but couples may choose to adapt one.
Unitarian Wedding Vows
Unitarian vows can follow a call-and-response pattern with the officiant.
Officiant: "______, will you take ______ as your (wife/husband), will you pledge to share your life openly with (her/him), to speak the truth to (her/him), in love? Will you promise to honor and tenderly care for (her/him), to encourage (her/his) fulfillment as an individual through all the changes in your lives?"
Bride/Groom: "I will"
Alternately, each partner can recite the traditional vows.
"I, _____, take you, _____, to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish always."
The couple then proceeds to exchange rings while repeating the following:
"With this ring, I wed you, and pledge you, my love, now and forever."
Interfaith Wedding Vows
An interfaith ceremony combines the different faiths and beliefs of each partner, creating beautifully blended vows that reflect the core values of both.
"I,_____, take you, _____, to be my (wife/husband). I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love and honor you all the days of my life."
Let your officiant know that you intend to blend different traditions in your vows or ceremony in advance. This will allow them to prepare a narration that will explain the customs and beliefs to your guests in real time.
Ring exchanges for interfaith ceremonies vary greatly depending on the rituals and traditions the to-be-weds wish to honor.
Non-Denominational Wedding Vows
In this set of wedding vows from a non-denominational ceremony, the couple conducts a knot-tying unity ceremony (wherein they make a fishermen's knot—the kind that grows stronger with pressure). Then, they vow to one another:
"I, _____, commit myself to you, _____, as (wife/husband) to learn and grow with, to explore and adventure with, to respect you in everything as an equal partner, in the foreknowledge of joy and pain, strength and weariness, direction and doubt, for all the risings and settings of the sun. We tie these knots to symbolize our connection to one another. They represent our trust in each other and our combined strength together."
A ring exchange may follow depending on the preferences of the couple.
How do I write my own wedding vows?
If you choose to write your own vows, you can either go completely original or draw inspiration from traditional religious and/or cultural wedding vows. Either way, you should include certain aspects: say "I love you," tell your partner you'll be there through anything, allude to personal stories and anecdotes, make concrete promises, and acknowledge the support you'll need from friends and family.
How long should wedding vows be?
Who says their wedding vows first?
Weddings have traditionally followed a patriarchal format that adheres to heterosexual norms, meaning the groom would say his vows first. There is no need to adhere to this custom if it is not your style, however; you can decide amongst yourselves who will say their vows first.