Writing your own wedding vows will almost always garner tears, so it's no surprise that more and more to-be-weds are straying from the traditional and opting for more modern, personalized wedding vows. Another benefit of penning personal promises? In lieu of conventional wedding vows, you can write feminist wedding vows that show that you and your partner are truly equal. This is the perfect moment to share personal ideals and values, both as individuals and as a unit, for the life you hope to build together on your own terms.
In 1981, Princess Diana made headlines for not to including the word "obey" in her vows to Prince Charles. Instead, she promised to "love him, comfort him, honor, and keep him, in sickness and in health," giving way to an ongoing, international discussion about the language used during a wedding ceremony. Feminist brides rejoiced, and the modernization of traditional nuptial proceedings was officially set in motion and perpetuated by many a contemporary bride including Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, who both followed suit by omitting the word "obey."
To help you write wedding vows that are rooted in both reflection and equality, we've pulled together real-wedding examples and expert advice from Angie Sommer and Alicia Ostarello, co-founders of professional vow-writing service, Vow Muse.
Feminist Wedding Vow Template
While some couples opt to write their own vows, others choose to revise the familiar giving new meaning to the age-old phrase "to love, honor, and obey." Regardless of which option resonates, we've put together an outline to get you started.
1. Tell your partner how much they mean to you. Because if not now, when? It's important to start vows, and marriage, with a few simple words that let your partner know how grateful you are for having them in your life and just how much you care about them. A simple "I love you," goes a long way here.
2. Get a little gushy. This may be one of very few times when you can gush about how wonderful your partner is without everyone rolling their eyes. There are so many qualities that made this human stand out to you and catapulted them far above the rest. Share some of them out loud so that guests can see them through your eyes for just a moment.
3. Reframe meaningful stories. Framing your intentions for the marriage as a give and take between equals, instead of just making promises, is a subtle way of shedding the notions of a traditional power dynamic. "Instead of focusing exclusively on your promises to your partner, be sure to include stories about what they have given you and how they make you a better person," advises Sommer. "In essence, this is showcasing their value to you and giving the audience a glimpse into the true reasons behind your love." She adds that in doing so, you will also be complimenting your partner and giving them credit for their support.
4. Make balanced promises. You can absolutely still make promises to one another. These wouldn't really be vows without them. Just focus on illustrating them in terms of reciprocity and equality. And maybe steer clear of that infamous obey. "Obviously do away with any implication of possession or explicit power imbalance," says Ostarello. "It almost goes without saying that this isn't appropriate to most people anymore, and making sure to avoid this is low-hanging fruit when crafting feminist wedding vows."
Try to avoid any obvious stereotypes. "If you are the bride and you, in fact, do much of the household work that is 'traditionally' attributed to women, be sure to remember other contributions that you make to the relationship that may be less gendered—like your accounting superpowers when it comes to the family budgeting," suggests Sommer. "And the same goes for men; not every anecdote and promise should be associated with strength and masculinity. If you're the house chef, say so, and if you've got a knack for sewing, promise your wife that you'll happily repair the rips in her jeans or knit her a scarf each Christmas."
Feminist Wedding Vow Tips
While balancing feminist ideals and gender equality throughout vows can be difficult, several real brides and grooms share the tips that helped them find their perfect words.
1. Ensure a balanced exchange. "We wanted there to be balance in the opening lines; we didn't want to be identical because we're different people working on different things, but we wanted to make sure each person's promise was met with a similar one," explains Chloe Pinkerton. Having a discussion with your partner about vow expectations can go a long way in staying on the same page.
Ostarello suggests coming to an agreement on a target length, general format, and expected tone first. "Each partner's vows can and should reflect them as an individual, but it is important to make sure that one person doesn't significantly outshine the other and that expectations are clear," she explains. "This is common courtesy to your partner, but it also ties into the basic tenets of feminism."
2. Replace gendered or possessive language. "The word 'partner' (rather than 'husband' or 'spouse') was important to us because it involves the idea of equality and doesn't have any of the possession connotations that some of the other partnership words involve. We also wanted to steer clear of the idea that men and women have defined, gendered roles in a relationship," says Pinkerton. The couple also chose not to use some of the more common phrases, like "to have and to hold" and to "take [your partner]" because, as Pinkerton explained, "the language felt very ownership-centric, and as a result, dehumanizing."
3. Revise traditional vows. Injecting individual values and perspectives into a conventional cultural or religious vow structure can be a great alternative if having both aspects is important. "I think the traditional vows end up capturing most of what people try to say when they write their own anyway—with some minor tweaks in our case," Peter Rocco explains. Despite using traditional vows as guidelines, the couple made it clear they were entering an "equal, loving partnership" by tweaking, substituting, or removing any phrases that didn't speak to them. "I felt pretty strongly that it was important to have something about partnership even if we didn't call each other partners," says his wife Marie-Ellen Ehounou .
4. Choose the right officiant. Find an officiant who shares your ideals and beliefs. When writing her vows, Abigail Myers says she "didn't have to think too hard about shedding the patriarchal elements of a traditional Christian wedding because our church is wildly progressive, and our (female) pastor is a fierce feminist, so we trusted her implicitly and absolutely to use egalitarian wording."
Answer These Questions to Get Started
One way to bring equality into your vows is to agree on some ground rules first. Sentiments can still be kept a secret from one another until the big day, just make sure you're both generally on the same page regarding the following:
- Should the promises be serious or funny?
- Are there any shared values or a common outlook that you both want to include?
- Are there any particular phrases (religious, cultural, literary, etc.) that should be incorporated into the vows?
- Do you want the vows to be super-personal, with shared experiences and inside jokes, or prefer to stick to a more general and generic structure?
Feminist Wedding Vow Examples to Inspire Your Own
"Tyson, when we met, I honestly wasn’t looking for a boyfriend, much less a husband. So I’ll start these vows by thanking you for persisting past my cold shoulder, because sharing that first unexpected lunch with you ended up being one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. In our time together, I’ve grown to discover more of my strengths and better understand my weaknesses. I’ve learned that I love living with Mr. Trivia, who knows the answers to all my questions off the top of his head. And I’ve learned that having an unbelievably patient, understanding person as a partner is an incredible gift that I am so grateful for.
But what you’ve really taught me–besides how to truly relax on the weekends–is the joy of being equals in a partnership
You balance me in a way I didn’t know I needed, and in doing so, you elevate me to a new level of myself. With you, I’ve realized that life is short and that some things are worth taking a leap of faith for. And so we are here, taking that leap together. I can’t imagine another person I’d rather be marrying today. Tyson, I promise to always laugh at all your witty jokes, to continue to learn from the wealth of knowledge stored away in that amazing brain of yours, and to always make an effort to understand your point of view when we disagree. I promise to always close your book when you fall asleep reading and to make you coffee each morning. Most of all, I promise to learn and grow with you with each passing day. I know that nothing in this world is perfect, including the two of us, but I also know that the reality of love is so much better than the fantasy of perfection. I love you." —Tanya
"I promise to love and support you as you continue to grow and learn. I promise to make time to play your favorite games and mine.
I promise to try to make the world a better place with you.
I promise to laugh with you and cry with you through good times and bad. Most of all, I promise to be your equal partner forever." —Chloe Pinkerton & Ross Kennedy-Shaffer
"It’s been a long journey getting here, but I wouldn’t trade one second of it for the world. I remember that day in fall when I first knew that you were 'the one,' when I realized what an extraordinary man you were, and when I knew that we had a future together. Over the years, we’ve walked, jogged, and also stumbled down many roads, all of them making our relationship stronger and more loving. You are my sunshine, my inspiration, and my biggest supporter. It is amazing for me to share my days with somebody who’s always discovering 'the best' and 'the greatest' of what life has to offer! You light up my world every single day, even when the sun’s not shining, simply by being yourself.
And since the first day we met, you’ve accepted me exactly as I am, making me feel perfectly at home with you no matter where we are or what we’re doing.
You’ve dug in deep with me, too, never fearing to ask the 'whys' that challenge my assumptions and keep me motivated, learning, and growing. You have always wanted to make my dreams come true. And today, you have. I know that, as your wife, you will value me with the same extraordinary care and attention that you give to all the wonderful people in your life. I have faith that the family you and I are forming today will be every bit as amazing as the families we both come from. And I know that we’ll continue to push each other to become better people and better partners day after day. I promise to love and support you in good times as well as bad. I promise to listen to you, to grow with you, and to encourage you to be your best self. I promise to share my adventurous spirit and to always keep you on your toes. I promise to only be a little bit bossy when it comes to making sure we're exercising enough. Most importantly, I promise to always cook you the 'best meal you’ve ever had!' I love you Johnathan, and I know that each day we’re together will be the 'greatest day ever' for the rest of our lives." —Jamie
"I promise to support your ambitions and dreams.
I will comfort you when you can't be strong, and I will lean on you when you can.
And, most simply of all...I will love you." —Fiona Tapp