Promises, Promises

This anonymous reading doesn’t compare with the great poets for heart-stopping impact, but it does sum up sentiments that may just perfectly reflect what you are pledging to commit.

You could have the celebrant read it on your behalf before you exchange the legal vows, or you could read it to each other, maybe taking a ‘promise’ each, as it is quite long… remember your guests will be hearing it twice otherwise. And while the ceremony is for you, you don’t want people tuning out. So I wouldn’t use this as your personal vows repeated after the celebrant, leading to people hearing it four times. Therefore, losing impact! It’s an accessible reading though and can be nicely integrated into your vows.

I Promise, Anonymous
I promise to give you the best of myself
And to ask of you no more than you can give.

I promise to respect you as your own person
And to realise that your interests, desires and needs
Are no less important than my own.

I promise to share with you my time and my attention
And to bring joy, strength and imagination to our relationship.

I promise to keep myself open to you
And to let you see through the window of my world into my innermost fears
And feelings, secrets and dreams.

I promise to grow along with you
And to be willing to face changes in order to keep our relationship alive and exciting.

I promise to love you in good times and in bad
With all I have to give and all I feel inside in the only way I know how.
Completely and forever.

Actually you could play around and personalise this – use it as a model and make your alterations so that it says all you want to say.

The Power of Marriage Vows: Pledges for Lasting Love

The exchange of marriage vows instantly changes your status from separate to conjoined – a fact that is realised in your hearts long before this moment. The pledges made publicly are just the formal marking of inner peace and fulfilment. The pledges that you make to each other are that you will do all you can to prevent the power of this moment from changing.

Recently a couple I married wanted me to elicit this commitment from them as they stood before their witnesses, together :

“ Do you pledge to help each other to develop your hearts and minds, cultivating compassion, generosity, 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, joy and equanimity?”

“ Do you pledge to preserve and enrich your affection for each other? To take the loving feelings you have for one another and your vision for each other’s potential and inner beauty and to radiate this love outwards?”

“ Do you pledge continuously to strive to remember your own Being, as well as the true nature of all living things? To maintain the awareness that all things are temporary, and to remain optimistic that that you can achieve your greatest potential and lasting happiness?”

This excerpt from Edith Aynsley’s “ Marriage Lines” follows well from these questions:

“I love and respect you, not only for what you are to me,
not only for what you will give to me, but for what you will give
to Humanity.

The world is our home,
Humankind our family.

We shall possess not each other,
For possession is destruction.

I promise you only to be myself and to help you to be yourself.
To reach our real selves we must grow, develop, change.

I pray I may never use you to inflate my own ego
but encourage you to nurture all that is best in you
for the sake of Humanity.”

Words of Commitment: Three Wedding Vows


These three “wedding” vows are words of commitment befitting the pledge between any definition of the couple.
The first is an anonymous reading often used as the personal vows before the legal commitment is made:

You are my best friend, my partner and my true love,
I will love you forever, and under all circumstances,
I will stand by you always, in good times and bad,
I will have faith in you and encourage you in everything that you do,
I will listen to you, laugh with you, and hold you,
I will work with you as we build our lives together,
I will be your best friend, your partner and your true love,
Till death do us part.

Clearly the couple doesn’t have to be heterosexual.

The next two are equally applicable to same-sex couples where, merely as a matter of lexicon, the words “husband/wife” would need to be appropriately tweaked :

From the beginning, I knew you were meant for me. The oceans could not keep us apart; and today, as you become my lawful wife/husband, all is as it should be. I accept you not only as my friend and lover, but also as my teacher and my guide, through the seasons of our new life in marriage.
I will laugh with you in the joys and happiness of the summertimes; I will offer you patience and understanding through the changes of the autumns; I will give you support and tenderness when you most need them in the winters; I will share with you the new beginnings and possibilities of the springtimes. But above all, I will love and honour you as my wife/husband till the end of our days. These are my vows to you.

And :

I give to you my promise that from this day forward you shall not walk alone.
May my heart be your shelter, and my arms be your home.
May you always be blessed.
May we walk together through all things.
May you feel deeply loved, for indeed you are.
I give you my heart, for I have no greater gift to give.
I promise I shall do my best.
I shall always try.
I feel so honoured to call you wife/husband.
I feel so blessed to call you mine.
May we feel this joy forever.

Unique Marriage Vows from the 90s


This is one of the first variations on marriage vows that I came across – a couple I was marrying in the 90s came up with these promises:

Today as I take you for my wife / husband,
I cannot promise you
That I will not change or
That my faults will never show,
I cannot promise you
That I will not have many different moods or
Never be erratic.
I cannot promise you
That I will not hurt your feelings sometimes or
That I will always be strong.

I can promise you
That I will always be supportive of you and
Understand everything that you do.
I can promise you
That I will share my thoughts and feelings with you and
Always laugh and cry with you.
I can promise you
That I will give you freedom to be yourself and
Help you achieve your goals
I can promise you
That I will always be faithful to you and
Always be completely honest with you
And most of all,
I can promise you that I will always love you.

These words have proved a very popular choice – they get a response from the wedding guests because they are realistic and personal. In fact there is great potential for personalizing these vows further – you could use them as a model for describing individual traits. You are only limited by your literary ability and imagination!

Crafting Meaningful Wedding Vows for a Stronger Marriage

Exchnaging vows copy

The vows you make on the wedding day are the essence of your marriage and the foundation of your relationship. Before you are married you should spend some time figuring out what it is you are promising to your partner. This is worth more marriage education than any that can be imposed on you from others! Say what you mean on the day and mean what you say and you can’t go wrong.

These personal vows were really nicely executed : sometimes couples will keep their vows from each other until the day of the wedding, but these vows were worked on by the couple together, alternating their well thought-out promises:

When I stand before you, I promise to guard and protect, and be the guide to direct you;

When I stand before you, I promise to be inspirational and encouraging, yet patient and comforting;

And when I stand behind you, I will encourage and motivate, and entrust my strength and discipline to you;

And when I stand behind you I will be proud and trusting, and provide support that is both gracious and generous;

And when I stand beside you, I will stimulate and challenge you, and explore and share with you.

And when I stand beside you, I promise to be sharing and honest, genuine and loving.

Today it is with pride that I take you as my wife/husband.

Legal vs Personal Marriage Vows: What You Need to Know

As you know if you have read my blogs the legal, binding vows of marriage are quite specific and cannot be altered. You must use each other’s full names and say “ I call upon the persons here present to witness that I take you as my lawful wife/ husband/spouse.”
You can throw in the word “ wedded” – but that is the only variant allowed.

However, you can also make your own personal marriage vows to each other and in those you can use whatever words you like (as long as they don’t negate the legal statement!)

Here are some vows that maintain the ritual and beliefs of the pagan ceremonies I have described in other blogs:

“We call upon all spirits and energies who serve the light, and you here present to witness how we two take the vows of marriage.
By this fire which warms us both (pass hands through candle flame)
By this water which together we drink (celebrant offers goblet)
By the breath of our love which binds our hearts together,
By these rings whose precious metal the earth provides,
So we engage as husband and wife in solemn wedlock in accordance with the laws of man, the universal love of God, and the benevolent grace of nature divas.”

I usually advise couples to make the personal vow first and then to seal it with the legal words. After these words have been exchanged, the marriage has taken place. That is a nice moment to savour before the public announcement or the signing of the documents (without which the marriage is still legal).

Writing Personalised Vows for Your Civil Ceremony: A Guide

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The vows are the crux of the ceremony – they make the marriage legal.
In every civil ceremony I encourage couples to write or choose their own vows.

I have many you can choose from but you are strongly encouraged to put together your own promise of future commitment. The vows may refer to your personal circumstances, allude to secrets between you or shared with your nearest and dearest, or fulfill your role as parents… so give some time to think about what you are actually promising each other. It is the foundation of your lives together! This is your commitment.

These personal vows, however, are not enough in themselves to make your marriage legal.
This is what you have to say before me and two witnesses to make a marriage:
“ I (full name) call upon the persons here present to witness that I take you
( full name) to be my lawful wife/husband/spouse).” Not a word more nor less. These are the “legal vows”.

If I've told you this before it’s because it’s important! As soon as you've said this to each other YOU ARE MARRIED. Even without signing documents, even if your marriage is not registered, you are married – no turning back!

Next you can exchange rings – or one ring – or none: this step is optional but integral to a wedding ceremony. Usually the exchange of rings comes as a discrete step after the vows and can involve a ring-bearer or best man – i.e. it can give someone you love a role to play in the ceremony in stepping forward to present you with the rings. In this, it is an honour - to entrust someone with your wedding bands. Sometimes though the rings are exchanged during the delivery of the personal vows – it just seems to follow nicely. In this case it works if you just produce the ring you have been keeping for each other in a pocket or purse.

It is the exchange of rings that is the culmination of the ceremony – the moment your guests have been waiting for, because straight after follows the public announcement of you as two individuals, united in marriage.

Legal Declarations and Traditions in Australian Weddings

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We don’t say that in Australian wedding ceremonies – the statutory declaration that you sign before you can be married takes care of this clause! However, hearing the words from the Marriage Act clears the way for the ceremony to proceed, as does the

“Giving Away”, which albeit optional and archaic serves as a precursor to the next, more pertinent question, “ Do you take…?”

The “ Giving Away” is sometimes called the “Presentation” and doesn’t have to be conferred by the bride’s father – rather it is an opportunity for anybody, friend or family, to speak on behalf of everyone in support of the marriage. It is a kind of blessing then – in fact all the guests can answer “We do!”.

A bride can be “ given away” by both parents, mother, brother, son, children…or not ‘”given away” at all. This step is entirely optional. But before discounting it, consider what it adds to the ceremony to include this stage in the sequence leading up to the vows.

The “Giving Away” leads into the next optional question – this one is arresting, spine-tingling, the crux of the matter… in my material there are many variations of the “Asking”. It is the “Do you take…?” or the “Will you …?” question – and the answer must be affirmative. You do. You will. That’s why you are here. As if the answer could be “ No”.

Excerpts from Sharon Old’s poem “ The Wedding Vow” sums up the significance of the “ Asking”. The “ Asking” makes your heart stand still.

“………………We stood
holding each other by the hand…..
……..I felt as if I had come
to claim a promise……
…..I had been working toward this love
all my life. And then it was time
to speak – he was offering me, no matter
what, his life. That is all I had to
do there, to accept that gift
I had longed for – to say I had accepted it,
as if being asked if I breathe. Do I take?
I do. I take as he takes – we have been
practising this. Do you bear this pleasure? I do.”