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.