Marriage Vows

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Marriage vows – should we re-think them and perhaps call them “no divorce vows”? What we mean is, instead of saying something endearing like “till death do us part” or “for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health”, maybe we should change the words to reflect our harried lives and the realities of a 21st century precarious type of union.

If we changed our marriage vows to something like the one we propose below, maybe people would feel more inclined to keep the marriage rate up and society can avoid having to deal with issues stemming from young adults wishing to postpone marriage to a later age. Divorce would be less rampant than the 50% that counselors are trying desperately to bring down. Amitai Etzioni, a famous sociologist said back in 1977 that if the current divorce rates continue, not one American family would exist by the 1990s. He was perhaps a bit off the wall in his calculations, but what he had in mind was the “easy come easy go” mentality that has pervaded in society’s once great institution.

Marriage Vows - Times Are-A Changing

So would these marriage vows re-direct the tide towards better stability in married life?

“I, ___take you to be my husband and shall do my very best to perform my obligations as wife and to exert my rights in those areas where I have a say. Provided the marriage is smooth and is not threatening my emotional stability, I shall certainly be faithful and may consider staying in the marriage till our death.”

Or, how about this:

I,_____do accept and wholeheartedly accept you as my wife. I shall promise to love you and support you in whatever you do, provided you handle the finances prudently and don’t go spending my earnings in a non-judicious way so as to cause our future family to go bankrupt or to be deprived of life’s basic necessities. I shall do my best to provide for your needs and wants, but I shall not bear the brunt of the mortgage alone, not if you want your name on the title.”

Sure, the audience may laugh, or the in-laws might wince, and your best man could roll his eyes, but what do the vows above connote? Honesty, for one. Two, there’s the provision for “what if” and “in case.” We’re saying “we’ll do our best”, we’re not making any promises here.

Marriage vows…hmmm, why not something along the lines of…

“I_____, as your wife, will do everything possible not to resort to divorce without first trying to patch things up with you, that I shall cooperate by dialoguing and remain receptive to the possibility of marriage counselling – anything – to avoid divorcing you.”

Now, wouldn’t that be more in line with the post-millenium era? Our grandmother’s time was joyous and marriages then were something to covet, but the good old days are gone. Welcome to today. It’s 2007 and we don’t just step into marriage graciously the way our ancestors did. It’s more like “can I think about it for 6 months?” or “Do we really need to get married when we love each other so much anyway”?

Look here, you argue, you can say all you want about living in modern times and all that, but we certainly don’t want to be the ones to change the course of history and be known for being the first to include the word “divorce” in marriage vows. Why don’t we just stick to the traditional and the acceptable? And our folks will be happy that we didn’t break tradition, at least this once.

Marriage Vows - Traditional or not so Traditional?

You have a point. Marriage is, after all, still a sacred act and since it’s the originator of families, we could show some old-fashioned respect for it by playing by the rules. We all know anyway that half of marriages end up as a divorce statistic, but we can at least, while the love and romance are still strong, give it our best shot.

All right, so it’s settled. We’ll stick with the tried and tested. Thank goodness we still have the option of going traditional or non-traditional.

Just about the only time traditional marriage vows are uttered is when we marry in the church of our religion. So if we’re Catholic or Jewish or Mormons, and we marry in a place of God with a priest, rabbi or minister or elder as officiant, then we really have to take the traditional route.

In a separate article, we talked about a few examples of traditional marriage vows. One such example is this:

“I, (Sarah/James), take you (Sarah/James), to be my (wife/husband), to have and behold from this day on, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part.”

This variation is also popular: 

“I, (state your name), take you, (state name of your husband/wife), to be my lawfully wedded (husband/wife), my constant friend, my faithful partner, and my love from this day forward. “

If you’re getting married in a civil ceremony and there are no religious rites, the following vow can be used.

“(Name), I take you to be my lawfully wedded (husband/wife).
In the presence of our witnesses I promise to love you and care for you
as long as we both shall live.
I take you to be my wife and constant companion, with all your faults and strengths,
I also offer myself to you with all my faults and strengths
I shall be there when you need me, give you support
When I need help I shall ask for your help.
Because you are the person I love with my heart and soul, and with whom I will spend the rest of my life.”

And what if the spouses come from two cultures? In melting pots such as Canada and the US and in the rest of the modern world, inter-cultural marriage vows are not as a rare as one might think.

Here is an example:

(Name), Our love has opened new horizons to worlds we’ve both lived in as children. Although I am not a part of your heritage, I have considerable respect for your heritage. We have agreed and promised to live together. Our marriage will be the fruit of our efforts to create the proper environment for mutual understanding and appreciation. I look forward to living my life in harmony with yours, your family and your friends.

Another inter-cultural marriage vow might be: 

(Name), these rings are a symbolic representation of our mutual tenderness and devotion. We promise to respect each other's cultures as we harmonize our customs and traditions to pave the way for a worthy and solid relationship. We will offer protection, support, and encouragement to each other and overcome our sorrows and share in our joys. We promise to create a home for our children that reflects both our cultural heritage so that they may flourish and grow to be productive citizens living in peace and harmony with others.

The Basics

You’re about to get married, the wedding planner seems to be in full control, the flowers have been selected, and so have the band and the photographer and the limousine service. But you’re still agonizing over your marriage vows.

Don’t panic. At least be grateful that marriage vows aren’t speeches; otherwise, your agony will turn into misery. Remember that there’s still a lot to be said about brevity. Brief vows that deliver a lot of punch are preferred than long-winded ones that say nothing in the end. Words come cheap these days so put meaning and color into your marriage vows by cutting down on verbiage.

Rehearsing your marriage vows with a friend or family member will be a huge advantage. Wiriting down your vows doesn’t end there. You’ve got to deliver those words you’ve crafted in a convincing and eloquent manner. “Say it like you mean it.” Don’t be teased as a weakling because your voice did not carry any resonance or texture. Say your vow as though it was your final chance to speak publicly. Try not to read. A vow is so sacred so maintain eye contact with your beloved while you pronounce those carefully-selected words.

And bear in mind – no matter how untraditional your marriage vows are – stay away from sex, religion and money subjects!

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