Wedding vows are the promises you make to your partner during your wedding ceremony. Naturally, every couple wants them to be heartfelt, romantic and meaningful, so there’s a lot of pressure to get them right!
Do you go with tried and tested traditional wedding vows or choose something contemporary and modern? Should you write your own, or (whisper) get a professional to write them for you? If you write your own, where do you start? What do you say?
Don’t panic! We’ve put together a complete guide to wedding vows for you.
Whether you’re penning yours months in advance or furiously scribbling them hours before the ceremony (not advisable, FYI!), here’s how to write your wedding vows plus some great example wedding vows to inspire you. Plagiarism encouraged!
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Why Do We Say Wedding Vows?
Image: Suzi Photography
Let’s get this out the way first – why do you *actually* say wedding vows? Whether you go for traditional or modern wedding vows, the purpose of them is to make promises to your partner about your commitment and love for them. Marriage vows started in Ancient Rome when the bride’s father would deliver her to the groom and the two would mutually vow to marry. Luckily, it’s a little more romantic these days!
The Church of England vows we use today date back to the 16th century Book of Common Prayer. The classic ones you’ll know are “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part”. It’s a pretty simple way of saying, “I’ll stand by you for life”. The word “obey” used to be snuck in there for brides too, but it started being ditched in 1928.
There are set words you have to say for your marriage to be legally binding, but other than that you can go wild. If you want to personalise your vows so they better reflect you as a couple or your circumstances (maybe you already have kids and want to mention them), you can do that. All the examples below and tips on how to write your vows will be indispensable.
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What Are the Traditional Wedding Vows?
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Remember, your vows aren’t about impressing the congregation. It’s about telling the person you love how you feel, truthfully, and promising that you’ll stand with them, whatever life throws at you.
There’s nothing wrong with choosing ‘off-the-hanger’ vows. After all, they’ve stood the test of time for a reason. There are plenty of other ways to personalise your wedding. So, here are some of the traditional wedding vows you can expect to be offered:
READ MORE: 15 Wedding Traditions and Their Meanings
Church of England Ceremony
Vows: I [Name] take you [Name] 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, till death us do part, according to God’s holy law. In the presence of God I make this vow.
Exchange of rings: [Name] I give you this ring as a sign of our marriage. With my body I honour you, all that I am I give to you, and all that I have I share with you, within the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Vows: I [Name] take you [Name] 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 you and honour you all the days of my life.
Alternative: I [Name] take you [Name] for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
Exchange of rings: 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.
Traditional vows: I call upon these persons here present, to witness that I [Name] do take thee [Name] to be my lawful wedded wife/husband.
Modern vows: I [Name] take you [Name] to be my wedded wife/husband.
These may be slightly extended, eg: I call upon these persons here present, to witness that I [Name] do take thee [Name] to be my lawful wedded wife/husband, to be loving, faithful and loyal to thee in living our married life together.
Exchange of rings – traditional vows: I give you this ring as a symbol of our love. All that I am I give to you. All that I have I share with you. I promise to love you, to be faithful and loyal, in good times and bad. May this ring remind you always of the words we have spoken today.
Exchange of rings – modern vows: I give you this ring as a sign of our love, trust and marriage. I promise to care for you above all others, to give you my love, friendship and support, and to respect and cherish you throughout our life together.
Some registrars will also have alternatives for you to choose from, such as these from Oxfordshire County Council:
Vows: I promise that I will respect you as an individual, support you through difficult times, rejoice with you through happy times, be loyal to you always and, above all, love you as my wife/husband and friend. I promise to love and respect you, helping our love grow, always being there to listen, comfort and support you, whatever our lives may bring.
Exchange of rings: I give you this ring as a sign of our love, trust and marriage. I promise to care for you above all others, to give you my love, friendship and support, and to respect and cherish you throughout our life together.
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How Do You Write Your Own Wedding Vows?
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First, decide this is something you both want to do. Writing your own wedding vows can add a lot of pressure and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using the traditional vows. If you’re both committed to writing your own vows then follow these four steps.
1. Get Some Ideas Down on Paper
Head to a park or cafe where it’s quiet with a pen and paper or your tablet. You might find it easier to write your vows in stages so start by making some notes.
Here’s a few questions you can think about to get you started and give you ideas on what to say:
- When did you first meet?
- How did you get together?
- When did you realise she/he was the one?
- What little details make you smile when you think of him/her?
- How do you balance each other out? Is he super-organised, whereas you’re more of the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type?
- Why are you getting married? What does it mean to you?
- What promises do you want to make for a happy marriage?
Don’t worry about constructing perfect sentences or how things sound to start with, just get your ideas down. You may well end up with pages and pages. Great! Once you have plenty of notes, you can choose the bits that really stand out to you, and then start polishing them up. The reason you’re writing your own vows is to make them personal, so don’t rush deciding what you want to say.
READ MORE: 17 Rules for Writing Your Own Vows
2. Research Other Wedding Vows
Read lots of examples of other people’s wedding vows (handily, we’ve got lots below) and see if you prefer a more traditional or modern style. Do you want religious or secular wedding vows? Are they going to be funny or emotional? Will it be promises, or a speech or a poem?
Talk to your partner and set some basic ground rules, like length and tone. You might not want to hear each other’s before the wedding day but you ought to be on the same page. You promising to love them on their deathbed versus them vowing not to binge-watch Netflix without you is a little incongruous. Similarly, are their any words you both disagree on, such as “to obey”? Ask a close friend to read both and see if the complement each other.
3. Whittle Down Your Notes Into Vows
Your vows should only be around a minute long per person. Pick out 5-7 of the most important things you want to say to your partner and use them as the foundation of your vows. You’ll want a mix of the reasons you love them and some key promises you want to make to them for your life together.
Keep sentences fairly short, and avoid any words that could trip you up. You’ll also want to keep your vows succinct enough for you to memorise them (though do have them printed out, just in case stage fright hits).
You can write a longer version of your vows in a letter to give to your partner on your wedding night if there’s more to say.
4. Practise Saying Them
Practise saying them aloud in front of a mirror, or to a friend, and keep adjusting until you’re happy. Your vows need to ring true to how you feel and how you’d speak. On the day, it’s nice to have them memorised but absolutely not necessary. You’ll find if you practise them enough, they’ll stick in your head so you won’t need a prompt. Here’s some tips on how to deliver a speech which can help you out when giving your vows too.
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Wedding Vow FAQs
Image: Jacqui McSweeney
1. Are We Allowed to Write Our Own Vows?
For some ceremonies, particularly religious ones, you may not have the option of writing your own vows. Civil ceremonies are usually a bit more fluid, but you will still need to let your officiant know that you’re writing your own vows a few weeks beforehand, and discuss any practicalities, such as timing, with them.
For your marriage to be legal when you’re getting married in the UK, you will need to both state certain phrases.
For most services, these will include:
Traditional: “I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I [Name] may not be joined in matrimony to [Name].”
Modern: “I declare that I know of no legal reason why I [Name] may not be joined in marriage to [Name].”
Alternative: “Are you [Name] free, lawfully, to marry [Name]?” for you to reply “I am”.
Many officiants will be happy for you to say additional personal vows once the legal vows have been said.
READ MORE: Funny Wedding Vows For Honest Couples
2. Should We Hear Each Other’s Vows in Advance?
It’s really up to the two of you whether you want to wait until your wedding day to hear each other’s vows. Many people love the anticipation of not knowing what their partner is going to say, while for others, it would just be another thing to worry about.
Some partners write joint vows, which can be a lovely way to start your life together. It also means you can alternate lines, which can really help if you’re feeling nervous about speaking in front of everyone.
3. Do I Include My Children in My Wedding Vows?
If you have children, either together, or from before you met, you’ll likely want them to be a big part of your wedding, so it can be a lovely idea to include them in your vows. For example “I promise to love and care for you and Jacob.”
READ MORE: Our Guide to Giving a Bride Speech
4. Can I Keep All These Promises?
There’s nothing wrong with making some of your vows humorous, but do keep in mind that these are your wedding vows. You should mean everything you say, so it might not be the best time for flippant promises that you can’t stick to. Consider how you both might feel if you end up breaking one of your vows because it was impossible to keep; how would it make you feel about the rest of your commitments?
5. How Long Should Wedding Vows Be?
Your wedding vows should be one minute in length maximum. You don’t want your wedding ceremony to drag on and you’ll have plenty of opportunity to talk about your love for each other during the speeches. Time yourself and if it’s longer than a minute, cut it down.
Traditional or religious wedding vows aren’t for everyone. Sometimes you want something that sounds a bit more up-to-date and true to you as a couple. These example modern wedding vows and the funny vows below are great for just that! Whether it be lines from a favourite TV show or come from the heart, modern wedding vows have no boundaries as long as they’re meaningful to both of you.
6. Who Says Their Vows First – The Man or Woman?
Traditionally, the groom says his vows first followed in turn by the bride. That said, some couples may choose to say them in unison to each other, and if you’d rather the bride go first, speak to your registrar or celebrant well in advance to see if it’s something that can be arranged.
If you’re having a same-sex wedding, it is totally up to you who goes first. Again, it’s a case of deciding between yourselves in advance and letting your registrar know.
Whatever you choose, it is tradition for the couple to face each other and join hands as they say their vows.
READ MORE: 35 of the Most Romantic Quotes From Literature
Example Modern Wedding Vows
Image: Jordanna Marston
“I join my life with yours. Wherever you go, I will go; whatever you face, I will face. For good or ill, in happiness or sadness, come riches or poverty, I take you as my husband/wife, and will give myself to no other.”
“I love you, [Name]. You are my best friend. Today I give myself to you in marriage. I promise to encourage and inspire you, to laugh with you, and to comfort you in times of sorrow and struggle.”
“I promise to love you in good times and in bad, when life seems easy and when it seems hard, when our love is simple, and when it is an effort. I promise to cherish you, and to always hold you in highest regard. These things I give to you today, and all the days of our life.”
“Groom: In your eyes, I have found my home.
In your heart, I have found my love.
In your soul, I have found my mate.
With you, I am whole, full, alive.
You make me laugh.
You let me cry.
You are my breath, my every heartbeat.
I am yours.
You are mine.
Of this we are certain.
You are lodged in my heart.
The small key is lost.
You must stay there forever.
Bride: You are my inspiration and my soul’s fire.
You are the magic of my days.
You help me laugh, you teach me love.
You provide a safe place for me, unlike I’ve ever known.
You free me to sing my own song.
You are more of an amazement to me, each day I rediscover you.
You are my greatest boon.
I am yours.
You are mine.
Of this we are certain.
You are lodged in my heart.
The small key is lost.
You must stay there forever.”
(From Frau Ava, translated by Willis Barnstone)
“[Name], from this day forward I promise to be worth it. Worth the time. Worth the trip. Worth the energy. Worth the embarrassment. Worth your love. I promise that you will always count. You will always come first, and of course, if you don’t for whatever reason, I will buy you some shoes. From the moment you entered my world, you have filled it with life, colour and energy like never before … like kool-aid in a mud puddle … or a cupcake in a salad … or a rose garden in a junk yard. You are my rose, [Name], and I promise to devote my life to being your dirt.” (From comedian John Caparulo)
“Today, I take my place as your husband/wife. May our days be long, and may they be seasoned with faith, love, understanding, and respect, forever and ever. Today is the beginning of the rest of our lives. I choose to spend today, and all of my tomorrows, with you.”
“From the moment our paths crossed, you’ve captivated me, challenged me, frustrated me and improved me in ways no person has done before. And I have fallen in love with you again and again. I promise to be true to you, to support and encourage you and to challenge and frustrate you. I truly believe we are good for each other and that we will continue to grow stronger together.”
“Today we move from I to we, [Name], take this ring as a symbol of my decision to join my life with yours until death should part us. I walked to this place to meet you today, we shall walk from it together.”
READ MORE: The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Themes
Example Funny Wedding Vows
Image: Craig Williams Photography
Not every couple is into the soppy stuff, in which case these funny wedding vows are great. You can always mix up sentimental vows with a funny line or two.
READ MORE: Funny Wedding Readings to Make Your Guests Laugh
“I promise to never watch the next episode on Netflix without you, no matter how much I want to.”
“I promise to always order something you like so that we can share meals, and I promise never to take my hunger out on you.”
“I promise to always get rid of the spiders, even though I’m more scared than you.”
“I promise never to spoil Game of Thrones for you – unless you’re really annoying me.”
“I promise to let you win the occasional argument, even when I’m right.”
“I promise not to hit you too hard when you’re snoring in the night.”
“I promise to always take Instagram-worthy pictures of you – as long as it takes – and to ‘like’ every selfie.”
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Example Real Wedding Vows
Image: Tom Aizenberg
While we all want to be original, if you stumble across the perfect phrase, that really encompasses what your partner means to you, why not use it? Here are extracts from a few real wedding vows that could prove a great starting point for writing your own.
READ MORE: 33 Utterly Romantic Quotes
“James, to be honest, I feel like the most blessed girl in the world. I have not only found my life-long companion, the lover of my heart, but my soul mate. Thank you for standing by me and sticking with me through thick and thin; for seeing the person that’s before you now. James, you believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself and for that I love you so much.”
“I promise you I will look after you and cherish you. I promise to do these things because I have been given you, James, the most amazing gift I could ever have. Know that I love you with all my heart. So I’m so happy and chuffed to call myself your wife!”
“As your wife, I promise you this,
To love and fall more in love with you each day.
To cherish every moment we have together.
To respect and honour you for the rest of my life.
To be open and honest with you.
To support you in all your heart’s desires.
To follow you wherever you may go.
To make God the centre of our marriage and to push us into the things he has for us.
To be faithful to you for the rest of my days.”
“As we start our married life together today, I make these promises before our families and friends:
I will continually challenge myself to become the best husband I can be; always looking to put you before myself and making your dreams our dreams.
I will love you; I will adore you; I will cherish you; I will be faithful to you.
I will be thoughtful and mindful in the way I act around other people, whether we are together or apart. I will always seek to give you no reason to be jealous over another person.
As much as music will always play an important part of my life, you come before my guitars! You will be the greatest song I could and would ever sing.
I will trust you in all things, never doubting you, or looking for reassurance of things you have already promised me.
I will help you discover your full potential, pushing you to become the best you can be, to support and ensure your hopes and dreams come to fruition.
I will stand by your side in all things, the highs and the lows, always finding agreement in everything that we do as husband and wife.
I will keep God at the centre of our relationship and love you as Christ loves the Church.”
“You’re my best friend, and at last you are my wife! I promise as our everyday life begins we will continue to be best friends, we will still be girl and boyfriend. I will never let our honeymoon period end. Kathryn, loving you is the easiest, most obvious thing I’ve ever done, and I will love you for an eternity.”
Wedding Vows for Him
Image: Tom Aizenberg
“I promise to be your faithful husband/wife. I promise to love you when the sun shines, when the rain falls, in sickness, and in health. When you look at this ring, think of me and remember that I love you always.”
“I promise to be the man that I see now in your eyes, today, tomorrow, and for always.”
“What is a husband/wife? I must admit, I’m not sure. All I know is that I am devoted to you completely and am made a better person because of your love. A husband/wife then is a thing that a good marriage makes, molds, and creates whole. If that is what a husband/wife means, then I am prepared to be yours.”
“I vow to always protect you from harm, to stand with you against your troubles, and look to you when I need protection.”
“I take thee to be my husband/wife and promise to look into your eyes just like I do now, with love and soulful amazement. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“I promise to try to be worthy of your love in every way, to climb mountains, and swim oceans just to be by your side. I will be honest, caring, patient and forgiving, and I will always be a loyal husband/wife.”
“You fill my life with meaning. Thank you for taking me as I am, loving me, and welcoming me into your heart. I promise to always love you, respect you, and to be faithful to you forever.”
READ MORE: Ideas and Advice for Your Groom Speech
Wedding Vows for Her
Image: Annie Bradney
“I promise to be your ever faithful, honest, and loving wife/husband.”
“I vow to hold your hand in my hand, to hold your head in my hands, and to hold your heart in mine. I love you and you are my husband/wife for all time.”
“I want to marry you because I want to know everything. I want to know your passions, your fears, what keeps you up at night, and what gets you up in the morning. You are eternally fascinating to me and I love everything I know about you now, and trust that as we learn together, I will only love you more and more.”
“I vow to be a loving and devoted wife/husband, without judgement, without scorn, but always with an open heart and mind.”
“We are best friends, with unending happiness, always having the best time, let’s solve life’s mysteries together one embrace at a time.”
“I vow to be patient, humble, loving, and always a little mysterious, always giving you reason to believe that we have another miracle together around each corner.”
Popular Poems, Songs and Bible Verses For Wedding Vows
Image: Annie Bradney
If you’re writing your own vows, why not include favourite poems or famous quotes? It’s a good idea to start jotting down ideas several weeks (or even months) before you get married, so keep your phone or a notebook to hand. Inspiration can hit in the most unlikely of places – a song playing while you’re doing the shopping, or a poem read out over the radio while you’re in work.
We’ve got lots of romantic quote inspiration to choosen from. Here are a few of our favourites to get you started:
READ MORE: Disney Quotes Perfect for Your Wedding Vows
Eskimo Love Song
“You are my husband/wife
My feet shall run because of you
My feet dance because of you
My heart shall beat because of you
My eyes see because of you
My mind thinks because of you
And I shall love because of you.”
‘Grow Old With You’ from The Wedding Singer
“I wanna make you smile whenever you’re sad
Carry you around when your arthritis is bad
All I wanna do is grow old with you
I’ll get your medicine when your tummy aches
Build you a fire if the furnace breaks
Oh, it could be so nice, growing old with you
I’ll miss you
Give you my coat when you are cold
Even let you hold the remote control
So let me do the dishes in our kitchen sink
Put you to bed when you’ve had too much to drink
Oh, I could be the man who grows old with you
I wanna grow old with you.”
Robbie Hart (AKA Adam Sandler)
Lover’s Knot for Chloe and Malcolm
“From this day forwards
we’ll push the boat out, let it body us,
take us to a place as much mine as yours,
past the double oxbow
where the blossoms fall, and together
we’ll learn the ropes: how to pull you in,
how to let you go; let you be as you are,
and break the wave of my known world.
In a covenant of above and below,
may we be confluent with each changing tide;
our partnership both the anchor and the flow
for all the days of our lives.”
Vow: The Simplest, Hardest and the Truest Thing
“One: We live in love, so finally are come today
(beyond the gladrags and the sweet bouquet
beyond cake or ring or all this fuss)
to this, the simplest and the truest thing for us.
Other: If you can say, my love – and hand on heart –
I will love you until death do us part –
One: – Hand on heart,
I will love you till death do us part.
Other: Then look me in my eyes – and now!
and here! – this kiss we kiss shall be our vow.”
“I vow to honour the commitment made this day
Which, unlike the flowers and the cake,
Will not wither or decay. A promise, not to obey
But to respond joyfully, to forgive and to console,
For once incomplete, we now are whole.
I vow to bear in mind that if, at times
Things seem to go from bad to worse,
They also go from bad to better.
The lost purse is handed in, the letter
Contains wonderful news. Trains run on time,
Hurricanes run out of breath, floods subside,
And toast lands jam-side up.
And with this ring, my final vow:
To recall, whatever the future may bring,
The love I feel for you now.”
“I cannot promise never to be angry;
I cannot promise always to be kind.
You know what you are taking on, my darling –
It’s only at the start that love is blind.
And yet I’m still the one you want to be with
And you’re the one for me – of that I’m sure.
You are my closest friend, my favourite person,
The lover and the home I’ve waited for.
I cannot promise that I will deserve you
From this day on. I hope to pass that test.
I love you and I want to make you happy.
I promise I will do my very best.”
“When I say, ‘I love you’, it’s not because I want you or because I can’t have you. It has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I’ve seen your kindness and your strength. I’ve seen the best and the worst of you. And I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You’re a hell of a woman/man. You’re the one.”
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved, loved for ourselves, or rather loved in spite of ourselves.”
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
“I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.”
Song of Solomon 2:16
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Wedding Vow Advice From Professional Vow Writers
Image: Marianne Chua
Eric Shapiro of Ghostwriters Central recommends not going too formal, “It’s natural to make your vows elegant and classy, but it’s better to speak in your own voice than to try for a Shakespearean approach.
“Remember that you’re addressing your partner and guests at the same time. It’s a public and private moment in one. So don’t go too intimate, and avoid using too many inside jokes. At the same time, don’t make it a performance for the audience. Speak mainly to your partner, but let the onlookers know that your vows are for real.”
Angie and Alicia from vowmuse.com advise getting lots of ideas down to choose from, “Write down, in no particular order, reasons why she is great, the moment you knew he was the one, your first date on that Ferris wheel, that goofy story that she always tells about you, and that amazing casserole that he makes. Just write down things you love about your partner, which, summed up, are a good chunk of the reasons why you’re getting married. After you have a whole list of stuff, start to organise it and flag things that are more important than others. Remember to also write down a variety of things you actually want to promise to your beloved – a few statements of heartfelt, loving promises is often what makes a set of wedding vows unique and special.
“If you can, try to coordinate with your beloved to ensure that you guys are creating vows of approximately the same length. Make sure to read the words out loud to yourself to see if there are any phrases you’re stumbling over, or if there are any parts that could read better. Once you’re reasonably happy with the draft, find a trusted friend to read the vows out loud to. This will help you practice the words, but also allow some relatively objective feedback that could help you further improve the text.”
READ MORE: The Best Lines from Children’s Books for Your Wedding
Want to run your own vows past a friendly audience? Why not post them in our forum and ask for people’s opinions? If your vows are for a renewal then take a look at some advice for renewing your wedding vows.