Do not write your own marriage vows!

I do a lot of weddings. This unique privilege comes with the role of being a pastor. This privilege gives me a front row seat to what truly is an incredible work of God as “the two become one.” There is something inspiring to see love blossom into genuine commitment…at least that’s what should be happening.
Occasionally, I will meet with a couple to plan their wedding and they will arrive with the desire, and sometimes a written copy, of their own vows. We’ve all been to those wedding ceremonies where the bride and groom declare their love for one another using their own words instead of those old-fashioned vows of a traditional ceremony. We watch them fumble through their words and fight back tears. Most of us don’t give it a second thought. But, I do a lot of weddings. I can’t help but give it a second thought. Here’s my opinion…DO NOT WRITE YOUR OWN MARRIAGE VOWS. I am well aware that some of you reading this are happily married and you did, in fact, write your own vows. Please don’t take this as a criticism against you, but rather a case for what I truly believe is a better approach.
Here are 4 reasons why I’m against you writing your own marriage vows.
1. Marriage is Covenant.
I believe that marriage is defined by God as a covenant. The word covenant means a divinely designed agreement where God sets the terms and mankind is given the option of saying, “Yes” or “NO.” This kind of commitment takes in account the unknown and unknowable of married life. Even if it is unintentional, it is very easy to overlook some of the elements that should be included in Christian marriage vows when you set out to write your own. When a bride and groom stand at the altar and enter into this unique covenant relationship, they are entering into God’s domain, in agreement with His expectations and standards.
2. Submission to God’s authority.
I fear the act of writing your own vows is a subtle and sometimes unconscious way to dodge God’s authority over marriage. Marriage is not simply an agreement between two people. It is an agreement between two people WITH God. Marriage is a great act of submission to God’s authority in how we treat our husband or wife for life. This becomes a big deal when you run into problems…and yes, you will run into problems. In those moments, quitting might seem like the easier choice. However, you vowed to “remain in this union, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health and forsaking all others, until death do you part.” You did not simply commit to another person, you submitted to God’s authority. Marriage is bigger than you.
3. The right words matter.
I will be the first to acknowledge that the vows written by the bride and groom can be very sweet, genuine and truly loving. We can hear those words and be deeply touched and inspired. However, it is not uncommon for a couple in the bliss of young love and infatuation to be unable to articulate the words that capture the long term implications of marriage. You typically hear a lot of language associated with the couple’s current feelings of love and devotion and less of the long term, big picture view of married life. The right words matter.
4. Count the cost
The bottom line on this issue is, the covenant of marriage is something every man and woman should take very seriously. Writing your own vows takes away a vital part of the process, counting the cost. I want couples to prepare for marriage by reading vows they did not write, to force them to soberly think through what covenant marriage is all about. The Bible is very clear that we should be careful the vows we make, “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay." (Ecc 5:5) When it comes to marriage, God is interested in follow through. God expects you to do your best to fulfill your vows to one another and to Him. Too often, vows are written without appropriate consideration of what exactly marriage means. I believe that much of the breakdowns we see in marriages today is the result of not counting the cost of marriage.
Marriage is a big deal. I have included in this post the vows I typically use in the weddings I perform. They intentionally include some of the traditional language familiar to most of us. This familiar language provides a sense that marriage is very much part of the fabric of our society. The reason why marriage contributes to the well-being of a society is due, in part to the common covenant shared by all married people. When the definition of marriage varies from couple to couple society suffers. These vows include some strong biblical language to remind us of the distinct commitments of husbands and wives. And these vows end with a huge statement that reminds us of the highest allegiance and greatest objective of married life, which is, "the Glory of Almighty God."
If you are already married, I encourage you to read these vows and recommit to God’s plan for marriage today. If you are looking to get married in the future, use these vows to count the cost and take seriously entering into marriage.
“Do you GROOM take BRIDE
…to be your lawfully wedded WIFE
…in the Covenant of marriage;
Will you be committed to HER in every way;
Will you love HER as Christ loved the Church;
Will you choose love and remain in this union
…for better or worse …for richer or poorer
…in sickness and in health …and forsaking all others
…until death do you part …to the Glory of Almighty God?”
“Do you BRIDE take GROOM
…to be your lawfully wedded HUSBAND
…in the Covenant of marriage;
Will you be committed to HIM in every way;
Will you submit to HIM as unto the Lord;
Will you choose love and remain in this union
…for better or worse …for richer or poorer
…in sickness and in health …and forsaking all others
…until death do you part …to the Glory of Almighty God?”
Posted by Andy Savage at 7:15 PM
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