What are Wedding Vows?

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ften, I get asked by couples to explain exactly what wedding vows are. It’s not surprising that lots of people don’t know what vows are, particularly if they’ve not been married before or if they’ve not been involved in a civil marriage ceremony before.

Essentially, wedding vows are promises or pledges you make to each other. There are several types of wedding vows that can be included in a marriage ceremony. One of those types, the legal vows, are mandatory.

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The Legal Vows

A marriage ceremony will always include, by law, the legal vows or words to this effect – which must be said by each person getting married, in the presence of the celebrant and their two witnesses:

“I ask everyone here to witness that I, AB, take you, CD, to be my lawful husband (or wife or spouse or partner in marriage) and I ask everyone here to witness that I, CD, take you, AB, to be my lawful husband (or wife or spouse or partner in marriage”.

This is a requirement of the Marriage Act 1961 and is one of several factors that must be met in order for a couple to be considered legally married, in Australia.

The Personal Vows

Many couples also choose to make some other, more personal promises to each other straight after the legal vows – these are known as personal wedding vows.

Usually, the personal wedding vows begin with some nice words to each other that the couple have written before the ceremony. Often, these words are about how each person feels about the other; they might include some favourite memories of their time together; they might mention some of the awful habits they each have, as well as the gorgeous things that keep them loving each other; they might include how falling in love with their partner has led to a positive change in one of them; or they might tell of some challenges they’ve both overcome together, and so on. All of these things come together to make wedding vows that are from the heart.

Here are some examples:

Romantic personal wedding vows

Being with you is a privilege and therefore I don’t view these vows as promises, but rather as privileges.
I get to be your best friend and you will always come first. I get to care for you and share my vulnerabilities with you.
I get to laugh hysterically with you and cry with you.
I get to comfort you and make everything right.
I get to see you first every morning and keep you safe at night.
I get to come home to your smiling face and embrace you with open arms.
I get to raise a family and grow with you.
I get to love you and our children and always will.
I get to celebrate the good times with you and in a big way.
I get to spend the day to day with you and over time – the opportunity to explore the world with you.
I get to spend Christmas with you and our family and it will always be memorable.
I get to say every day “I love you”.
We value our differences and this makes us stronger as a couple.
We are ourselves around each other and this makes us happier.
We take each other’s good and bad and, by communicating fully, are able to be open and honest with each other.
Because you are you – I will always love you, no matter what!

Personal wedding vows for her

Today I take you to be my husband.
Now we will feel no rain, for each of us will be shelter for the other.
Now there will be no loneliness, for each of us will be companion to the other.
There is only one life before us, and our seasons will be good and long.
I promise to love, honour, and cherish you, no matter what lies before us, for as long as we both shall live.
I’m not going to give you any Romeo and Juliet style declarations of fairy tale love because, put simply, this thing we have is real.
It’s not a fairy tale, and it’s happening now.
I’ve always told you I want a man I can admire from afar, someone I can look over at in a crowd and smile to myself, knowing I have his heart.
You are him.
You’re my man across the street.
Wherever you are, that’s where I want to be.
In the sunshine or through the rain, I will stand beside you.

Personal wedding vows for him

Before we met, I wasn’t very happy.
I could never see myself being married because I never honestly thought I’d find somebody who would want to be with me, let alone love me like you do.
But you shattered that reality, and I had to very quickly work out what kind of person I wanted to be.
I’m a better man for meeting you and the luckiest man for marrying you.
I’ve never known anybody to be as kind, honest, thoughtful and decent as you.
I’m thankful for every day that I get to spend with you because you carry these qualities with you relentlessly, and you’re a constant example of what I can only strive to be.

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Following that, the true promises or vows begin. These are promises the couple commit to keeping. They can be as serious or as hilarious as you want. There are no rules about personal vows other than they need to be doable or achievable, they need to be authentic, and they need to reflect you as a couple.

Here are some examples:

Promises for him

I want to make this promise to you here and now.
This is my declaration, and to you my solemn vow.
I want to share my life with you, every triumph and success, for nothing you could say or do could make me love you any less.
From this day forward I promise you these things.
I will laugh with you in times of joy and comfort you in times of sorrow.
I will share in your dreams, and support you as you strive to achieve your goals.
I will listen to you with compassion and understanding, and speak to you with encouragement.
I will help you when you need it, and step aside when you don't.
I will remain faithful to you for better or worse, in times of sickness and health.
You are my best friend and I will love and respect you always.

Promises for her

I am so in love with you.
I love you as you are, deeply and without limit.
I love you more each day.
I trust and respect you completely.
You are my best friend and I am happy and excited at the prospect of sharing our life together and being part of a family with you.
I promise to always be open and honest with you.
I promise to give you space to grow and to grow with you.
I promise to hold your hand and walk with you through the joys and challenges of life.
I promise to love you always.
I promise to give you the best of myself and to ask of you no more than you can give.
I promise to accept you the way you are.
I fell in love with you for the qualities, abilities, and outlook on life that you have, and won't try to reshape you in a different image.
I promise to respect you as a person with your own interests, desires, and needs, and to realize that those are sometimes different, but no less important than my own.
I promise to keep myself open to you, to let you see through the window of my personal world into my innermost fears and feelings, secrets and dreams.
I promise to grow along with you, to be willing to face change as we both change in order to keep our relationship alive and exciting.
And finally, 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.
I promise to always be attentive to our love.
To notice its changes and tend to it carefully.
I will do this by listening closely, by opening my mind widely, and by learning with you and about you and accepting you, however much we grow and change with time.
I will do this by always believing in you and always being here by your side so that you are never alone.
I promise to share the weight of your burdens and if I can, carry them far away from you.
I promise to love and care for myself, and all others that you love and care for.
I promise to use the energy created by our togetherness for good - to create a circle of laughter, creativity and generosity around us.
I promise not only to love you but also to keep falling in love with you every time I lie on your chest and am calmed by your heart’s beat.
I promise this will always be my favourite place and I will continue to return to it through eternity.
Thank you for accepting my love, I accept yours completely.

Funny wedding vows

I’d like to just make a few promises to you now if I can.
I promise to love you with all I have to offer, always and forever.
I promise to share both my best and my worst days with you, and to carry you through your own.
I promise to always be there for you when you need me, and to take the hint when you don’t.
I promise that we will always be happy together and that, no matter what cards we are dealt, I promise we will always be okay.
I promise to always remember that random stranger’s advice about patience and compromise from all those years ago … That said, I promise to forgive you for vetoing all coriander from our wedding
I promise to always improve the lyrics of your favourite songs and to creatively identify the actors on TV.
I promise to make you bagels one day, maybe.
I promise to always make you laugh – and to get better at stopping before it turns to tears.
I promise to always believe in you and to follow you wherever you take us.
I promise to always try to make you as happy as you make me.
I promise you will always be enough.
Thank you for marrying me.
I love you and I like you.

Traditional personal wedding vows

I want to make this promise, to you here and now.
This is my declaration, and to you my solemn vow.
I want to share my life with you, every triumph and success, for nothing you could say or do could make me love you any less.
I ………… ,take you …………. , to be my wife, my partner in life and my one true love.
I will cherish our union and love you more each day than I did the day before.
I will trust you and respect you, laugh with you and cry with you, loving you faithfully through good times and bad, regardless of the obstacles we may face together.
I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward for as long as we both shall live.
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.
In the presence of this company, I pledge to be true to you, to cherish and respect you, and to grow with you through the years.
Time will pass, fortune may smile, trials may come; no matter what we may encounter together, I vow here that this love will be my only love.
I will make my home in your heart from this day forward.

Oh, and your personal vows can be combined with your ring exchange, if you’re giving each other rings during your ceremony. For example, you can say your personal vows to each other as you put the wedding rings on each other’s finger.

Many couples also choose to make some other, more personal promises to each other straight after the legal vows.

– Bronte Price

Can we keep our personal vows secret from each other?

Some couples like to inject an element of surprise by keeping their personal vows secret from each other until they say them on their wedding day. The go-between in this situation is your celebrant. They can help you write your personal vows, and will be able to provide you with heaps of samples, to give you an idea of what personal vows can look like. They can also be the mediator, if one of you writes vows that are very funny and the other writes vows that are completely serious; or if one of you writes two pages and the other writes a 10 lines. In both those cases, a good celebrant will make you both aware, without divulging the content, and then let you both decide if one or both of you need to change what you’ve written.

What’s the difference between personal vows and “the asking”?

Lots of couples include three pieces – one after the other – in their wedding ceremony:

1. the legal vows
2. the personal vows
3. the asking

The asking is a traditional part of the wedding ceremony. It’s the part where the couple get to say to each other “I do” at the end of some words. Those words could be something like, “A, do you give yourself to B, to be (her / his / their) (husband / wife / spouse), to live together in marriage, to love, comfort and protect (her / him / them) in sickness and in health and, forsaking all others, keep only unto (her / him / them) as long as you both shall live?” Response: “I do!”

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Your celebrant will be able to show you a variety of samples of The Asking, and you should feel comfortable in amending them to better suit your needs, if you choose to have an Asking.

Remember, only the legal vows are required by law. Whether you decide to have personal vows and an asking is completely up to you.

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