Your wedding vows. Without doubt the most important part of this whole occasion. Without those few meaningful, iconic – not to mention legally binding – words, not only will you miss out on the chance to wow the crowds with that superbly heartfelt delivery but you won’t actually be legally married to boot (kind of a deal-breaker there, gents). So it pays to put in the effort and make sure you get them just right. Whether you stick with tradition, write them yourselves, throw in a few choice readings for good measure, or mix and match to suit, you need to be aware of a few basic rules along the way.
Wedding vows and readings
Church weddings – essential info
When it comes to tying the knot in church, you’ve got three different Marriage Services up for selection:
3) The Marriage Service, Common Worship (2000)
According to the bods at The Church of England, the turn of the century Marriage Service gives you much greater flexibility in terms of adding prayers and readings to the occasion (although you’ve got pretty wide scope on the ceremony music selection for all three), so if it’s all about the personal touch, the more modern version leads the way as crowd favourite. But if you’re fans of all things traditional, the unique old-style language of The Book of Common Prayer is a great shout.
The wedding vows
If you’re planning on holding a church affair, there’s every chance you already know the score on this one. The traditional ‘.. for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer…’ wedding vows still stand the test of time, with both parties repeating the same promises in turn.
To obey or not to obey?
However, be aware that your choice of service could ultimately dictate the inclusion of the hotly debated bride’s promise to ‘love, cherish and obey’ her husband. And while the Right Reverend Peter Notts may have boldly told the Daily Mail ‘it’s no big deal’, we’re willing to bet a fair percentage of the fairer sex would readily disagree. Unless of course they happened to read the entire article and notice his follow-up admission that at times the husband should also ‘rightly obey the wife because she knows better’. Either way, you need to be sure you pick the right vows for both of you as a couple. Most officials offer the chance to discuss the ins and outs of the service well in advance of the big day, with a rehearsal at some point in the week before the wedding, so you’ll have plenty of time to get a handle on the small print to make sure you get it right.
Can you write your own vows for a church wedding?
In short, no. Traditionally – and more importantly, legally – ‘no part of the wedding vows can be changed’ say The Church of England. So while you’re free to add your own top notch soundtrack and choice of readings to the event, you need to leave the actual wedding vows as they are.
Church wedding readings
With the deed firmly signed, sealed and delivered, it’s time for a couple of your close pals or relatives to step up to the plate with a few well-chosen words of wisdom. Some expert tips on getting them right:
- How many? – ‘A traditional church ceremony will include two or three readings’ say etiquette experts Debrett’s. This one’s more or less down to personal preference but it’s worth checking the guidelines of your chosen venue – services can vary between parishes and even between officials at the same church.
- What? – As a general rule church wedding readings tend to be of a religious nature, with at least one piece taken from the Bible. However, if you’ve gone for a selection of two or three musings, more often than not you’ll be allowed to include poetry or book extracts alongside. If a little expert assistance wouldn’t go amiss, your ceremony official should be able to steer you in the right direction.
Civil ceremonies – essential info
Civil ceremonies are generally more flexible in terms of adding a personal spin to the occasion and tend to follow a much simpler order of service to boot. But while you’re free to include your own vows if you choose, you still need to bear in mind a few essentials:
1) The legal bit – Yes you can get your creative groove on with format and wording but you still need to say the statutory vows from the Marriage Act to keep things above board and legal. Wording varies slightly between Blighty’s good old boundaries, so check your local council for the finer details. With your declaratory (‘I do solemnly declare…’) and contracting (‘I take you to be my wedded wife..’) statements complete, you’re free to add your own vows to the event if you wish.
2) Religion – Although a bunch of newer, more relaxed laws came into effect a few years ago, it’s still widely acknowledged that civil ceremonies shouldn’t contain any religious or overtly spiritual aspects. This one’s best mulled over with your registrar, chaps. There’s a fine line between what will and won’t be accepted and you don’t want to pour blood, sweat, tears and a few pints into your heartfelt wedding vows and choice of readings only to discover you’ve crossed into unchartered territory like this unlucky duo.
3) The Registrar – …. is the boss. No two ways about it. So make sure you get the nod of approval on everything from music, vows and readings right down to the bods chosen to deliver your words well in advance of the big day.
4) Readings – As long as you play by the rules on religious content, you’ve pretty much got free rein when it comes to choosing your wedding readings – if you want to include any at all. But bear in mind both timing (on the whole civil ceremonies are pretty brief affairs), and your audience when it comes to choice. Impressive thought it may be, opting for the likes of War and Peace will probably get you kicked out on both counts.
Writing your own wedding vows
So, you’ve chosen to write your own wedding vows. To let your better half know just how much you care in your own unique style. Firstly, GoGroom salutes you. It’s your day afterall, and personal vows can make for a brilliantly touching addition to proceedings. But before you put pen to paper and let your inner scribe pour forth (or, you know, hit the interweb to ‘borrow’ a few ideas… whatever works), check out a few of the basic rules first:
- Check restrictions – Yes we keep banging on about it but make sure you get clearance from your official before you crack on with any writing. Wedding blessings and civil ceremonies pretty much offer the chance to be as creative as you please, but each official has their own ideas as to what they deem appropriate content, so you need to know the score.
- Start early – This is one occasion where you really don’t want to be left blagging your way through a few mumbled words on the day. Together with your top notch groom’s speech, this is your chance to stand up and proudly tell your nearest and dearest what a great girl you’ve found. Give your vows the thought they deserve and try to get cracking a good couple of months before the main event.
- Joint venture or solo mission? – What’s the plan here? Will you be writing the vows as a couple? Will she trust you to write your own? Do you both want to recite the same promises, or surprise each other with your own touching words on the day? A word of warning: and we can’t stress this one enough – if you choose to go it alone make sure you’re on the same page. Why? So this doesn’t happen. If in doubt grab a reliable friend who knows your bride-to-be well and ask for an honest opinion.
- Tone – Do you want your wedding vows to be traditional, funny, soppy, poetic, romantic…? A little humour can go a long way to reaching the crowd and can work extremely well if you’re not the kind of guy (groom types) who finds it easy to stand in front of the masses and declare all manner of slushy feelings. However, keep in mind the three main points of your vows:
- Declaration of love
- Confirmation that you’re legally free to marry
- Commitment to each other
The lighthearted approach can be a great shout but you still need to let your beloved know the occasion holds meaning for you.
- Audience – Try not to embarrass the crowds (or each other) by making today the day you reveal to all and sundry just exactly how you came to be known as Big Daddy Spanky, and steer clear of any inside jokes or anecdotes that’ll be lost on your audience.
- Length – Keep ‘em short and sweet.
- Check finished vows with official – Does what it says on the tin. They might have helpful hints or suggestions, be able to point out potential problematic areas, or just look at you and wonder who the hell they’ve let into their wedding venue. But ultimately, they’ll need to review and approve your musings before you’re let loose on the day.
- Practise – Yes. Do that. A lot.
- Make a copy – We’re only talking about a minute or two but do you really want to be left worrying about whether or not you’ll remember your vows? Keep a copy with you during the ceremony and you’re golden.
- Speak slowly and clearly – ‘Nuff said?
The weird, wonderful and downright wacky world of wedding vows…
The one that was sealed with… a handshake?
You may now…. unlock the next level
The one with the comic book crashers
The one that’s not really relevant but it’s still ruddy hilarious!