V ery few things are as important as the marriage vows during the wedding. Vows are at the centre of most wedding ceremonies, and they are declared publicly. They are the solemn words openly declared by the couple to each other expressing both intent and promise. They express how the couple intend to relate to each other, how they intend to navigate the path of life together, and what meaning they intend to give to their marriage. They are an oath to work hard at living out this intent, no matter how challenging that may be.
However, as thousands countrywide are currently planning their wedding ceremonies, it’s amazing how easy it is to get caught up in all the finer details like choosing the entourage and deciding on everything from decor to music. And when it comes to the marriage vows, many are left wondering whether to write their own, and if so what would they say? Or perhaps go the traditional route and stay with the well-known phrases of the traditional vows as led by the Priest. Even so, many recite the vows without appreciating their meaning, and do so just because the Priest said, “repeat these words after me”.
Your vows are more than a collection of words you say once and then forget. They are the point at which your relationship becomes a covenant “from this day forward”. The exchange of vows is the seal of a soul tie, a healthy one. Those words that seem like a recitation are vows, commitments and agreements you enter into in order to pledge your exclusive allegiance to the person you’re marrying. They’re a moral, spiritual and legal contract you speak into tangible existence.
The core of the traditional vows highlights the following significant commitments that acknowledge life as having both ups and downs:
For better or for worse
Things do not always turn out the way you had hoped or dreamed they would, and real life tragedies can happen to anyone. However, the commitment of for better or worse pledges a kind of love that goes so deep that you’ll accept the outcomes of the covenant you’re cutting on your wedding day, both good and bad which-ever way life takes you as a couple. When you commit to love someone for better or worse, you’re saying although you’re not sure whether the consequences will be good or bad, you’ll accept them because the covenant is irreversible.
For richer or for poorer
You may be financially stable on your wedding day and looking forward to a prosperous future together. In fact you may even toast to that at the wedding reception. But your finances and economic standing could just crumble with one bad decision or eventuality during your marriage. This vow essentially states that your relationship is about much more than money and possessions, and no matter what your bank balance looks like, you will work together to face and overcome the challenges.
Being married in or out of community of property should have no bearing on your love and trust for one another. And while losing an income in marriage can be a real test for the relationship, your love and commitment to one another shouldn’t be determined by your financial position. This vow means that love and commitment has nothing to do with money or property. Vowing to love someone “for richer or for poorer”, like all other wedding vows, requires absolute sobriety and a deep sense of what it actually means to truly love someone.
In sickness and in health
Although you are probably in the prime of your life when you take your marriage vows, sickness of some sort is fairly likely whoever you may be. Sickness might mean that your boo is no longer able to provide mutual support and companionship. It might mean they are no longer able to be sexually intimate. It might also mean they can no longer provide financially or help in the raising of the children. This vow is intentionally open-ended.
When you make this vow you’re actually saying even if your spouse was to be wheelchair-bound and be unable to do anything for themselves immediately after the wedding, you’ll remain loving, respectful, committed and exclusive to them until death do you part. “In sickness and in health” brings reassurance to your spouse that even if their body may fail, you will love them for who they are inside irrespectively.
Til’ death do us part
This vow gives an indication of the permanence, strength and endurance of the marriage covenant. Through this vow, you’re committing to each other that, except for the inevitability of the grave, nothing and no one will come between you. You’re openly declaring that it’s only physical death that is powerful enough to annul your marriage. It’s not irreconcilable differences; til’ you fall out of love, til’ you’re bored nor til’ your spouse no longer “makes” you happy. You also make a commitment to dedicate your lives never to grow apart from one another.
You forsake all others to prioritize your spouse including your biological family, friends, careers and anything else that could come between the two of you with a potential to suffocate your marriage to death. “Til’ death do us part” can be a very long, frustrating and arduous time when you don’t prioritize one another and deliberately invest in your marriage.