Wedding Vows

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Your wedding vows consists of two main parts for weddings in  England and Wales, firstly you are required to say the statutory words in order for their marriage to be legal and secondly you can add your own vows.

Statutory Wedding Vows

Both marrying parties exchanging vows in England and Wales are required to say the statutory words in order for their marriage to be legal. There are a number of versions of the traditional Declaratory and contracting words, which are shown below.

Traditional wedding vows

Declaratory Words

I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I, (your full name), may not be joined in matrimony to (your partner's full name).

Contracting Words

I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, (your full name), do take thee, (your partner's full name), to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband).

Optional wedding vows

Declaratory Words

"I declare that I know of no legal reason why I (your full name) may not be joined in marriage to (your partners full name)"

or by replying "I am" to the question "Are you (your full name) free lawfully to marry (your partners full name)?"

Contracting words

"I (your full name) take you (your partners full name) to be my wedded husband/wife"

"I (your full name) take thee (your partners full name) to be my wedded husband/wife".

You can choose any combination of the above Declaratory and Contracting options, but you will need to inform the Superintendent Registrar of your choices for your wedding.

Additional wedding vows

Writing your own wedding vows to go alongside the statutory ones is a great way of expressing the love you have for each other as well as giving your friends and family a real insight into how you feel about each other.

Can we write our own vows for a Church Wedding?

Couples marrying in a Church of England will find ministers restricted by law to perform the standard ceremony vows – Traditional Wedding vows, with only flexibility being shown on the infamous words of ‘love, honour and obey’ being altered to ‘love, honour and respect’, with even this slight change being left up to the discretion of the minister.

However couples are encouraged to try and personalise their ceremonies through the use of music and religious readings. There are some ministers who are amenable to couples choosing suitable non-religious readings. You should always check in advance what material your minister would allow during your service; therefore avoiding possible disappointment later on.

Can we write our own Civil Wedding vows?

If couples have a Civil Ceremony they maybe able to incorporate their own wedding vows into the statutory words. However even with a Civil Ceremony you may encounter some opposition from more traditional Registrars with regards to how personalised you wish to make your wedding vows. Therefore it is always a good to discuss your ideas with the Registrar that way you are less lightly to encounter resistance.

If you however would like a totally unique experience, one that is designed to suit your individual needs, you may wish to opt for a Humanist Wedding. Humanist Weddings have been legal in Scotland since June 2005, as long as they're conducted by a celebrant of the Humanist Society of Scotland who has been authorised by the Registrar General.

However this is not the case with the rest of the UK, you will still need to legally marry in a register office, which could be done prior to the Humanist ceremony.

Writing your own wedding vows

If you plan to write your own wedding vows you may want to read our top 10 tips!

1. Consult with your minister or registrar
There is no point preparing a heart felt speech only to be told later on that you can’t use any of it. Ask your minister or registrar about what they will expect when couples personalise their wedding vows.

2. Be honest
There is no point in writing your own wedding vows if you not going to be honest about how you really feel.

3. Seek inspiration
You might want to incorporate a poem or song into your vows but don’t feel obliged to do so, as more often than not the mere fact that you have made the effort to express your feelings so openly, is enough.

4. Reminisce
Try and recall past events, which helped to shape your relationship and helped bring you to this day. Remember to set the scene so all your guests can relate to the story but keep it brief.

5. Involve your guests
Try not to make your wedding vows so personal that they appear cryptic, as this could lead to your guests feeling alienated.

6. Talk to your partner
Decide whether or not your going to write your wedding vows independently or together. If you write them independently decide between you how long you want your vows to be, this enables you both to speak for the same length of time, eliminating the possibility of one of you just be left to ramble on.

If you have mutual vows you may wish to say them one after each other similar to the Declaratory and Contracting words of Civil Ceremony.

7. Bring in the humour
You may wish to use light humour in your wedding vows, there no harm in writing funny wedding vows, but try not to trivialise your wedding vows, as after all they should reflect the commitment you both are about to undertake.

8. Keep it brief
In order to keep your partner and your guests engaged its important to try and keep your wedding vows brief otherwise you may all to easily loose the essence of what you were trying to say.

9. Practice make perfect
Like your Wedding Speech practice it in advance so that you can say it on your Big Day without having to refer back to your notes. This way you’re more likely to enjoy the experience.

10. Always be on the safe side
Always keep a copy handy should you be lost for words

Renewing Wedding vows

The top 10 tips for writing your wedding vows still apply. But you might want to pay homage to the following :

  • your children (if applicable).
  • the strength of your marriage – that you have stayed together through the good time and the hard times.
  • that by renewing your vows you hope to reiterate how much you love your partner.

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