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Our Vows


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

I thought we’d end DIY week with something we didn’t DIY. We’re complex and confusing here at APW so it seemed fitting:

So lets get to the core of the wedding: the vows. I thought it was interesting that everyone asked how we wrote them, when we wrote them, how much we chose to share with our guests. So lets get right to it: we didn’t write our own vows. It was one of the best decisions we made.

I understand the instinct to write vows, and I think its right for a lot of people. So if you are writing your vows and that sounds great to you, that’s wonderful. But for those of you who have been thinking about writing your vows, and can’t quite get comfortable with it, I’m going to toss this idea out there: don’t.

For David and I the reasoning was clear from the beginning. The reason we chose to get married was that, for us, joining in a tradition that was thousands of years old was powerful. So for us, the power came in saying the same words that generations and generations before us had said. By doing so, we were tying ourselves to the strength of an institution that had stood the test of time, had helped people survive great hardships, and had helped them embrace enormous joy. So for us it was simple: we would say the words that each generation had said. For us, marriage was less about our personal love for each other, but about our commitment to a partnership, a commitment to an institution, a commitment to aligning ourselves with something far greater than ourselves. We have always felt that we could embrace the timeless power of marriage while still grappling with it, redefining it, and making it our own.

So what we said was this:
(in Hebrew):
D: “By this ring you are sanctified to me as my wife in accordance with the traditions of Moses and Israel.” M:”By this ring you are sanctified to me as my husband in accordance with the traditions of Moses and Israel.”

(in English):
D: “Wear me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is infinitely strong” M: “Many waters cannot quench love, no flood can sweep it away, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”

For us, that was all that needed saying, and that is how it felt saying them: complete.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17512660136378480393 Costume Diva

    Beautiful! We are not of any religious affiliation so we chose to write our own vows. It was a daunting task and we put it off for a long time! Luckily, when we couldn’t ignore it anymore, the words just came naturally to us. I cant wait to say them (in only 8 days!)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03106328326147511259 Amy

    We chose to use the traditional vows for much the same reasons. It was also a way for us to honor our grandparents, all of whom had long and happy marriages that started with those vows. It was one of the most personal ways we could think of to remember them.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06272654565469914998 sam

    I love this! We have also chosen to say traditional vows, for the same reasons you listed. I can't wait to speak the same words that so many generations before us have. There's something solemn and bigger than ourselves about marriage, and the traditional vows help me connect with it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02986236095577713549 CaitStClair | A Peachy Bride

    No wonder you wanted to use them! They're beautiful!
    We chose to have our cake and eat it too. We separately wrote out some "vows" (mine were actually "I marry you because…'s) but then also used the traditional "In the presence of God and these our family and friends, I, CC take you, JM, to be my husband, promising with Divine Assistance to be unto you a loving and faithful wife as long as we both shall live." And then threw in the "And so I give you this ring as a sign of my pledge to you. With all that I am, and all that I have, with this ring, I thee wed." for good measure. It was perfect for us.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Well to be fair, the bit from Song of Songs is not part of the "traditional" Jewish vows, but saying something from Torah after you say your vows in Hebrew is relativly common.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07800516366672737329 Alison

    We chose traditional vows (minus the obedience routine…eek) for the same reasons. But we also understood the pull of wanting a very personal ceremony. Luckily, our officiant's "signature" is to have the bride and groom write letters to each other. They are not read until the ceremony, when the he reads them out loud. It was extremely moving–one of my favorite parts of the weekend–and kept the vows intact. I'd suggest going that route if you want it both ways!

  • http://accordionsandlace.wordpress.com/ accordionsandlace

    Haha I had this sneaking suspicion that part of "DIY" week was going to be about not DIY-ing.

    Re: vows. Yes. Well it helps that Jews don't really do the usual notion of "vows" anyway, just the words uttered during the rings exchange. And what's interesting to me is the ways in which we tie ourselves to our histories; both you and I and most progressive young folk that go the "traditional" path in a Jewish wedding nowadays still innovate massively on the "traditional" vows (i.e. both saying them, at the very least), but I love how it's all about working with what's already there, innovating with words that are still 2000 years old. It's a little bit DIY in that way. This is a good way to end the week; blending convention and reinvention. Innovate when it means something, and you don't have to reinvent the wheel. The whole point of getting married, for me, was to tie myself to my ancestors; just on my own terms.

  • Anonymous

    I like the idea of using both traditional vows and mixing it with something personal.

    Now as far as the lines from the Song of Songs, you CAN'T get better than that. I'm a total agnostic, but I've always loved those lines about love. The author understood love and I don't think anyone's ever said it better.

  • Anonymous

    And btw, I am totally stealing your idea of using those verses from the Song of Songs.

    Hee hee.

  • http://www.agrainaday.com kerstin

    those vows are absolutely beautiful — i teared up! amazing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18209861350905135093 LPC

    Oh gosh that English one is to die for. I don't think I have ever heard it used as a vow before.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Don't worry Anon, that idea was *hardly* original with us, so steal away. We did.

    Accordians&Lace-;
    Yes.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10423963591112722595 MERgetsMRSed

    This brought tears to my eyes. I feel so strongly the same way. I cannot wait to say the same words to my fiance that my parents and grandparents and his parents and grandparents said to each other. There is a reason for these words and traditions.

    I got chills. Those words are beautiful.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05955067991628905693 Bookbag

    I loved doing traditional vows — it really does feel powerful. And we made the Song of Solomon one of our readings — "set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm" has got to be my favorite line from the whole ceremony.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    You know, interestingly, I just want to throw out there – these are of course not the vows any of *my* ancestors said, though all of David's did. But it was enough, it was the spirit of it… in spirit I said the same vows as my parents & granparents.

  • Hannah

    I feel the same way about the Roman Catholic Vows, what I want to say and what I mean ARE to have and to hold, forsaking all others, in sickness and health, for better and worse as long as we both shall live. Nothing I could write would convey so clearly what I want to say and what I want marriage to be.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05750659066802561501 Erika

    I love the brevity, I love the sentiment, I love the words.

  • April

    THANK YOU SO MUCH. 8 days from "I Do" and last night, future husband is sitting on our sofa, pen in hand, brow knitted in concentration… and says in that cautious-but-kind- way, "Um, can we just skip the personal vows?"

    Bells went off in my head: "Why? What? Our ceremony will be stale without us confessing our heart's deepest feelings!"" blah blah blah

    And then, realization and calm swept over me and I smiled big – and chirped with a grin, "Sure! One less thing to do. Relief!"

    And truly, I AM relieved. Many of our friends that are attending our wedding have been married for eons, long before personal love letters to each and hand-written vows were "the thing". Not saying there's anything wrong with personalized vows. Heck, up until 9:03pm last night, I was all for 'em!

    But I also realize sooo many people understand and grasp onto the traditional vows a couple exchanges. And perhaps our saying them next Saturday will cause them to reflect on the vows they themselves said to their partners
    5, 10 or 15 years ago.

    And that's powerful and meaningful enough for me.

  • http://www.erikorganic.com/solid-wood/solid-wood-furniture.shtml wood furniture

    Wow! Beautiful! I believe that whatever religious affiliation you have as long as the vows came from your heart and your sincerity is unquestionable, nothing to worry!

  • Cate Subrosa

    "We were tying ourselves to the strength of an institution that had stood the test of time, had helped people survive great hardships, and had helped them embrace enormous joy… For us, marriage was less about our personal love for each other, but about our commitment to a partnership."

    YES.

    (And those vows are so beautiful, I can see why you wouldn't want to change them anyway, even without all the reasons above!)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03367631935043016430 Mrs T

    I think what you both said was beautiful!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02329381801379166829 Traveling bride

    This made me smile, your English portion is so similar to what will be read as we exchange our rings
    Song of Solomon 8, 6-7. Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the flashes thereof are flashes of fire, a very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be judge a price not great enough.

    Maybe your ancestors didn't say these exact words but if they where married in a church it is possible something similar may well have be read.

    I love that with all the different traditions between religions and cultures you can always find some thread it link us all. That every culture has such a special place for marriage.

  • Meg’s Mom

    Fred and I gave long and careful thought to whether or not to write our own vows. (It was just coming in to fashion in 1974.) We decided that we couldn't do a better job of expressing our love and commitment to each other than saying the vows that were in the Anglican wedding service: "In the name of God, I, Hannah take you, Fred, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solem vow." Fred's, of course, were the reverse.

    What we did do somewhat differently, though, was memorize our vows. For us that made us feel that we were speaking them directly from our hearts. I remember practicing my vows when I was driving alone in my car for several weeks before the wedding. Every time I said them out loud for practice, I would get tears in my eyes and a chill up my spine. And when I said my vows for our wedding, I was filled with a deep and complete sense of joy.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04041806798663929384 DJ

    I told our officiant that we're going to write our own vows but now I'm having second thoughts. My fiancee isn't wild about the idea and if we're both not into it, I'd rather not do it. Besides, there are people who've written beautiful words about love that I'm sure wouldn't mind us repeating!

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