Rhode Island Wedding Guide

Wedding Planning

Wedding Vows

By Deborah Belaus, Wedding Officiant/Minister, Bright Path Ceremonies
RI wedding vows
Bright Path Ceremonies

In today’s society there is no legal significance attached to marriage vows. The law requires a marriage license from the state the couple is getting married in. Also a compliant officiant has to witness the couple declare themselves ‘husband and wife’ or ‘partners for life’ in states that have legalized same- sex marriage. Marriage vows are not a legal requirement or necessary during a marriage ceremony.

The first recorded evidence of marriage contracts and ceremonies dates to 4000 years ago. In the ancient world marriage served as a means of preserving power, with Kings and other members of the ruling class marrying daughters to forge alliances, acquire land and produce legitimate heirs. Couples did not have a choice of whom they would marry. For most of history “love” did not play a role in matrimony. As our society progressed marriage became a personal contract between two equals seeking love, stability and happiness. The origins of most of the wedding traditions we see today are handed down from folklore.

Our society is now seeing a big shift of how and who can marry. With couples leaving their house of worship and the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriages couples are free to decide who and what they want to include.

RI wedding vows

So why include the Vows?
As an officiant I feel the most moving moment of the ceremony is when a couple looks into each other’s eyes and state their intentions. It doesn’t matter if they are alone or if they have invited hundreds of guests. Words have meaning and when spoken from the heart creates emotion and motion. Vows are an intention of what a couple wants in their marriage. It becomes clear of why they are getting married and why they love each other and why they are committing to this person for life. The vows become the mantra for their marriage.

There are so many ways of deciding on what vows to say. For some couples writing their own can be intimidating.

Here are a few pointers:
  • In the hurry and craziness of planning a wedding, take some quiet time either together or alone and re-visit your relationship, how you met, when you started to fall in love, how your partner makes you laugh, what you admire about them and especially what life would be like without them.
  • Think about the qualities you love about your partner.
  • What are your expectations being married, your dreams and hopes for the future also your fears and worries.
  • As you start to write don’t worry about being grammatically correct or even making sense to anyone else. Let go of your brain and let your heart direct the writing.
  • You might want to share what you both wrote before the ceremony or wait till the actually ceremony. (Which is my favorite.)

Think of your vows as a love letter to each other. You might want to frame them and keep them near to read when the going gets tough. Life happens and we sometimes forget.

Last year I was honored to write a memorial for an 80-year-old man who had been married to his wife for 55 years. When I asked if there was anything special she wanted me to share at his funeral, she gave me a tattered old piece of paper that was a love letter that he wrote to her the night before they got married. His tender, sweet words to her never lost their meaning.

Your vows will be the first words you say to each other as a married couple. Make them count and let them take you over many thresholds.

Tip: Consider hiring a wedding musician to perform at your ceremony.