Rituals are for honoring or creating change.  We don’t have rituals for things staying the same, because a stream tends to follow its path once it’s been created.  And really, what stays the same anyway?  Change is constant…

So I’ll re-state: ritual is for honoring or celebrating intentional change.  In a wedding, of course, we’re honoring a change in a relationship.  We can dress it up with flowers and music and fancy clothes, but what a wedding is really about is the change in relationship — and that is marked by the vows.

Vows honor what is new with the label of “married”.  What commitments didn’t we have before, that we are making to each other now?  What has been vague or implied before, that is now ready to be stated concretely?

Vows are about more than “I love you to the moon and back”.  I had a partner who used to ask “What do you mean?” whenever I said “I love you”.  Annoying as that was, it kept me honest.  It kept me from using vague words for communicating something specific.  Wedding vows get to the meaning of this marriage — not anyone else’s marriage, or generic Marriage.  What are you committing to your partner?  What does it mean to you that you are going to be that person’s married partner?

Some couples like to make individual vows to each other (often as a surprise to the other person), and then have a common vow that they’ve agreed on ahead of time.  This allows for each person to do their own thinking about what they are committing to their partner, and also have a clear understanding with each other about what this marriage means.

Couples looking to write their marriage vows often find looking at samples helpful, even if just to get a sense of what you know you don’t want!  Here are several links, and of course a web search will bring you many many more examples… just remember, your wedding is yours to create, so you get the intentional change you want out of the ritual!

Huffington Post: 10 Honest Marriage Vows You Never Hear

Bridal Guide: 30 Examples from Different Traditions (including non-religious)

A Practical Wedding: Tips for (Successfully) Writing Your Wedding Vows