I Take Thee, Mate,

Marriage. The Big M. The Ball & Chain. The death of bachelorhood. How do we marry?

Christian/Catholic Marriage

Commonly, albeit mistakenly, referred to as traditional marriage, religious marriage is the exchange of vows you can recite, through your tears, with every soap opera/nighttime drama couple walking down the aisle or in a Vegas drive through chapel.

You read it here.

The well-recited vows come from the Common Book of Prayer (1594).

The officiant begins, We are gathered here in the presence of God and these witnesses, to join in the bonds of holy matrimony, Dick and Jane.”

I take you to be my lawfully wedded spouse, to have and to hold, from this day forward and forsaking all others, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, honor and cherish, ’til death do us part, .”

We can all recite it like a Miranda warning. Some even feel they have the same effect.

Jewish Marriage

A couple of 14-carat gold wedding rings. Pictu...

With this ring, I thee wed.

Traditional Jewish marriages require a vow to pursue the faith of Israel. Alternately, bride and bridegroom answer the same questions and state the same vows.

Do you Jane, take Dick, to be your husband?

“I do”

Do you promise to love, cherish and protect him, whether in good fortune or in adversity, and to seek with him a life hallowed by the faith of Israel?

“I do”

Jane, as you place this ring upon the finger of Dick, speak to him these vows: 

“With this ring be thou consecrated unto me as my husband, according to the law of God, and the faith of Israel.”

One of the colorful Buddhist variations

One of the colorful Buddhist variations

The ring portion of the Jewish ceremony is adopted by Judeo-Christian religions omitting the reference to Judaism.

Buddhist Marriage

The simple exchange of vows between Buddhists is reflective of other religions in the conditions of marriage.

In the future, happy occasions will come as surely as the morning. Difficult times will come as surely as the night. When things go joyously, meditate according to the Buddhist tradition. When things go badly, meditate. Meditation in the manner of the Compassionate Buddha will guide your life. To say the words ‘love and compassion’ is easy. But to accept that love and compassion are built upon patience and perseverance is not easy.”

Buddhism is a required portion of the vows for marriage to be consecrated and valid.

Courthouse, yard, drive-thru chapel.

Civil Marriage

Naturally, civil unions come sans the overt tones of a superior being and survive under the auspices humans have free will to engage in unions as they see fit, the law notwithstanding. The vows are generally less stilted and steeped in Olde English tradition.

Before these witnesses, I vow to love and care for you for as long as we both shall live. I take you, with all your faults and strengths, as I offer myself to you with all my faults and strengths. I will help you when you need help, and turn to you when I need help. I choose you as the person with whom I will spend my life.”

Sounds similar, but not matching, to the religious vows, without having a supreme being overseeing the matter.

All the Rest

Thousands of variations of wedding vows exist. Everyday, couples choose to design their own vows to exchange which represent their specific relationships. They include friendship, love, fidelity, happiness and sorrow, health and not, wealth and poverty, children, family and time.

As long as the officiant is satisfied their exchange of vows represents a sufficient commitment to one another, the legal bond of marriage is formed.

Church vs. State

Rita and John's Marriage Certificate

The pretty one does not count.

Most countries are secular. Each requires different conditions to be met to acknowledge marriage as a legal status. The majority recognize the religious ceremony as concurrent with the civil ceremony by licensing the officiant.

This precludes the need for two ceremonies: Since the religious officiant is also licensed by the state, the religious vows are merely an addition to the civil vows required to validate the marriage in the eyes of the State.

What is the difference?

Regardless of the words exchanged, a legal union is formed. Marriage is a contract between spouses to remain a unit in what they do from the date of marriage forward.¹ Despite some semantics, all wedding vows essentially bind the parties to stay together, regardless of transient, situational discomfort, until death or legal dissolution of the marriage, where available.²

Which vows do you think all marriages should contain? Which vows do you think should be omitted? Did you write your own vows? How does the exchange of vows change your commitment to Mate?

¹ Prenuptial agreements change this particular property of the marriage contract.

² Divorce, annulment and dissolution are different and incur different responsibilities and ramifications.

© Red Dwyer 2012
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  1. trennasue

     /  January 2, 2012

    Not that it matters now, but I said “Okay” instead of I do and the judge stopped the ceremony!

    • LOL! Amazing what they will and will not accept. I know one couple who were married when the husband said, “You betcha!”

      • trennasue

         /  January 2, 2012

        She took me aside and asked me if I was under duress. It was quite an interesting day.

        • Probably prudent. Was she right?

          • trennasue

             /  January 2, 2012

            Stressed was more accurate. We were at a courthouse and my long hair hippie brother was wearing levi’s and a maroon t-shirt, the same as the prisoners. It was a crazy day.

          • Wow! A wee bit too much excitement outside the nuptials. Just makes me want to hug you. Of all the days when you do not need more stress.

  2. I am traditional all the way. So many folks don’t really realize what they are doing when they state those vows. In fact, I would say many of them have divorce in the back of their minds if things don’t work out.

    But, in our society, many vows/promises are broken on a daily basis. Since this is an election year – good example 🙂 Things might go better if all couples would keep this in mind: “Marriage is a contract between spouses to remain a unit in what they do from the date of marriage forward.” The unity of the unit often determines the outcome.

    • True, Angie. If you think about it, how many people would sign a business contract (which they know is temporary) without the advice of an attorney? Yet, the same people obtain a marriage license and sign the contract without even truly consulting the other party to the contract on all of the terms. Know anyone to whom this concept applies?

  3. As a single gal, I’ll submit a few words. Composing one’s own vows is a sweet gesture as it is unique and no longer like anyone else’s wedding. Bride and groom are able to write words that apply to only their own relationship. To each his/her own, as long as both are happy 🙂

    • A wedding is one of the most individual ceremonies any two people can share. Many do not feel the creativity to construct their own vows (beyond the State-mandated portion) and others are afraid they will not cover enough. I think writing one’s own vows is the ultimate in commitment to the marriage. The feelings are more poignant than reciting words of others. Red.

  4. Great post (scratches head, wondering where Red came up with inspiration for this one!)…

    I would say take any and all vows pertaining to ‘ownership’ of each other. Just to love and to cherish, to be honest and forthcoming, and to be faithful and not to put down payments on all the good lawyers a week before asking for a divorce…

    • Most all ceremonies today have foregone the ownership and obedience lines. Some religions still adhere to those traditions, however.

  5. I prefer the traditional Christian vows, and those are the ones we intend to recite. However, the other ones were pretty, too. “In sickness and in health” is a phrase that holds a lot of meaning to me, since I’m being taken in sickness. Many are also poor, or become poor because of various circumstances. It’s hard to love when you are sick and poor, but it makes the love all the more meaningful.

    • I don’t know, Lara. I think it is not more difficult to love in adverse conditions, but it may be more difficult to celebrate the love in the way you would when you are not spending emotional capital fretting about the condition of (health, life, wealth).

  6. I did like the Buddhist ones a lot, too, though!

  7. We had a traditional wedding in church with the traditional Christian vows. Now we often make up things to add to them just for fun.

    “Hey, where’s my kiss?”
    “I don’t remember kisses as part of the deal.”
    “To love, honor and kiss. Don’t you remember?”
    “Oh yeah I do, Love, honor, kiss, tickle…”
    “Uh huh. No tickling.”

    I love being married.

    • I love it! Keeping the fun alive is a big part of keeping the love alive. Thank you for stopping by to comment, Mike. Red.

  8. Mike W has it right. The best parts of wedding vows are the unspoken, II include the Given, the understanding, the promise of Giving always, the gentleness and exceeding kindness, and, above all, the license to GROW and change without fear. Christy B says it best: “as long both are happy”.
    All the rest of it is simply words on paper.

    • Are they really, Ray? The concept of the ceremony is to declare the covenants of the contract. Why then would the words be negligible? Should they not accurately reflect the terms of the marriage to which you will hold one another accountable?

      • I could be wrong, but I read Ray’s comment to mean that the basic vows give you a foundation from which to grow. If you don’t hold those close to your heart and take them seriously and grow in them, they are nothing more than words on paper and I agree with that concept.

        • Which was more the point of my question. You cannot value the tacit portions more than the spoken ones, lest you take the spoken ones for granted, thus nullifying the contract.

  9. bear

     /  January 2, 2012

    I must answer carefully, I must answer carefully…… I cannot wait to write my vows. That is all!

  10. If I remember my catechism, matrimony is a Catholic sacrament. The ceremony is performed by the bride and groom and all others are witnesses.

    I think the Buddhist vows are the truest, especially the last sentence. Too many rush into marriage driven by raging hormones and all too often the marriage ends with the honeymoon.

    What is missing from the vows? Family and the pledge to future children.


    • Good answer, McD, as expected. I only have one bone to pick with your addition. Bear and I are going to be married this year, with no chance (N.O.N.E.) at adding to our total of 15 children. (No, we are not Duggars.) So, kiddles would be a vow I think we are safe to skip, but family still rings true, for there are more grandchildren to welcome (a new one in June!).

      And the last statement in the Buddhist vows is absolutely a deal maker for me.



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