What Happened to Wedding Vows?
If you've attended many recent weddings, you've likely heard brides and grooms exchange promises that deviate from the traditional vows taken from the Book of Common Prayer.
More and more couples alter the traditional lines or write their own —going along with the Pinterest-fueled movement to personalize nearly every element of the wedding day. They'll stand before witnesses to pledge things like:
"I will always peel your clementines."
"I promise to support your coffee habit."
"I vow to be on time."
As I researched marriage trends for A Christ-Centered Wedding—the book I co-wrote with my mom, Linda—I noticed a strong desire among today's brides and grooms-to-be to express themselves uniquely, to include inside jokes and specific references throughout.
Some churches, though, resist their efforts, requiring traditional vows to preserve the sanctity of the ceremony. When couples are excited about the fun and fanfare of their wedding day, these kinds of rules can seem overly rigid. But when we consider the long-term significance of those solemn words, it makes sense.
Even those outside the church recognize the correlation between vows and our understanding of marriage. More than light-hearted statements on deferring to one another's preferences, vows are the cornerstone of a wedding ceremony—the promises that bind together the bride and groom.
At my college reunion, I met up with friends whose weddings I had witnessed and whose marriages I had followed. Seeing them several years into their marriages, I recognized how they'd already lived their vows.
I looked in the eyes of those who had rejoiced "for better" and ached "for worse." I saw the disease of "in sickness" and the gracious healing of "in health." I laughed with those who were walking through "poorer" times, and benefited from the generosity of those now "richer." These people—my people—were testimonies that the grace of God had enabled them to keep their vows through disease, infertility, death, uncertainty, familial strife, loss of jobs, suffering in gospel ministry, and countless other challenges.
The vow to peel one another's clementines would not have been enough to guide a couple through these intense sorrows. But a promise "to have and to hold," "to love and to cherish," no matter the outcome, until death—that means something. A promise to be faithful to a covenant, by the grace of God—this is the language we can recall and rejoice in when the unexpected blows us away. This is the language that reflects the faithfulness and love of our great God and Savior.
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