Expanded Wedding Vows for a More Complicated Generation

In the name of God, I, ____, take you, ____, to be my husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part…

wedding vows

Photo Credit: Jeanette Runyon via Compfight cc

Though I pledge myself to you today, my sense of worthiness will never depend upon the way you love me. I have a divine Light within me that exists independent of how anyone treats me, including you. You cannot make it brighter, nor can you extinguish it, no matter what you do. And you have the very same Light within you. From this day forward, I will honor your Light, and you will honor mine. This will become the rhythm of our marriage, and it will be called grace.

Though I promise to have and to hold you, I will not expect you to remove all of my loneliness. Because no human being can do that for me. Instead, I vow to make my loneliness available to you, to share it with you, not as a way of erasing it, but as a way to intermingle it with yours. In this way, our wounds will not vanish, but they will give birth to something new. It will be called belonging.

Though I promise to love and to cherish you until death do us part, I also swear that our marriage will not become the sole purpose of my life. Our home will not be the end all and be all of my search for meaning. Rather, it will be a safe place for each of us to dream our dreams, an open space in which to discover our passions, and an empowering place from which we can both launch ourselves into the world, to love and cherish it, as well. In this way, our marriage will become something bigger than itself, and that thing will be called compassion.

Today, I pledge this to you: I am not entering this marriage to lose myself, but I am also not entering into this marriage to hold on to myself. I’m entering into this marriage to live one of the great paradoxes of existence: that we are now merged as one, but also not. We are together and apart. Close and distant. United and alone. Fused and free.

Today, we pledge to let our marriage, slowly, over the course of years and decades and a lifetime, reveal to us one of the great mysteries of existence: every person is entirely separate from every other person, and entirely connected to everyone else, as well. And in this way, our marriage will become a part of something ancient and sacred. It is called unity.

This is our solemn and holy vow.

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Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Anita Colanzi

    Maybe not just relevant to a particular generation but to anyone contemplating getting married. How enlightening those vows would have been once upon a time…..IF….one was willing to be ready for their meaning! Great post.

  • AV

    This is an amazing piece of writing. It took me years and years of heartache, anxiety and struggle. …and then years of therapy, practice and vulnerability to understand this, apply this and live this. What you describe, for me, were not easy concepts but once i understood and applied them, they changed my life (and also resulted in the breakdown of my marriage)….so it is with happiness, relief and sadness that I read your beautiful words.

    You have such a gift. Thank you for sharing it with the world.

  • Laura Fuller

    As a therapist, I want to share this with every couple I work with! As a mo
    ther, I want to (and will) share this with my children, ages 21 and 24. As a wife, I will share this with my husband as it puts into words and gives us language for what we’ve been striving for the past 26 years of marriage. Truth, validation and inspiration all rolled up into one post. Thank you 🙂

  • Dani Saadi

    I’m a working mom of four, living in the south of Brazil. Your words are able to bring truth in a simple and straightforward manner. This post was very inspired, thanks!

  • Grace

    Yes! These words are a feast for our souls! Had to share them. 🙂
    And the overflow of these vows creates a home where all young and old, dear ones and new ones, broken and healing, are drawn and wish to dwell.

  • Dan

    Yes to all of this. Wish I could go back and make my vows a little more realistic with these words.

  • Inspired words, Kelly! I wish I had heard them before getting married. I will share them with my husband though to see what we can do to try to live them out better now! Many blessings to you!

  • Mad Scientist

    *blinks away tears*

    Thank you for sharing this.

  • John Price

    I have always thought the vows should be ” I now pronounce you Man and future Ex wife “

  • Casey

    Oh, I love this post. Absolutely right on, although it’s taken me a decade of marriage to recognize it. Partnership and family building seem designed to shake us awake. I love how your extended vows connect marriage to the sacred, not the superficial “sacred” I imagined in my twenties, but the more more mature truth you so graciously wrote for us. Thank you! This should be part of every wedding ceremony!

  • Stan Smith

    Very good “disclaimer” so that the partnership can be more realistic. Perhaps the initial vow should have the inserstion of ONLY: ” I take you to be my ONLY husband/wite.”

  • theresa

    even though I have been separated now for almost 13 years but still married, I need these words to give me strength. Thank you!

  • Cris M

    Hi Kelly,
    This is a very “feet on earth” post, would be awesome if we could have the chance to reflect on all this when we are about to say “yes”. Sadly I think it is not the experience of many, at least not when you are a bit young and you think “love is all you need” or better said: “the-romantic-love-you-are-experiencing-at-the-wedding-day is all you need”.
    I read your post and kept reflecting the following days that your words provoke this modern life behavior of “whatever is not working can be replaced with a new one”. So when marriage or any other relationship walks into difficult paths or not so stunning landscapes, well, the option of “choosing another one easier” enters quite fast in the scenario… your words at least for me, openly challenge this alternative and invite to face the struggles, learn from then, grow as a result, and set out on the path again, hopefully renewed and with new not only vows and promises but also tools and understanding.
    I will have these ones in mind if I marry again 🙂
    Thank you!
    Warm hugs,
    Cris M

  • Shannon

    I LOVE this post. I’m celebrating my 19th wedding anniversary this week. These vows echo lots of unfair “responsibilities” and “expectations” that I have put on my husband and the sanctity of our marriage, unknowingly and selfishly lots of times. I am going to invite my husband to renew our vows on our anniversary. I love that marriage, for me, is such a wonderful laboratory, union, sanctuary to come together, show vulnerability, support each other and continually learn. We are waking up together so that we can see and experience these lessons of life! These lessons and growth spurts then go on to effect all other areas of my life. I’m very lucky that my husband is willing and enthusiastic about doing all of the above. ONCE AGAIN, you hit this out of the ball park!
    Thanks,
    Shannon