On Marriage Vows: Traditional or Custom-Made?

Weddings have certainly been on my mind, having attended three in the last three weeks. So it was with great interest that I read this article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. David Lapp discusses the decreasing use of traditional vows in favor of custom-made (or, as the case may be, custom-ordered) ones. For Lapp the issue arose when his pastor refused to allow him and his fiancee to write their own. “My sensibilities were offended. ‘Don’t you know this is our wedding?”

Eventually the author came around to his pastor’s view, arguing for the traditional vows on the basis of the institution of marriage itself:

When one enters marriage, one steps into an institution bigger than oneself: It includes another person, the community and future children. Acts of this magnitude warrant precise and time-tested words. And as my pastor said: “A church acts like family: We share in the couple’s vows as we witness the vows being made, as we pray for them, support them, and even keep them accountable to those vows during difficult times.”

Lapp ends his article by citing Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a quotation which, incidentally, is also referenced in John Piper‘s This Momentary Marriage): “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.” He concludes:

In the traditional vows, the institution — marriage — makes and forms the couple; the vows set out what marriage is and what it requires. In today’s write-your-own or instant-download vows, the couple picks and chooses the promises they make to each other — they make their own definition. The more casual attitudes toward the vows are probably a symptom of our more casual attitude toward marriage.

The author’s arguments may not be finally convincing. But his cautions are worth your consideration, whether you are planning your own wedding or officiating another’s.

This entry was posted in Marriage, Theology, Weddings. Bookmark the permalink.

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