Writing own wedding vows?


Is it possible to write our own wedding vows, or have some statement of our own making included in a Catholic nuptial mass?

My fiancee has suggested we write our own vows, though first I don’t know if it’s possible, second I’m not sure what’s wrong with the ones that the Church already has, and third it just seems one Americanism too far! (kidding)

Do the vows still have to include the woman promising to ‘honour and obey’? What is the male counterpart to this vow?


When I get married my h2b and i plan on writig vows to each other alongside the origial vows however i will not be promising to honour and obey unless he says it to!!! My parents omitted it 31 years ago and i will be too!



Yes, it is possible.

I suggest you obtain a copy of the booklet Together For Life by Fr. Joseph Champlin. There is a version for a wedding with a nuptial mass and a version for a wedding outside the mass, so make sure you get the one that applies to you.

The book has all of the options for the wedding ceremony, including the forms of the vows, the prayer of the couple, readings, etc.

The Catholic vows do not now, nor have they ever, included the word “obey”. That was added by Henry VIII to the Church of England vows. There was a time when some Catholic churches in England used this in their wedding rite-- influenced by the Church of England. But, that Rite-- called the Sarum Rite I believe-- is not in use in the universal church. I don’t believe it’s in use in England anymore either.

In the Catholic vows, the man and woman say the same vows.


From ewtn.com/library/Liturgy/MARRIAGE.HTM

The Rite of Marriage during Mass

Then the priest with appropriate words invites the spouses to express their consent before the Church and the community present. A short interrogation is then made so that they may publicly attest that they are freely entering marriage and are willingly undertaking its responsibilities.

The priest then invites them to give their consent. Instead of a simple “yes” in reply to the question of the celebrant demanded by the old ritual, a more complete formula is preferred; a formula that has been in use from medieval times in English speaking countries, namely, “I, N. take you, N. as my lawful wife (husband), and I promise you fidelity in riches and in poverty, in sickness and in health, in loving you and honouring you for all the days of my life”.

The priest then invokes the blessing of God on their consent, saying: “May the Lord ratify the consent given by you before the whole Church, and may He be pleased to shower upon you His blessings”.
If the spouses have any difficulty in saying so long a formula, the priest may ask them the same thing in the form of questions to which they will solemnly respond: “Yes, I will it.”

Then the priest blesses the rings, saying: “May the Lord bless these rings which you are giving to each other as a sign of your love and fidelity”.

The bridegroom then puts the ring on the finger of the bride, saying: “Receive this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The bride does the same for the bridegroom repeating the same formula.


Thanks very much, that’s really helpful.


You know I’ve never thought of the word “obey” as a bad, tyrannical sort of command in the context of a marriage.

I always thought of it as more of a loving committment to honor each other in this bond and not do anything against the bond to ever hurt each other or our family.

Good luck with your wedding and many happy years to you. We hit 25 years in July. I guess I better start shopping.


Yeah, I’ve never seen “Obey” as bad either. Perhaps it’s cause I’ve a very analitical mind, so on hearing ‘obey’ I just instinctivly know this has to mean “obey thy spouse’s needs” - which of course should be something all couples fully intend.

But I guess if people hear it differently and instead picture an ankle shackle and a mop, then maybe it’s better to be leerly of the phrase. Though I’d never be entering into a marriage where that’s any sort of realistic fear.


I remember Fr. Serpa (I think) saying that you cannot write your own vows. It would make it invalid. just like a priest can’t make up his own words to the consecration. (not the same thing, i just thought of it as an example). I was just searching, and i can’t find the post, but someone had written in asking for help finding verses to put in their vows, because htey wanted to write them, and the answer was, you can’t write your own vows.


One cannot define marriage differently from the Church, so altered vows do not alter the nature of marriage. Such alterations cannot modify the rights and obligations of the parties and if consent is lacking for anything which is essential, marriage is not contracted. The default vows reflect the right definition of marriage as used by the Church. The rite itself can be changed by the Conference of Bishops. However, there are only two options, anyway:

  1. Everything which the Church understands as marriage has been vowed, no matter the text of the vows.

  2. Something essential is lacking, therefore the marriage is invalid.

Since one cannot modify marriage itself. So, for example, ommitting submission doesn’t remove it. Swearing to iron the shirts does not make it an essential good of marriage. And so on and so forth. So, essentially, even if there is actually an altered text, the obligations stay the same as always, anyway.

Some canon law:

Can. 1119 Outside the case of necessity, the rites prescribed in the liturgical books approved by the Church or received by legitimate customs are to be observed in the celebration of a marriage.

Can. 1120 The conference of bishops can produce its own rite of marriage, to be reviewed by the Holy See, in keeping with the usages of places and peoples which are adapted to the Christian spirit; nevertheless, the law remains in effect that the person who assists at the marriage is present, asks for the manifestation of consent of the contracting parties, and receives it.


Miss Bonnie and I wrote our own vows for our wedding in 1970, with the priest’s approval. Unfortunately, we lost the hard-copy, so I don’t have a clue what we promised to do. But it must have stuck (for 37 years).


Nope, sorry. Whether we think it’s right to demand that the wife obey the husband or not, we cannot just take the text of a rite and explain away its parts in a way contrary to the literal meaning. If “obey the needs” had been intended, “the needs,” would have been put there. Besides, you can obey orders or commands or people who give them, but you cannot obey needs. That would be ungrammatical. The meaning of the word “to obey” in that text refers to submission and implies a certain authority of the husband over the wife and the fact that he’s the head of the family. It’s not about his needs, it’s about certain decisions he makes. If, “obey the needs,” were grammatically correct, it would reflect the husband’s position more accurately, since he’s the one supposed to love his wife as Christ loves the Church and lay his life for her if need be. We simply used to have such a text of the vows in which the wife actually did swear to obey the husband and it’s no use pretending we didn’t have it.


We took the standard vows (which did not include “obey” BTW… this was in 1997) but wrote our own version of the Prayer of the Couple. I don’t think we were allowed to alter the vows, but there is some leeway with other portions.

As for the poster who wrote their own vows with the approval of the priest back in the 70s… don’t know if that was correct of your priest or not, but I suspect not. There were a lot of wierd things going on in the 70s. My ILs were married in a Presbyterian church with both a minister and a Catholic priest. My FIL’s dad was very worried about whether the Catholic church would view the marriage as valid. When we wanted to use FIL as my daughter’s confirmation sponsor, because he was the only confirmed, practicing Catholic we could come up with who was not her parent, one of the other rules was that they had to married in the Church if married. The RE director, when I explained the circumstances of the wedding, suggested we just keep it quiet because I think she was afraid the pastor (or the diocese?) would not approve him as a sponsor, and he was literally our only choice. So, my point is that just because a priest approved it doesn’t mean it should have been done. And a lot of people, including many priests, went a little nuts in the 1970s.


Or just become Orthodox and then it’s a non-issue, and as an added bonus you get to be part of the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church:D


I don’t see how becoming Orthodox helps? Though Eastern Rite weddings are very beautiful, with the exchanging of crowns and all, I don’t think my fiancee would be too pleased if I suddenly decided to leave Catholicism having only just come to it, and I don’t think my in-laws would be too pleased about sitting through 3 hours of Greek/Slavonic liturgy.


This is simply not accurate.

Henry VIII added it to the Church of England marriage vows when the Book of Common Prayer was relesed. This is NOT Catholic in origin and Catholic marriage vows did not contain “obey”. They still do not.

See article.

For a time, this phrase found its way into the Sarum Rite in England.


Eastern Rite Catholic is not the same thing as the Orthodox Church. There are a number of eastern rites that are in communion with Rome, unlike the Orthodox church.


2.Orthodox weddings do not have spoken vows.
3.Most Orthodox Churches have large numbers of converts and the Liturgy is prefromed in English. Even if not there are more than two options, it could be in Serbian, Romanian, Arabic, and so on.


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