For couples planning a Catholic wedding

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Catholic wedding vows

The most important part of a Catholic wedding is what is commonly known as the exchange of vows. These words are the heart—the essential element—of the sacrament of marriage; they form the covenant that establish the couple’s marriage. The Church calls the exchange of vows consent—that is, the act of will by which a man and a woman give themselves to each other, and accept the gift of the other. The marriage can’t happen without the declaration of consent (Catechism #1625 - 1631).

Catholic wedding vows are usually preceded by three questions from the priest:

"(Name) and (name), have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?"

"Will you honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?"

"Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?"

The bride and groom respond "I will" or "yes" (Rite of Marriage #34).

Catholic wedding vows

The Rite of Marriage (#25) offers several options for Catholic wedding vows. The standard version goes like this:

Priest (or deacon): Since it is your intention to enter into marriage, join your right hands, and declare your consent before God and his Church.

Groom: I, (name), take you, (name), to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

Bride: I, (name), take you, (name), to be my husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

It's ideal if you memorize the words of consent; doing so emphasizes that your consent to be married is truly heartfelt. Memorizing the words of consent in the weeks and months leading up to the wedding is also a good spiritual practice that will help you to focus on the deeper meaning of your marriage.

If you're worried about forgetting the words, or being too emotional to say them clearly, many priests and deacons will have you repeat the words of consent after them, phrase by phrase. The Rite of Marriage doesn't actually suggest this, though; instead, it offers this simple alternative:

Priest: (Name), do you take (name) to be your wife? Do you promise to be true to her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love her and honor her all the days of your life?

Groom: I do.

Priest: (Name), do you take (name) to be your husband? Do you promise to be true to him in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love him and honor him all the days of your life?

Bride: I do.

In the United States, Catholic wedding vows may also take the following form:

Groom: I, (name), take you, (name), for my lawful wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

Bride: I, (name), take you, (name), for my lawful husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

Again, you can also simply respond to the priest’s question:

Priest: (Name), do you take (name) for your lawful wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?

Groom: I do.

Priest: (Name), do you take (name) for your lawful husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?

Bride: I do.

The priest acknowledges that the couple have declared their consent to be married, prays for God's blessing on the couple, and declares, "What God has joined, men must not divide" (Rite of Marriage #26). This is the point at which, sacramentally, the bride and groom become wife and husband.

The Blessing of Rings follows the declaration of consent. (Again, it is ideal for the bride and groom to memorize these lines.) The priest says a blessing over the wedding rings (Rite of Marriage #27) and then the couple exchange wedding rings (#28):

Groom (placing the wedding ring on his wife's ring finger): (Name), take 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.

Bride (placing the wedding ring on her husband's ring finger): (Name), take 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 General Intercessions (sometimes called Prayers of the Faithful or Bidding Prayers) follow, and then, if the sacrament of marriage is being celebrated within Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

You may be wondering whether you can write your own Catholic wedding vows. Because the Rite of Marriage does not provide an option for couples to write their own vows, however, it is unlikely that the priest or deacon who assists at your wedding will allow you to do so. (Find out why by reading "Can we write our own Catholic wedding vows?") One option for couples who want to publicly express their love in their own words would be to include a personal statement in the printed wedding program. Another possibility: exchange a profession of love during the reception.

For more information

Choosing vows

Can we write our own wedding vows?

Rite of Marriage

 

Other websites

Catechism #1625 - 1631: Declaration of Consent


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