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    The Moment of Marriage: Vows

    1-PHOTO-ElizabethRiver-Columnist-Elizabeth_at_CCC_2011The heart of the wedding ceremony is the recitation of the vows. In some faith traditions, the couple is married the moment the vows are said. In others, they are married when the rings are exchanged. In still others, it’s when the person officiating pronounces that the couple is married. The truth is, you get to decide for yourself at what particular moment in your ceremony you are married! .

    It probably won’t even matter too much to you on the big day. Most couples I have married go through their whole ceremony in a daze, which is a kind of altered state where they ‘wake up’ after it’s over. Everybody is hugging and slapping them on the back, and they discover they are married!

    The saying of the vows is the central event, though. The next time you’re at a wedding, notice how the couple expresses their vows. This is the moment when they truly bind themselves to each other for all of their days. This is when they make that subtle, but enormous, shift from intending to marry to actually doing it. They say, out loud, the very significant words of a lifetime commitment to one another. This is the moment of marriage.

    So, I am sharing a tiny sampling of vows that people have made in weddings I’ve done. These are just some of the ways that people have said to one another: “I marry you…for life!”

    “Here is what I promise to you on this day: I will listen to you with an open mind and open heart.

    I will strive to learn and grow from being with you. I will experience your joys and your sorrows as my own.

    I will take care of you, and ask you to take care of me. When I struggle with frustration or doubt in our relationship, I will return to my faith in your love for me.”

    “I will allow myself to see you and to be seen by you. I will comfort and encourage you. I will be faithful to you. I will forgive you.”

    “In this family we have created, I give to you my strengths and my vulnerabilities, my hopes, my fears, and my faith.”

    “I will become the best that is in me, and I will seek and find the best that is in you.”

    “As we grow and experience life together in all of its ups and downs, I will hold your hand, I will be your rock, I will listen to you, and I will support your every endeavor.”

    “I promise to love you gently, to listen and speak kindly. I promise to sing and dance and laugh and cry with you. I will be your partner in life, in love, in family and in old age.”

    “I promise to be open, honest and compassionate with you. When we disagree, I will respect you, listen to you and work with you towards a resolution as an equal partner.”

    “We are stronger together than we are on our own.”

    “I promise to trust you and give you the benefit of the doubt, and when I’m wrong to promptly admit it. I promise to keep our mental, emotional and physical intimacy monogamous.”

    “I promise to live with a generous heart, to share myself completely, to give to you the gifts of trust, patience, forgiveness, loyalty and unwavering support.”

    “I promise to encourage your individuality, because that is what makes you unique and wonderful.

    I promise to nurture your dreams, because through them your soul shines.

    I promise to help shoulder our challenges, because through them we’ll emerge stronger.

    I promise to be your partner in all things, not possessing you, but working with you as a part of the whole, because with you they will be that much sweeter. This is my sacred vow to you, my equal in all things.”

    Rev. Elizabeth River is an ordained Interfaith Minister based in the North Bay. For more information, please visit