Time-honoured words for a traditional touch
While some couples choose to put their own stamp on the ceremony, others prefer to stick to traditional vows that have been spoken for centuries. There is no right or wrong approach here – it’s simply a case of what works best for you and your groom.
The following vows, prayers and poems have come from cultures all over the world. They can be used to inspire your own vows, or included as part of a personalised civil ceremony.
Your own vows
Traditional Irish vow
As light to the eye, as bread to the hungry,
as joy to the heart, may thy presence be with me
Traditional Irish vow
Here is my hand to hold with you,
To bind us for life and grow old with you
Adapted from traditional Presbyterian vows
I take you in all love and honour,
In all duty and service
In all faith and tenderness
Adapted from traditional Lutheran vows
I enter this marriage with you knowing that the true magic of love is not to avoid changes but to navigate them successfully
Adapted from a Humanist vow
I give you my hand and my heart as a sanctuary of warmth and peace
Adapted from traditional Jewish vows
I promise to love, cherish and protect, in good fortune and adversity
Adapted from a Methodist vow
We come together to record in the minds and hearts of all present the ripe event of a love that’s bloomed
The peace and serenity of the heavens be with you all
Hawaiian wedding song from an ancient marriage prayer
Here all seeking is over
The lost has been found
A mate has been found
To share the chills of winter –
Now love asks
That you be united
Here is a place to rest
A place to sleep, a place in heaven.
Now two are becoming one, the black night is scattered
The Eastern sky grows bright, at last the great day has come
Commitment poem of the Pueblo Indian, author unknown
Before we met, you and I were halves unjoined except in the wide rivers of our minds. We were each other’s distant shore, the opposite wings of a bird, the other half of a seashell. We did not know the other then, did not know our determination to keep alive the cry of one riverbank to the other. We were apart, yet connected in our ignorance of each other, like two apples sharing a common tree. Remember?
I knew you existed long before you understood my desire to join my freedom to yours. Our paths collided long enough for our indecision to be swallowed up by the greater need of love. When you came to me, the sun surged towards the earth and moon escaped from darkness to bless the union of two spirits, so alike that the creator had designed them for life’s endless circle.
Beloved partner, keeper of my heart’s odd secrets, clothed in summer blossoms so the icy hand of winter never touches us. I thank your patience. Our joining is like a tree to earth, a cloud to sky and even more. We are the reason the world can laugh on its battlefields and rise from the ashes of its selfishness to hear me say, in this time, this place, this way – I loved you best of all.
Taken from the Hindu ceremony of Saptapadi (The Seven Steps)
Together we will remain faithful and lifelong partners…
Together we will cherish each other and our families in sorrow and happiness
From the Hindu marriage ceremony
We have taken the seven steps
You have become mine forever.
Yes, we have become partners.
I have become yours.
Hereafter I cannot live without you.
Do not live without me.
Let us share the joys.
we are the word and meaning, united.
You are thoughts and I am sound.
May the nights be honey-sweet for us;
may the mornings be honey sweet for us;
may the earth be honey sweet for us;
may the heavens be honeysweet for us.
May the plants be honey sweet for us;
May the sun be all honey for us;
May the cows yield us honey sweet milk!
As the heavens are stable,
as the earth is stable,
as the mountains are stable,
as the whole universe is stable,
as the whole universe is stable,
so may our union be permanently settled.
Adapted from ancient Sanskritt
For yesterday is already a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision,
But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of vision
and every tomorrow a vision of hope
Adapted from a traditional Baha’i ceremony
Be like two sweet-singing birds perched upon the highest branches of the tree of life
Filling the air with songs of love and rapture.
I (groom), take you (bride) to be my wife,
Knowing in my heart that you will be my constant friend,
My faithful partner in life and my one true love.
I add my breath to your breath
That our days may be long on the earth,
That the days of our people may be long
That we may be one person,
That we may finish our roads together
Blessing of the Apaches
Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other
Now you will feel no cold for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now you will feel no loneliness for each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons but there is only one life before you.
May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years.
May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.
Traditional Cherokee Prayer
We honour mother earth –
And ask for our marriage to be abundant and grow stronger through the seasons.
We honour fire –
And ask that our union be warm and glowing with love in our hearts
We honour wind –
And ask that we sail through life safe and calm in our father’s arms
We honour water –
To clean and soothe our relationship that it may never thirst for love
May you each be like the air that inhabits the other
Blessing of the Great Plains Indians
May our trails lie straight and level before us, let us live to be old
From a Native American blessing
Above you are the stars, below you are the stones
As time does pass, remember;
Like a star should your love be constant
Like a stone should your love be firm
Traditional African blessing
The good sprits will be their cushions
so that not a hair of their heads shall be harmed
Ancient Gaelic blessing
O God give the joy and God the love
To those who are lovers true
Shed down benedictions from above
As in one are joined the two
Medieval Christian vow
May (bride) and (groom) live to grow together in your love under their own vine and fig tree and seeing their children’s children.
You cannot possess me for I belong to myself
But while we both wish it, I give you what is mine to give
And we shall have the time of our lives
Handfasting for a year and a day
Bound together for a lifetime
I will always hold your hand fast
Wiccan handfasting pledge
Celtic handfasting pledge
We are the air, it surrounds us.
We are the fire, it burns within us,
We are the water, it flows through us,
We are the earth, it sustains us
You are the star of each night.
You are the brightness of each morning
You are the story of each quest
You are the report of every land
Traditional candle-lighting ceremony
This one light cannot be divided, neither shall our lives
Translated from 2nd century China
We plaited our hair and became man and wife
The love of us two was never in doubt
Let us enjoy the bliss of tonight
And make merry while the good times last
Translated from 6th century China
If you accept all things
Whether painful or joyful
You will always know
That you belong to each other
And we will make our bed beneath the bright and ragged quilt
of all the yesterdays that makes us who we are,
The strengths and frailties we bring to this marriage,
And we will be rich indeed