‘I (name), take you, (name), to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy law. In the presence of God I make this vow.’
“Couples frantically plan for their wedding but have no vision for their marriage.”
These are the generic vows that have been recited down the centuries in different languages at church weddings. Wedding vows are never officiated by couples in private but always by someone in the clergy, and in the public presence of witnesses.
Whether your vows are said in a large cathedral, in a rusty hut or by the beach, the location doesn’t change the details before God. In recent times, couples have either removed or added a few more lines to the original vows to suit their preferences. However, there are no details about specific wedding vows in the Bible, but everyone agrees that a marriage should be till death.
It’s great to plan for a fairy-tale and lavish wedding celebration but never forget the marriage doesn’t begin till the wedding celebrations are over.
Your wedding gown may have the longest train, your flower arrangements may leave everyone talking about it even months after, your bridal procession may even be streamed online and who cares if the Pope is your officiating minister? None of those impress God as He’s patiently waiting for the vows to be said and kept.
Sadly, many couples frantically plan for their wedding but have no vision for their marriage. Don’t join the staggering statistics of depressed couples who woke up to the reality of a failed marriage that’s similar to building a great house but forgot to make arrangements for a bed to sleep in on their wedding night.
So, let’s break down the wedding vows into little bits and examine it up close and see if it’s worth making this lifetime commitment to someone who isn’t really worth it or when we know we are not just yet ready.
I (name), take you, (name).
‘I’ signifies that the decision you are about to make is yours, not your pastor’s, not under pressure from your friends and this is not a favour done for your parents. You are fully aware that it’s a personal and unequivocal decision that has been made willingly and voluntarily and in a state of mental alertness and stability.
When we get married because someone suggested we should or because someone has done or made promises to do something for us, then we are no longer making a voluntary decision but now under duress and every time we run into trouble, we will be forced to run back to those who really made the decision on our behalf.
“Marriage is a risk, when we say ‘yes’ to someone, we have no clue what we are saying ‘yes’ to.”
Before there is a ‘taking’, a proposal is made and accepted. So, a guy makes a proposal, the lady accepts it and they decide to get married. Don’t get married to someone who hasn’t accepted your offer, don’t ‘take’ someone who isn’t yours, don’t take someone who is not yet of age to give their consent.
And if you’ve taken someone whose names are spelt out on the dotted lines, you are no longer permitted to take anyone else. So don’t be in a hurry to get married, you want to make sure that this person is worth the risk because when we say ‘no’ to others, the person we say ‘yes’ to must be worth it.
Marriage is a risk, when we say ‘yes’ to someone, we have no clue what we are saying ‘yes’ to, so when we decide to ‘take’ someone, we are making a decision to take on the person’s past, present and future issues on, we are making a conscious decision to take on their strengths and weaknesses, both the known and unknown issues.
To ‘take’ should be an intentional decision, not one to be done in a hurry. Sadly, many people have taken on a cross they were never meant to bear and are living in regrets, below their potential in a relationship heading nowhere.
… to be my wife/husband…
There is a certain way couples should act towards each other, there are specific tasks husbands and wives should be engaged in. When the couple is pronounced as husband and wife, by the officiating clergy, it’s really the sound of the horn or the gong to the beginning of an adventure that will and should last a lifetime. There are no limits, no restrictions, this couple will be and do to each other what husband and wives should.
We all have our different opinions about what married couples should do but in summary, God expects them to stay connected physically, spiritually and emotionally as they fulfil the assignment He’s entrusted to them, raising godly children and enjoying each other’s company.
Many couples are quick to announce, ‘This is my husband’ or ‘That is my wife’ but sadly, they are only paying a lip service as they aren’t being or doing any of what God’s expecting of them.
… to have and to hold from this day forward …
Many couples soon find out that they were excited about their spouse, but their spouse was not excited about them, they wanted to have a spouse but their spouse didn’t want to have them. Like a new shoe or a new tie, having a spouse was the next thing on their shopping list but that was it and nothing more.
But we know that to ‘have’ something is to be responsible for it, to nurture it, to provide an enabling environment for that thing to fulfil it’s purpose. Many spouses have partners who are not responsible, they do not nurture and care for their spouse and are not bothered about challenging and supporting their spouse to fulfil God’s purpose.
When you make these vows, you promise to ‘hold’ your spouse, not limited to being there to provide succor and comfort to one another but can you imagine how far and how much more a couple can achieve when their hands are joined as a team to face the future together.
Lots of marriages are struggling today because even though couples share the same address and last names, they are lonelier and feel more alone than before they exchanged their vows. Don’t get caught and stuck with someone who will not be intentional about ‘holding’ your hand for a lifetime.
When couples literally hold each other’s hands, they both have no extra hands to hold anyone else. Sadly, many couples have become content with one hand in their marriage and the other hand with a quick fling, unknown to them that this is just a disaster waiting to happen.
… for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health …
In recent times, these phrases have been axed from many wedding vows. In the spirit of being positive and not beginning such an adventure on a negative tone, no couple wants to imagine or experience any troubles as they live happily forever after.
Whether you make plans for the rainy days, or believe that life is a series of ups and downs or pretend that all will end or think whatever will be, will be, the hard fact is that none of us is in control of our lives, no one knows tomorrow and even if we did, none of us is able to prepare adequately to resolve all the issues that may occur in a lifetime.
God hasn’t promised anyone of us a trouble-free life. In John 14:33, Jesus said that ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’. Paul writing to Timothy said ‘All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution’ 2 Timothy 3:12. These are not very common messages from our pulpits today but that doesn’t change God’s word.
All married couples (and really any of us) fall into one of these categories: we’re either up against some trouble at the moment, we just got delivered from some chaos and drama in some aspect of our lives or about to get into one.
Who doesn’t want to get married to a healthy and wealthy spouse? But whether, we are faced with a bankruptcy, a recent diagnosis or an attack from the enemy, we know that we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus.
If our friendship with our spouse is only available in the good times, then we are not real friends. A friend loves at all times. We can’t afford to get married to just anyone but one who is a true friend and come what may we know they’ll be there for us.
Job’s wife is a sad reminder of those who hang out with us when all is well and great but jump ship when life gets rough and tough.
Marriage is a risk and it’s so vital to hear from God for the next steps. We take the leap with God and we are confident that come what may, God’s gone ahead of us and will work it all out for our good.
… to love and to cherish …
Love is not a feeling but a decision. God is love and if He hasn’t hugged, kissed or cuddled anyone of us, then love must be much more than these. God demonstrated His love by the sacrifice on the cross to rescue us from the bondage of sin.
If you claim to love your spouse, show it, prove it, leave us speechless by what you do, not what you feel or say or your endless posts online.
To love is to take a risk, there’s no guarantee that your love will be acknowledged, appreciated or reciprocated. To love is to be sacrificial and selfless, expecting nothing in return.True love is unconditional. Before you believe anyone loves you or commit to loving anyone, crosscheck with 1 Corinthians 13.
Love that has not been tested cannot be trusted. So when you make a vow to love someone whose love hasn’t been proven or who may turn their back against you in future, the decision to go ahead is a huge risk. It’s one thing to get married to the love of your life but will that person remain your love for life?
To cherish someone or something is to appreciate, value, treasure and enjoy that thing. It won’t be a one-off process but a continuous beholding of the gift of a spouse, God has so graciously given.
Before couples sign on the dotted lines, everyone is excited but a few months or years after the wedding, sadly many couples no longer feel this way as they get so angry and adrift with so many issues in between.
… till death us do part …
This phrase puts some hard boundaries on how long our relationships will last. It’s a bit disappointing that all the frantic preparation for a great wedding celebration, the memories of a romantic honeymoon and all the trappings of getting married would end on this side of eternity.
If there are no rewards for married couples and there is no marriage in heaven, then, is getting married the most important thing in life? Is it worth the risk of getting derailed and distracted from God’s plan for our lives? Yes, if getting married will enable you fulfil God’s purpose for your life, if not, that spouse was a huge mistake.
God hates divorce and says the finish line for the marriage is when one or both spouses steps out of time into eternity. But before then, we continue to sort out the issues, negotiate and compromise as we do our best to resolve conflicts and work as a team. We refuse to let our controlling and domineering parents, jealous or ungodly friends, our selfish ambitions or myopic decisions come in between us as a couple.
And just before the clergy pronounces the couple to be husband and wife, he would usually ask if anyone has any reason why the couple shouldn’t be joined together. It’s usually a scary few seconds as everyone holds their breath and hopes the deafening silence will quickly be halted with no unplanned surprises from a bitter ex or a controlling in-law.
Then the wedding service is ended with this statement: What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. And down the centuries, there’s been a debate about this statement.
If a wedding was held in public by a clergy and there were witnesses in attendance and prayer was made to God on behalf of the couple, that marriage is recognized in heaven. Whether it becomes a successful marriage or ends in a divorce is another issue entirely.
Many couples just recite these vows and ‘go to bed’. We can’t expect to be healthy if we don’t make healthy choices, we will definitely go bankrupt if we don’t make wise financial plans, our relationship will not stay stable if we don’t invest and keep doing all we need to keep our marriage upbeat and exciting.
It’s one thing to recite the vows, it’s another thing to take action to partner with God’s Spirit to make the vows come true. There are some things only God can do while we have to be responsible for our choices.
So, now you fully understand every detail of the wedding vows, spare yourself the heartache and depression and don’t be in a hurry to recite these vows to just anyone, they are very weighty with long term repercussions and God’s counting on you and your spouse to keep those vows once they have been pronounced.