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Music fills the church. A hush descends as guests take to their feet. The church doors open, revealing the bride in glistening white. She clutches a bouquet of red roses…no, make that yellow tulips flown in from Holland that very morning. The groom’s eyes glisten as he takes in the image of his beautiful bride.
Holding hands, the couple repeats time-honored vows. They quickly promise to love and keep one another for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, forsaking all others, for as long as they both shall live.
After sharing a passionate (but church-appropriate) kiss, they burst out of the building in a shower of flower petals and confetti, and ride off in the sunset toward their fabulous honeymoon destination.
The credits roll.
Thanks to the romanticism of movies and TV, that’s how most of us envision weddings. This image is reinforced by a gazillion posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, all subtly promising enduring happiness if we can only find the right combination of gowns, flowers, music, and cake. Perhaps that’s why the average cost of a wedding, reception, and honeymoon is over $28,000. (And we’re still coming out of a recession!)
No matter how fantastic the wedding day is, it only lasts a day. It is suddenly replaced with the reality of married life. For many of us, that reality is a joyful partnership, filled with love and laughter that help get us through the rough patches of life. But for others, the reality doesn’t live up to the fantasy. Perhaps that’s a big reason why so many marriages end in divorce.
I can’t help but think that couples would be better prepared for marriage if they had just a dose of reality before the wedding day. That’s why I’d like to propose a change—not to TV shows or social media posts (Rom Coms and pins about color palettes all have their place). No, I’d like to expand those wedding vows.
Revised Wedding Vows
Instead of the sing-song words that we repeat but don’t take to heart, what if the bride and groom had to make real promises to one another—promises to love in spite of issues, to forgive when necessary, and to stay together no matter what? What if we packed our vows with Scripture, such as Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Corinthians 13:13, and Galatians 5:22-23?
The following is an example of what that could look like.
I, [Bride and Groom], promise:
- To prioritize God first, you second, and myself third.
- To encourage you to grow closer to the Lord.
- To accept you just as you are, with all your flaws (which may become more apparent over time).
- To forgive you completely of all past, current, and future wrong-doings, then put it behind me and move on.
- To take care of you when you’re sick, even if it makes me sick.
- To stay with you, even if (God forbid) you become disabled in any way.
- To have eyes only for you, even when you’re old and no longer sexy.
- To cherish you, even if you can’t give me the kids I’ve always dreamed of.
- To respect you, never speaking discouraging or belittling words to you.
- To always be lovingly honest with you.
- To make all effort to live in peace and harmony with you.
There would also be vows specific to the bride and groom.
I, [Bride], promise:
- To submit to you as the Church submits to Christ, even when it’s difficult or it doesn’t make sense at the time.
- To let you take the lead, even when I think I know a faster, better way.
I, [Groom], promise:
- To love you as Christ loves the Church, being willing to sacrifice myself completely for your well-being.
- To help you pursue the call God has for your life, even if I have to make sacrifices for a season, such as doing all the “girly stuff,” like cooking and cleaning.
Once the vows are exchanged, the new married couple share a kiss, have cake, and dance all night! (This is a wedding celebration, after all.)
A Good Start
If all marriages in the Christian church started out with these vows—with real promises—would it refocus the emphasis from the fantasy of the wedding day to the reality of married life? Would it really make a difference on the quality of a marriage or its lasting success?
I don’t know. But I am certain that it’s a good start.