A Comprehensive Guide to Presbyterian Wedding Vows
If you're a newly engaged member of the Presbyterian Church, you may be gearing up to plan one of life's most special occasions—your wedding ceremony—in the style of this Protestant Christian denomination. Such a Christian wedding will likely follow the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA), the United States' largest Presbyterian denomination, or the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the second-largest denomination. What does that mean for your marriage vows?
Understanding the Presbyterian wedding service as a whole will help you to better understand the specifics of Presbyterian vows. For starters, the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA) describes marriage as "a gift God has given to all humankind for the wellbeing of the entire human family" and "a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives." A notable difference between the two largest American denominations of Presbyterianism is that the Presbyterian Church (USA) allows for same-sex marriages, while the Presbyterian Church in America does not.
Like other services of Christian marriage, such as Methodist or Lutheran wedding ceremonies, a pastor or minister of your church will serve as the officiant on your wedding day. The Presbyterian Book of Common Worship is often the basis for the liturgy of these marriage services. The traditional order for ceremonies is as follows: the entrance of the wedding party, sentences of scripture, a statement on the gift of marriage, prayer, declarations of intent, affirmations of the families, affirmation of the congregation, a reading from scripture, a brief sermon, the exchange of vows, the exchange of rings, prayer, the Lord's Prayer, the announcement of marriage, and the charge and blessing.
During your wedding, in the presence of God, your family members and other guests, your pastor or minister will ask for God's blessing so that the Holy Spirit may rest upon you as you honor the promises you make in matrimony as part of the holy bond of marriage. Now, let's explore what those promises are.
What to Include in Your Presbyterian Wedding Vows
In the Presbyterian Church, your wedding vows are vows of love and faithfulness given in accordance to God's ordinance. But before you give your vows, you and your partner will affirm your desire and intention to enter into the covenant of marriage during your declarations of intention.
Declarations of Intention
At this point in the worship service, your officiant will address you and your partner individually using one of the following two options from the Book of Common Worship. The second option is reserved for couples who are both baptized.
Name, understanding that God has created, ordered, and blessed the covenant of marriage, do you affirm your desire and intention to enter this covenant?
Name, in your baptism you have been called to union with Christ and the church. Do you intend to honor this calling through the covenant of marriage?
Your answer to both options is the traditional "I do." Affirmations of the families, affirmation of the congregation, a reading from scripture and a sermon will follow your declarations of intention, leading to your vows.
When it's time to give your vows, your guests may be asked to stand. The pastor or minister will then ask you and your partner to face each other, join your right hands and "with your promises bind yourselves to each other as husband and wife." These promises are similar to other Christian wedding vows. Traditionally, in marriages of the opposite sex, the man will speak his vows first.
Following your vows, you may exchange wedding rings as a sign of your promises. Your pastor or minister will ask for God's blessing in prayer, and you will then speak to one another as you exchange rings.
Traditional Presbyterian Wedding Vows Template
The below vow templates can be found in the Book of Common Worship.
Partner 1 says:
I, Name, take you, Name, to be my wife/husband; and I promise, before God and these witnesses, to be your loving and faithful husband/wife; in plenty and in want; in joy and in sorrow; in sickness and in health; as long as we both shall live.
Partner 2 says:
I, Name, take you, Name, to be my husband/wife; and I promise, before God and these witnesses, to be your loving and faithful wife/husband; in plenty and in want; in joy and in sorrow; in sickness and in health; as long as we both shall live.
Partner 1 says:
Before God and these witnesses, I, Name, take you, Name, to be my wife/husband, and I promise to love you, and to be faithful to you, as long as we both shall live.
Partner 2 says:
Before God and these witnesses I, Name, take you, Name, to be my husband/wife, and I promise to love you, and to be faithful to you, as long as we both shall live.
Exchange of Rings Template
After you exchange your solemn vows, you may exchange rings using the wording below from the Book of Common Worship or other appropriate wording. If one of you is not a Christian, you should omit the phrase "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
The one giving the ring says:
Name, I give you this ring as a sign of our covenant, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
The one receiving the ring says:
I receive this ring as a sign of our covenant, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
As each ring is given, the one giving the ring says:
This ring I give you, as a sign of our constant faith and abiding love, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Personalizing Presbyterian Wedding Vows
For all couples, marriage vows are one of the most important aspects of your entire big day. Therefore, you may be wondering if you can personalize your own wedding vows, even slightly, in the Presbyterian Church. Like other denominations of Christianity, there seems to be no definitive answer of "yes" or "no." Therefore, this is a conversation you should have with your pastor or minister during your premarital discussions.