A Complete Breakdown of Unitarian Universalist Wedding Vows
Tying the knot in a Unitarian Universalist wedding ceremony is a pretty simple process, but it's also one that's filled with emotion. You should work with your officiant to outline your ceremony in a way that aligns with who you and your partner are as a couple. If you choose to follow a traditional Unitarian Universalist format, it's likely that on your wedding day your ceremony will begin with a processional followed by opening remarks from your officiant as well as wedding blessings, readings, or songs from loved ones. It'll also include a declaration of intent (where you verbally consent to entering into wedlock) and an exchange of rings. Other traditions that you might choose to include in your ceremony before the pronouncement and kiss include handfasting (where you and your partner face each other as your hands are wrapped together), taking a sip from a shared glass of wine, or lighting a unity candle.
The heart of a UU wedding ceremony, though, comes near the middle of the proceedings, in the form of marriage vows. "I believe that the vows are the key part of the ceremony," says Boston-based Unitarian Universalist Minister Rev. Edmund Robinson, adding, "I tell couples they can use the traditional vows, but whatever words they say they need to own, not just for the wedding but for the entire marriage thereafter." Read on for everything you need to know about crafting vows for your UU wedding ceremony, along with some more tips from Robinson.
What to Include in Your Unitarian Universalist Wedding Vows
Unlike with Methodist wedding vows, Eastern Orthodox wedding vows or Jewish wedding vows which tend to be very structured, in a Unitarian Universalist wedding, there's plenty of room for flexibility with your vows so long as ultimately whatever words you exchange clearly express the set of lifelong promises you're making to each other. "Your vows may be in question form to which the answer is 'I do,' or in the form of promises like 'I love you and will love you forever,'" Robinson explains. If you're going to follow the latter structure, the expert recommends couples write their solemn vows ahead of time in the form of a paragraph answering the question: "Out of all the women/men in the world you could have chosen, why did you choose me?"
Traditional Unitarian Universalist Wedding Vows Template
Not sure where to start when it comes to your own wedding vows? Here are some ideas you can borrow from Robinson.
I [name] take you [name] to be the mother/father of my children, to be the companion of my house. I promise to be your faithful wife/husband, to love and cherish, in good times and in bad, in joy and sorrow, so long as we both shall live.
I, [name], take you, [name], in marriage,
to be no other than yourself.
I promise to trust and support you,
To love you for who you are,
And to accept who you become.
I will listen to you openly,
And be present with an open mind.
I will celebrate our differences,
Nurture what we share,
And work to honor these promises, for all the days of my life.
I [name] take you [name] to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for richer for poorer, for better for worse, in sickness and in health, till death parts us.
Personalizing Unitarian Universalist Wedding Vows
"Unitarian Universalism stands for individual choice. Couples being married by a UU minister have a wide latitude in forging vows," Robinson says. That means so long as you take the task of vow-writing seriously, there's nothing wrong with forgoing traditional wedding vows by adding some humor and creativity into your Unitarian Universalist vows. "This kind of hyper-personal vow often comes up with unusual sentences such as 'When I saw you juggle four pears while reciting The Pledge of Allegiance, I knew you were the one for me,' but it also can be very touching emotionally and certainly memorable," Robinson adds. Keep in mind that you and your partner can also take different approaches to your vows—you don't need to promise each other the exact same things. Maybe it's important to you that you strive toward healthy living and promise to be a helpful husband/wife to the heroic children you hope to one day raise. Or maybe your partner wants to focus on the gladness they feel as a result of your union. It's all about what feels right to you.
Additionally, because of the flexibility afforded by UU wedding vows, they work great as a foundation if you and your spouse are hoping to plan an interfaith wedding. Maybe you want to take elements from your heritage and sprinkle in nods to Presbyterian wedding vows, Baptist wedding vows, Buddhist wedding vows, Hindu wedding vows, Lutheran wedding vows or even Catholic wedding vows, but you also want the wedding ceremony to feel like a true celebration of you as a couple. A Unitarian Universalist format gives you the freedom to bring in some elements from other religions while also planning your wedding ceremony to be as reflective of your partnership as possible as you enter into your holy bond of marriage.