Your vows at the ceremony

June 6, 2006. Written by

The words you have to say in a civil ceremony ‐‐ and how you can personalise your wedding vows too

Personalising your vows is especially relevant for couples choosing a civil ceremony or those who are not tying the knot for the first time. If you’re choosing a civil ceremony, personalised vows can be used to inject personality and a unique flavour into the wedding. If one or both of you are getting married for the second time, writing your own vows is a way to make the ceremony different and special.

If you’re getting married in a civil wedding ceremony, you may be allowed to include your own vows in addition to the statutory words that make your marriage legal. However, some registrars have fixed views about what they will and will not permit. If your registrar won’t allow you much freedom, you can ask to have another registrar appointed (from the same register office) who may be more flexible, but don’t leave it till the last minute. In all cases, your registrar has the final say.

If you’re looking for an even more personalised wedding ceremony in a civil venue or even in a beautiful garden or marquee, you could think about a humanist wedding. This is a non‐denominational celebration of a couple’s love for each other and the bride and groom can write, or have influence over every word of the ceremony. (You will also have to have a legally binding civil ceremony at the same time or earlier).

An official humanist celebrant will provide you with some examples of a standard ceremony and help you to decide which element your wish to include for your big day. You can then add or adapt words depending on what you want to say.

The words you have to say

The minimum vows required for your civil marriage to be legal are as follows. These words must be said by both of you in your ceremony. You will usually be allowed to add your own choice of vows before or after the statutory ones.

In England and Wales the statutory declaration is:
I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I, __may not be joined in matrimony to __

It is followed by these contracting words:
I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, __do take thee, __, to be my lawful wedded husband/wife.

There are also two legal alternative declarations.
Declarations: I know of no legal reason why I, __, may not be joined in marriage to __.
Or by relying ‘I am’ top the question: Are you, __ free lawfully to marry__?

These are followed by the contract:
I, __, take you,__ to be my wedded wife/husband.
Or
I, __ take thee, __ to be my wedded wife/husband

In Scotland the couple say:
I solemnly declare that I know of no legal impediment why I, __, may not be joined in matrimony to__. I accept.

In Northern Ireland the statutory declaration is:
I know of no lawful impediment why I, __, may not be joined in matrimony to, __, to be my lawful wedded husband/wife.

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