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What's in a vow...

Part 1 What’s in a vow…

Wedding coming up and you need to get your vows written; or maybe you are planning to renew your vows as part of a marriage anniversary? I thought I’d take a minute this week, to reflect on what is the core of any marriage ceremony, the vows. Contrary to popular opinion you are not writing your vows to reduce your family and guests to tears; your vows are intended for one person alone and that is your bride/ groom (partner) and there may well be tears but that’s a consequence not a goal. Once you get over that hurdle you’re in with a chance because good writing begins with the reader or in this case the listener in mind. So, if you are writing for your partner’s ears then your vows will be tailored to you and your partner’s expectations of marriage; that said, I’m assuming you already know what your partner’s expectations are. You don’t; then why on earth are you getting married? It might be back to marriage counselling and an exploration of what you both have in common that is your starting point. People about to marry rarely have a complete picture of their partner; such insight may take years to develop or may never be totally be revealed; but the big issues (e.g. children, residency, money) will need to have been discussed or those first few months are going to be very interesting. You could live together (I think it’s called “trying before buying”) and Australians certainly are comfortable with doing that; more than 80% of marrying couples in 2015 had had some period of living together before they married. There are pluses and minuses to this; the major disadvantage seems to be the attitude that develops around assets and debt. The “my money”, “your money” vs. “our money” conflicts that may be carried over into a marriage can be very destructive; but on the positive side there is a chance to experience your partner in situations that give you an awareness as to the real person. So back to writing those vows; a vow, a promise or an oath has at its centre an idea of being a binding commitment. When someone says “I vow to treat you equally in our marriage”, they are not saying I’ll “try” they are saying “I will”; “I’ll find a way.”, “I’ll spare no effort.”, “I’ll make it happen!”. In designing a bespoke wedding ceremony, a civil celebrant is yes working with you to design a magic day; but the celebrant (hopefully) is also working with you to help you understand the nature of your commitment to each other; in front of the people on this planet you hold most dear. Within a marriage ceremony, conducted by a civil celebrant, the Law requires the marrying couple to make a vow or promise, using specific wording prescribed by the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth); and it will sound like this: “I ask the people here present to witness that I, (Full Name), take you, (Full Name), to be my lawful wedded Wife/Husband.” It is not sufficient for the marriage celebrant to say the words, and for the marrying couple to then say “I do.”, the words must be spoken by each of them and any changes to the wording of this sentence may only be those changes allowed within the Act. On paper and contained in a sentence, it looks so easy; however, remember, this is for life. The marriage is in fact established at the point of you saying these words in the presence of the marriage celebrant and a minimum of two adult witnesses. The minimum wording above meets the Act’s legal requirements but many marrying couples find it doesn’t fully express the promises they want to make. No need to panic, there is no limit to the amount of content vows may contain if the minimal legal requirements are met.

In Part 2 I’ll explore how to create words from the heart that accurately reflect your feelings for your partner and provide a back-drop to your married life.

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