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We don’t have a television at the moment. After some building work before the summer we moved it and have never reinstated it. We haven’t missed it at all and what it has meant is that we only watch something that we really want to watch now (rather than flicking through channels if we are tired) or do other things instead.

I’ve taken to watching iPlayer whilst I cook and found some great period dramas over the summer to watch such as The Duchess of Devonshire, The Scandalous Lady W and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I soon discovered that there’s a common thread through these and realised that all of these films made me feel really lucky to be a wife of this century. Plus along with the recent film release of Suffragette, I’m very grateful that I have choices and rights that my ancestors wouldn’t have had.

wagstaff wedding 1911

The vows I chose to make when I got married were promises rather than laws. I didn’t become the property of my husband and I chose not to ‘obey’ him in my vows. However a few centuries ago people didn’t have this same luxury. We live in a time when marriage is about partnership, lifelong companionship and equal rights.

The wording of the Church of England traditional wedding vows includes the bride promising to ‘obey’ and the groom vowing to ‘worship’ his wife. However some couples choose to leave out these words nowadays and alternatively choose ‘to love and to honour’ or ‘love and cherish’.

Traditional vows
‘I, (name), take you, (name)
to be my wife/husband,
to have and to hold
from this day forward;
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
till death us do part’

Traditional promises
Will you love her, comfort her, honour and protect her,
and, forsaking all others,
be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?

Whilst traditional vows still hold a lot of meaning, relevance and importance, we are also able to choose to make those vows more personal depending on the type of ceremony. Especially in humanist or non-religious ceremonies where you can personalise and express yourself completely when writing your own vows. Whilst sometimes the amount of choices we have in life can be overwhelming, I remain grateful that we have choices.

Over the past four years, Zena Birch has worked very closely with couples to help them create their own personal vows to go alongside or precede more traditional ring vows. Here are some of her top tips for writing your own vows.

In a humanist ceremony instead of holding themselves accountable to a god or a deity, couples are actually asking those gathered to hold them accountable as they witness their public declarations. Therefore the words they say as they make their vows and their promises to each other are more important than ever.

In today’s age it is possible to live very happily together without getting married, so when a couple decide to take this extra step it is a deeply personal commitment. Your vows are to be celebrated every year you manage to uphold them, but they should also be the words that hold you fast when times get difficult and as such it is important that the vows you say to each other are made up of the values and commitments you are willing to stand by.

My couples and I work together to discover just what those words/promises might be. It can be very daunting – faced with a blank page and some of the most important words you are ever going to say, so the advice I tend to give is to make sure they:

  • sound like you, they should have your tone of voice, they should be authentic – if you tease each other, there is no harm in an element of this being reflected within your vows, this is just as important as a sense of solemnity. Capturing the twinkle in your eye as well as the sincerity in your heart is key.
  • reflect what you have both agreed to commit to one another. Although many couples decide to say their vows as a surprise to each other on the day, it is important that the process involved in creating them is shared so that they are in agreement with their core values.
  • Enjoy creating them!

We are lucky to live in an era where our own words hold validity. Writing your own wedding vows is a very enriching experience and one which can really help lay the foundations needed for a long and joy filled marriage.

For more information on a humanist ceremony go to or contact



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