Being raised Catholic, we do a lot of Catholic weddings. We recently had a question from a bride as to whether she could write her own vows. In the Catholic faith, there is a specific format that the couple must follow! See the answer below.
One of the ways that the Church expresses the unity of all believers is through the unity of the liturgy (in this case, the wedding), especially in its essential parts (Catechism #813, 815). In other words, it would become hard to recognize the unity of the Church if everyone started using different words for the most important parts of the liturgy. By using the vows provided by the Church, the couple is acknowledging that they are part of something larger than themselves. The wedding unites them not only with one another, but with the whole Body of Christ, the Church.
The mutual consent of the bride and groom to be married to one another is what brings about the grace of the sacrament (Catechism #1623, 1626, 1639 – 1640). The words that express that consent should reflect the sacredness of the moment, which the Church ensures by providing the wording for the vows. Most importantly, because consent is what makes the marriage, it is important for everyone to be clear that the bride and groom have actually declared their mutual consent. If the vows aren’t clear about that—or if they contain wording that might be interpreted as placing conditions or limits on the marriage—then the validity of the marriage becomes questionable (cf. Code of Canon Law #1101 – 1102, 1107; also #1119).
One option for couples who want to publicly express their love in their own words would be to include a personal statement in the printed wedding program. Another possibility: exchange a profession of love during the reception.
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