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Declaration of Intent vs. Vows—Are They the Same?

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Weddings are typically where couples exchange their vows and declare their love for each other. If you are planning a wedding, you may have heard mention of the declaration of intent and wedding vows.

This brings about an interesting question: Are a declaration of intent and vows the same thing?

Declaration of Intent

A declaration of intent is a public declaration where two people knowingly and publicly enter a marriage contract. The oral declarations (statements) “I do”  from the couple are known as the declaration of intent. This public declaration is analogous to their signatures on the marriage license. 

The declaration of intent focuses on the word “will.” The maid of honor and the best man listen to this part and agree to sign the marriage license. 

Happy young bride and groom exchanging wedding vows

Example of Declaration of Intent

Here is an example of a wedding vow that you must have heard at a wedding you attended:

Do you,——-, take—–, to be your lawfully wedded (husband/wife/them)? Do you promise to love (him/her/them), in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, and forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto (him/her/them) for as long as the two of you shall live?

Other variations of a declaration of intent arise when people tweak the statement to make it sound more personal to the bride and groom. 

Wedding Vows

 A vow is a promise that the bride and groom make to each other on their wedding day. What you say as a promise to your significant other is entirely up to you. You can personalize your wedding vows to include words of endearment.

Writing your own wedding vows will help you sum up your love, promises, and dreams to your partner.

You also get a chance to let the guests see what makes the two of you tick. Above all, you will share these words with the person you love on your most special day.

So how can you make a wedding vow memorable? Here are some tips to help you with this assignment that may seem daunting.

Tips on Writing Your Wedding Vows

1. Write your wedding vows early.

Don’t wait until the last minute to write your wedding vows. Ensure you write your wedding vows at least three weeks before your wedding. This will enable you to rehearse your vows, and you will be thankful for that time when your jitters kick in.

2. Write down your thoughts.

Write down your thoughts as they come to your mind about marriage or partnership, and make a point to revisit these thoughts. Highlight your favorite parts to be the opening lines of your vows.

3. Avoid absolute language.

As tempting as it may feel, do not use absolute words like never and always in your wedding vows. Marriage life is not going to be all smooth sailing, so it is best not to promise perfection.

4. Get ideas from other sources.

Songs, movies, and poems can be a great place to give you all the motivation and lines you may use in your wedding vows. If a particular line speaks to you and your love for your partner, use it! Don’t hold back from adding parts that will make your partner chuckle or laugh out loud. 

5. Have a friend listen.

Have a trusted friend (not your partner) who is good at keeping secrets, to listen to your wedding vows. It will be a bonus if they are helpful at pointing out word choices to consider or rework. The positive criticism will help you improve your wedding vows.

6. Keep your vows a secret.

By all means, do not spoil your surprise by revealing the details of your wedding vows to your partner. Keep them a secret until the time you are asked to say your vows. Let your partner be surprised at that moment. They will pay more attention at that moment than if they already know the contents of the vows.

Bride and groom on their wedding ceremony

Should You Read or Memorize Your Wedding Vows?

It is advisable to have your vows in hand to read them in case you forget what to say. Memorizing your wedding vows may sound like a great idea, but you may end up forgetting your vows when the wedding jitters kick in. Have a printed copy that you can refer to if necessary.

Your wedding vows should not be too long either. Write a one or two-minute-long speech that is about 100 to 200 words.

Which Comes First Between the Two?

The order is not standard and thus varies from couple to couple.

In most secular weddings, which are most common, the couple gets to say their wedding vows first, followed by the declaration of intent. After that, the couple exchanges wedding rings, and the officiant gets to declare the two as married.

Final Thoughts

The declaration of intent is the most important part of a wedding ceremony. Couples are mandated by law in many countries around the world to recite the declaration of intent before the two can be declared to be legally married.

Even in places where couples are not mandated by law to recite the declaration of intent, logic calls for it to be recited as it is what solidifies the marriage.

As for wedding vows, different cultures and religions have different requirements. There are cultures where wedding vows are not required, while some cultures expect the couple to recite their wedding vows. Some churches may require you to get permission from the church leader for the couple to write their wedding vows if they don’t want to exchange traditional ones.