History of Traditional Wedding Vows


Find the historic roots of your ceremony for a better understanding of today's rituals and traditions.

The history of traditional wedding vows is a complex and varied topic. While many religious institutions can trace the history of their own marriage vows back to specific documents or religious traditions, the most prevalent weddings in centuries past were secular in nature. Whether you are searching for historical touch stones to add to your wedding vows or looking for the source of today's common wedding wording, plan on spending time sifting through some amazing historical documents.

Links to Historical Wedding Vows

All Heart Weddings has the original wedding vows from the The Booke of Common Prayer. Many will find these words have a familiar ring to them and they are one source for the infamous "love, honor, and obey" line. But also included are some tender vows about cherishing each other no matter what the future holds. The Chinese Historical and Cultural Project offers a fascinating history of Chinese weddings. Explanations are offered for tea ceremonies and other Asian traditions which you could incorporate into a modern ceremony. The Dallas Fort Worth Wedding Exchange provides wording on many historical weddings including Medieval, Celtic and Norse ceremonies. The ancient traditions featured on this site include the more secular rituals which were prevalent before religious leaders became involved in marriages of common people. Jewish-American History on the Web provides a comprehensive guide to the traditions of Jewish wedding rituals.

Other Resources

If you are looking for information on the history of traditional wedding vows from a specific region or country, head to the library. While you probably won't find a book devoted to weddings in the country of your choice, you will find history books that cover the subject. Reference librarians are the heros of the research world, so approach their desks with confidence. These folks can surely point you in the right direction and you will be amazed at their abilities to locate information, regardless of how obscure. If you live within a reasonable distance of a college or university, ask for information from both the history department and the sociology school. Anthropologists are another great resource. Professors are usually broadly read individuals and their studies take them around the globe. Ask for reading recommendations or a referral to another source. Churches have historically been the keepers of special documents, so don't overlook the obvious. Ask church leaders for advice and information. As a last resort, broaden your search to the country where your interests lie. You will surely find more information than you need and you will have to be prepared to skim a lot of material. On the up side, you will quickly become an expert in the field and will have no trouble putting the history you find into context.

The history of traditional wedding vows follows a winding and complex path. Different religious and secular groups altered the original words and rituals to fit a changing world. By hearkening back to the birth of the modern marriage ceremony, you will be adding to the sacred and honored tradition of this milestone. Whether you choose to adopt an entire historic ceremony or select specific elements to incorporate, your wedding will have its feet in the past, while taking a bright look into the future.


Written by: Caroline Retzer