As modern couples increasingly shy away from traditional vows, swapping out such terms as honor and obey for respect and encourage, others are returning to the roots of Christianity in order to strengthen their commitment to each other and to God.
About.com Guide Mary Fairchild explains that understanding the significance of wedding traditions before her own covenant ceremony "deepened our appreciation, intensified the experience of worship, and gave us a clearer understanding of our physical and spiritual union."
The Meaning of a Covenant
In Genesis 15, the Old Testament outlines the arrangement of a blood covenant, which is viewed as an unconditional, unbreakable commitment, not a contract. In order to make the oath binding, the partners must join their right palms and publicly declare their vows. Deuteronomy 7:9 observes, "God keeps his covenant and steadfast love for a thousand generations to those who love him and keep his commands."
"As Christians we believe that marriage is more than exchanging vows or a contract," says Kay Jay, who married her husband in a covenant ceremony on July 31, 2010. "It is a lifelong covenant made between two people before God and witnesses. While a contract can be broken, a covenant is a permanent commitment. It symbolizes the covenant God made with his chosen people."
A Covenant Ceremony Processional
To honor the sacredness of their vows, the Jays printed each promise on a scroll, which was ushered in by two covenant bearers and a ring bearer. The young boys, donning pint-sized long-tail tuxedos, marched down the aisle to an original trumpet fanfare. A prevalent symbol in the Bible, trumpets herald significant events while the Feast of Trumpets celebrates Christ's marriage to the church.
Real-Life Covenant Vows
The Jays' covenant vows included pledges to "always seek resolution when there is a disagreement, work in the church together and watch what we put in our bodies." Proudly standing before their family, friends and God, the newlyweds signed the contract. The scroll is now framed on their living room wall to serve as a daily reminder of the oath each swore to uphold.
During his covenant ceremony, Adam McManus, of San Antonio, Texas, declared, "I vow to love you as my own body, and to nourish and cherish you even as the Lord does the church (1 Corinthians 7:4)." His bride, Amy, replied, "Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God (Ruth 1:17)."
How to Incorporate Scriptures into Your Covenant Vows
The Old and New Testaments contain more than 500 entries on the subject of marriage. You can incorporate a Christian Wedding Prayer into the ceremony, or you can turn to the scriptures to draw inspiration for the promises you want to pledge to your future spouse.
- "Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her." (Ephesians 5:25)
- "I will take you for my wife forever. I will take you for my wife in righteousness and justice, in devoted love and mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness, and you will know the Lord." (Hosea 2:19-20)
- "Wives, don't try to make yourselves beautiful on the outside, with stylish hair or by wearing gold jewelry or fine clothes. Instead, make yourselves beautiful on the inside, in your hearts, with the enduring quality of a gentle, peaceful spirit. This type of beauty is very precious in God's eyes." (1 Peter 3:3-4)
- "Husbands, likewise, must give honor to your wives. Treat her with understanding as you live together." (1 Peter 3:7)
- "The Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your marriage covenant." (Malachi 2:14)
- "A wife of noble character is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." (Proverbs 31:10-12)