When you think of traditional wedding vows what comes to mind? You might be surprised to know that words like 'to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer', all come from the Book of Common Prayer drawn up hundreds of years ago by Thomas Cranmer, a leader of the English Reformation. First written in 1549, the Book of Common Prayer was revised in 1552 and 1662. Within its pages he described the purpose for marriage in this way. “The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord.”
The Man, facing the woman and taking her right hand in his, says
In the Name of God, I, N., take you, N., to be my wife, 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, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.
Then they loose their hands, and the Woman, still facing the man, takes
his right hand in hers, and says
In the Name of God, I, N., take you, N., to be my 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, until we are parted by death. This is my
Before the Book of Common Prayer
While these traditional wedding vows come from a protestant book, if you look deeper, you’ll find much of it can be found in Catholic medieval rites like the Sarum marriage liturgy which was written in Latin (except for the vows). The thing that makes the ceremony outlined in the Book of Common Prayer stand out is that it was the first to be written totally in English.