In Buddhist teachings, marriage is viewed as “the equal commitment to the happiness of your partner, toward their awakening.” Moreover, marriage is described as a practice ground for serving others. Through service and facing challenges, we develop our inner potential, which is the focus of Buddhism.
In a typical Buddhist wedding vow, the couple pledges to a greater Truth. There is a focus on self-improvement, enlightenment, and compassion toward oneself, each other, and everyone in general. Couples have the freedom to decide the aspects they want to include in their individual vows.
Below are 15 examples of traditional Buddhist wedding vows, both individual and joint. Additionally, instructions for writing your own Buddhist wedding vow are also provided.
Examples of Buddhist Wedding Vows
1. “Do you, (partner’s name), take (partner’s name) to be your (husband/wife/partner)…
To support in every way that you can?
To be faithful to him/her and worthy of his/her trust?
To be there for him/her?
To be simply yourself?
To share your gifts, your resources, your heart and all of yourself?
To support and respect his/her spiritual process and accept his/her support of yours?
To communicate as clearly, openly and honestly as you can about all things connected
to your relationship?
To work with him/her to sustain this family and to love and enjoy him/her?
To be here when he/she hurts and needs you?
To bring your tears and laughter to him/her?
To promise to preserve the magic of your relationship and uphold it’s sacredness? “
(From Hollow Bones Zen)
In this life, in every situation, in wealth or poverty, in health or sickness, in happiness or difficulty, we will work to help each other perfectly.
The purpose of our relationship will be to attain enlightenment by perfecting our kindness and compassion toward all sentient beings.
(By Lama Thubten Yeshe, December 1979)
4. “(partner’s name) and (partner’s name), are happy today not only because they can share the joy of their love for each other with friends and family, but also because they have the opportunity to express their aspirations for the future.
(partner’s name) and (partner’s name), do you pledge to help each other to develop your hearts and minds, cultivating compassion, generosity, ethics, patience, enthusiasm, concentration and wisdom as you age and undergo the various ups and downs of life and to transform them into the path of love, compassion, joy and equanimity?”
(From Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition)
5. I, (name), take you, (partner’s name), to be my partner in life. I pledge to be strong and resilient, to view the challenges that come our way as opportunities for growth. I pledge to always reflect on my actions and act within reason. I pledge to love you for who you are and support you in your endeavors. I pledge to be patient, nurturing, and open-minded in everything that we do. I pledge to always remember my Buddha nature, along with all living beings’ Buddha nature.
6. From this day forward, I promise to fully commit myself to you; with my body, mind, and words, I promise to always be by your side to weather the toughest storms together. In sickness and in health, in richness and in poverty, in pleasure and pain, I will love you unconditionally. I will always be mindful of my actions and show compassion, understanding, patience, inspiration, wisdom, and morality. Most of all, I promise to stay kind as we aspire toward enlightenment.
We take refuge in the truth of Dharma, the universal truth and a life of wisdom and compassion. This is the hearts innermost quest and practice of loving kindness.
We take refuge in the Sangha, our family and community. This is the boundless interconnection of all beings.
(The Threefold Refuge, from Hollow Bones Zen)
12. I, (name), promise to love, honor, and respect (partner’s name) for as long as I live. I promise to always put honesty and empathy in everything I do. I promise to be kind, compassionate, and open to new perspectives. I pledge that this marriage will be built on love, trust, and mutual support. Our wedding ring is a physical manifestation of a lifelong spiritual bond between two hearts united in partnership.
13. I, (name), take you, (partner’s name), to be my lawfully wedded (husband/wife/partner). I promise to stay by your side through thick and thin, tears and laughter, for richer or for poorer. I promise to consistently nurture our commitment with the love, respect, and kindness it deserves. I vow to stay faithful to you, honor you, and love you until death do us part.
14. Under the eyes of the universe, I, (name), take (partner’s name) to be my lawfully wedded partner in life. I promise to love (him/her/them) for as long as we both live wholeheartedly and unconditionally. As our relationship develops and strengthens over time, I promise to concurrently seek further self-improvement and self-actualization. I pledge to always aspire to be kind to myself, to (partner’s name), and to my neighbors, for true happiness is achieved by living virtuously and compassionately.
15. As we enter this new chapter of our lives, we pledge to live by spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh’s wise words: “The Buddha spoke about four elements that constitute true love: the capacity to be kind and offer happiness, maitri in Sanskrit, compassion, the capacity to relieve suffering, karuna; the capacity to bring joy every day, mudita; and finally, the capacity of nondiscrimination, upeksha.
When there is true love, there is nondiscrimination. The pain of the other is our own pain; the happiness of the other is our own happiness… To make our love meaningful, we need to nourish our bodhicitta, our mind of boundless love and compassion… First, we learn to love one person with all our understanding and insight; then we expand that love to embrace another person, and another, until our love is truly boundless.”
How to Write Your Own Buddhist Wedding Vows
Buddhist weddings are a type of religious wedding ceremony. Buddhist customs give the couple freedom to personalize their ceremony and plan according to what is best for them. With that said, the vows used in a Buddhist wedding can be traditional, such as those listed above, as well as vows personally written by the couple. Moreover, couples can either recite their vows or opt to silently read them together.
Learn the Inclusions Within Buddhist Wedding Vows
Buddhist wedding vows typically consist of three elements:
- Prayer and meditation → Buddhist wedding ceremonies usually start with meditation or a prayer to Buddha. Through prayer or meditation, a person’s inner Buddha nature is awakened.
- Individual vows → wedding vows contain one person’s promises to their partner as they enter their new life together. The typical length of an individual vow ranges from 30 seconds to three minutes.
- Joint vows → the officiant or celebrant will recite a few promises, to which the couple will respond, “We do,” together. Like spiritual wedding vows, Buddhist joint vows deal with the soul and humanity; the couple makes a pledge to a greater Truth.
Talk to Your Partner
Before starting with the draft of your vows, you must discuss the details with your partner. The first thing you should finalize is whether you will be utilizing traditional vows or writing personal ones.
If you decide to go with personalized vows, it is also recommended that you determine the overall tone and format of your exchange of vows. Vows can be romantic, witty, or sentimental. Furthermore, you can silently read your vows together, say them one after the other, or have the celebrant read them to which you will respond.
Reflect on Your Promises for the Future
Think about what promises you want to make, what goals you want to set, for the future. This can be anything such as faithfulness, endless support, unconditional love, and so on.
Your reflection will most likely be guided by the main values in Buddhism, namely self-control, calmness, goodness, wisdom, and love. Thus, it follows that your promises will revolve around these values as well.
Draft, Revise, Repeat
Once you have finished your first draft, step away for a moment and give yourself time to rest. This small break will allow you to better spot grammatical errors, as well as points of improvement. You may find that after a moment’s rest, you can rephrase a specific promise or think of more things to add.
As you revise, it is recommended that you enlist the help of someone you trust. By letting them read or listen to your vow, they can provide constructive criticism, insight, and suggestions. Furthermore, this is also an efficient method of practicing speaking in front of a crowd.