Traditional wedding vows have always expressed deep love and commitment and, often, the ties of families, social bonds, and, for monotheists, the approbation of God. Certainly, many individuals today perceive marriage as an institution originally set up to legally recognize the exchange of property and inheritance rights rather than to solemnize the commitment to romantic love. Nevertheless, such a commitment has become the central function of marriage, and the wedding vow, the primary mechanism for their public declaration. Traditional vows, however, have grown clichéd and stale for many modern-day couples, who seek to personalize their vows in order to reflect their unique backgrounds.

Diane Warner’s Complete Book of Wedding Vows: Hundreds of Ways to Say “I Do” serves as a practical guide to choosing the most appropriate vows for the most non-traditional couples. As one of the largest compilations of wedding vows, minister and wedding planner, as well as bride and groom, will feel almost as if he or she has just entered a candy shop with boundless selection. Warner’s massive list, however, consists not of etched-in-stone dictations, but of helpful suggestions—it is even possible to combine elements from different chapters of the book in order to custom-make one’s own vows, depending on the composite of one’s ethnic, social, and religious background.

Many of Warner’s suggestions are non-traditional alternatives to such sexist and obsequious lines as “I . . . take you . . . to be my lawfully wedded husband . . . to honor and obey” and the paternalistic response, “I . . . take you . . . to be my lawfully wedded wife . . . to love and to cherish”. Warner’s guide takes into consideration divorcees and second marriages, widows, brides and grooms with children from previous marriages, and the more personal nature of the commitment which is coming to characterize modern-day marriage as a private affair. While many of the vows come out of the Judeo-Christian legacy, many others reflect the traditions of non-Abrahamic religions.

Warner’s book is also a helpful guide for those who view marriage more as a practical than as a spiritual commitment yet who still wish to symbolize their commitment in the form of a wedding ceremony. With an understanding of the diversity of her readers and the many different types of marriages, Warner devotes an entire chapter to secular vows in order to accommodate atheists, agnostics, and other non-spiritual or non-religious individuals who nevertheless have an interest in the benefits of civil marriage.

Thus, whether one is divorced, divorced with children, widowed, “heathen”, atheist, feminist, secular, or simply seeking creative alternatives to traditional declarations with which you may disagree or feel uncomfortable, the Complete Book of Wedding Vows is a veritable Bible of modern wedding vows, for planners, wedding officiants, and couples alike, which reflects the needs and interests of diverse, contemporary lifestyles.

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