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Legal Significance of Marriage Vows

Legal Significance of Marriage Vows


Marriage is a legal union between two people, and its legal significance cannot be overemphasized. It is an act that involves the exchange of marriage vows and a legal contract that is recognized by the government. Marriage vows are a significant aspect of this legal contract as they convey the promises made by the couple to each other. These promises are made before an officiant, family, and friends who act as witnesses to the ceremony. Over time, the significance of marriage vows has evolved, and they have become more than just a declaration of love. They bind a couple legally and have a significant legal implication.

This article will delve into the legal significance of marriage vows by examining the history behind the marriage vows, the legal implications of marriage vows, and an analysis of the recent changes in marriage vows.

The History Behind Marriage Vows

Marriage vows have a long history dating back to the Middle Ages. During this period, marriage was viewed as a sacred act that was recognized by the church, and couples had to exchange vows in front of a priest for it to be lawful. The vows were often based on the biblical scripture, and the couple declared their love and commitment to each other and to God. The vows were binding and were considered a lifelong commitment.

However, over time, the meaning and significance of marriage vows evolved. The church’s dominance in marriage was challenged during the Reformation period, which led to the secularization of marriage. Civil marriage became more popular, and couples were no longer required to exchange vows in front of a religious figure. Instead, they could exchange vows in front of a witness, and the marriage would still be recognized by law.

The Legal Implications of Marriage Vows

Marriage vows come with various legal implications that bind the couple. When couples exchange their vows, they are making legal promises to each other, and these promises have legal consequences. The following are some of the legal implications of marriage vows:

1. Fiduciary Duty

When couples exchange marriage vows, they are entering into a legal partnership that comes with a fiduciary duty. This means that they have a legal obligation to act in the best interest of the marital partnership. Both partners are expected to maintain honesty and transparency in their dealings and not to engage in activities that could result in harm to the partnership. Failure to fulfill this obligation can result in legal action.

2. Property Rights

Marriage vows also have legal consequences on the property rights of the couple. In most states, property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property, and both partners have equal rights to the property. This means that in the event of a divorce or the death of one partner, the property will be divided equally between the partners. However, if the property was acquired before the marriage, it is considered separate property and is not subject to division.

3. Custody and Support

In the event of a divorce, marriage vows also have legal consequences on child custody and support. The court will consider the best interest of the child when making decisions on custody and support. If one partner fails to fulfill their legal obligation to the child, legal action can be taken against them.

4. Liability

Marriage vows also have legal implications on liability. When couples exchange vows, they become liable for each other’s debts and liabilities. This means that if one partner incurs a debt during the marriage, both partners are responsible for paying it off. This obligation extends even after a divorce.

5. Benefits

Marriage vows also come with various legal benefits. Married couples are entitled to various benefits, such as tax benefits, healthcare benefits, and retirement benefits. These benefits are only available to legally married couples and cannot be extended to unmarried couples.

Recent Changes in Marriage Vows

Marriage vows have evolved over time, and there have been recent changes in the way vows are exchanged. The following are some of the recent changes in marriage vows:

1. Personalized Vows

Personalized vows have become increasingly popular over the years, and couples are now expressing their love and commitment to each other in their unique way. Personalized vows allow couples to express their true feelings and make their promises more personal and significant. This trend has resulted in couples taking more time to prepare for their wedding day, and the exchange of vows has become a more significant aspect of the ceremony.

2. Gender-Neutral Vows

With the legalization of same-sex marriage in many countries, gender-neutral vows have become more prevalent. These vows are designed to be inclusive, and they do not specify the gender of the partners exchanging the vows. This shift has been significant in promoting equality and inclusivity in marriages.

3. Secular Vows

As mentioned earlier, the secularization of marriage has resulted in couples exchanging vows outside of religious institutions. This has led to the adoption of secular vows that are not based on religious scripture. Secular vows are often more personal and can be adapted to reflect the couple’s values and beliefs.


In conclusion, the legal significance of marriage vows cannot be overstated. They convey the promises made by the couple to each other and have legal implications that bind the couple. The history of marriage vows has evolved over time, and recent changes have resulted in more personalized, gender-neutral, and secular vows. The legal implications of marriage vows extend beyond the declaration of love and commitment and have a significant impact on the rights and obligations of the couple. Understanding the legal significance of marriage vows is essential for any couple planning to enter into marriage.


In today’s society, there is no legal significance attached to MARRIAGE VOWS except for one rule.

In most states, the law requires that either a member of the clergy or a public official be present to witness the spouses declare themselves husband and wife.

When an individual recites their MARRIAGE VOWS, whether traditional or their own, there is no obligation put towards them.

Anyone who has ever been divorced is aware that the legal system will not forbid you from divorcing your spouse simply because you said, “for long as we both shall live” at your marriage ceremony.


MARRIAGE VOWS are strictly traditional in the legal sense. The main purpose of MARRIAGE VOWS is for religious and cultural significance.

In the traditional Christian ceremony, the MARRIAGE VOWS are not really vowed at all but covenants.

The idea behind the exchange of vows in the traditional Christian ceremony is to essentially make a contract between the husband and wife to perform certain obligations.

“To have and to hold, in sickness and in health” although these statements might seem to carry zero weight in today’s society in the Christian church those statements are considered binding on the party that made them and part of the reason for a marriage ceremony is so that God can be a witness to the “signing” of the contract.


Most States differ in the nuances of what is required for a legal marriage. Essentially all that is required is that the prospective husband and wife retain a marriage license and wait a short period of time before the ceremony.

In the past, many states required blood tests to be performed on each prospective spouse before the clerk would issue a marriage license.

The purpose of this was to prevent the spread of venereal diseases, specifically syphilis. Today there are only a handful of states that still require subjection to a blood test.

However, although not required, it is still a good idea to have one performed. With the onset of genetic testing, a blood test can be a significant factor in aiding to prevent the spread of genetic diseases such as sickle cell anemia.


Once you have obtained your marriage license, which could take up to four (4) weeks to receive depending on the state, a ceremony may be performed that only requires that the soon to be husband and wife take each other as husband and wife in front of a public official or member of the clergy as well as one other witness.

There is typically no age requirement for the witness but they should be competent enough that they will be capable of testifying in court as to the act which they witnessed.

The requirement for marriage licenses and the process of getting married differ from State to State and if you are contemplating marriage you should refer to your County or City clerk’s office for further details.