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Do You “I Do” Or Do You “I Will”?

I DO or I WILL? – “I Do“. Those are the two most sacred words in a wedding ceremony, aren’t they? And yet, in at least half of the ceremonies I’ve officiated, “I Do” was replaced with “I Will”. Instead of “Do you take this woman…” or “Do you promise to love…”, the phrasing changes to “Will you take this woman…” or “Will you promise to love…”, and the resulting answer to that of course, is “I Will.” Naturally, this is just a matter of preference, that of either the couple or the officiant. Or these types of variations may also be indicative of wedding trends. Either way, if you would prefer one over the other, make sure you let your officiant know. That brings us to the larger matter.


  • Some couples care – a lot – about every specific word in their wedding ceremony.

  • Some couples care about the ceremony having the right vibe but aren’t concerned about every tiny detail.

  • And some couples really don’t care very much at all. Those couples usually say, “Just make it quick so we can get to the party as fast as possible”.

None of those attitudes are either right or wrong. Each couple is entitled to a ceremony of their dreams, even if their dreams are primarily about the after-party. Most officiants feel very strongly about making sure the ceremony is meaningful, moving, and as perfect as possible. Officiants hold the ceremony in high esteem, understanding that the ceremony IS the wedding. There is no wedding; there is no marriage if there is no ceremony. Without the ceremony, it really is just a party. So if you are one of the first two types of couples mentioned above who do care about the ceremony, here are a few things you should discuss with your officiant.

Every ceremony must include a Declaration of Intent.

This is essentially the part where you say “I Do” (or “I Will”). Without the “I Do” element, the marriage isn’t legal. This is the verbal equivalent of signing the marriage license. You are publicly declaring that are entering this marriage contract of your own free will. The “I Do” portion is probably the most iconic element of the ceremony, and often it is very traditional. Let your officiant know if you want to stick with tradition or if you want to mix it up a bit. Here is an example of a traditional Declaration of Intent and two that are more less traditional. TRADITIONAL: MARY, DO YOU TAKE MIKE TO BE YOUR LAWFUL HUSBAND, TO HAVE AND TO HOLD FROM THIS DAY FORWARD, FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE, FOR RICHER, FOR POORER, IN SICKNESS AND HEALTH, UNTIL DEATH DO YOU PART? MARY: I DO. A LITTLE OUTSIDE THE BOX: JOHN, DO YOU CHOOSE JANE TO BE YOUR LAWFULLY WEDDED WIFE, AND DO YOU PROMISE TO LOVE AND CHERISH HER IN GOOD TIMES AND IN BAD, TO SUPPORT HER AND CARE FOR HER IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH, TO DREAM WITH HER AND LAUGH WITH HER, WHETHER RICH OR POOR, AND TO BE TRUE TO HER FOR AS LONG AS YOU BOTH SHALL LIVE? JOHN: I DO. FREE-SPIRITED: JANE, FROM THIS DAY ONWARD, DO YOU CHOOSE JOHN TO BE YOUR HUSBAND, YOUR BEST FRIEND, AND YOUR ONLY LOVE? TO LIVE TOGETHER, PLAY TOGETHER, AND LAUGH TOGETHER; TO WORK BY HIS SIDE AND DREAM IN HIS ARMS; TO ALWAYS SEE THE BEST IN HIM; ALWAYS LOVING HIM WITH ALL YOUR HEART, FOR AS LONG AS YOU BOTH SHALL LIVE? JANE: I DO.

These Declarations of Intent could be even more wide-ranging if you prefer, as long as the essential question is asked and agreed to.

Discuss the Ring Exchange.

Who will have the rings? One person? Two people? Who will the rings be given to when the officiant asks, “May we have the rings?” Will the rings be handed to the officiant? Or to the couple? These details matter because if the rings are handed off to someone who isn’t expecting them, there’s a very good chance the rings will be dropped. You wouldn’t believe how far a ring can travel once it’s dropped, and don’t even get me started on where it may end up. Are you getting married on a pier overlooking a lake? Yes, I think fish have hordes of wedding rings lying around at the bottom of lakes and rivers.

Will there be readings?

Who will be doing the readings? The officiant? A member of the wedding party? Some of the guests? Adults? Children? Will they be called up to the front to speak into the microphone? Will they have the reading with them already, or will the officiant need to hand it to them? Who will supply the printed readings? These are all details that you need to discuss with your officiant ahead of time.

Plan the details of any extra Ceremony Rituals.

Additional ceremony rituals are often included, such as the Lighting of Candles, a Sand Ceremony, a Handfasting, and many, many other similar ceremonies. Each of these has a number of things that require planning. What supplies are needed? Who will purchase them? Will there be a table to place them on, and if so where? Does everyone know the procedure for walking over to the table, performing the ritual, and then returning to the officiant to continue the main ceremony? Are any other members of the wedding involved in the sub-ceremony? Family, children, etc. may be involved, so they need to know what to do, when, and where as well. Your officiant will be happy to go over all these details with you.

The Kiss.

You would think there wouldn’t need to be much discussion about a kiss, right? It’s not terribly complex, granted, but you actually should discuss one little detail with your officiant. Ask the officiant to kindly step aside right at the moment of the kiss, so the photographer can get a great photo of just the two of you in that special moment – without the officiant photobombing it. A professional officiant will understand and be happy to step out of the way at that moment.

There are no do-overs so do the “I Do’s” right the first time.

If the ceremony itself is something that matters to the two of you, speak up! Discuss the details with the officiant and make sure those fleeting few moments of time will be exactly the way you want them.

Writer/Officiant, Donna Lynn

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