Pastoral Marriage Preparation – Part 4

The word pastor means shepherd. To shepherd involves comforting, guiding, leading, training, and teaching. Sometimes it is simply a pastor’s presence that gives comfort and hope to a person struggling with grief and tragedy. But such dark seasons in a person’s life do not last. But there are some seasons which do (or at least should) last for a long time. And there is no season in a person’s life when the guidance of a pastor is more necessary than when they are about to marry. Having already had four meetings with a couple preparing to marry, where he has shown a couple how to communicate and resolve conflicts, the pastor will now show them the correlation between their marriage vows and their journey to developing their intimacy.



The couple’s homework is reviewed where they share their individual goal, their couple goal, and their family goal. This exercise helps a couple to understand that they both maintain their individual identity and take on a new identity as a couple, then as a family.

During the wedding ceremony a couple will make two sets of vows. The first set of vows is made to God. Here is a typical set of vows made to God –

The Vows To God

[Hold right hands.]

Having a full understanding of the privileges and obligations of the Christian marriage, {Man’s First Name}, will you take this woman to be your wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the Holy estate of Matrimony? Will you promise to love her, comfort her, honour and keep her, in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, and forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto her, so long as you both shall live?


[The man shall answer:]

I will.

 It’s imperative that the couple understands each aspect of what they are vowing to God. It is critical that the couple understands the first two words of the vows they are making to God. “Will you…” Not – “Do you…” Even though Hollywood loves to build their big screen weddings around the exchange of “I do” – this response only answers the question Do you do this now? But a set of vows that asks Will you? is asking whether you will continue in these vows for the rest of your life. It is asking for a decision of the will that will last a life-time.

This act of the will is the source for –

(i) loving your spouse (not because you feel like you’re in love);

(ii) comforting your spouse (which involves being together, listening, understanding);

(iii) honouring your spouse (this is the most important aspect to understand as it means treating your spouse as more important than yourself);

(iv) keeping your spouse (this involves providing for and doing so even if your spouse is utterly unable to do anything for themselves);

(v) in sickness and in health (even if your spouse should develop a terminal illness or suffer a debilitating injury, you will love, comfort, honour and keep them);

(vi) for better or for worse (what does “worse” look like? Does worse look like betrayal, cheating, bankruptcy?);

(vii) forsaking all others (once you are married you are no longer free to be entangled emotionally let alone physically, with another person);

(viii) keeping yourself only unto… (pornography, inappropriate relationships that take pre-eminence over your marriage, have no place in your life when married);

(ix) so long as you both shall live (marriage is a covenant commitment for life – which means that divorce should never be seen as a “last resort” because marriage should be entered into with no hesitation);

The pastor will ask the couple if they have any questions or need anything clarified.



I {Man’s Name} / take you {Woman’s Name} / according to God’s Holy Word/ to be my wife/ to have and to hold/ from this day forward/ to share my faith in Christ/ to guide you and make my home with you/ for better, for worse/ for richer, for poorer/ in sickness and in health/ to love and to cherish/ until we are parted by death/ before God/ I pledge you my faithfulness.

These vows are made to each other before God. Each aspect is discussed with the couple. They must understand the gravity of what they are about to do. The pastor would then conclude asking the couple for their thoughts and any feedback.

The pastor then gives the couple homework to write out a wedding prayer for their future spouse. They then arrange to meet for their final marriage preparation counselling session in a week.



About Dr Andrew Corbett

Pastor, Teacher, Theologian, Writer, Speaker, Coach.
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