Traditional marriage vows end with the words, “I now pronounce you man and wife,” a relic from the past that many couples feel uncomfortable using today. After all, it seems to imply that only the man is the person in the relationship and the woman is defined by her (new) relationship to him – not to mention it makes no sense at all when it comes to gay and lesbian couples. While it’s perfectly legitimate to stick with the classic if both you and your betrothed agree to it, you might consider some alternatives, using terms that better reflect how you and your spouse think about your relationship and commitment.
Husband and Wife (Wife and Wife, Husband and Husband)
The most popular alternative to “man and wife” is “husband and wife” (or “wife and wife” or “husband and husband”), a phrase that echoes some of the traditional romance of the original label while promoting the equality of both partners in the relationship. It’s an ideal way to begin your new married life after saying those vows to cherish and support each other, and it shows your witnesses that you intend to do so as partners in an equal relationship. (You might also want to go back and tweak some of the traditional language in the vows, as the man in a heterosexual union often vows to “protect” his wife and the woman says she vows to “obey” her husband, which harkens back to old-fashioned, unequal gender roles.)
Wife and Husband
If you really want to shake things up, ask the marriage officiant to say “I now pronounce you wife and husband.” It’s sure to get a few laughs or even gasps from the guests because this simple tweak is so unexpected, even though it’s just as fair and equal as the more-often used phrase “husband and wife.” You might choose this way of phrasing it because you’re both staunch feminists or simply to make a memorable splash. Highlighting the wife first is also a way to honor the woman in the relationship if she’s gone through an especially difficult time before the wedding.
Spouse and Spouse (Husband and Spouse, Wife and Spouse)
If you both prefer the term “spouse” to either “wife” or “husband,” go ahead and ask your officiant to proclaim you “spouse and spouse” at the end of the ceremony. Gay and lesbian couples might prefer the gender-neutral term “spouse” to refer to each another, but gender-queer, gender-fluid, and agender persons also prefer words such as “spouse” that don’t immediately bring to mind the thought of a man or woman. That said, if one member of the couple considers themselves cisgender and is comfortable with “husband” or “wife” as a label while the other is on the gender-queer scale, it’s also acceptable to have the officiant say “husband and spouse,” “wife and spouse,” “spouse and husband,” or “spouse and wife.” Alternatively, you might choose the word “partner” instead of “spouse,” but that does bring to mind unmarried relationships.
Beach Lover and Doctor (or Something More Applicable to You)
Who says you need to define yourselves so publicly at the end of the ceremony? If you’ve yet to settle on the term you’d prefer, or you want to make your guests laugh, or you want to highlight something memorable about the big day or yourself, you can use your profession, your ambition, or a hobby you’re passionate about to define yourself. For example, the officiant might proclaim, “I pronounce you doctor and beach lover,” especially if you’re having a beachside ceremony. She might also play to the dreams and goals you intend to support in each other going forward and say something like, “I pronounce you future world-renowned chef and aspiring author.” There are no limits to the terms you can use to end the ceremony.
When it comes to your wedding vows, there’s simply no wrong way to phrase the final announcement. It’s okay, though, to cringe at the thought of “man and wife,” just as it’s okay to think it’s a romantic, classic way to express your relationship. While some religious officiants in particular might insist on sticking to specific, traditional phrases, most marriage officiants would be happy to change the words they speak at your ceremony and may even offer suggestions on how to change them to best reflect your relationship.