The president of the Filipino bishops' conference has explained that couples are unable to write their own wedding vows because in the sacrament of marriage, it is Christ himself who is acting through the husband and wife.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan wrote recently that personal expressions “should not be mixed in with the Church’s liturgy because this diminishes, confuses, and spoils the action of Christ himself in the sacrament.”

The archbishop made this clarification in response to the increasing practice of couples attempting to write their own vows and to replace those established by the marriage rite.

Archbishop Villegas explained that Catholic couples cannot do this because it would be deleterious to the rite and because they do not have the authority to change the wedding liturgy.

“The sacred character of the marriage rite must not be compromised at the altar with romanticism,” the archbishop wrote.

He recalled that the liturgy “does not belong to us, and so we can’t change it.” Quoting from Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II's 1963 constitution on the sacred liturgy, he added that “no person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”

Archbishop Villegas added that authority to change the liturgy is held by the Vatican, and in certain cases, by bishops' conferences. This, he explained, is why a couple is unable to take the initiative in writing their own vows.

Instead of using personalized vows within the marriage service, he noted, couples are welcome to use such individualized words at their wedding reception or a similar gathering following the liturgical service.