I am writing my wedding vow. For brevity I am considering replacing "XX, in the presence of God, our family and our friends I take you to be my wife..." with "XX, before God, our family and our friends I take you to be my wife."

To me, "before" seems the more direct and it seems clear. But I would like some opinions on whether there is a good grammatical reason that "in the presence of" is common.

2 Answers 2


I do not think there is a grammatical difference. It depends on your beliefs and how you perceive your spirituality.

"Before God" has the imagery of standing in judgement or supplication to a person (or being) who is sitting there watching you, as in "an audience before the King"—picture the King sitting on a throne which is raised on a dais at the end of a long room, and petitioners come and stand before him to plead their cases and receive judgment. There is a sense of "There is some authority watching over the proceedings and giving their approval to them."

"In the presence of God" paints a more nebulous picture where there is a sense of some being "being present" at the event, rather than being located at any one place you could point to. In my opinion this is a gentler image.

So which one you want to use depends on the imagery you would like to use and what connotation you want to allude to.

  • Randomhead: Thanks for sharing the opinion that "before" seems grammatically similar to "in the presence of". That addresses my question. Michael Harvey: Thanks for your humous examples of pronunciation. I add to your examples that it is common to hear God pronounced Gawd with very particular manner from a pulpit. These an many other mannerism are theatrical, sincere, cynical, and so forth. Seems to me that musicians, reporters, politicians and teenagers all make good use the method. In this case the vows will be spoken by me, not a cleric.
    – rfm
    Sep 11, 2021 at 22:54
  • @MichaelHarvey How does the AofC's pronunciation mean this question is opinion-based? There's a step or two missing between your 3rd and 4th comments.
    – gotube
    Sep 11, 2021 at 23:28

'In the presence of God' are the words that appear in the traditional wedding ceremony based on The Book of Common Prayer:

Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony.

It may depend on your personal beliefs, but it may be that "in the presence of God" is quite specific to weddings that take place in a church. If God is omnipresent then everywhere is technically 'in his presence', but a church is thought of by its adherents as being "God's house".

"Before God" or "in the sight of God" would mean that you believe God is watching over the ceremony, acting as a witness to your wedding vows. This is a common sentiment at Christian weddings.

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