From a reader:
I recently attended a Catholic wedding between two Catholics. During the ceremony, I believe the couple did the declaration of intentions according to the Rite of Marriage. When it came to the wedding vows, instead of using the prescribed vows, the couple recited vows that I think they had written themselves. The vows were of a personal nature; specific to each person, as compared to the universal nature of the Church’s vows. I do not remember all of the specifics of the vows, but I have doubts as to whether or not they expressed the same ideas that are in the Church’s vows; i.e. to be true in good times and in bad, etc.
Is this marriage valid? How should I proceed? Do I need more information or should I not worry about it?
First, I must observe that your account is rather sketchy. You don’t have any clear knowledge of what happened. That in itself suggests that what was done should not have been done. It also means that it would be difficult to do anything about it.
Second, if they wrote the texts themselves, I assume they read them from something. They would have the texts. However, it might be hard to get that text: “Hey, I think your marriage may be invalid. Can I have the texts?” I can see that that approach might be problematic from various points of view.
Third, is this any of your business? It is the business of the pastor of the parish to see to things like this. I you are deeply concerned, you could address the issue with the pastor and try to convince him to look into it. However, if he permitted it in the first place, then he probably doesn’t see anything wrong with it. I suppose it would be possible to send a note to the local bishop asking if it is permitted for people to write their own vows. That might get some interest going.
That said, priests should make sure that the rites of the Church should be followed so that there is NO DOUBT about what happened. If the pastor isn’t smart enough to do this, perhaps he needs to be doing some other good and useful work.