When a bride says "I do" these days, it no longer includes the pledge to do the dinner, the dishes and the grocery shopping. Nowadays, the bridal vow is more likely to mean "I do the dinner, if you do the dishes. And every other week, you do the shopping."

Garter belts and bachelor parties may never disappear, but once the ceremony is over, the traditions stop there. No longer is being a good cook crucial to being a good wife.

The fact that his new wife is a great cook is "an added bonus," said John Banks, an associate in the Alexandria aerospace and defense firm of R.J. Banks, Inc., who was married to attorney Lisa Torray on March 7.

While it isn't expected that a wife be a slave to the kitchen anymore, today she is likely to at least know how to cook -- and so is her husband. What with couples living together before they are married or putting off marriage until they are older, the kitchen is already familiar territory. Newlyweds have most likely had the chance to cook for themselves and each other before they tie the knot. (They've also had the chance to accumulate kitchen equipment. One newlywed in her mid-30s noted that she and her husband have "enough salad bowls to have all of Chevy Chase over for dinner.")

Thus the calamity stories of a new bride burning toast or setting a kitchen towel aflame are not as common as they used to be, despite the repartee on the Newlywed Game. "No, the souffle' hasn't fallen yet," said Banks, regarding his wife's culinary track record.

That's not to say disasters don't ever happen. Jane Pohutsky, an administrative assistant in land development for Associated Investment Company in Bethesda, said that shortly after she got married this past November, she tried to make fried shrimp by deep-frying already deep-fried frozen shrimp.

They were "inedible," said Pohutsky. Her husband's review of the dinner, according to Jane: "You sure make a good salad." Currently George Pohutsky is in charge of preparing the household's seafood dishes.

For the growing number of working brides, preparing extravagant meals to impress hubby when he gets home is as implausible as rushing for his slippers. Delegation of kitchen duties more often is defined by work schedules and interests.

Pohutsky said she gets home from work every night around 6 p.m., while her husband, George, who "loves to cook," gets home by 4. George Pohutsky usually has dinner started or made by the time she gets home. To balance responsibilities, Jane Pohutsky makes breakfast and packs lunch.

"We've never established that she's the wife and I'm the husband and these are our specific roles," said Thomas Clark, manager at Blackie's House of Beef in Springfield, who recently married Sharon McGarry, an employe at The Sporting Life, a mail-order fashion catalogue firm.

Clark said that the couple shares cooking and cleaning chores, or will cook together. "The kitchen isn't too big, so we end up bumping into each other a lot. But that's fun, too," added Clark.

Of course, joint cooking doesn't always pan out. Lynne Queenan, vice president of National Women's Health Report, Inc., who was married last month to Philip Beauregard, who works at Geico, said that the couple started preparing meals together but discovered that they "differ over cooking philosophy."

If her husband would say "would you taste this?" in the middle of assembling a dish and Queenan would make spice or herb suggestions, "he wouldn't pay attention" anyway. Queenan concluded it would be better if each did his or her own show.

Regardless of who does the cooking, living with another individual involves establishing new eating habits and learning to like -- or hate -- new foods.

"I brought less meat into our relationship," said Pamela Ely, a dental assistant who married Daniel Ely, an aerospace engineer, last August. Ely said that she has introduced more fish and chicken to the couple's dinner menus.

Leslie Mayer Psaltis, a nurse at Sibley Hospital who got married May 16, discovered that her husband enjoys a large breakfast of cereal, fruit and "weird mustard fish" (sardines packed in mustard sauce) that she thinks are "really gross."

"I drink a Tab and eat a doughnut for breakfast, so it's a good thing we don't eat together," joked Psaltis, who leaves the house before 6:30 a.m. Psaltis said she is hopeful that her marriage will improve her eating habits, "although I'll still have my Tab for breakfast."

For others, marriage has already led to a more nutritious regimen. "We're probably eating better because now we're caretakers of each other's health," said Charles Stuart Jr., an assistant general counsel at the Rouse Company in Columbia, who married Diane Humphreys, a psychiatric social worker, on March 20.

Diane Stuart, who sees patients at the couple's home in Chevy Chase, said that before she was married, it wasn't unusual for her to eat a banana or grab some cheese and crackers between appointments. "That would be it for dinner," Stuart said, noting that her habits have changed "since Chas is a three-square-meals-a-day person."

While men may be doing more cooking and cleaning than they used to, there are still those who are afraid to boil water. Banks' brother, Robert, said that John "makes the ice" in the household. And attorney Liz Gustafson, who was married in April, said her husband is learning how to make eggs and is "great with the toaster."

Nevertheless, it appears as if Gustafson got a great catch. She said her husband often suggests that they go out to dinner. "He won't sit there when I'm cooking because he feels guilty," she said. "He doesn't like to see me cook."

For most newly married couples, what, when or where dinner is served is really irrelevant compared to just being able to be with one another. Ely said that even if she has a big lunch and she's not hungry, she'll still eat a full meal with her husband. In fact, if her day doesn't include dinner with her husband, said Ely, "something is missing."

LISA BANKS' DINNER SALAD WITH TARRAGON VINAIGRETTE (4 servings)

FOR THE VINAIGRETTE:

2 tablespoons chopped shallots

1/4 cup tarragon vinegar

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon whipping cream or half-and-half

Freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE SALAD:

1/4 bunch watercress

2 belgian endives, separated into leaves and cut into thirds

1/2 head red leaf lettuce

14-ounce can hearts of palm, sliced lengthwise and then in thirds

1/4 cup whole walnuts

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

To make vinaigrette, mix together shallots, vinegar and mustard. Add olive oil, cream and pepper and mix until well blended. Assemble salad greens, sprinkle with walnuts and blue cheese and dress.

GEORGE POHUTSKY'S SHRIMP BOILED IN BEER (4 servings)

2 12-ounce cans of beer

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup vinegar

2 to 3 tablespoons seafood seasoning

1/2 1.25-ounce can pickling spices

Dash salt, freshly ground black pepper, lemon pepper and crushed red pepper

2 pounds shrimp (do not remove shells)

Place all ingredients except shrimp in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add shrimp and cook until done, about 5 to 7 minutes. Serve with salad and corn on the cob.

DIANE HUMPHREYS STUART'S SHERRIED CHICKEN BREASTS (4 servings)

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon basil

4 chicken breast halves, bone-in

3/4 cup chicken stock, approximately

Freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup sherry

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add onion and cook over low heat for about 3 minutes. Add basil and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, or until onion is soft. Raise heat to medium-high and brown chicken breasts. Cover pan halfway, lower heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes, adding chicken stock as necessary to keep pan from drying out. Season with pepper, add sherry and cook for another 15 minutes. Serve with rice and salad.

LIZ GUSTAFSON'S MOTHER'S CRAB SALAD (4 servings)

1 pound crab meat

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 cucumber, peeled and diced

3 scallions, diced

1 tablespoon horseradish or more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1 head red leaf lettuce, shredded

Mix salad ingredients together and serve as a light lunch or as an addition to a grilled dish.

PHILIP BEAUREGARD'S SISTER GRANIA'S LIVER PATE (10 to 12 servings)

1 small onion, finely chopped

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) softened butter

1 pound chicken livers

1/4 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon cognac

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon curry powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Parsley for garnish Saute' onion over low heat in 4 tablespoons butter. Add chicken livers and chicken stock and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Do not overcook. Place remaining butter in a blender and add chicken liver mixture from skillet. Add remaining ingredients, except garnish. Blend. Pour into a bowl. Chill overnight. Garnish with parsley and serve with crackers.