Whether you and your fiancé want to write your own wedding vows or go traditional is a huge decision. The advantage of creating your own vows is, of course, that you can personalize them and make them uniquely your own. It ensures that no one else will have a wedding exactly like yours. If you aren’t sure which way to go, you can always blend the traditional with words of your own.
The decisions, ultimately, has to be made by both of you. You don’t need to be a wordsmith to write your vows, but you should speak from the heart. And your words will be heard by dozens of people. You need to feel comfortable opening up with your innermost feelings in that type of environment. But don’t worry if you are the shy type. Honesty is the important element, not a Greta Garbo-type performance.
Do keep in mind that when you write your own vows, you will make your wedding extra special for everyone concerned.
The days before your wedding will be hectic, so don’t leave writing your vows to the last minute. Start discussing your plans at least three to four weeks prior to the ceremony and don’t rush the process.
Put it in Writing
Even if you are only discussing the possibility of writing your own vows, put any random thoughts on a piece of paper and create a worksheet. It doesn’t have to be organized – yet. But it can serve as a starting point if and when you do begin to write your vows.
Consult with Your Officiant
Some religious ceremonies may require traditional vows. Be sure to check with your officiant about the specific rules at your wedding venue. Most services that require traditional vows will also allow you to speak some words of your own.
If you are unable to use your own vows at your ceremony, you can still write them and read them to each other at the reception.
Sit Down and Discuss Your Relationship
Discussing your relationship with your fiancé can be revealing. Talk about anything that comes to mind – how you met, why you are important to each other, how you have affected each other’s lives, and how your life has changed since you’ve met. This could get very emotional. It will also pinpoint why you are meant for each other. Create a list and finetune it later.
This works best when you two have some quiet time together. Don’t discuss your relationship while the game or some other favorite TV show is on.
Remember, Vows are Promises
The entire wedding ceremony is a promise between two people to share a lifetime. If you are writing your own vows, you should emphasize promises that are especially significant to you, such as, “I promise to support your work,” or “I promise to always be honest with you.” Make the promises as specific as possible. It’s okay to toss a bit of wit into the mix, as in, “I promise you can have the remote one hour each evening.”
What is important is that these promises have meaning for both of you. Something simple, such as, “I promise to prepare your favorite soup every week,” can be a sign of how much you love each other and what to expect in the future.
Be as specific as possible. “Our love is magic,” doesn’t really say anything.” “I love you for your kindness, generosity, good humor, and passionate character” is much better.
Your vows should contain two crucial thoughts: “I love you,” and “I will always be there for you.” These concepts may be self-evident, but it’s nice to verbalize them.
Obviously, your vows will emphasize the positive highlights of your relationship. But don’t be afraid to touch on some of the lows. Something like, “You were there for me when my sister was sick, even though it meant giving up your vacation. I will never forget how you helped me through some bad moments.”
The traditional British wedding service has a line about, “With my body, I thee worship.” It’s a lovely thought, but be sure not to get too steamy. Keep it GP or at the most, low-R-rated. “I love how beautiful you are,” is great. “I’ll never forget the first time I saw your beautiful, naked body,” not so much.
Discuss Your Vows with Your Fiancé
You don’t have to go over every word. Save that for the actual ceremony. However, you should discuss the basic tone and content. If one of you gets Danielle Steele romantic while the other would be a natural comic for Saturday Night Live, you may complement each other perfectly in the real world, but you’ll hit a discordant note during your wedding ceremony. Keep the tone and length of the vows fairly similar.
Keep It Short and Simple
You want to be eloquent but succinct. You can make some important promises in under two minutes. If your heart is filled with a flood of thoughts, why not write them down and give them to your fiancé before the wedding as a personal treasure? This will be a forever keepsake.
Will That Be Paper or Plastic?
Don’t forget about the presentation. Reciting your vows is a life-changing moment, so it deserves some type of real stationery instead of a crumpled yellow-pad sheet, especially since this will be memorialized in photos.
Go to a stationery store and buy some good bond paper. If you can find some that match the theme of your wedding, snap it up quickly.
Practice Your Lines
Everyone who speaks in public practices their words ahead of time. Famed speakers may sound off-the-cuff, but they never are. You want to get the tone just right. Gather a few friends and/or family members and practice your vows a few times in front of an audience.
Your words should be heartfelt, and your tone should be casual and sincere instead of stiff.
Sometimes, the couple gets very emotional and is unable to continue speaking. Be prepared and arrange with your officiant to read the vows, if necessary.
Most writings go through approximately three drafts. Have a few days to reflect between each draft, then decide on the final vows.
Not Everyone Was Born to be a Stephen King
Words come easier to some people than others. Just because you find it a bit difficult to express yourself doesn’t mean you don’t love your fiancé with all your heart. If you find the words are stuck between your brain and the paper, look for inspiration in poems, song lyrics, or perhaps a favorite movie. You can either read an entire poem or use a line or two for inspiration.
Do avoid clichés, however. “Roses are red, violets are blue …” has been done. On the other hand, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the words, you walked into mine … and my life changed forever …” is one heck of a starting point.
Who Has the Vows?
What are the logistics of carrying your vows? It’s probably awkward walking down the aisle with a piece of paper in hand or standing by the altar waiting for your bride while grasping at your wedding vows.
You both can provide your officiant with your vows, who can hand them to you at the appropriate moment. Otherwise, give your maid of honor and best man a copy with instructions to discreetly hand them over when needed.
It is your wedding, your words, and your special moment. Make it count.