Writing your Vows
~ START BY SHARING YOUR LOVE. If there was ever a time for a romantic sentence, this is it. You don't have to say those three little words, but you should convey your love for your spouse-to-be in some way. Make sure it's a phrase or sentence they'll recognize as an "I love you" if you don't use the traditional phrase.
~ INCLUDE MEANINGFUL PROMISES. The traditional vows promise to have and to hold in all situations until death. Many couples like the idea of committing to each other but want to use less clichéd language to do so. Think about what promises might be most meaningful and personal for your significant other and how you can convey them in a few phrases. The promises don't have to be sweeping to be sweet, either. Promising to follow them to the ends of the earth sounds epic, but promising to turn the coffee pot on any morning you wake up first might be more practical and helpful for a future relationship.
~ STORIES MAKE THEM SMILE. There's a time and place for funny speeches that gently tease your significant other, potentially including the wedding reception. But standing before your loved ones committing to one another for life is not one of them. If you're including stories to make your vows more personal, pick wisely. Tell a story or two that honors your soon-to-be-spouse and the love you have for each other. Use those types of anecdotes to bring your audience into the relationship so they can understand exactly why you fell for the other person and why one of you popped the question and the other said yes.
~ DON'T USE ABSOLUTES IN YOUR VOWS. Words like always, best, and never can set you up for failure almost immediately in your marriage. Promises such as "I will never yell at you" or "I will always be on time for dinner" are hard to keep and often not realistic. You don't know what the future holds, and perfection isn't realistic. Wedding vows should create a promise that holds you both to high standards in your marriage. But they should also be realistic. If you're not being realistic in your vows, they may not come across as meaningful and sincere.
~START WORKING ON YOUR VOWS NOW. If you're buying save the dates, it's not too early to work on your vows. Sure, you might want to add to them or tweak them as time passes and the ceremony draws near. But starting them now gives you plenty of time to consider what you want to promise your loved one. It also removes the additional stress that always comes with procrastination. You don't have to finish your vows this early. You might only start by jotting down thoughts as they come up in a little notebook. But ensure vows are on your wedding to-do list and set a deadline of a few weeks before the wedding to ensure you have vows completed by then. That way, you're not worrying about writing them while handling last minute issues that could arise or scrambling to accommodate guests that RSVP'd in the days before the ceremony.
~ ADD A MEANINGFUL QUOTE. If you're not a great writer, don't worry. Your personal words, whatever they are, are meaningful in that moment and that's what's important. However, if you want to dress up your vows a little, you can always choose a meaningful quote to include. Pull song lyrics from the first song you danced to as a couple, choose a few lines from a poem that reminds you of them, or grab a quote from a book or television show you both love. In fact, if you're struggling to know where to start with your wedding vows, beginning with a quote can help you set up the theme of what you want to say.
~ PRACTICE SPEAKING YOUR VOWS. No matter whether you want to memorize the vows, it’s good to practice reading them out loud. This lets you understand how the words will flow and whether you might want to pause at certain spots to let the message sink in. This is especially important after sections that might cause people to cry or laugh, as you want to ensure people can respond emotionally without missing the rest of what you're saying. Practicing out loud also helps you understand how long your vows will take to speak. Aim for less than 2 minutes to keep your ceremony an appropriate length and avoid losing the attention of your audience. If you find yourself speaking fast to get everything in, you may need to cut some content from your vows. If you're nervous about speaking in front of people in general — or speaking such personal words with an audience — practice that too. Enlist best friends, bridesmaids, groomsmen, or other trusted loved ones to listen to you practice your vows. Just make sure they promise to keep the contents of the vows secret from your significant other. You want them to be a surprise on the big day for the best emotional impact and also to ensure their vows aren't influenced by what you wrote in yours.
~ CONSIDER WRITING YOUR VOWS TOGETHER. The exception to the rule about keeping your vows secret is if you decide to write vows together. Perhaps you want to begin your marriage in a cooperative spirit and that includes creating vows that you'll both repeat. Collaborating on the promises you'll make and stories you want to share is not a bad way to start.
Ultimately, there aren't that many rules for writing your own vows. You can start with a template or some of the suggestions above and customize your speech so your message matches your relationship and desires for the future. It's not quite as easy as customizing wedding invitations or other event stationery, but once you get started, you'll probably find vows aren't as hard to write as you think.
Wedding vows are more than the pretty words leading up to your I-do moment. Vows are a promise and a thesis, setting the tone of your relationship together.