"I, [insert your name], take you, [insert your partner's name], to be my lawfully wedded wife/husband."
Sure, you could recite your vows by repeating after the officiant, but why not add a personal touch to your ceremony and write your own vows? After all, no one knows you and your soon-to-be partner better than you. We understand it can be difficult and intimidating to write your own vows, so we came up with some easy tips to help you find the perfect words for your special day.
Check With Your Officiant
Before penning the perfect vows, speak with your officiant. Some religions require traditional wording or only allow you to write your own as long as specific phrases are included, so it's best to understand the guidelines ahead of time.
If you hoped to write personal vows but your religion doesn't allow it, opt to write personal letters to one another on your wedding day. A personalized letter can include everything you wanted to say in your vows and more! Plus, if you hired a videographer, they can record each of you reading your letters and layer that into your edited wedding video.
Find Your Tone
Your wedding vows should reflect your personality. After all, that's why you chose to write your own.
- Are you the funny one in the relationship? Share a few humorous memories and jokes, but don't embarrass your significant other in front of all their family, future family, and friends.
- Are you romantic? Talk about the reasons you fell in love with your soon-to-be spouse. Maybe even make it poetic.
- Do you prefer traditional vows with a twist? Borrow phrases from traditional vows and add personal moments in between.
- Are you religious? Recite your favorite Bible verse and explain how that relates to your relationship.
If you're having a hard time getting started, don't worry. Even professional writers like myself struggle. Don't be afraid to use the trusty internet. Finding inspiration online doesn't mean you're copying someone else's words as your own. Instead, reading examples of others' vows can ignite ideas for your own.
Look at the structure (i.e. declaration of love, your partner's uniqueness, why they're important to your future, then promises), tone (comical, romantic, religious), and phrasing (long, short, poetic, formal, informal).
Keep track of your favorites, you'll want to reference them in the months to come.
Wedding vows should paint a small picture of your relationship, but your life has likely been a whirlwind of wedding planning since the proposal. Set aside some time to quietly reflect on your relationship together.
Note: If silence causes your mind to wander to unrelated topics such as your grocery list or weekend plans, try playing songs you both listen to frequently or look through old photos you took together. These can remind you of joy-filled times spent with one another and evoke emotions for your partner.
Jot down any memories you shared. Then, ask yourself some questions:
- What is your favorite thing about your fiancé(e)?
- What promises do you want to make to them?
- How has your partner made your life better?
- How will your relationship change when you are married? What will remain the same?
- When or how did you know you were in love with your partner/ that they were the person you wanted to marry?
- What hard times have you gone through as a couple?
- When you’re apart, what do you miss most about them?
Use your answers to jumpstart your vows or help you get through any writer's block.
Short But Sweet
Long, romantic notes about how much you love and cherish your significant other are wonderful, but not for the altar. Remember, you can always write a letter to your future spouse on the day of your wedding. When it comes to your vows, you want them to be short and sweet. Why? Because:
- If your vows are emotional, it may be difficult for you to get through two-pages of heartfelt promises through the tears.
- You'll likely be more nervous than you think, which can make it difficult to read lengthy vows in front of family and friends.
Your first draft will likely be longer than the final product. Include everything you think you want the first time around, then edit, edit, edit.
Practice Makes Perfect
Much like in school when you had to recite a presentation to the class or were cast as the lead role in the school play, it's crucial to practice. You may think that pouring your heart out to the one you love on your wedding day should be easy, but nerves and excitement will be vying for your attention. Don't take any chances.
Practice saying your vows as many times as you can, and read them aloud. Hearing your vows out loud can help identify any issues with flow or areas that may sound odd. Time yourself. Your vows can be as short or as long as you want, but 1-2 minutes is a good rule of thumb. Also, rehearse looking up, like you will at your partner when you say them.
You don't need to memorize them, but practicing will help the words run off your tongue smoother than if you read them for the first time at the altar. And PLEASE! Even if you think you memorized them, bring a hard copy just in case. You'll never regret having a backup.
Embrace the Emotion
So, you crafted the perfect wedding vows for your special someone. You practiced them over and over again. You want to recite them seamlessly, but emotions are running high as you approach the altar. You get three words into your vows and feel the floodgates opening. Oh no! What should you do?
Embrace the emotion. Marriage is a big commitment and an incredible life change. It's common for the emotion to hit you mid-vow. Take a moment to breathe, reset, and continue. If you have to stop multiple times, that's fine, too! Don't worry about your guests, this is you and your partner's special day. Plus, chances are if you're crying, there isn't a dry eye in your venue.
Put some thought into what you'll write your final vows on. Choose some pretty stationary or card stock. Not only will it look better than a full piece of notebook paper when you pull it out of your pocket or purse, but you can save it as a wedding keepsake. If you want a daily reminder of your love and promises to one another, frame them and hang them beside some of your favorite wedding photos or place them on your bedside tables.
No matter what you say, how you say it, or what you do with your vows when the wedding day is done, it's important that you spoke from the heart and meant every word you said.
Photo Courtesy Olivia Wagner Photography.