Writing your wedding vows can seem daunting (or exciting, depending on your point of view) but it is sooooo worth the effort!
Have you ever been to a wedding where the couple opted to write their own vows from the heart, rather than opting for the same old ones that everybody else uses? How was it? (My guess is that it really made the ceremony – am I right?!?)
Your wedding vows are the very heart of your ceremony, and the very heart of your big day. In fact, it’s not an overstatement to say that your wedding vows are the whole point of this (potentially very expensive) big party you’re throwing.
No pressure then…!
Here’s the thing. Your friends and family have gathered to celebrate the love that you two have for each other and – specifically – the fact that you’re going to commit to spending the rest of your lives together. That commitment – that whole reason for this big day – is made in your wedding vows.
Your wedding vows are essentially the sun around which the rest of the celebrations orbit. And those celebrations have been carefully curated and planned by the two of you to reflect your tastes, your love story, your values… everything is tailor-made to the two of you. So surely your vows need to be too?
But how on earth do you go about writing personal wedding vows? Where do you even start? Isn’t it just easier to not bother and go with the traditional ones after all?
Fret not, dear reader! Read my ten top tips for writing awesome wedding vows and all shall become much clearer:
1. Remember you are making promises to each other, not entertaining an audience
Speak from your heart to your beloved and try not to worry about anyone else. Seriously. This is about you and them – you’re not trying to do stand-up comedy or win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Nobody will be judging you (or if they are, what the hell are they doing on your invitation list?!)
2. Use language you’d normally use
Unless your conversations are along the lines of ‘wouldst thou desire a cup of tea, dearest?’, then you don’t need to use thee, thou or any other sort of old-fashioned language. You also don’t need to say ‘wedded wife’ or ‘wedded husband’ – what other kind of wife/husband can you be anyway?!?! There’s a lot of ‘ye olde’ language that seems to creep into weddings because people feel it ‘should’ be in there. And you know what I think about ‘shoulds’…
If you’re getting married with a celebrant (if you’re not, here’s why you might want to change your mind), then you don’t have to worry about including any contracting words, so you’re free to just say whatever is on your heart, in the way you’d normally talk to your partner.
And on the subject of language, you don’t have to speak in English, if you’d rather use another tongue. So perhaps you could speak in a mixture of the languages you both speak, in your own made-up language – or in Klingon, if that floats your boat! So long as it reflects you, that’s the most important thing.
3. Your wedding vows can be quirky, funny, serious or a mixture of all of these
Again, there’s no ‘should’, so feel free to make them reflect you. However, if they’re very light-hearted throughout, you might want to ensure your celebrant includes some of the deeper stuff in the ‘I dos’. You are committing your life to this person after all.
4. Start by having a conversation with your partner
Have a think about what’s important to YOU about marriage, and what you would like to hear reflected in their vows – then share those thoughts with each other. Knowing what your partner would like included will help you enormously when you come to writing your vows, as well as learning more about each other.
You can write your wedding vows together if you’d like. They can be the same as each other’s, they can complement the other’s, or they could take a sort of conversational form – there are no rules.
Remember that this is not a competition! Many people worry about their partner’s vows being ‘better’ than theirs, but it’s not about the pretty words, it’s about where they come from.
6. Lone wolf writing
That said, you can also write your personal wedding vows separately if you’d prefer to, and only hear each other’s on the day. You can freestyle or agree on a framework you’ll base it on – it’s up to you.
If you do go solo on your vow writing, send them to your celebrant so that they can check that the tone is similar – you don’t want one of you to have been promising they’ll pick up their socks when the other has gone full hearts and flowers.
7. Your wedding vows don’t have to match
You are different people, after all!
So if one of you wants to write a short verse and the other one covers 2 sides of A4, that’s ok (if it’s ok with you both). The beauty of your relationship is that you two just fit together, quirks and all – so why shouldn’t your vows?
The most important thing is that both of you write what’s in your heart, not the style you write it in.
8. Accept that you won’t find anything new to say about love
Writers through the ages have wrestled with getting the feelings of love onto a page without being clichéd or making everyone reach for the sick bucket (or both) so, if you’re feeling stuck, be cheered by the fact that you’re in the company of the greats.
But the good news is that you don’t have to write about love in general – you are writing about your love for your partner, and that is completely unique. So it might be that saying you’ll never watch ahead when you’re both riveted to a series, or that you’ll let them warm their cold feet on you in bed forevermore will say far more to them than any Shakespearean sonnet ever could. That’s your love language.
9. Wedding vows don’t have to be full of ‘I vow to’ and ‘I promise’
Yes, so I know they’re literally called vows but you know what it’s like making New Year’s resolutions, right? Fully meant in the moment but forgotten about by February? Well, you really don’t want your vows to be earnestly stated but not followed through.
We’re human after all and, often, a strong intention is more realistic than a promise (ok, so ‘I strongly intend not to sleep with anyone else’ might be taking that a bit far, but hopefully you get what I mean…)
Promises have hard, easily breakable edges. Even if it’s a simple thing like ‘I promise to make you a cup of tea every morning’, it’s broken as soon as you’re away from each other for a weekend. ‘I vow to always make you laugh’ wouldn’t be appropriate if your partner was just bereaved, and ‘I promise to grow old with you’ is something that nobody can guarantee.
Your wedding vows are best when they’re full of what you love about your partner and what you’re looking forward to in your life with them, so try moving away from contractual language and instead say things like ‘I look forward to…’, ‘I will continue to…’ or similar instead of vowing and promising.
10. There are many ways of exchanging your personal wedding vows
You can do repeat-after-me type vows, which make it easier to look into your partner’s eyes as you say them (but bear in mind that your celebrant will get any ‘audience reactions’ before you do). Or you can read them off cards/booklets (do get familiar with them first so that you can make some eye contact – and make sure that the font is big enough for you to read on the day through teary eyes). You can even sing them if you’re so inclined.
Your wedding vows don’t need to be partner A goes and then partner B – you can mix them up, make them conversational, do them in parts (past, present, future works well), or basically do anything you like.
You don’t have to say vows at all actually, if you really don’t want to. If the idea of standing up in front of everyone and saying anything at all, let alone words from the heart, makes you dread your wedding day, you can do something else.
You can write your wedding vows and exchange them to be read (silently) by your partner in the moment. You can whisper them in their ear. You can ask your celebrant to make them into ‘I dos’ so that’s all you have to say. You can prepare a slide deck presentation to give instead! You do you (and get your celebrant to help you facilitate that).
If you’re working with a celebrant like me, then know that you can get help, feedback, ideas and advice anytime you like. And if you do work with me, I’ve got a file of example vows and customisable outlines you can be inspired by.
Good luck – you can do this!
And do get in touch if you’d like me to be your celebrant and help you every step of the way.