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Everyone wants their wedding to be the especially meaningful. And for some that comes in the form of writing their own vows. Here are my tips for doing just that.
Questions to answer before you put pen to paper on those vows...
Will you repeat the same vows or will you each make up your own?
This is really just personal preference and the symbolism is roughly equivalent. There is charm to both the personal promise and the promise that you both agree on together.
Will you write the them separately in secret, or with your partner?
There is something suspenseful and authentic about vows that your partner only hears for the first time in the ceremony. But writing your vows with your partner’s help can make you feel more connected to each other leading up to the big day. So choose what works best for you as couple.
Roughly how many words should each of your vows be?
Traditional vows are only a couple dozen words. So it’s hard to be too short for what your guests are expecting as long as it’s meaningful to you. And frankly, as long as what you are saying is meaningful and heartfelt, it’s hard to be too long. After all, this promise is going to be the most important words you are ever likely to speak. And this is why you are having guests, getting dressed up and decorating the place with flowers. This is your moment. Say what you need to say. But that being said, if there are sections that are not significantly meaningful and heartfelt, revise them or pull them out.
How do you want your vows to be received?
It could be quite awkward if one of you is writing serious, deeply emotional, tear-jerking vows while the other is writing funny, self-deprecated, semi-sarcastic vows. Make sure you’re both on the same page with overall tone. If it helps, choose a couple words like the ones above to give you both a guide for what you’re going to communicate.
Do you want to echo the officiant or read your vows?
Echoing (in other words, repeating) your vows after the officiant is easy, requires less fidgeting with paper but only really works with shorter vows with easily repeatable words that are a bit more general than personal. Think ‘for richer or for poorer’ and ‘til death do us part’. Reading your vows makes more sense with stories, personal messages and longer vows. Asking your officiant to say something like ‘the first time we kissed’ so you can echo it just gets weird. So pay attention to language when making your choice.
Okay, now that you've figured out your basic theme, about how long it should be, who is saying what when, it's now time to do the dirty work.
What is a vow?
A vow is a promise. And meaningful promises, the ones you should be promising in a wedding, are ones which require sacrifice. For instance, promising to enjoy every kiss is probably not much of a stretch. It may sound romantic, but isn’t really anything more than what you would do anyway. But that being said, promises like “I promise to take the trash out” while perhaps a sacrifice, are not really appropriate for a wedding. So think about things that bond you as a couple and make you a better couple: “I promise to listen before I speak”, “I promise to calm you when you are stressed” or “I promise to help your family as I would my own.” In this vein, think about the verb you are promising. In these cases to listen, to calm and to help. If you are looking for more guidance, think about other verbs you could use like these and perhaps check out a thesaurus to find new ones.
When a vow isn’t just a vow.
Sometimes it’s really poignant to add some context to a vow by means of a preface or a story. For instance, “For all of the times you get lost and can’t figure out which way to go, I promise to hold your hand and guide you.” or “Remember our third date when you had a drink or two too many? For those nights and all those nights to come, I promise to drive you safely home”. The story can be even longer too. For example, “There was this one time when I couldn’t find my sunglasses. I had torn apart the couches, pulled open all of the kitchen cabinets and even looked in the tank of the toilet I was so desperate to find them. But when you came home you found them for me. They were on my head. We are always better together and I promise to always bring my problems to you as when I do we solve them so much faster.”
When vows aren’t vows at all.
Sometimes the format of a vow doesn’t really allow you to say what you want to say. You may want to take a moment during this special time to affirm your love or praise your partner or say a special personal prayer. This is still the right time in the ceremony to do all of those things. It’s your turn to say what you have always wanted to say. So go ahead and tell everyone how much you love your partner and how they are special and endearing to you.
Hit with writer’s block?
Okay, so you liked all of the ideas above, but still can’t make it work? Try answering these questions to jog your mind.
Do you have any favorite quotes, poems, love songs or movie scenes? Now is the time to start mining some of those awesome lyrics or scripts for all things deep and meaningful.
Also, search the infinite sea of knowledge (e.g. the internet) for vows. Not that you probably haven’t done this already. I mean hey, you found this blog post somehow, right? But don’t be afraid to borrow from others and if you feel bad about that, spin some of the words around for your own personal twist.
Well, now it’s time to bring in the cavalry. Ask your officiant or your friends and family for help. Ask them questions to get an outsider’s perspective. Ask them about their favorite stories about the two of you or what vows they would write for the two of you. At this point, if you’re still at a loss and haven’t brought in your partner yet, it may be time to sit down and do this together or even choose from some of the more traditional wedding vows. There’s no shame in tradition. After all, that why we have weddings in the first place.
-Scot Sanders, Wedding Officiant, Wedlock Officiants