So you thought it would be great to write your own vows, but now a substantial dose of writer’s block (not to mention an overriding fear of embarrassing yourself) has hit you squarely on the head.
Not sure how to transform your life-altering feelings into a paragraph of coherent words? You’re not alone — but don’t worry, your goal is within reach. Just take it one word at a time!
Before you get started…
Make sure your Celebrant will accept personalized vows. If you’ve chosen a Civil Marriage Celebrant, you’re in the clear – as long as you include the legal wording “I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, A.B., take you, C.D., to be my lawful wedded Husband/Wife/Spouse.”
Religious Celebrants, on the other hand, may require you to recite all or part of the traditional vows, though in most cases that’s left to the celebrant’s discretion. Having said all of that, please remember: even the most accommodating Celebrant should review your words in advance!
Agree on your ‘tactics’
Ensure that you and your fiancé feel the same way: Are you each going to pen your own vows, or will you write them together? Will you show them to each other before the ceremony? Or will they remain a romantic secret to be shared on your special day? Something to remember: Secret vows often mean tears on the day – happy tears of course – but tears nonetheless. So, if you do take this option, you may want to have a tissue somewhere handy!
Establish some ground rules
An outline helps to establish a structure, so that your vows (whilst perhaps different) are still a similar length and follow a similar format. For example, plan to first talk about how you met, then about how wonderful life has been as a couple, then about what you’re vowing to each other. Don’t underestimate the power of humor either – consider throwing in at least one playful sentiment. The most important thing is that your vows ring true and sound like they’re from your heart. After all, these are the promises you are basing your Marriage on!
What on earth do you say?
To help you think of what to include, take turns answering these questions. When you’re done, look through your answers for the phrases that best capture your intended message and blend them into the structure of your vows.
Alternatively, your Celebrant may have some ‘sample’ wordings that you can check out. This way you will be able to get a feel for the sorts of words and phrases that you like and don’t like, and then you can incorporate those ideas.
1. What did you think when you first saw him/her? Start from the very beginning. When did you realise you were in love? The more specific you are able to be, the more touching the story.
2. What do you have now that you didn’t have before you met? Focus on the heart and head, not material possessions.
3. How has your view of the world changed? Life has likely gotten better since the two of you joined forces, so share that! What do you miss most when you’re apart? Where do you see yourselves in 10 years? What are your long-term hopes and dreams?
4. Do parts of the traditional vows resonate with you? Maybe you’re not too sure about the obey part, but can you really go wrong with love and cherish? Perhaps try a little humor here to lighten the traditional sound – for example: I promise to cherish and honor you all the days of my life, especially when curled up on the couch with takeaway.
5. Can you think of a funny or touching experience that put your partner in a new light? Is there a harrowing experience that strengthened your bond?
6. What goals and values do you both have? Stating your common bond may just expose your inner wordsmith. What about him/her inspires you? What do you most respect about your partner?
7. What promise can you make to show your devotion? Here’s an opportunity to personalize your vows — many couples pledge their endless love, but how many promise to take the rubbish out, even the rubbish in the bathroom, without being asked? (Yes, that HAS happened!)
8. How will you change together? You know what your goals are — think about the steps the two of you will need to take together to reach them. Why are you entering the bond of marriage? Why is marrying your fiancé so special. What will keep your marriage strong?
9. What are you most looking forward to about married life? The wedding is just the beginning. What do you expect out of married life? Defining your expectations will help you make and keep promises. Think about your dreams, and what you’ll have to vow to do to make them come true.
10. What words do you associate with love? Make a list of romantic terms so you can avoid overusing love — too many repetitions dilute its power.
So there you have it, some useful tips for making your vows your own. Don’t forget, your very best source of assistance is your Celebrant. Ask for help if you need it. I personally love being able to help couples craft the perfect vows to reflect their relationship and base their Marriage on!
And one last thing – if you are feeling shy, consider writing your vows together and reciting the exact same promises. If there’s more you want to say, there’s always the option to say it privately, in a card or on your honeymoon.
Article written by wedding celebrant Fiona Roberts.