Some people just want to say “I do” to each other during their wedding ceremony and want the officiant to do all the talking while they avoid saying anything else at all. That’s perfectly fine. Some people want to write their own marriage vows to say to each during the ceremony. Of those people, some have a very clear idea of what they want to say and they can go and write something beautiful, entertaining and heartfelt quite easily. This blog post if for the subset of people who want to write their own vows, (or their partner wants them to write their own vows!) but they need a bit of help. Here are my top tips, from what I’ve learned in the past few years of planning weddings in Central Park.
Read some examples for inspiration
Have a search online for what other have said, or ask me for some examples of what previous couples have said to each other (I won’t be posting personal vows of my clients online, even though some of them are gold!). There’s nothing wrong with using other people’s ideas for inspiration, or even downright plagiarism if it sounds right. If it works for you and you think it will resonate with your partner, then steal it (and maybe modify it to suit you).
Write some notes about your relationship
What have you shared in the past? Do you have any great memories that you’d like to recall as you get married? What are the highs and lows so far? Why is getting married important to you? What do you hope for or expect in the future together? What do you especially love about your partner?
Decide what you will promise your partner
These are your vows, your chance to make a special promise or pledge for the future to your significant other. Are there special promises that you want to make? There are the traditional love, comfort, honor and cherish promises, but are there other things that you want to promise to always do for this person? You might want to think of a couple of serious ones and a couple of promises that might be a private or a public joke between you.
Make sure you have the same tone
After you have thought a little about what you might want to say, agree with your partner that you have the same style, format and tone for your vows. If you want to keep what you are going to say as a surprise until the day I can help with this by checking your drafts of vows for you. Check if it’s OK (or encouraged) to put a few jokes in. Agree how personal you want to be in front of whoever is there, of course this isn’t an issue if you’re eloping! Do a quick word count to check that you are both talking for roughly the same amount of time.
Write a first draft
Have a go at writing it all out as far in advance of the ceremony as you can. Cover all the things you think are important and see how it reads, perhaps against what your partner has written. Perhaps you could leave it for a little while and give it some thought for a few weeks and then return to it and see if anything else occurs to you. You’ll only be doing this one time, so you need to mean what you say. Try to keep to two paragraphs, you don’t want your guests (and certainly not your spouse!) to lose interest if you have pages and pages to read!
Edit the words until they feel right
Have a good think about saying all this out loud to the one you love, probably in front of all your nearest and dearest. Is any of it cheesy or cliched? Does it truly sound like your voice? It can be difficult to strike the balance between being personal and heartfelt, without putting too much out there in the open in front of an audience. I usually try to write the ceremony wording with a couple as far in advance of the wedding as possible. That is because I think it’s good to write something, then go away and come back to it with fresh eyes and read over it again and see if it still sounds good. I’d suggest that for your vows, too.
Write or print it clearly on card
Sometimes we have our officiant bring the vows with them and sometimes the couples bring their personal vows with them on a piece of card. Whoever brings it, I strongly suggest reading it rather than trying to memorize it. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t read it out loud a few times in advance – you should – but nerves can ruin memory so plan on reading it out. One of our couples wrote their vows in a greetings card that they could then give to their spouse to keep, I think that’s a lovely idea.
If I am helping you to plan your wedding in Central Park then I will work with you to write your ceremony for you and your partner and I can also help you to write your personal vows. Doing this isn’t for everyone, so be sure that you and your partner agree on what you’re comfortable with in advance of any of this. And if you don’t agree, then find a way to compromise, after all, that’s what married life is all about! Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and pin along with us on Pinterest to keep updated with what we’re up to on your social media platform of choice!
If you’re interested in some alternatives to the traditional “love, honor and cherish” part of a ceremony, then watch this space, I’ll be writing some ideas for that soon. And if you’d like to see some ideas on what to say when you exchange your rings then I’ll be posting about that in a few weeks, too. If you’d like to see my list of twenty wedding readings and poems, a mixture of some that my previous clients have used, or just ones that I personally quite like, then check out my post on that. I’d love anyone to share their tips for writing their own wedding vows in the comments below.