There are many ways to
celebrate your relationship, promise your love and affirm your commitment.
The most important thing is that you make sure that your vows are truly meaningful to you both.
You should select a way to do them that is comfortable for you both, as well.
Neither of you should feel that you are forced to speak, or feel pressured to write vows
if writing will stress you. If one of you would love to speak and the other is very shy,
find a way to make it work for you both!
This page will present some ways for you to work together to create your perfect wedding vows.
Questions to ponder:
Try a writing exercise to help bring out your feelings of love, friendship and appreciation.
You love and adore one another, but don’t always have the language to express it.
It would be so helpful for you and your beloved to, together or individually, t
ake some time to ponder and answer these questions. Y
our answers will give you insights on ways to personalize your ceremony,
as well as inspiration for things to express in your vows.
How did you meet and what first attracted you to one another?
What do you love about each other?
What does getting married mean to you?
What are some of your dreams and intentions for married life?
What story do you want to share about your love?
Utilizing other people’s ideas for vows:
Borrowing from other sources is completely acceptable in weddings.
It could be that the perfect vow already exists somewhere, that someone else wrote it
as if they were reading your heart and mind.
So feel free to pour through favorite songs, poems and other people’s vows for ideas.
I like to tell couples that
they should never feel inadequate or ashamed that they are not
Pulitzer prize-winning writers. We each have our own gifts, and writing your vows should not be stressful or competitive;
it should be a warm expression of your feelings, no matter who first put those words together in that way.
While you may have a certain reference or preconceived notion of what a wedding vow is meant to be,
there are many different options for expressing your love and commitment in the form of vows and promises.
You and your beloved should pick the kind of vows most suited to the two of you, taking into consideration:
Whether or not you want to write you own vows, and whether you would truly enjoy writing them - or whether you would rather adapt vows from someone else’s book or writings.
How comfortable you both are about speaking in front of friends and family; would you rather “agree” to certain promises than speak them out loud?
Whether your own or not, would you rather read or recite the vows yourselves, or would you prefer to repeat after your Officiant?
So many unique couples, so many vows:
Here are some of the different ways to include your personal vows in your ceremony.
You and your beloved should have input and approval over what you decided to share, and how you decide to share it.
Question of intent
In every ceremony there is a question put forth by your Officiant that gives you a chance to declare
that you freely chose to marry the person standing beside you. It’s called the “question of intent” and is required by law
to be asked by the Officiant in some states. If you two feel you do not want to speak much during the ceremony,
because you are shy or because the thought of it makes you too nervous, you can have an extended “question of intent” that satisfies
the legal requirement for such a question and encompasses your vows
(such as, “Bride, are you ready to enter into this marriage with Groom, believing the love you share and your faith
in each other will endure all things? Do you, Bride, take Groom to be your husband?”)
and gives you a chance to agree to certain declarations. This would be asked by your Officiant.
after-the-Officiant individual vows
You can have a set of vows said individually in addition to the question of intent (right after or before),
or spoken as part of your ring vows (during the blessing and exchange of rings).
These vows are of a manageable length and “fed” to you in bite sizes so that you don’t have to memorize
anything and so that they will be easy for you each to repeat, generally 4-6 words at a time.
One way to do something different is to speak the same vow, simultaneously.
This is like stereo vows -- you hear it consciously and subconsciously -- and it is really a nice touch to share
your sentiments and promises to each other at the same time.
It represents partnership and working in the spirit of harmony and cooperation.
If you have a lot to share with each other, it may be a little too unwieldy to do in repeat-after-the Officiant style;
and perhaps it is redundant to read the same long vow to one another.
You can instead divvy up the lines and alternate reading to one another.
This is a very creative way and somewhat theatrical way to share your vows. It’s very special.
Writing and reading
your own vows
The time-honored ways to share vows is to each write your own separate vows and read them to one another at the wedding altar.
Some couples like to coordinate their vows, and some choose to share them for the first time on the wedding day.
Either way, it is always a beautiful touch when the bride and groom share what they love about one another,
and what they promise to one another on this day.
Some couples opt for completely unique vows, and others choose to also add in some traditional sentiments.
Other ideas for vows
Be as creative as you would like!
If you would rather select or adapt vows from poetry or a song, go for it.
from favorite songs. One of my personal favorites is:
“With this ring our lives will start, swearing that we’ll never part.
I offer what you cannot buy: devoted love until we die.” by Celine Dion (“The Colour of My Love”).
Another great selection is: “I swear like the shadow that’s by your side – I’ll be there. For better or worse, ‘til death do us part,
I’ll love you with every beat of my heart. I swear.” by All 4 One (“I swear”).
Perhaps a poignant couplet from a favorite Shakespearean sonnet,
or ask your Officiant for some suggestions. One thing to keep in mind: when using poetry written in “Old” English,
make sure that you are comfortable with the pronunciations, and even consider reading or memorizing the lines
in current, “modern” English.
Officiant read something which holds particular meaning for you
and announce that fact prior to the reading itself, so that your guests are aware of the significance.
Speaking from the
heart – and from the hip
Some brides and grooms prefer to speak without a piece of paper.
It is not recommended that you try to memorize your vows
– this will be WAY too stressful on your wedding day –
but, by all means, if you or your beloved prefer to simply “share” what is in your hearts, do so.
If one of you needs to have a piece of paper at the altar and the other feels more comfortable just speaking freely, that’s fine.
Remember that your Officiant can be responsible for having any paper readings you want to perform ready at a moment’s notice,
so that you need not worry about being prepared at the crucial moment.
What do you want to say?
There is a special magic in the vows that you exchange on your wedding day.
They offer an opportunity to express your love -- and also declare your future together.
The vows are a vehicle for establishing the path your marriage will take.
It is always recommended that you express your love in personalized vows.
Together... or individually?
Some couples write and read the same vow. Others like to each write something unique and different.
Some couples choose to write vows that they do not share with their Bride or Groom until the wedding ceremony itself.
There are many ways you can create your vows, and there is really no right or wrong way to go about this,
except to bear in mind one thing: do not embarrass your beloved, on this day of all days.
If you are preparing a lovely vow or reading, and have not given your beloved a chance to do the same,
this could be quite embarrassing in front of friends and family.
Borrow from time-tested favorites
If you find that, for whatever reason, you sit down to write your vow and the words are just not flowing, don’t fret -
it could be that some other couple has already expressed what you feel in your hearts.
It is fine to borrow from established vows found in books and on the internet, or those heard uttered at weddings you've attended.
It is also completely appropriate to find readings or poems to share with one another.
Speak them in a way that is most natural
Couples are always welcome to read vows to one another.
They can bring the vows with them down the aisle, or designate someone, even the Officiant,
to hand them over at the right moment.
Feeling shy? They can also be spoken in "repeat-after-me fashion," whereby the minister leads you through them.
If you’re going the
increasingly popular route of personalizing your own wedding vows,
you’re probably looking for some tips to make your vows as special, meaningful, and eloquent as you can.
This is something that will take time beforehand so that you can prepare yourself and become completely comfortable
with what you’re saying. Remember, you’re not just saying pretty words, you’re stating your wedding vows --
words from the heart that aim to express how important this bond of love is to you, even if only fractionally.
The most important thing you
can do is to rehearse your vows until you know them like the back of your hand.
Work towards making the words sound as though they are as natural as if you’d thought them up right there,
and were speaking from that little touch of Shakespeare in your brain. This will diminish hesitancy and constant note-reading,
and will give a much more heartfelt impression.
Here are some other tips:
Come up with certain
“landmarks” within your vows that will act as mental cues to help you
to continue without pausing to remember what comes next.
Rehearse your vows out
loud, until you feel completely “conversationally comfortable” with them.
This will make you feel secure in your words, and will help you to concentrate more on the way you are saying them,
instead of just remembering what you are saying. Rehearsing your vows out loud will also help you to trust yourself more
with the words you’ve chosen, and you will feel much less artificial when the time comes
that you are saying them to your future spouse.
Keep eye contact with
your future spouse. This is not only romantic to watch for those attending
but it will be all the more meaningful to your true love. What’s more, you’ll find yourself feeling the full emotional force of your words
as you gaze adoringly into the eyes of the one who is gazing adoringly back at you.
Speak clearly, and be
sure of your pronunciation before you get up in front of everyone.
Practice with a friend, to be sure that you are enunciating the right syllables, words, feelings.
Remember that you
aren’t the only one who is nervous.
Smile lovingly, hold hands if it is appropriate, and truly feel the words that you’re saying.
Let your future spouse feel at ease because you love him or her just that much.
Keep a good mental
attitude. Don’t think to yourself, “How am I going to survive this?”
Instead, think, “This is it; I’m joining with the person I love. This is the best day of my life.”
Vary your voice
tonality and speed as you say your vows.
This helps you to convey energy when you need to, and when you slow down a bit, you’ll show true heart.
Practice your vows, be
ready to say them, and you’ll find that you’ll be much less frightened,
much more thrilled and, above all, a true romantic.
You’ll enjoy yourself a great deal more and will remember this tremendous moment forever.
To Write Your Vows
Start with a nice clean piece of paper (lavender is good, but any kind will work). Down the left side of the page, write the numbers 1-10. Now – without stopping to think about it, write down the first 10 things that come to mind in response to this sentence: “I love (my partner’s name) because . . . “. Put this piece of paper aside.
Now – how about YOU? What do YOU bring to this union? What promises will you make? Take another sheet of paper, and write them down – don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or anything else at this point. Just write down 4-5 things you want to promise this very special person with whom you want to spend your life. For example:
Do you promise to be there in bad times as well as good?
Do you promise to be faithful with your body as well as with your mind and heart?
Do you promise to support your partner even when he/she isn’t perfect?
Do you promise to share all of your resources? Some?
What if he/she gets sick? What if you have a serious fight?
You get the idea . . . what are you promising in this union?
Think about the language you will use to claim your partner and name your relationship. When you introduce your beloved, what words will you use? Husband? Wife? Spouse? Partner-for-Life? What energy does each of these have for you? If you don’t like one for some reason, throw it out… but before you start writing you vows, decide what language you will use. This is a decision you need to make together, so start early, and give this as much time as it takes.
OK, after you’ve done steps 1-3, and you have at least two pages of writing and one decision made – set it all aside. Do something else, preferably with your partner, and preferably fun. Just like Christmas trees, weddings can get too much “stuff” hung on them. Make yours beautiful by stepping aside from the stress for a day or two. Go out and remember WHY you love - go and play.
All done? Now it’s time to make a big decision: Are each of you going to write your own vow, or do you each want to say the same thing? You absolutely don’t have to! But here’s a trick: If you’re each creating your own unique vow, why not insert a sentence at the end symbolizing the fact that you come together as unique individuals, and, without surrendering your individuality, you are creating a beautiful, shared union.
It’s time to go back to the papers you wrote in steps 1 and 2. If you’re working together, you’ll have fun sharing those pages, and seeing where you overlap. Use colored pencils or highlighters to lift up what you have in common – and make those promises and statements of love just leap off the page.
Now, whether you’re working alone or as a couple, it’s time to prioritize (which is fancy language for saying: OK, if I have to cut two of these promises off the list, which ones will they be?). Nibble at your lists, removing the things that are just a little less juicy, until you’re left with three or four things you love, and about the same number of things you promise.
Copy these over onto a brand new, clean page. (It’s amazing what a difference a clean sheet of paper can make – trust me on this!)
One more question: This is a wedding, a celebration of your union, presumably for life. Will your vows indicate a time frame? Some couples use phrase like: “Through all our years, and in all that life may bring us . . . “ or “For the rest of my days” or “As long as we both shall live” or “lifetime partner” or “partner forevermore.” Whatever works for you, a wedding or service of union vow should contain a phrase that indicates the duration of your commitment, be it life or eternity.
Read your vow out loud to a trusted someone other than your partner. Does it sound like you? How does it feel to say these words aloud? Have you said anything you’d be embarrassed to say in public? Are there any tongue-tanglers in there? Make whatever minor changes you need, and then – stop!! Feel good about what you’ve done – for you have created one of the greatest gifts you will ever make.
Style of Wedding Vow is Right for You?
What mood do you want to
convey within your vows?
Light-hearted and cute? Short and sweet? Witty? Sentimental?
There are almost as many styles of vows as there are vows themselves,
and this is something to consider even if you elect to use vows provided by your Officiant.
Here’s a quick guide to a few of the more popular styles to help you choose the one
that best suits you and your spouse-to-be.
Yes, you can still be
“traditional” even if you aren’t sticking to the prepared wedding vow script.
If you are aiming to be very traditional, all you need to do to prepare is to look up a traditional wedding vow, such as those that begin
with phrases such as, “In the name of G-d,” or “From this moment, I (name) promise to take you (name), to be my wife/husband…”
and so on and so forth. Once you find a traditional vow you like, rewrite it to fit your own personal feelings towards your partner.
If you wish to write a
romantic wedding vow, and you are not endowed with the gift of poetry, you can
look into reading some famous love poetry –
for example, sonnets by Shakespeare -- and see if you can use one of their ideas as a way to express your feelings about your partner.
You may even wish to quote the poet directly, by referring to lines in their poem.
You can also think about the love songs that you will be using during your special day,
and see if the lyrics of these songs can help you to express the way you feel.
Lighthearted and cute
If being lighthearted and
cute sounds fitting, you can go about implementing this style in your wedding
by first thinking of all the fond memories you shared with your partner that really made you smile and brought you closer together.
Write down each one of these memories and choose the one that you believe to be the most suited and tasteful for your wedding.
This style is an excellent way of expressing how much you loved your partner before, and how much more you love them now.
A favorite passage of mine for this type of vow is by Ogden Nash:
“To keep your marriage brimming with love in the loving cup:
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it… and whenever you’re right, shut up.”
If you have a sharp sense of
wit, it could be one of the many characteristics that your partner loves about
you so much.
Use your sense of wit to your advantage by using tasteful humor to spice up a wedding vow by making it romantically playful.
However, as a strong word of caution, if you’ve noticed no one seems to laugh at your jokes, or you can never seem to get
the punch-line of a joke, you may want to fess up to your lack of wit and choose another style for your wedding vows.
You may also want to take into account that your sense of wit may be something your partner
tolerates with good humor, while others may not be so kind.
Sometimes having a simple
style is the best way to go.
A simple wedding vow is composed of a few words that come straight from your heart.
You don’t need to serenade your partner with a self-composed sonnet.
A simple “I love you,” and “I’m glad to be sharing my life with you,” along with a few extra heartfelt words can be perfect.
Short and Sweet
Short and sweet vows are very
much like the simple wedding vow, except that a short and sweet vow is limited
and the words used are often much more concise and straight to the point.
Poetry may help you to get an idea of how to express your vows in this manner.
However, be mindful of vows that are too short and sweet.
You may also discover that although your vow is short, it might be lacking in the sweet department.
The last thing you want to do is prepare a short vow that sounds emotionless – “Love you, mean it!”
is probably not a vow your mate will embrace for all eternity.
Remember, a wedding vow comes
from the heart.
Regardless of how long you decide to make it, it is a personal expression and promise
that accentuates the love you have for your spouse-to-be.