Many couples I work with choose to write their own wedding vows, whether it's an all-out personal declaration or a variation of traditional themes they've made their own. Fellow Interfaith minister and wedding officiant Rev. Sarah Margaret recently these tips for writing your own wedding vows from the popular wedding website, The Knot.
Mostly I think these simple, step-by-step tips are really helpful for couples planning to write their own vows, but I couldn't resist adding my own advice below! Taken together, I hope they offer couples a useful template for writing their own wedding vows.
1- Get Clearance.
I do not need to review your words in advance! Your vows are yours and yours alone. However, I'm always happy to help couples refine their vows or make sure they're on the same page.
2- Start Early.
Though I started drafting ideas in the weeks prior to our wedding, I finished writing my own vows the morning of our ceremony. (My husband never wrote his down at all!) It's true that stress can squash your creative and emotional flow, so just make sure you have the time and space you need to write from the heart.
3- Look to Tradition.
Unless you're planning to write a love letter of sorts (as I did), looking at samples of wedding vows can be very helpful. I have a selection of traditional and non-traditional wedding vows I offer every couple.
4- Set the Tone.
My husband and I could not have been more different in our approach to writing our vows but we did agree on one thing: we would make a few promises. This might sound pretty basic but I know of one bride who vowed x, y, and z, while the groom wrote a poem. To me, their vows were perfect because they were a true reflection of each individual. But, if something like that would bother you, be sure to talk about it before you start writing!
5- Figure Out the Logistics.
You're likely to decide early in the process whether you want to write your vows alone or together, share them before or save them for the wedding day, etc. If you write them alone and keep it a surprise but want to make sure they feel similar, I'm happy to be the go-between. Mum's the word! (I also like to have a copy of each person's vows in case, heaven forbid, you forget to bring them to the ceremony.)
6- Make a Vow Date.
My goal in working with couples to create a custom wedding ceremony is for them to feel aware and connected with these questions throughout the planning process. It's all too easy, with all the hundreds of details and decisions, to lose touch with the reason you're choosing to marry - the essential ingredient you'll need to write your wedding vows.
7- Schedule Some Alone Time.
Our dear friend and wedding officiant gave us an easy, five-minute exercise to do on our own, in nature, helping us to clarify and simplify what we love about each other. In five simple steps, I was able to distill my deep emotions into a few words that became the basis of my wedding vows. It was so great I've started using it with my own couples!
8- Steal Ideas.
See tip 3!
9- Create an Outline.
You may have gotten the impression that my husband and I were pretty casual about our wedding vows. We weren't at all! To us they were the most important part of the wedding, but we didn't feel the need to create a lot of structure around them. That's an important distinction - you just have to know what's right for you.
10- Remember Your Audience.
This is one tip where I have to disagree. This is your ceremony. These are your vows. Though you're no doubt very grateful to have your friends and family in attendance, you are not responsible for making them feel included in this moment. You can include them in other parts of your ceremony. Your vows are simply to be witnessed.
11- Time It Right.
Another one I have to disagree with. Aim for one minute? Um, how much did your wedding cost? And how much time did it take to plan? And how far has everyone traveled to join in your celebration? And, and and... Take as much darn time as you want!!!
12- Practice Out Loud.
This last one is a useful tip, but not so you can be sure they sound good per se. Practicing saying your wedding vows out loud will help you get more comfortable with them, but it's also a way to make sure what you're saying truly resonates for you - that it just feels right. If you say it out loud but don't feel your heart behind it, you may want to do some more editing.