Vows that wow

Vows that wow

How to write meaningful
wedding vows

Story by Meghan Cornelison

Your wedding day is a reflection of you and your fiance and your dreams as a couple. There’s a chance, then, that the traditional wedding vows might not say all that you wish to say. “A lot of people choose to write their own vows because they want to say something specific to their partner at that moment,” says Reverend Dorothy Torres of Castle Ministries.

But let’s face it, writing your own personalized wedding vows can be a daunting task. Perhaps you’re feeling stumped or nervous about how to find the words to express the love you feel in your heart (without making your guests feel bored or uncomfortable)? If so, here are some simple vow writing strategies to help inspire you and bring your vows to life.

Think about the personal… but know the essentials

“Writing your own vows allows you to express exactly how you feel,” says Sarah Sundberg of Vow Girl, a wedding vow and speech writing service. Give some thought to what the marriage commitment means to you and how you plan to honor it within the context of your relationship. “What themes have been constant throughout your relationship?” says Sarah. “Has his great sense of humor helped you through tough times? Or her ability to listen without judging?” But on the other hand, don’t go too far in revealing information that crosses the line from personal to embarrassing. “Make sure you are comfortable sharing your vow in front of everyone,” explains Sarah.

Obviously, you need to know what you have to say at your wedding before delving too deep into what you want to say. “According to Alaska state law, someplace along the way, I have to ask (couples) if ‘they do’ and they have to say that ‘they do,’ ” says Rev. Torres. This is called an expression of intent and can be part of your vows or worked into another part of the ceremony. Otherwise, required elements depend on who is performing your ceremony. Some religions are more lenient than others when it comes to wedding ceremonies, so Rev. Torres suggests talking to your officiant about vow requirements.

Finding inspiration

Of course your love is unique, but countless others have fallen in love and married before you, and a lot of them have written about the subject. From poetry to movies, look to other works that strike a chord with you as a starting place for your vows. “The idea is to start with the borrowed material and relate it to the relationship,” says Sarah. The relationships within your families could be another great source of inspiration. “Some of the most significant vows I have seen have been reflections of watching their parents’ marriages,” says Erin Chalstrom, of Your Story Event Planning. Also, Rev. Torres suggests making sure you both truly want to write personalized vows. Don’t force this on your partner if that’s just not his or her thing. As a compromise, you could write your own while your partner works a personalized twist into traditional vows.

Get started – early

Once you agree to write your own vows “first and foremost, start early,” says Erin. As soon as possible, come up with a rough outline of what you want to say. Then, Rev. Torres says, “as ideas come up, write it down, leave it for a while, look at it again and see if you still like it.” As far as structure, there’s no rule that your vows have to mirror one another. But if you want consistency, come up with agreed-upon components (like a short story) or structure (like a list of promises) ahead of time, suggests Erin.

As part of your writing and editing process, pay attention to your vows’ length. There is no “right” length for wedding vows, explains Rev. Torres, but be aware of how much time it will take, and be understanding of your audience as well. Once you have your perfect vows on paper, both Erin and Sarah urge you to practice reading them out loud as often as you can to help overcome the wedding-day jitters. However, even if you’ve memorized your vows, give a written copy to an attendant or your officiant just in case.

Most importantly, “speak from the heart,” says Erin. If you take the time to do that, your vows will leave your guests reaching for the tissue and serve as a source of strength for the two of you in the years to come.