Writing Your Own Marriage Vows:
Say What You Truly Mean

Jody Serey, Officiant
Spirit & Light

Step 1: Ditch the homework mentality. You’re not doing this for a grade. Forget the rest of the eyes that may be watching you on your big day, and focus on the face of your beloved.
Pretend that you are having a conversation with a stranger about the qualities of your fiancé that made you take the second look in the first place. Write them down, no matter how silly they may seem if they touched your heart.
Here are some thinking points that can help you get the thoughts going. Put on some music if it will create a mood, or go to a special spot. Don’t forget to take something to write on, or just jot yourself a note on your phone when you come up with something you want to preserve.

(Write those words down and look at them carefully.  They may be the beginning of your actual vows.)

Step 2:Ignore the advice that says your vows have to match the tone and feeling of the vows being assembled by your fiancé. No they don’t.
Are you two exactly alike? If you want to coordinate the language or the mood, then do it. If you want to express your own individuality, then do it. You will need to decide if you want to share your vows with each other before the wedding, or keep them as a surprise.
It’s your wedding so how you configure your vows is your call. Don’t let anybody boss you around about this important aspect of your ceremony.

Step 3: Decide on what promises you want to make. If you want to include something especially significant to the two of you – do so. These are YOUR promises about YOUR relationship.
Little things mean a lot, especially in marriage. If fighting dragons isn’t nearly as significant as always being on willing to banish the bug in the bathroom – then promise whatever anchors the two of you together. If your great aunts are not amused, smile sweetly at the reception and change the subject.

Step 4: Write it all out.
After you have your notes, you can write the rest of it. A speechwriting expert suggests four steps: 1: Affirm your love. 2: Praise your partner. 3: Make your promises. 4: Finish with a final vow.
Another expert suggests that you can also write a short-short story about your relationship. I suggest that you can also write a letter to your partner and read it aloud. Ultimately all that matters is that you say what you truly feel to the one person who means the most to you in the world.

Step 5: Practice reading your vows aloud.
You will be nervous, so make sure you have practiced several times. A tendency nervous people have is to speak too rapidly. Slow down, think about what you’re saying to the one whose sweaty little hand is in your own, and savor the moment. This is your wedding. It’s not an audition for a reality show.

Step 6: Make a clean copy of your vows plus a spare for somebody else to hold.
The paper you read from should look good because it will appear in photos. If you can manage it, it’s a nice touch to print out a clean copy of your vows and secure them in a booklet or little notebook. Also, if you find yourself overwhelmed and unable to speak when the big moment arrives, your officiant or minister can read your vows on your behalf. So don’t panic, no matter what happens. This is the happiest day of your life so far, and succumbing to stage fright isn’t a requirement for living happily ever after.

About that spare copy – make sure that whoever holds it for you doesn’t feel obligated to turn into an editor 20 minutes before you walk down the aisle. Most things aren’t written in stone, but this is an exception for anybody other than you. Your spare copy holder should pretend that your vows are in granite.

Here are two vows writing “rules” that appear on a prominent wedding website. The advice given is terrible. Please do exactly the opposite of what is stated if it gets in the way of you doing what is meaningful to you:

Particularly Bad Advice to Ignore

(Ignore) “Banish clichés.”

Some cynics say that love itself is a cliché. Use whatever words are accurate for you. If your beloved is your rock, then say so. If a reading from The Velveteen Rabbit expresses your exact feelings, then use it.

(Ignore) “Take out anything too personal or obscure.”

It won’t hurt to think how your vows will sound to your own ears in ten years or so. But your ears are the ones that count.


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