Your perfect 'I do' moment could be embracing the traditional and offering to 'love, honour and obey'. But if you want to introduce a fresh approach to the start of your marriage, here's some ideas for writing your own vows.
Where to start…
If you’ve decided to write your own vows, you may be suffering from the worst kind of writer’s block. Standing in front of a crowd is nerve-racking enough, and now you’re required to share your feelings. This is the moment you get to profess your love in front of your family and friends. What will you say to seal the deal? What words will make your fiancé cry, laugh and believe your love is forever?
Begin by asking a few key questions before committing anything to paper:
Why are you getting married?
What does marriage mean to each of you?
What will it take to make your marriage work?
What do you love about your partner?
Which qualities do you most admire about him/her?
What are your similarities?
What are your differences?
What do you want to achieve in the future?
What do you want to say in front of your families and friends about your relationship and future together?
Are there any appropriate phrases (from a song or poem) that say something special about your relationship that you could include?
You can find inspiration for what to say from many sources. This is one time in your life when it’s considered OK to be inspired by the words of others. It’s also acceptable to tailor someone else’s words to make them appropriate to you.
From the Heart
Start by making notes, jotting down key words and phrases that express what you feel. How you feel about your partner and how good you are together, then move on to what you hope to achieve in the future. It’s meant to be personal, so include your partner’s name and make references to your lives rather than using generic phrases that could apply to anyone. Don’t make references too obscure if you want your audience to understand them, too.
Wedding co-ordinator Siobhan Craven-Robins (siobhancraven-robins.co.uk) advises couples to remember that getting married is a serious undertaking. “A bit like the speeches, avoid being humorous for funny’s sake. It can fall very flat and trivialise an important occasion that you don’t get to repeat. Keep it sincere, that’s all that matters.”
Write from the heart and don’t be afraid of sounding a little soppy – it’s your wedding day, after all. When it comes to length, keep it short and sweet. Your vows are the most important part of the ceremony, but they shouldn’t be long-winded. Anything longer than about a minute of spoken text (that’s 200–250 words) is probably too long.
Australian celebrant Lucy Gransbury (lucygransbury.com.au) has these wise words for where to start. “When I’m assisting couples with vow writing, I always get them to make a list of all the big and small things they love most about their partner, and what they think is the most important thing in the other’s lives.
“My favourite kind of answers are the really specific ones – ‘He can poach an egg perfectly, every single time’; ‘Her favourite thing in life is arancini balls’; ‘When I’ve had a tough day, he will twerk passionately until I start laughing’. And then we turn those into the vows, by mixing them with the sentimental stuff., ‘I promise to love you every day, and to always strive to make you as happy as arancini balls do’; ‘I look forward to a future with you, full of love, laughter, and perfectly poached eggs’; ‘I will always be your best friend, your proud husband, and your enthusiastic yet awkward dance partner’.
A Winning Performance
You will no doubt have read and re-read your vows many times before the wedding day and familiarised yourself with the words. If you think you can commit everything to memory, great. Just don’t underestimate how nervous you may be feeling, because that’s when your mind might go blank!
As a safeguard, write out your vows on a cue card and give a copy to a bridesmaid or the best man to hold on to until the big moment arrives. You might not need it, but you could be very glad to have it close at hand.
You will turn to face one another as you say your vows and it’s quite likely that you will feel very emotional, perhaps starting to cry, as you listen to what’s being said, or as you start to speak yourself. Don’t worry about a few tears – everyone will love you even more for it. Just take a moment to compose yourself and then carry on. You only get to say your vows once, so speak slowly and savour every word.
Sample Wedding Vows
Not sure where to start? There might help…
A beginning “I, ………, choose you, ………, as my best friend for life’s great journey.”
“I, ………, choose you, ………, to embark on the journey of marriage with me.”
“I, ……… , take you, ………, as my soul mate and lifelong companion.”
“I, ……… , take you, ……… , to be my wife, my friend, my lover, my confidante.”
The middle “Together, we can accomplish anything.”
“Together, we will be stronger than we could ever be alone.”
“Together, we will share our love with the world.”
“Together, our love will grow into a bond too strong to break”
“Through the good and the bad, I want you by my side.”
Declarations “When you need someone to encourage you, I want it to be me. When you need a helping hand, I want it to be mine. When you long for someone to smile at, turn to me. When you have something to share, share it with me.”
“Though life may not always be as perfect as it is at this moment, I vow always to keep my love as pure as it is today. I promise to be there for you through laughter and tears, in sickness and health, for richer and for poorer. I promise to be there for you for all your life, whatever life may bring.”
Putting it all together “From this moment, I, …….…, take you, ………, as my wife, my best friend and my partner for life. I pledge to honour, encourage and support you through our journey together. When the path becomes difficult, I promise to stand by you so that together we can accomplish more than we ever could alone. Every day I promise to work at our love and always make you a priority in my life. With every beat of my heart, I will love you. This is my vow.”
“From the moment our paths crossed, you’ve captivated me, challenged me, frustrated me and improved me in ways no person has done before. And I have fallen in love with you again and again. I promise to be true to you, to support and encourage you and to challenge and frustrate you. I truly believe we are good for each other and that we will continue to grow stronger together.”
“You know that there are some things I don’t believe in. But today, I want to tell you about some things I do believe in. I believe in sunrises and sunsets. I believe in hikes in the woods and walks on the beach.… I believe in all the beauty, the mystery and the wonder of life, and I believe that these joys, like all joys, are multiplied when you have someone to share them with. And I’m here because I want you to be that person.”
“I promise to give you the best of myself and to ask of you no more than you can give. I promise to accept you the way you are. I fell in love with you for the qualities, abilities and outlook on life that you have, and I won’t try to reshape you in a different image. I promise to respect you as a person with your own interests, desires, and needs, and to realise that those are sometimes different, but no less important, to my own. I promise to keep myself open to you, to let you see through the window of my personal world into my innermost fears and feelings, secrets and dreams. I promise to grow along with you, to be willing to face change as we both change in order to keep our relationship alive and exciting. And finally, I promise to love you in good times and in bad, with all I have to give and all I feel inside, in the only way I know how – completely and forever.”
“Today, as I give myself to you, my mind is clear and my commitment is strong and without reservation. I take you, ……… to be my life’s partner. I will never leave you nor forsake you; I will spend all my days at your side. We will share a lifetime of eternal, immeasurable love.”
Once you’re happy with what you want to say, practise reading it out loud. Sometimes what reads well in your head doesn’t sound quite right when you say it, and the odd phrase may need to be revised so that the words flow and you feel comfortable saying them. Ask a trusted friend to give you an honest opinion.
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