Writing your own wedding vows is one of the most intimate ways to add a personal and romantic touch to your wedding day. Not to say that we don’t adore traditional vows or think them equally beautiful, but we are keenly aware that they just aren’t right for every couple, especially if they don’t speak to your heart. Vows that you pen yourself are specific to your relationship—whether you share precious memories or illustrate just what defines your love—in a way that adds an extra layer of meaning to your wedding ceremony. However, as you may have already learned, writing your own wedding vows isn’t as easy as you’d expect.
You might be thinking, “I used to write college papers at 4am and those turned out great, how much harder could writing my wedding vows be?” Just to be clear, college essays and your vows are two very different animals (seriously, how much of Great Expectations do you actually remember today?). The latter carries much more weight in the grand scheme of things: your vows are a reflection of your marriage and the promises you intend to keep for the rest of your days. So, you know, no pressure. And of course, you’ll be your own worst critic every time you start to put words down on paper. Since we know writing your own original expressions of love and commitment is no easy feat, here are 13 essential tips to help you craft meaningful, sniffle-inducing vows that you and your partner will cherish for a lifetime.
1. Start Writing Early
This is a point that we cannot stress enough. Sure, you’ve got months until your wedding day arrives, but you underestimate the time and reflection that will need to go into writing your vows. This assignment isn’t one that you can (or would want to) just throw together at the last minute. So start early and give yourself plenty of time to make revisions before your big day.
2. Establish Your Tone
Before you really get started, a key first step is establishing what sort of tone you want your wedding vows to have. Maybe you’re a quirky and romantic sort of person? Or perhaps tear-jerking sentimentality is more your speed? Or hey, maybe neither of those things sound like you and your partner and you’d rather keep your vows light or humorous. It doesn’t matter what style you choose, just make sure that it’s a tone that makes you happy and excited to share your words with your spouse-to-be on your big day.
On that note, it’s also a really good idea to decide on the tone together. You might not be thrilled if you end up dishing the most heartfelt, soul-baring words you’ve ever spoken while your partner goes a completely different direction with a hilarious and/or semi-embarrassing story. Make sure you and your fiancé(e) are on the same page here.
3. Seek Out Inspiration
Love is one of those confounding topics that we humans are constantly grappling with. How can we describe how love feels? How can we capture it through words? What does it mean to be in love? Thankfully, over the past few centuries many famous poets, writers, playwrights, and screenwriters have come very, very close to getting at the heart of those questions through beautiful, relatable, and transcendent works of art. Don’t let these resources go to waste when you’re battling writer’s block or struggling to put your feelings down on paper. If there was ever a time to return to your favorite pieces of literature or beloved films, it’s now. Once you find something that speaks to you, feel free to try to mimic that sentiment in your own words or quote it verbatim in your wedding vows.
4. Talk To Your Fiancé(e)
One of the best ways to figure out a direction for your vows is to sit down and have a heartfelt talk with your fiancé(e) about your relationship, your feelings for each other, your marriage goals, and the like. Discuss what you want your ceremony to feel like and how you’d like your relationship to be portrayed in front of friends and family. Talk about what makes your relationship yours. You might remind each other of special or defining moments in your relationship, or even find the very words you’ve been struggling with. This conversation will not only help guide the focus of your wedding vows, but also verbalize the promises you swear to keep.
5. Reflect Alone
After your talk with your fiancé(e), find time to be alone and reflect on that conversation. Tackle the big questions, such as how he/she makes you feel, what inspires you about him/her, and how he/she has made a positive impact on your life. This is no easy task (hence why we recommend starting this process early), but once articulated, your responses will give you lots of material for your vows. And who knows? A little bit of quiet meditation might just reveal the language you’ve been carrying deep in your heart.
6. Take Trips Down Memory Lane
Another great way to personalize your wedding vows is to select specific details of your relationship to highlight. Spend time before your wedding day thinking back on special moments with your spouse-to-be. Remember when you first met, your first kiss, and how you felt when you realized you’d found the one. Think of your private jokes, hilarious stories, and even embarrassing moments. Whether or not you choose to mention these memories in your vows, remembering them will absolutely help you to home in on what makes your relationship—and, thus, your vows—unique.
7. Don’t Worry About What Others Will Think
When you start writing your own vows, it’s easy to wonder (and worry) what others will think about what you have to say. “Will guests think our inside jokes are dumb?” “Will they get bored if we go on too long?” “Will Grandma and Grandpa judge us for foregoing traditional vows?” Trust us, we know it’s hard to not take your guests into account after addressing and sending all those save the dates, but your ceremony is no one’s but yours and your partner’s. Your wedding vows are yours for a reason, so let them reflect who you are together and what you want to celebrate about your relationship.
8. Create An Outline
Okay, we know we sound like your 8th grade English teacher right now, but hear us out. We’re serious. Write an outline. Without a bit of organization, your wedding vows can easily turn into stream-of-consciousness rambling. Stay on track by crafting a brief outline (no Roman numerals necessary, we promise) that will organize your thoughts chronologically or thematically and ensure your wedding vows have both a clear beginning and end. This doesn’t need to be a paragraph-by-paragraph breakdown. Something as simple as the following will do just fine:
- Intro: Funny anecdote
- Thoughts/feelings when you first met your partner
- Thoughts/feelings when you knew you wanted to spend the rest of your life with him/her
- What those feelings mean to you today
- Where you see your relationship going after your wedding day
See? Not a Roman numeral in sight.
9. Keep It Short And Sweet
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: less is more. Don’t feel pressured to write long, lengthy wedding vows when keeping them short and concise can be just as moving. After you’ve finished writing, it’s a great idea to practice speaking your vows aloud while timing yourself. If you find you’re speaking for over two minutes, you’ve got some cutting to do. We know 120 seconds doesn’t seem like much time, but when it comes to speaking in public, that minute will last a whole lot longer than you expect. Plus, there is no need to try to impress the crowd by showing off your prose skills—your vows are a message to your fiancé(e), after all. Determine a length that is right for you, then set your mind to focusing entirely on the feelings you want to express.
10. Embrace Free Association
Unless you’re a walking thesaurus, it can be hard to find the exact right words to express what you’ve been thinking and feeling since your spouse-to-be entered your life. A great vow-writing exercise that will keep you from Googling words every 30 seconds is to write with free association. This means writing down the first few words that pop into your mind when you think of your fiancé(e), your relationship, your feelings for each other, etc. and leaving the editing for later. Think: word vomit with a purpose. Trust us when we say this practice will help you make natural word choices without fear of misunderstanding.
11. Include Sincere And Meaningful Promises
Wedding vows are, in essence, a list of promises that you make to your partner. Whether it’s loving him/her always or guaranteeing that you’ll do the dishes every Monday and Wednesday night, your vows should incorporate the promises you swear to uphold, and demonstrate the sacrifices you are willing to make as an equal half of your union.
12. Think To The Future
In addition to making promises, make sure that your vows also include a look to the future of your relationship. Where will you go from “I do?” What do you expect or want your marriage to look like a year from now? Fifteen? Fifty? What will you do to keep your bond strong over the years? Even if the phrase “’til death to us part” doesn’t make the cut, don’t forget to anticipate the joys and challenges of marriage ahead. These important details will both guide the promises we mentioned above and give weight to your wedding vows.
13. Speak From Your Heart
“Listen to Your Heart” was Roxette’s biggest hit for a reason, and if you take one thing away from this article, we hope it’s those words. Above all, your wedding vows are about expressing your true feelings about the person you’re about to spend the rest of your life with—to that person. When it comes right down to it, nothing is more important than saying what you truly feel in a style, length, and tone that defines your and your partner’s relationship.
We’re not crying, we just have really bad allergies, ok? Now go write those vows with confidence.