Whether it started on a dating app or with a chance encounter involving a glass slipper, everyone’s love story is unique. And celebrating your journey from “hello” to “I do” is what makes weddings so special.
A great way to reminisce about your story—as well as honor your future together—is with wedding vows. While vows aren’t a part of all traditional ceremonies, many Western couples choose to utilize them in their wedding planning, whether religious or not.
While vows are a vital part of a ceremony for many couples, it doesn’t make the common task any less daunting. If you’re planning on writing your own wedding vows, odds are you have a lot of questions. From what to say to how to prep for the big moment, here are a few key components to keep in mind when drafting your “I dos.”
Plagiarizing is almost always a big no-no, but when it comes to vow writing, it’s actually encouraged. No, that doesn’t mean swipe your best friend’s vows and copy them word-for-word, but if you’re finding it hard to put your feelings down on paper, look for inspiration anywhere and everywhere. When writing your wedding vows, there’s no shame in quoting famous songs, movie lines, book passages, or even examples found online (and no attribution is needed, since your vows aren’t being used for profit). Utilizing a variety of sources for inspo is the key to creating memorable and well-rounded vows.
Maybe you’re die-hard romantics who embrace rose petals and candlelight—or maybe your speed is more Netflix and takeout. Whatever your connection looks like, bring that essence into your vows to make them feel deeply representative of you who are.
While it’s nice to be a little extra lovey-dovey than you would on a normal day (this is your wedding day, after all), don’t feel the need to quote flowery poetry or make a whole bunch of jokes. You want your vows to feel like you—with just a little extra heart-eye vibes added. If you are known to be the comedian, feel free to write funny wedding vows that are still appropriate for the event. The important thing here is to write a wedding vow that is true to yourself and reflects your life with your future spouse.
If laughter is your unofficial love language, it makes sense to include some inside jokes. Just remember that you likely have a variety of wedding guests in attendance (unless you’re eloping, of course). If you make too many obscure jokes, it might make your friends and family feel alienated. Pick and choose your references and jokes, so those watching feel included.
If you’ve ever been to a wedding, odds are you’ve heard some vows that sound more like essays than promises. While telling the person you’re marrying everything you love about them is wonderful, it’s important to remember that the purpose of the vows is to make actual pledges. In addition to addressing your favorite memories and plans for the future, be sure to highlight how you’ll stand by your SO’s side. A mix of serious vows (like supporting each other through sickness and hardship) and less-intense ones (like always splitting your dessert) will make the commitment honest, fun, and uniquely “you.”
The average wedding vow length should be between 30 seconds and three minutes. This will give you enough time to express your feelings without causing anyone’s eyes to glaze over.
After you both have drafts written, have a trusted friend read them to make sure they’re generally the same length. This will help ensure one of you doesn’t say a few sentences, while the other reads off multiple pages.
If you have more to say—and aren’t having an elopement, in which case you can really take your time—consider writing each other notes to read on the day of. This will give you the chance to express yourselves fully, plus can help alleviate any pre-ceremony anxiety.
As you talk about the past and your plans for the future, give extra thought to what, exactly, you’re promising. It should go without saying, but these vows are meant to last a lifetime. While you want them to be unforgettable (and possibly make the entire crowd tear up), you need to ensure you’re only making promises you can actually keep. Even though some are meant to be silly (like always buying the brand of peanut butter the other likes), it doesn’t mean you should say something just for the sake of it sounding good. As you talk about what you hope the rest of your life looks like (and how you plan to support each other in the face of the unknown), do your best to only include vows you can actually stand by for the rest of your life.
The more comfortable you are saying your wedding vows aloud, the more prepared you’ll feel for your big day. The last thing you want is to have your eyes glued to your paper instead of being able to glance up into your soon-to-be spouse’s face. While you don’t need to have them memorized (but that’s totally an option), read over your final draft a few times to get your timing down and tackle any phrases you stumble over. This will help with your delivery and allow you to be in the moment when the time comes—not just worried about getting tongue-tied.
After all the practicing, the original copy of your vows may be wrinkled, creased, or have dinner stains dotting the pages. Instead of just printing out a new copy, opt for something a little classier, like a vow notebook, writing them in your SO’s favorite novel, or even reading them off of a tablet. Just be sure to have an option other than your phone, so your everyday device doesn’t take away from the moment—and the photos—when you look back over the years.
Finally, when the time comes to say your vows to your partner on your wedding day, all that matters is that it comes from the heart. Forget the guests and just tell your almost-spouse how you feel. If you lose your place while reading, ad-lib something additional that feels important in the moment. Or, if you have a hard time speaking through the laughter and tears, don’t worry about it. You’re not getting graded, and this isn’t about being perfect. It’s just about being real.
After writing, editing, practicing, and reciting your vows, it would be a shame to simply toss them aside, especially considering how important they are. Luckily, there are lots of ways to highlight your vows after the big day. Consider putting your vow books on display, commissioning a typography poster with your individual promises, or even framing the copies you practiced with—edits, cross-outs, and wrinkles included. However you choose to display them after your day, having a tangible way to look back on your vows will help you remember how special that moment—and your marriage—truly is.