Where do I begin?
The decision to write your own wedding vows can be daunting. How do you express the love that you have for the person that you are going to spend the rest of your life with in a few short sentences? How do you capture the essence of that love?
There are no hard and fast rules. In New Zealand, each party must say the words:
“I, AB, take you CD, to be my legal wife/husband” (or words to similar effect). The full names of the respective parties should be used in place of AB and CD.
As part of your Celebrant’s role they can and will construct your vows for you if you ask. But… I strongly advise that you dig down and write these yourself. If there is only one part of your ceremony that you contribute to significantly, this should be it! Don’t be scared to roll your sleeves up and get to the heart of the reasons that you love your partner. If we decide to work together on your big day, I will challenge you do this yourself! But I am always available to support you.
It can be helpful to ask yourself these questions:
- What are the good things about your partner?
- Why did you fall in love with him or her?
- What are the important promises you want to make? (These can range from fidelity and honesty right through to practical promises like ‘putting the toilet seat down’ and ‘always remembering a birthday’)
- When you close your eyes and think about marrying your partner what comes to mind? Let your heart speak.
And my secret weapon…
The #1 exercise I ask my clients to go through to is take a piece of paper, go to a quiet space and to ask themselves the following:
“What are the five things I would want my partner to know if I was going to lose all ability to communicate with him or her in the next 24 hours?”
If you were losing the power to speak, txt, write or communicate in any way what are the five things you would like to know? This is a great spring board question for writing your vows.
There are lots of resources online to help you put your vows together. Simply Google: writing wedding vows. Of all the resources online this one really resonated:
Decide if you want to write them together. Either way you decide is the right way. My husband and I like to surprise each other—we’re also a little too competitive—so the surprise element was fun. It felt like wrapping a gift for him. However, a friend of mine got upset because he didn’t think his vows were as good as his wife’s. It’s a good idea to consider what kind of people you and your partner are and whether or not the element of surprise would actually be fun, or another stress point.
If you don’t write them together, consider picking a structure that you both can use as a jumping off point. It’s not a bad idea to make sure that you and your partner are going to be vowing somewhat similar things. Michael and I decided to use the phrase “I promise to” as an overall structure, and to end with “thank you for marrying me.” It gave us a good place to start, and still let us write from our own voices.
Decide on a word-count maximum. It’s nice to have a constraint sometimes, especially if your husband-elect is threatening to put on a scuba suit and perform the vows as an hour-long, aquatic-love-metaphor themed rap. We settled on a 150-word maximum. It gave me peace of mind that we weren’t going to make our guests to sit through thirty minutes of vowing.
Details, details. Every creative writing workshop will tell you that good writing is in the details—specifics that speak to a larger, universal truth. It’s not a crazy idea to apply this to your vows. I focused on a few things that I thought symbolized our relationship and (eventually) wrote my vows from that. Think of it as a writing prompt. A few (commonsense) places to start: What are the little things that your partner appreciates that you do? How does that symbolize your overall relationship? And the biggy: Is there something that you can work on to build an even better, healthier relationship? I promised Michael that I would participate in our relationship no matter how hard it might seem, because my general tendency is to shut down during conflict, and I wanted to promise in front of our community to work on that. I also promised to roll my eyes with him and not at him—because let’s be honest, I’m never going to stop rolling my eyes.
Remember that the vows are ultimately just for you and your partner. If you are a silly person, I’m here to tell you that it is okay if your vows are a little silly, or funny. Or if you’d rather just write one simple line: DO IT. If you want to rap them while wearing a scuba suit? Go ahead—if your partner doesn’t mind. Your vows don’t even have to sound like vows; you could write an essay, a sonnet, or a smooth love jam. Vows should sound like you, especially when you’re making promises to your partner. Of all days, you wouldn’t want them to sound like someone else.
From: A Practical Wedding
Other Things to Think About
You should also consider whether or not you want to memorize them, read from cue cards, or if you wish to have the Celebrant state the words and you repeat them. This can influence what you will say. There are no hard and fast conventions about how you deliver your vows and it is absolutely okay to read from paper if you wish. This is your day after all.
Your Celebrant will be more than happy to work on this with you, so do feel free to ask for his or her support.