The most important thing to know before writing your own wedding vows is this: There is no formula, and there are no requirements. Your vows are about you and your spouse-to-be, and they should reflect you and your relationship. That being said, sitting down to write what is essentially a deeply personal love letter that you'll eventually read aloud can be a daunting task. Read on for a few tips and tricks to make the process easier.
1. Make sure everyone's on board. You and your partner should both be on board with writing personalized vows -- it can be an intense experience to write and read them aloud. Also, check with your officiant to ensure you're actually allowed to read your own vows, as some houses of worship require marrying couples to recite set vows.
2. Same vows or different? Some couples choose to write their vows together and read the same promises to each other on the big day, while others choose to write separate vows. Talk about which option is best for you, and, if you've opted for separate vows, decide whether or not you'll read them to each other in advance of the wedding or surprise each other at the altar.
3. Establish a framework -- and do it early. Sit down with your spouse at least six weeks before your wedding and establish a framework for your vows: Talk about tone (heartfelt yet funny? Serious and romantic?), length (150-200 words? 1-2 minutes?), what types of things you want to say (memories from your relationship? Your "how we met" story? Promises for the future?), and how you'll close your vows (you may both want to say the same thing -- for example, "I'll love you forever," "I'm so glad you picked me" etc. -- or surprise each other with a unique closing line). It may be helpful to establish a template that both of you can work from.
4. Get inspired. Call the local courthouse and ask to see the wedding vows they use in civil ceremonies; browse the web and find examples of traditional, civil, and offbeat wedding ceremonies; look to poetry, novels, speeches, religious texts and other sources to find quotes that inspire you or that you can weave into your vows. Once you've gathered all of this material, note the common threads and let them help guide your vow-writing process (much like you would bundle images of bouquets on Loverly then use the bundle to figure out your bridal style). And feel free to borrow and remix ideas you love from others' ceremonies.
5. Take a trip down memory lane. Set a date with your partner to talk about the past, present, and future of your relationship. Reminisce about old times and share stories about things you've done for each other that were memorable or extra special. Then, pull ideas and feelings from that conversation into your wedding vows.
6. Create an outline. You've talked to your spouse-to-be about the length, tone, and structure of your vows -- now it's time to fill in the blanks. Make a rough outline of the the opening, middle, and closing of your vows. If you need a little help, think past, present, and future -- use those moments in time to structure your vows. What was it like when you first met? How have things changed to this point? What will you promise to your partner to improve your relationship over time? Or, open with the reasons you're marrying, and what marriage means to you. Then, talk through some of the specific reasons you love your partner. Next, state your vows (the promises you're making to your partner). Finally, close with a sincere remark.
7. Now for the details. Once you have your outline down, it's time to fill in the details. Choose a few anecdotes that speak to a larger truth about your relationship; consider the qualities you love most about your partner and the specific ways they've expressed themselves. Ask yourself what you want to promise. Include things you want to improve about your own self for the betterment of your marriage -- e.g. "I promise to remain kind when I'm having a bad day" -- and ways you'll protect and cherish your spouse.
8. Practice out loud. Be sure your vows aren't too long, that they sound nice when spoken, and that you feel totally comfortable saying them. Also, make note of any inside jokes and consider whether or not they'll be too "inside" for your guests to understand (and consider re-working). Make any necessary edits to your vows and keep practicing!
9. Don't forget that these vows are all about you. If you cry, laugh, or need to take a pause during your vows, know that that's totally OK. Your vows are for you and your partner alone -- whatever you decide to say and however you feel while you're saying them is your business and no one else's. This is the part of the wedding that's for the two of you (the reception is for your guests!) Enjoy this moment and know that whatever you say will be perfect.
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