Sure, some couples get along just fine by reading a few lines, throwing back the veil, and enjoying their first married kiss. However, for you and your fiancé, not just any vows will do. If you prefer to put a DIY stamp on your wedding, there are only so many variations you can do for flower arrangements and bridesmaid dresses.
The real customization comes in the most meaningful part of your ceremony: the vows you speak to each other as you pledge lifelong commitment and love.
Meet with Your Officiant
As the person who will guide you through your wedding ceremony, your officiant is the best source for advice on how to craft vows that will fully represent your relationship. If you are planning a religious ceremony, your officiant is also the best person to ask about how to fit your own words into a traditional ritual. Depending on your religious tradition, you may not be able to change the actual words that bind you together in matrimony, but you can write additional vows for each other to be exchanged later in the wedding.
Some couples do not use an officiant; instead, they craft their own ceremony and submit their own legal paperwork. If this is the type of wedding you are planning, then you’ll need to follow your own hearts as you decide what vows you want to speak to your partner.
Speak with Your Spouse-to-Be
A successful marriage hinges upon good communication, and a successful wedding is no different. Even though you and your partner may wish to keep the content of your vows a secret until the big day, it’s important to discuss the type of vows that each of you is planning. Otherwise, you may risk getting up in front of your gathered guests for 15 minutes of heart-spilling emotion, only to have your spouse-to-be follow up with a light-hearted anecdote about your first date. There are no wrong ways to plan your vows; serious or humorous, just make sure you and your partner match.
Before writing your vows, agree upon one or two adjectives that will set the tone for your words. These can be adjectives like: funny, genuine, emotional, teasing, enthusiastic, frisky, somber, and so on. Using the same adjectives ensures that you both start writing from the same frame of mind.
Think About Your Relationship
It’s tempting to assume that you already know everything you need to know about your relationship. After all, you’re one half of it! However, it’s amazing what sitting down with a pen and paper will achieve. Give yourself some quiet time (either alone, or with your partner) to reflect on some basic questions about your relationship. Some couples enjoy turning this into a game by answering separately, then comparing their lists. Keep in mind that there are no wrong answers!
What is your favorite part about your partner’s personality? What aspect of your partner inspires you to be a better person? What is your hope for your relationship in the next five years? For the next 10 years? For the last years of your lives? Is there any part of marriage that scares you? In what ways is your partner different from all the other people you know? What is your favorite thing you’ve done together? What is an exciting thing you hope to achieve together? When you used to dream of your future spouse as a child, how does that compare to the person you are marrying now? What do you miss the most when you are apart? How does your partner improve your life? When did you first know it was true love?
You don’t have to answer every question–just the ones that strike a chord with you. You may be surprised by how, once you’ve written the answers to a few questions, it seems like the vows are writing themselves. If you’re not good with getting your thoughts down on paper, speak your answers into a recording device. You can always write down your favorite parts later.
Take Inspiration from All Sources
Great quotes don’t have to come from Shakespeare. If there is a line that moves you, borrow it. It doesn’t matter if it comes from classical love poetry or last week’s episode of Downton Abbey. You can use a quote about strength and sensitivity from the back of a box of tissues, if you like (and you don’t have to tell anyone where you got it). Start looking at the world with love in your eyes, and you may be surprised where inspiration strikes.
Practice Makes Perfect
When you’re done composing the perfect vows, practice saying them out loud. After all, you’ll need to say them in front of a crowd on your wedding day. Like important lines in a play, the words need to be delivered in a clear voice and without being hampered by stage fright. Reading your own words out loud helps you to hear where sentences get too wordy, too. Move your sentences around so you can deliver your words of love in an easy, graceful manner. Keep in mind that you may get a little choked up on the big day, so simple words and sentences are best.
If you don’t want to practice reciting your vows with your spouse-to-be, recite them in front of a trusted friend. Even speaking aloud in front of a mirror is a good way to help your words run smoothly on the big day. When you get up to speak the words that will bind you to your loved one officially, you’ll have the comfort of knowing that you’re saying exactly the words you want to say.