In recent years, I have encouraged couples to write their own vows. Anytime there are words written about you or there are words spoken by you and your partner during your ceremony, those are the moments when your guests are totally locked in and engaged.
If you are willing to give it a go and pen your own promises, you have checked off a meaningful, engaging, and fun way to make your ceremony uniquely yours. It’s a chance to tell your partner publically how much you love them, an opportunity to reflect fondly on your journey, to give your friends and family a glimpse into what makes you click as a couple, and most importantly, the ultimate opportunity to make promises you will keep for a lifetime. At first glance, many couples feel that writing their own vows is too complicated: “How can I express something so personal on my wedding day? There is no way I’m going to be able to emotionally handle speaking in front of my friends and family without falling apart.” If it seems like a daunting task to muster up the right words, let’s break it down step by step. Trust me when I tell you . . . it’s not as tough as you think. With a little thought and a bit of coaching, writing and reading your vows WILL BE the highlight of your wedding.
Step 1. Write a Brief Love Letter
The first step is to get on the same page as to how your vows will be written. I tell my couples their wedding vows should be broken down into two paragraphs: The first paragraph should be a brief LOVE LETTER expressing how much you love one another and how much this day means to you. Let your loved one know the character qualities you love about them, the personality traits they possess that keep you balanced and compliment you. Oh, and don’t forget to insert humor that is unique to you and your fiance. Humor is a key ingredient that makes for a fantastic wedding ceremony. One gentle reminder, be sure to avoid writing anything that would embarrass your loved one. No need to use humor at the expense of someone you love. The bottom line is to write thoughtfully from your heart.
Step 2: Write Your Promises
Paragraph #2 should transition to your promises: “I promise to . . .” The key is to make promises that are unique to your relationship. They should be a reflection of your personalities and the life you share and the memories you have made. Most importantly, they should reflect convictions of the heart that you will cling to for as long as you both shall live. And don’t forget to sprinkle in one or two FUN promises. Your guest will enjoy the things about your relationship that make you laugh. You might be asking, “How many vows should we write?” I would never tell you what to do in YOUR wedding. However, if you would like a general guideline, five to seven is what I see most often in the ceremonies I officiate. In practical terms, come to an agreement as to how long your vows will be. If you want help in ensuring your thoughts will be similar in length, every word processing program has a word count tool that will give you all the information you need. Instead of considering vow writing a competition, get on the same page about your expectations. I always encourage couples not to share what they are going to say, but as already mentioned, come to an agreement about the structure and length of the promises.
To give you a helpful roadmap, here are vows crafted from a bride at one of my recent weddings:
From the very beginning, our relationship has been very special. It’s hard to believe that the perfect man for me was right around the corner my whole life. Over the past 5 and half years, you and I have done so much and been through so much together. Through it all, you have continually showed me you are the most loyal, honest, and loving man. You are not only the love of my life, but my very best friend.
You often times ask me how you got so lucky to have me, and all I can do is look at you and smile because I was thinking the same thing about you. You have made me happier than I could have ever wished for and more loved and appreciated than I thought was possible. You allow me to be myself, as silly or sassy as that may be sometimes, and make every part of life more fun. You are always ready to cheer me on when things are good, or cheer me up after a tough day.
You encourage me to achieve my goals and follow my dreams, even when those dreams took me to the other side of the world from you. What I know now is you are actually the one who is making all my dreams come true by allowing me to spend each day with my best friend, giving me a partner to do life with, and the perfect man to one day start a family with.
Today I promise to always love you for who you are
I will make you a priority and continually work to better our relationship
I will always encourage you to follow your dreams and passions, just as you have always done for me
I promise to do my best to tell you I’m hungry before I get angry and you have to deal with me
I will enjoy life with you and will always be my silly and sassy self
And lastly, I promise to be your best friend, your biggest fan, your partner in crime, and the best wife and one day mother I can be for the rest of our lives.
I am so excited for this new journey we are going to take as husband and wife. Thank you for choosing me and making me the luckiest girl alive.
To give you background on these vows, when I met with the bride and groom at our ceremony planning meeting, they had not even considered writing their vows. However, after we talked about this opportunity and I explained structure to them they were all in. It’s important to remember that your vows do not have to be this lengthy, but I thought this is a wonderful example of a heartfelt love letter followed by fun and heart-warming promises.
The number one concern I get from couples who are considering writing their own vows is that their emotions will get the best of them. Under pressure, some people laugh, others cry, some do both! Regardless, if you need to pause for a moment and collect yourself, that’s 100% OK. Your vows are for you and your partner alone. Whatever words you say and however you feel while you’re saying them is between you and your partner and no one else. As I mentioned, if you make the decision to move forward, exchanging your vows WILL BE the highlight of your wedding, and with a little thought and preparation, whatever words you choose will be absolutely perfect. I guarantee!
Dean Merrill brings 22 years of experience as a wedding officiant in Southern California. His creative and professional approach to performing weddings comes from a unique blending of talents he utilizes in every ceremony in which he officiates. He is currently the preferred wedding officiant for Southern California’s #1 rated wedding coordinator, Bella Vita Events.