More and more people are opting for their own wedding vows instead of the traditional ones. There are many things which affect this change, but the largest reason most people cite for writing their own vows is because it seems so much more personal.
In a previous article I covered how to find free wedding vows, and went over the basics of writing your own. This time, we’re going to do a step-by-step of writing your own marriage vows so that you can come up with something that is completely yours, totally unique, and filled with meaning that neither of you will ever forget.
First Things First – Set Some Ground Rules
Before you even get started, make sure that both of you have a few ground rules in mind. Sit down together and decide the following things:
- Minimum and Maximum Number of Lines – Uncomfortable is the nicest way of putting that feeling when your partner begins vows the length of a classical book, and all that you have in hand are 5 lines. So, from the start, decide how many lines the vow should be; what is an acceptable minimum and maximum.
- Must-Have Words – Are there any certain words that both of you feel have to be in the vows? Things like “You are my best friend,” or “I love you” seem simple enough but if one of you thinks that they must be included in the vows and the other one isn’t aware of your feelings, it can cause a misunderstanding.
- Don’t-Use Words – On the other side of the coin, if there are any words or phrases that you absolutely do not think should be in the wedding vows, your partner should be aware of that from the start. Likewise, listen to their thoughts so that you don’t include wording that makes your partner uncomfortable.
- Traditional vs. Original – Many couples decide to do “variations” on traditional wedding vows. Things will move much more smoothly, though, if you can both agree from the start how you want the vows to run. If you want to create variations on a traditional theme, decide which traditional wedding vows you’re going to play with so that both of you have the same framework to begin with. Want it totally non-traditional? Great – just make sure that both of you feel the same way.
- Surprise Me – The last thing to decide before you get down to writing is whether or not you want to remain “in the dark” about what your partner has come up with. A majority of couples want to surprise their partner on the wedding day with the vows they have written, while others feel that the whole experience should be planned and the vows should be shared beforehand. Either way you decide to go as a couple, decide it before you start putting ink on paper just so there’s no confusion later on.
Brain candy, or Kick-Starts
Once you sit down to write your vows, don’t feel bad if you’re staring at the blank page wondering why on earth you decided to do this. Don’t feel bad – but don’t run away! Remember the reasons you chose to make your own vows in the first place, and take a deep breath; this will be all worth it in the end.
As with most kinds of writing, this whole process is often helped out by a little brainstorming session. Get a few sheets of paper, your pen, and start writing everything that comes to mind. Don’t stop and look at what you’ve written, or try to make any sense. Just … write. Some things you might consider to get you going:
- How did you and your partner first meet?
- When did you realize you were in love?
- How has your relationship helped you grow as a person?
- What is the most endearing quality about your partner?
- Do you have a theme song?
- What are your pet names for each other? – Have those changed over the length of your relationship?
- When you think of your future together, what does it look like?
Keep writing until you feel that you have nothing left to write, or time yourself; something like 5 minutes of straight writing, for instance. The point is to get yourself writing about you, your partner, and your feelings. Once you’re done, you should have at least one page of rambling mushy-stuff.
Order in the Madness
With all the messy mushy stuff put down in writing, and your small list of ground rules, you’re ready to get moving on the actual vows. Sometimes, all it will take at this point is to put your pen to your paper and the words will just flow.
If you’re like most of us, though, you’ll feel a bit better by following a common framework. This framework is just a suggestion, and may have to be adjusted depending on the ground rules you have discussed with your partner. Once you have made any necessary adjustments, start filling in the pieces to each step.
- Salutation – If you’ve decided that your wedding vows should be ultra-original and not at all traditional, you’ll want to start with a greeting like, “My darling (or dearest, beloved, sweetheart, pet, etc.) Partner’s Name”. You could also do your salutation as a quote which has meaning to your relationship, or the first line of a song that means something to you as a couple. Going traditional? No problem! Your “salutation” should be something along the lines of the standard, “I, Your Name, take you, Partner’s Name”.
- Personal Meaning – In the next line, state what your partner means to you. This is a good time to go back to your rambling brainstorm – were there particular phrases or words in there that say exactly what you want to say about how much your partner means to you?
- Love’s Realization – Your next line can reveal when you realized that you were in love with your partner, and how that realization has grown over the course of your relationship together.
- Marriage Meaning – Now you get to discuss what this marriage means to you, what hopes and fears you have as you embark on a life together. Once again, take a look at your brainstorm; a lot of things that you might not ordinarily think of can come out there.
- Closing – This is your last chance to tell your partner how much you love them, to thank them for who they are and giving you the chance to be with them, before you say your final “I Do’s”.
Once you have each of these pieces filled in, take a break. Set your vows aside for a couple hours or, if you have the time for it, a couple of days. Then, when you feel that you have fresh eyes to see it, take up your writing and read the vows out loud. If you and your partner are sharing the vows before your wedding, try saying them to each other. Do you feel close to tears? Then you’ve done your job well.