Are you thinking about writing your own wedding vows? We love this idea – so we’ve compiled a few bits of handy info and tips to help you get started.
Firstly, check with your celebrant whether it is possible to write your own wedding vows. For instance, if you’re getting married in a Catholic Church, you are not allowed to write your own wedding vows. If you’re having a civil or humanist ceremony, you’ll have more freedom with your ceremony including writing your own vows. If you’re having a civil marriage ceremony at a registrar’s office, you may be asked to share your music and reading choices beforehand – it’s best to check ahead with the registrar who’ll be officiating over your ceremony. If you’re having a humanist ceremony, you’re free to personalise it however you wish – and that of course includes your own vows. For more info on arranging your Church, Civil or Humanist wedding ceremony, be sure to pop over to our wedding planning section.
And now, onto the wedding vows! Presuming you have all the freedom to say what you want, you may feel slightly overwhelmed by putting your feelings into a fairly small amount of words. Here’s our guide on how to write what you mean – and maybe even make a few people tear up.
When you decide to go for your own wedding vows, don’t leave it until the very last moment. You simply won’t have enough time to write something YOU truly love. Even if you don’t have a perfect final version as the big day looms, you’ll still have words on paper you can work on and polish.
Set the mood and tone
Start by talking to your other half. Given complete freedom with words, would they say something funny, or romantic, or profound? If your ideas go in a completely different direction, you may find your vows won’t match in tone. For some couples, that’s a problem. For others, it isn’t, because they want to simply be themselves.
How long should vows be?
We’ve already shared a simple guide to writing wedding speeches anyone can follow – and the gurus say a wedding speech should ideally be no longer than three minutes. So how long should your own vows be? We recommend an absolute maximum of two minutes – ideally, one minute. Any writer will tell you that the longer you take to say something, the more you lose the impact. Also, you risk repeating yourself. An average one-minute speech has 130 words in it. Catholic Church vows are around 45 words long. Use these numbers as a guideline.
Use existing vows as a guide
Existing religious vows are an excellent blueprint for what you want to say. You’ll notice they all have things in common – like a name, the word ‘love’, and a promise of some kind. They mention the future, happiness and support in difficult times. Are these some of the things you’d like to say, but in your own words? It’s worth noting how short most religious vows are, and yet they’re the most impactful and important part of any ceremony.
Look for inspiration
At some point in their lives, everyone’s been moved by words of love. It may have been a pop song, a passage in a book, a poem, or even a reading at someone else’s wedding. These are all great sources of ideas. You could remember the ones that meant most to you, or simply find a book of love poems and enjoy reading through them for inspiration. Reading our specially selected non-religious wedding readings is a great start too.
Choose what you want to emphasise
What’s most important to you? Imagine you and your other half many years in the future. What kind of couple would you like to be? It’s perfectly ok to say you want to be as happy as you were on your wedding day, to be each other’s support, and always want this person by your side. These are the things that’ll make your own vows sound true, because they come from the heart.
Write now, edit later
There are two tricks most writers swear by. First is to write anything you want, then edit down. This way, you’re free to say what you want, without keeping to a strict word limit. Then, re-read and take away whatever sounds unnecessary. Before you know it, you’ll be getting close to the number of words you want. Second, sleep on it. Write, then leave, and re-read the next day. Looking at your words with completely fresh eyes will give you a new perspective, and make editing easier.
Read it out loud
You’re writing for speech – so whenever you arrive at a draft you think will work, read it out loud to yourself. Speaking words out loud lets you hear all the mistakes, add natural pauses, and shorten long sentences. We swear, it really works.
Choose a trusted person to give feedback
Your vows are personal, and just like your wedding dress, they should be revealed only on the wedding day. But if you want to assess their true impact after all that editing and rewriting, choose one trusted person to hear them in advance. Ask for their honest opinion and suggestions. And remember to have some tissues handy!
Don’t worry about memorising
It’s going to be an emotional day, and going blank at the most important part of the ceremony isn’t something you should worry about. Simply print your words onto a nice neat sheet of paper or card, and read them out loud. If you practice reading them in front of a mirror beforehand, you’ll be able to look up a lot at your other half while reading.
It’s a simple start, and as long as you give yourself enough time, we promise you’ll have a beautiful message from the heart to share with your new spouse.
Main image from Kerstyn & Gabriel’s real wedding by Shane O’Neill, Aspect Photography
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If you think the bride should always have the last word, then Rachel is on your side! A devoted fan of everything quirky, unusual, colourful or crafty, she loves scouting WOL's real weddings for unique and fun touches. When not gazing at pictures, she's dispensing no-nonsense advice on everything from reception entrance songs to bridesmaid problems.