1. Talk about Your Vows Together
One of the hardest parts about exchanging vows is worrying over how people will compare your words to your fiancé’s. Were hers longer? Did he get more sentimental? Did she make everyone laugh? Did he make everyone cry?
Instead of considering vow writing a competition, get on the same page about your expectations. You don’t have to share what it is you’re going to say, but come to an agreement about the following:
How long will the vows be?
Will you share inside jokes or would you rather keep things more generic?
Do you want to incorporate elements of traditional or [religious vows] into your own?
Consider these starter questions—but don’t hesitate to ask your significant other if you’re stuck on anything else. Once you two have a game plan in mind, writing will be easier.
2. Find a Quiet Place to Reflect on Your Feelings and Write from the Heart
Don’t plan on writing romantic vows while your fiancé is in the other room with the TV blaring or when you have a work deadline on your mind. Find a time when your stress level is low and you can really spend a few quiet minutes thinking about your relationship. To help the ideas start flowing, consider propping pictures of you and your fiancé from throughout the relationship around your writing space as inspiration.
3. Make a List
You don’t have to try to put everything into sentences right away. The first step to writing your vows should be creating a list. Jot down all the things you love about your fiancé, what you’re looking forward to most in your marriage, and what promises you want to make to your future husband or wife. Set the list aside for a day or two, then go back and highlight your favorite items on the list. Use those as the starting point for your vows.
4. Write Up to Three Drafts
Once you’ve made your list, done your research, and written your first draft, walk away. Take a few days—even a week—to give you and your vows some space. After you’ve taken time apart, go back and reread what you wrote. A little separation from your words will do a whole lot of good and allow for you to fix anything with a clear head. If needed, do this one or two more times. But after three times, stop. The bottom line is that you wrote from the heart, and continuously rewriting will drive you crazy! Don’t put that pressure on yourself.
5. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
Plan to have your vows written at least three weeks before your wedding. This will give you time to write without the added pressure of the approaching day and also give you time to practice reciting your vows in front of the mirror. Trust us: You’ll be thankful for the rehearsal when those wedding day jitters kick in!
6. Say “I Love You”
This seems like a no-brainer, but Monique Honaman, wedding officiant and author of The High Road Has Less Traffic, says she is often shocked at how many couples leave out this little three-word phrase from their vows. “Isn’t that why people are getting married?” she asks. “Yes, we assume that’s a given that we must love someone if we are willing to stand by them through thick and thin, but it’s always nice to hear and emphasize.”
7. Tell Your Partner You’ll Be There Through Thick and Thin
Almost every vow we’ve ever heard touches on sticking around through sickness and health, through good times and bad times, and for richer or for poorer. They’re sentiments are repeated so often, Honaman says, “We can become immune to what they really mean.” So when you express your intent to stay by your spouse’s side, it’s smart to say what that means to you and how you’ll go about it. “The reality is that all marriages have their cycles of peaks and valleys, not always based on huge dramatic changes in life, but just because life gets busy,” Honaman says. “It’s nice to communicate your intent to get through those valleys together.”
8. Acknowledge You’ll Need Help and Support of Others
You’ve gathered your friends and family to celebrate your wedding, but the truth is, you’ll need them just as much during your marriage. So, Honaman recommends you “use your vows to acknowledge that you need others to help your marriage be successful,” she says. “This may mean acknowledging the role of religion or God in making your marriage work, or the role of family and friends who will help support you when times get tough. I believe it’s helpful to know the two of you aren’t in this alone.”
9. Get Inspired with Books, Songs, Movies, and Poems
If you have a favorite line from a movie or song that expresses your feelings, use it as a starting point. Also, browse through some children’s books, like Maurice Sendak and Ruth Krauss’s I’ll Be You and You’ll Be Me and I Like Youby Sandol Stoddard. Kid’s books often have a way of communicating deep, complex emotions in simple sentences, so they can provide some inspiration.
10. Use Other Vows as a Template
It can be helpful to start out with a set of standard vows and then personalize them. If you’re looking for a good starting place, 15 Traditional Wedding Vows to Inspire Your Own offers vows from different cultures and faiths around the world. They can be a helpful guide for anyone who is struggling to write their own wedding vows.
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