Non-traditional wedding vows that you write on your own are the final and perhaps most important step in creating a wedding day that is uniquely yours. You’ve picked out something special to wear. You’ve carefully chosen the menu. You made sure to select just the right song for the first dance. You’ve even learned how to dance with this course.
So when it comes to the words you will say that express your love and commitment, are you really going to settle for the words everybody says all the time?
Writing your own vows can seem like a daunting task. But you will be glad that you took the time and put in the effort to make the central part of the ceremony something that is unique to you as a couple. Learning more about effective public speaking can show you how important good communication is – especially in the wedding setting!
Traditional Wedding Vows
The standard version that we have heard in weddings in life and on TV and in movies goes something like this:
I, (your name here), take you, (partner’s name here) to be my husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part.
The ideas are lovely. These promises are at the foundation of any solid relationship that is meant to last. You need to know that your partner is committed to you in good times and bad, and for the long haul. But the words are said so often, and are so familiar, that they have lost some of their impact!
Individual Vows versus Mirror Vows
You and your partner should decide, first, if you want to write vows together, so that they mirror each other or if you want to write individual vows that are a surprise to the other on the wedding day. This utterly depends on you as a couple! If you write together you will know that the vows will match each other and there are no big surprises. You can even have fun as you work together, writing, and recalling your relationship from the beginning.
Writing separately is more like wrapping a big gift and waiting for the ceremony to give it. Some people enjoy the suspense – some people would rather know what’s coming – and it’s up to you to work this one out. (Consider it a vital test as to your ability to work together as a couple!)
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Even if you are writing separately, you still want your vows to mirror each other to some degree. First, agree on a word count limit. You do not want one laconic partner forcing out a sentence only to be replied to by a garrulous page or two! You also do not want guests sitting through three-quarters of an hour of promises and vows.
Look at how the basic original wedding vow has a nice repetitive structure of the two extremes, such as sickness and health. You can together decide what is the language you would like to use in your vows. “I promise to – “ can be the start of each unique vow. You might want to agree on a mutual phrase to end the vows, as well, so that they match and each partner knows you have reached the end. Jointly agree on a phrase that sums up the essence of your commitment, like “I cannot wait to begin our life together.”
Also, you should agree on the tone. Is a humorous touch allowed? Are you allowed to slip in sly references to his snoring, or her crazy poodle? Or do you want to keep the ceremony as serious and straight-forward as possible? If you are writing separately, you do not want to start things off awkwardly by one partner gushing and romantic while the other’s vows are all snarky jokes.
Letting Your Voice Shine
Writing wedding vows is not so different from writing a book. (You can learn more about writing one of those here. ) You want your own voice to shine through, first of all.
And, as with all writing, detail is key. You are writing your own vows precisely so they do not sound generic. Think about what makes your relationship special. Fit those details into each promise. And think seriously about what you would like to promise to your partner to make a relationship work. It could be as all-important as vowing to always stand by your partner, or it could be an acknowledgement that even though you say it, perhaps you are not always right in every argument. Think about not just the strengths of your relationship but also the weaknesses – promising to work hard on the difficult areas in front of everyone you know can be a powerful force.
Your matching vows can be more traditional, but with updated language for today:
Do you, (your name), promise to be a loving friend and partner in marriage? Do you promise to talk and to listen, to trust and appreciate, to respect and to value (your partner)? Do you promise to support, comfort, and strengthen him/her through life? Do you promise to always cherish him/her for as long as you both shall live?
(Each partner would then respond “I do.”)
You could recite vows at the same time, as a dialogue, responding to what the other says but both claiming the ideas:
1: I vow to love you
2: I vow to love you
1: to be your partner in life
2: to build a home with you
1: to support you
2: to be your biggest fan
1: to stand up for you
2: to be kind
1: to be there through laughter and tears
2: to be present in the moment
1: to wake you every morning
2: to kiss you every night
The most important thing is to create vows you will not only feel comfortable saying in public but that will also reflect your unique personalities and relationship together. So, for instance, if you are avowed geeks, then you might want to include references to Dungeons and Dragons, Game of Thrones, or Star Wars in your vows. If you met because you share a love of music, then consider quoting lyrics from some of your favorite bands during the ceremony. If you love the same football team, fill your vows with sports lingo or promises never to interrupt during the fourth quarter. Write your vows to reflect who you are and what your commitment to each other means.
Once you’ve written your vows, get ready for your big day by learning to dance. This ultimate wedding dance course is a great place to start.