Your wedding is one of the most memorable days of your life, and writing your own wedding vows (as opposed to reciting the vows everyone uses) can make it even more special.
Personalized vows that speak from your heart may seem intimidating to write, but it is easier than you may think, even if you are not a natural writer.
Pinpointing your motivation for writing your own vows is key. Do this before you set pen to paper, and it will make a huge difference in how your vows turn out in the end. Consider why you want to write your own vows. Dig deep here.
Do you want to show your future spouse that they are worth your thought and time? That they are special? That this moment is meaningful to you? Do you want to convey your hopes and expectations of your union?
Every great writer knows their motivation before they start writing. This knowledge helps you understand what your words need to get across as the underlying message. Of course, you won't blatantly say this message out loud; you will let people come to their own conclusion about the message through the words you choose.
Once you know what message you want to send with your vows, you can start making a list of words that convey that message. For example, if you want to get across that your future spouse is irreplaceable and unique, you can make a list of words like the following:
If you want to convey that you will always love your spouse and remain faithful, you could make a list of words like, including the following:
Making a few different lists of keywords is helpful for when you are ready to craft some sentences and ideas. These lists will serve as inspiration.
Insert Personality Here
To avoid making your vows sound canned, or too rehearsed, predictable, and ubiquitous, and add in some personal flavor. Consider your personality, such as being funny or sarcastic, serious, nerdy, or perhaps quirky. These traits are specifically you and precisely what your future spouse loves about you.
If you want to write memorable and successful wedding vows, you must add some of your personality to them. This is where it's okay to take a risk. Avoid thinking about how the guests will take this part of the vows because they will be moved if your future spouse is moved. Concentrate on your future spouse and getting your messages across to that person in a way that only you could.
There is no right or wrong in this part of the formula for writing vows. If you are stumped, ask your future spouse what their favorite parts of your personality are. What drew them to you? In fact, you can even go in the opposite direction and ask them what annoys them most about you. This is fodder for great humor in your vows, which is perfectly acceptable and fun.
Write and Re-Write
Now you are ready to take the first crack at writing your vows. For a first draft, just get everything down on paper. Write everything you are thinking and considering. This is not the time to try to write it perfectly, and this is not the time to edit. For a first draft, just write.
Once you have everything out and onto paper, let it rest for at least a day. Walk away from your writing and let it sit. It is inevitable that when you return to it, you will like it less and will be more critical of what you wrote. This is a totally normal part of the process. Rather than just scrapping everything and starting over, consider what it is about the writing and words that you don't like. This will tell you a lot about where you need to go in your next draft. An analysis of the first draft will help you fill in the holes and identify the tone you are going for (and likely lacked in the first draft).
For the second draft, take the pieces that you liked from the first draft, then fill in the holes that you found. This draft will likely be shorter than the first draft. You are honing in on your message, keywords, and ideas. Keep reworking this draft until you have something that seems relatively final.
Practice Out Loud
Vows are meant to be heard, not read. So far, you have been reading and writing, but that isn't how your vows will be delivered. They will be heard by your guests and future spouse. Take your most recent draft that felt somewhat final, and read it aloud. Mark each place you stumbled. Mark each spot where you ran out of breath. These issues are where you need to focus now.
Long sentences are not conducive to being read aloud. Likewise, long paragraphs will make you run out of breath. Analyze your markings on your draft and re-write to fix these issues. Shorten sentences and paragraphs. Also, change the wording if you stumbled over it. Even though it may be grammatically correct and beautifully written, it may not be easy to pronounce or say aloud.
This is a major issue for wedding vows, so you must fix it.
Read this newly adjusted draft aloud again. Ensure that there are no more stumbling points or issues. Work on your delivery and emphasis, and consider where you will pause or breathe.
There will never be a point at which you think your vows are ready. You might always want to edit and re-write and tweak, but you have to accept what you have written at some point. So, take your latest draft that has been edited for reading aloud and enlist the help of a friend. Read it aloud to them and seek their advice. What did they think about the delivery? How did they feel after hearing the vows?
Getting someone else's opinion before the big day is important. They will offer ideas that you haven't considered because they are looking at it in a more objective light. It will also give you the opportunity to get nervous while reading your vows aloud. It is very likely that you will be nervous on your wedding day, so learning how to factor that in is valuable.
Practice, practice, practice! You shouldn't pressure yourself into memorizing your vows, but you should practice enough to know that you can routinely deliver the vows the way you envisioned. You might not need the written vows by the time your wedding day comes around, but it's far better to keep them with you just in case. Nerves have a way of making people forget things.
On the day of your wedding, read or recite your vows. Remind yourself why you wrote them in the first place, and simply enjoy. You have put in a lot of work, but sometimes you can't control the outcome, so be ready to accept whatever happens.
If your future spouse wrote vows as well, make sure you are gracious in receiving them. Offer an encouraging smile and let them know they did a great job afterward (even if they stumbled or cried). It is a humbling experience to write and deliver vows in front of people.