Writing your own wedding vows is truly one of the most special ways to add a personal and romantic touch to your wedding day. Not to say that we don't adore traditional vows or think them equally as beautiful, but we are keenly aware that they just aren't right for every bride and groom, especially if they don't speak to your heart. Vows that you pen yourself changes that by bringing in the specifics of your relationship—whether it be by sharing memories or illustrating what defines your love—in a way that adds on an extra layer of meaning and sentimentality that otherwise could be missing. However, as you may or may not have already learned, writing your own wedding vows isn't as easy as you might think.
This thought may have just crossed your mind: "I used to write college papers at 4am and those turned out great, how much harder could writing my wedding vows be?" Well, first, let's make it clear that college essays and your vows are two very different animals, and the latter carries a whole lot more weight in the grand scheme of things. In fact, discussing symbolism for pages on end can seem like a piece of cake when you discover the difficulty of sitting down to write wedding vows that explain what your fiancée and love mean to you! And it's easy to understand why: your vows are a reflection of your marriage and the promises you intend to keep for the rest of your days; and, of course, you'll be your own worst critic every time you get around to finally getting some words down on paper. We know the struggle (and writer's block is absolutely no fun), so here are 13 essential tips that are key to helping you write meaningful, sniffle-inducing vows that you'll cherish for a lifetime.
1. Start writing early.
This is a point that we cannot stress enough. Sure, you've got months until your wedding day arrives, but you underestimate the time and reflection that will need to go into writing your vows. This assignment isn't one that you can (or would want to) just throw together at the last minute. So start early and make every single word count.
2. Establish what sort of tone you want your vows to have.
Before you really get started, a key first step is establishing what sort of tone you want your vows to have. Maybe you're a quirky and romantic sort of person? Or perhaps tear-jerking sentimentality is more your speed? Or hey, maybe neither of those things sound like you and your partner and it makes you kinda wanna die thinking about being so sentimental in front of so many people. It doesn't matter what style you choose, just make sure that it's a tone that makes you happy and excited to share your vows with your spouse-to-be on your big day. On that note, it's also a really good idea to decide on the tone together; you might not love it so much if you end up dishing the most heartfelt, sentimental words you've ever spoken while your groom tells a hilarious and/or semi-embarrassing story.
3. Look for inspiration around you.
Love is one of those topics that we as humans are always grappling with—how to explain how it feels? how to captivate it on paper? how to explain what it truly means? Thankfully, many famous poets, writers, playwrights, and even script writers over the past few centuries have come very, very close to getting at the heart of those questions through beautiful, relatable, and transcendent works of art. Don't let all these resources go to waste when you're grappling with writer's block or struggling to put your feelings down on paper. If there were ever a time to return to your favorite pieces of literature or your most-loved films, now is the time. Once you find something that speaks to you, feel free to try to mimic that sentiment in your own words or quote it verbatim in your vows.
4. Have a nice long talk with your fiancée.
One of the best ways to figure out a direction for your vows is to sit down and have a heartfelt talk with your fiancée about your relationship, your feelings for each other, your marriage goals, and the like. This conversation will help you make and keep your promises and will help guide the focus of your vows.
5. Spend some time alone reflecting.
After your talk with your fiancée, schedule a time to be alone and reflect on that conversation and your feelings about your partner. Tackle big questions, such as how he/she makes you feel, what inspires you about him/her, etc. These obviously aren't insights that are easy to tackle, but your responses will give you lots of material and show you what you really want to say to your spouse-to-be when the moment of the big vow exchange arrives.
6. Take long trips down memory lane.
Another great way to personalize your wedding vows and hone in on the details of the relationship that you want to highlight is to spend the months before your wedding day taking quite a few trips down memory lane. Think back to when you first met and how you felt, hilarious stories that always make you both smile, the moment when you knew he was "the one," etc. Moments like these are what make your relationship unique, and it's also what will make your vows unique.
7. Don't worry about what others will think.
When you start writing your own vows, it's easy to start wondering what others will think about what you have to say. "Will they think our favorite funny story is dumb?" "Will guests get bored if we go on too long?" "Will guests judge us for foregoing traditional vows?" Trust us, we know that these thoughts will start creeping into your mind at one point or another. So, let's make it clear now—it doesn't matter what others think about your vows. They're your vows for a reason, so let them reflect who you are and what your marriage means to you.
8. Create an outline.
Okay, we know you're probably giving us an incredulous look right about now and thinking: "Really? Create an outline? For my vows?" Well, yes, we're totally serious. Here's why: without a bit of organization, your wedding vows can easily turn into stream-of-consciousness-style rambling. When that happens, there's no direction for your words and your feelings get lost in the twists and turns.
9. Don't feel pressured to write long, lengthy vows.
After you've finished writing your vows, a great technique is to practice (and time yourself) speaking them aloud to yourself. If they're over a minute, then they're probably too long. We know 60 seconds doesn't seem like much time, but when it comes to speaking in public that minute will last a whole lot longer than you expect. Plus, there is no need to try to impress the crowd by showing off your prose skills; determine a length that is right for you, then set your mind to focusing entirely on the feelings you want to express.
10. Embrace free association.
Unless you're a walking thesaurus, picking out words that mean exactly what you want to express can be difficult. A great vow writing exercise that keeps you from Googling words every 30 seconds is free association. The way it works is that you write down the first few words that pop into your mind when you think of your fiancée, your relationship, your feelings for each other, etc. This helps you make word choices that are natural and truly symbolic of who you guys are as a pair.
11. Include sincere and meaningful promises.
At their most simple form, wedding vows are a list of promises that you make to your partner. Whether it's loving him/her always or guaranteeing that you'll do the dishes every Monday and Wednesday night, your vows should incorporate promises that you want to make to the love of your life and that demonstrate the sacrifices you are willing and want to make as an equal half in your marriage.
12. Don't forget to think forward to the future of your relationship.
In addition to making promises, make sure that your vows also include a look to the future of your relationship. Where will you go from "I do"? What will keep your bond strong over the years? These are important details that really strengthen your vows and the meaning behind them.
13. Speak from your heart.
If you were to only follow one tip out of this entire article, we sincerely hope you would choose this one. Above all, your wedding vows are about expressing what's in your heart. When it comes right down to it, nothing else matters but that you say what you truly feel in a style, length, and tone that defines who you and yours are at the core. Beyond that, everything else is just extra.
Now go write those vows with confidence.