Suggestions for writing your own wedding vows.
Now a healthy dose of writer’s block (not to mention fear of embarrassing yourself) has hit you squarely on the head. Don’t know how to transform your heavy, life-altering, feelings into a string of coherent words? You’re not alone — but don’t worry, your goal is within reach: Just take it one word at a time. Here’s the homework you need to do (and the questions you should ask) to make your wedding vows perfect.
Make sure your officiant will accept personalized vows. Catholic and Episcopal congregations, for instance, may require you to recite all or part of the traditional vows, though in most cases that’s left to the officiant’s discretion. Remember: Even the most accommodating officiant will want to review your words in advance.
Make a plan.
You need to tackle the logistics to make sure you and your fiance are both on the same page: Are you each going to write your own, or will you write them together? Will you show them to each other before the ceremony?
Note: If you’re feeling shy, opt to write your vows together and even recite the exact same promises. If there’s more you wish to say, privately, say it in the cards you exchange on the day of your wedding.
Create your outline.
An outline can help to establish a structure that you both stick to. For example, plan to first talk about how great your fiance is, then about how great you are as a couple, then about what you’re vowing to each other.
Find your voice.
What overall tone do you want: Humorous and touching? Poetic and mushy? It’s your call — the most important thing is that your vows ring true and sound like they’re from your heart.
Finally, pick a length and stick to it by keeping the mantra pithy and to the point in mind — anything longer than a minute or so, and no matter how gorgeous your prose, the audience will start to squirm.
Ready to Write!
What exactly do you say? To help you think of sentiments to include, take turns answering this list of questions. When you’re done, look through your answers for the phrases that best capture your intended message and incorporate them into the structure of your vows.
1.What did you think when you first saw him/her? Start from the beginning — you didn’t want to go out and now you’re grateful your friends dragged you out? How to use: When we met at __________, I knew __________.
2.When did you realize you were in love? The more specific you are able to be, the more touching the story. Was it when he helped you bring your sick puppy to the vet? How to use: I knew I was in love when ____________. Don’t underestimate the power of humor. Throw in at least one more playful sentiment.
3.What do you have now that you didn’t have before you met? Focus on the heart and head, not material possessions. Has she taught you to appreciate beauty differently? Has he helped you learn to savor creating a home-cooked meal? How to use: Before I met you, I ___________. Now I ___________.
4.How has your worldview changed? Life has likely gotten better since the two of you joined forces, so tell everyone about it. How to use: Because of you, I see the world __________. Having trouble? Think about the new things you’ve tried with your mate — what have you experienced together that you never would have on your own?
5.What do you miss most when you’re apart? This will probably be something mundane but powerful — what about his smile first thing in the morning, or the way she puts out your lucky mug for your morning coffee? How to use: You are such a part of me that when you’re gone, I __________.
6.Where do you see yourselves in 10 years? 20 years? 40 years? Go deeper than Happily married in a big house. What are your long-term hopes, dreams, and goals? How to use: I look forward to __________, laughing and __________ as we __________.
7.Is there a line from a movie, song, or poem that says it all? It’s okay to borrow, as long as it’s not too much of a cliche (we’re sorry, but You complete me is suffering from overuse). Instead modify something familiar to personalize. How to use: Subtly. I watch you ________, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
8.Do parts of the traditional vows resonate with you? Maybe you’re not so sure about the obey part, but can you really go wrong with love, cherish, and…? How to use: Try I promise to cherish and honor you ____________, but add a time frame and funny reference for levity: …all the days of my life, especially when curled up on the couch with takeout.
9.Can you think of a funny or touching experience that put your partner in a new light? The way he played with your little cousin or helped your grandmother up the stairs showed you that under his macho exterior is a wittle, bitty bunny wabbit and you love him for it. How to use: When you ____________, I saw you for the _____________ person you are. And that made me want to ____________.
10.Is there a harrowing experience that strengthened your bond? This one rides tandem with #9. How to use: See #9.
11.What goals and values do you both have? Stating your common bond may just expose your inner Wordsworth. These ties — whether your shared faith or your mutual love of wine — will also help demonstrate why you’re a perfect pair. How to use: We share ___________, so together we can ___________.
12.What about him/her inspires you? What is it about your fiance that you’d like to improve in yourself? What do you most respect about your partner? How to use: Your ___________ has shown me how to be___________.
13. What promise can you make to codify your devotion? Here’s an opportunity to personalize your vows — many couples pledge their endless love, but how many promise to take the dog out in the morning, even in the snow? How to use: I promise to always ___________.
Each religious faith has nuptial traditions and practices — including standard wedding vows — that have been passed down through generations. Exact phrases vary slightly from place to place and among different clergy; here are some popular wordings you can adopt or alter to suit your tastes.
Catholic Wedding Vows
“I, ___, take you, ___, for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”
“I, ___, take you, ___, to be my husband/wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love and honor you all the days of my life.”
Episcopal Wedding Vows
“In the name of God, I, ___, take you, ___, 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 we are parted by death — this is my solemn vow.”
Hindu Wedding Vows
Traditional Hindu wedding ceremonies are elaborate and complex. The bride and groom recite many beautiful words to each other, often including the vow-like phrases: “Let us take the fourth step, to acquire knowledge, happiness, and harmony by mutual love and trust. Finally, let us take the seventh step and become true companions and remain lifelong partners by this wedlock.”
Jewish Wedding Vows
In a traditional Jewish wedding — Orthodox and sometimes Conservative — only the groom speaks his vows, which can be recited in both Hebrew and English. The original vow is (in English transliteration), “Haray at mekudeshet lee beh-taba’at zo keh-dat Moshe veh-Yisrael,” which translates into, “Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel.”
In Reform, some Conservative, and other contemporary Jewish ceremonies, the man and woman both recite vows, slightly altered from the traditional Hebrew version: “Haray ata mekudash lee beh-taba’at zo keh-dat Moshe veh-Israel.” Another version of non-traditional vows is a phrase from the Song of Songs: “Ani leh-dodee veh-dodee lee,” which means, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.”
Protestant Wedding Vows
“I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith/myself to you.”
Quaker Wedding Vows
“In the presence of God and these our friends I take thee to be my husband/wife, promising with Divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful husband/wife so long as we both shall live.”