Exchanging vows in your wedding ceremony represents the spoken promises of your commitment to one another. But, if the traditional “for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health” do not reflect the promises you want to make to your partner, opt to write your own personal vows. Exciting, yet scary! Here is how to overcome those initial fears and build the confidence to share your promises with authenticity, valor, and eloquence!
The three challenges of personal vows are: 1) being authentic in your feelings, 2) writing with some literary merit, and 3) speaking eloquently publicly. Hopefully, that did not scare you away and make you decide to default back to traditional vows! If you are determined to continue on, here are some encouraging words and guidelines to help you with your personal vows.
Being authentic in your feelings is the reason you want to do personal vows in the first place! So regard the endeavor not as a challenging hurdle, rather as a refreshing shot to be YOU, to express the excitement you have of your partner. Using whatever medium is best for you to take notes, jot down answers to the following prompts (let it flow, don’t be shy, refrain from editing – for now):
- What attracted you to your partner?
- What qualities do you admire and adore in your partner? Give examples.
- Write down a memorable moment or two – funny, goofy, mind-blowing, serious – that the two of you shared while dating.
- What made you fall in love with your partner?
- In your vision of married life, what do you see the two of you doing 5 years from the wedding? 25 years?
Your answers, if you were honest with yourself, represent YOU! What you have are the genuine feelings you have of your partner, AND some useful material for your personal vows! Now, make a list of your vows and promises. Again, do not edit at this stage. Do not hold back! Begin each with “I promise to” or “I vow to”. It can be as corny as, “I promise to be the Belle to your Beast,” or sassy like, “I vow to always root for your team, even though I don’t think they stand a chance,” or sincere, “I promise that I will always love you, care for you, champion you as my dearest friend and partner.”
Writing with some literary merit sounds a bit too proper and stodgy, especially if you say it with a British accent! Don’t worry, your high school English teacher will not be grading your written personal vows, unless your sweetheart is a high school English teacher! Even then, be unfazed with the writing step. Do you recall some lesson from school about writing a paragraph? It was something about organizing sentences this way: the first a hook, the second states your topic, the next 2-3 present evidence, and the last sums it up. Writing your personal vows follows a similar structure.
Organize your responses to the above prompts like this:
- The “hook”: retell your memorable couple moment, perhaps your first meeting or first date
- The “topic”: state why you love your partner and share what you admire in this person
- The “evidence”: here, list your vows and promises
- The “summary”: end with a final statement of your adoration and what you look forward to in marriage.
The number of sentences, of course, does not matter. And grammar, spelling, and punctuation are not the priority here. Follow some level of organization, such as suggested with the paragraph structure, though you have total and complete freedom to do it your way! Use your notes above. Make a draft. And another. Revise, refine it – but don’t get hung up on aiming for a Pulitzer prize-winning composition. Write it in a style and voice that suit you best. This is what makes the personal vows authentic and genuine.
Speaking eloquently publicly is the last challenge of choosing personal vows. Some people become super nervous when speaking in front of crowds while others thrive on being the center of attention! Some break into gibberish while others are natural story-tellers. No worries. Sharing your personal vows at your wedding is different from being on stage, at a podium, or in the spotlight.
You are not addressing an audience, you are speaking to ONLY ONE person in that moment: YOUR PARTNER. Well, there just happens to be seated folks nearby! But you know what? Those folks are not there to judge nor to grade your performance, they are actually doing the opposite: they are sending you positive energy, love and support. They are there to relish the sound of your voice and give you strength as you profess your love. Give yourself ample time to practice your personal vows in private. Time your recitation, aim for somewhere around 1 – 3 minutes. Edit your writing if you need to. Practice your soliloquy in a volume and speed you will use at the wedding venue.
Print your personal vows or write in a vow booklet. When the wedding day arrives, don’t forget it back at home or your hotel room, else you’ll be winging it! Prior to the start of the ceremony, you may want to hand your vows to your officiant to have ready in a binder to give back to you for the exchange of vows. And when in the ceremony it is time to express your eternal promises, take a deep breath, have your hankie ready, and just be YOU.
(A little caveat from Tan Weddings & Events, officiants who have performed over 1000+ weddings: personal vows are not private vows, meaning, your friends and family on both sides are present to hear every word you say. Though you may be sassy by nature, avoid the path of full-blown sarcasm! You know, like, “I really hate how messy you are, but, what the heck, I promise to pick up after you!” And being sincere does not mean seriously depressing, like, “We’ve seen our fair share of arguments over the years and I gave up on you once or twice, but so glad we’re best friends now.” Keep those comments private between you and yours. Your wedding day is a celebration!)
In composing your wedding ceremony with Wedwordy, in the element Exchange of Vows, choose the passage “Sharing Personal Vows.” You can also choose several other passages of traditional or contemporary vows prompted by your officiant – we got your back!
Photo by Nick Graham Photography