Weddings can be simultaneously beautiful, enjoyable events as well as stress-producing, thanks to a virtual plethora of choices from colors, to flowers, music to food. One choice that often gets overlooked is whether to use conventional vows or to write your own.
On the one hand, using conventional vows is not only easy, but a time-honored tradition incorporating many tenets of the faith-based marriage such as “through sickness and health,” or “til death do us part.” Regardless of whether these formal phrases are included in the spoken vows of a marriage ceremony, they are an inseparable part of the very foundation of a Christian marriage. So the question becomes what, if any, are the benefits of writing your own vows?
Well, like everything else in your wedding, doing so gives you the opportunity to make it more personal and more reflective of your journey as a couple. You can think of the ceremony as not only the establishment of a covenant, but a unique way to share the love and joy you experience with those closest to you. If this is the case, it can be very special and memorable to incorporate your own thoughts, feelings and hopes into the promises you make before friends and family — something you can treasure and reminisce on long after the cake is eaten and flowers fade.
So, if you would like to write your own vows, but you’re not quite sure where to begin or what to include, here are some guidelines for making the process easier and creating a story that really reflects the love you share.
First, remember above all, your vow is your story. You don’t have to tailor it to suit anybody or anything but your own heartfelt emotions. Take a minute to reflect on how the love the two of you share has evolved with your relationship. Close your eyes and imagine how you’ll feel at that moment when you are sharing those vows with the one who loves you most. Good. Hold that feeling and let’s begin.
- Create the Mood
Music is a great way to create the right mood and eases the flow of the pen. If you like, pick a song that means a lot to both of you, something that already expresses how you feel. Play it softly — or loudly if that works for you — a few times.
Take a moment to decide how you want the overall vow to flow. Write as if you are talking to your fiancé. Your vow should always be authentic to who you are. Determine whether you want it to be slightly humorous, mushy, poetic or conversational.
- Choose a main message
Is there one overall thing that you definitely want to convey? Perhaps it’s the fact that you are best friends and you can never imagine a life apart. Maybe, it’s the joy of knowing you’ve met that special someone who really fits you. Choose your central message and write your vow around that.
Jot down all the thoughts that come to your head: single words like joy, passion, support, laughter; phrases like “the one who really gets me” or “love of a lifetime.” Think of quotes from songs or movies that say something about your love. Anything that reflects how you feel and what you have together.
- Tell your story
A good outline for telling your story would include the following:
- a) Prelude: How you’re feeling in the moment when you recite your vows. Little details of the start of your love: how you’ve met, what you fell in love with, why you know they’re the one.
- b) Passion: The substance of your love. How your love has changed you, why you’re a better person, what you share, what you look forward to, special details about how you see your marriage unfolding through the years.
- c) Promise: Who is sharing this special moment with you, what you want to vow; feel free to be specific and personal. Maybe it’s being appreciative of the little things they do for you, or remembering to honor a specific idiosyncrasy they have. Whatever you say, mean it.
Now that you have the body of your vow, interweave those words, phrases and quotes you jotted down throughout your vow. Review your vow and imagine reciting it on your wedding day. Does it fit? Is it what you want to say? How does it make you feel? Feel free to revisit it from time to time and add any special feeling or memory you think will make it more personal. Cut the stuff that doesn’t sound like you, or doesn’t quite fit.
Still not sure it’s quite right? Enlist a trusted friend, if you can, to listen to your vow and encourage their ideas and feedback.
Remember, exchanging your vows is a once-in-a-lifetime event. It should reflect your unique personality, your bond with your soon-to-be-spouse, and most of all, God’s love as the foundation of your lives together. While conventional vows can be sacred as well as beautiful, so can personal vows with a little effort, vulnerability and creativity. Personal vows can also be memorialized in printed format to keep and treasure along with pictures and video from your special day. Just think, one day you will be able to share with your children the special promises of love you exchanged when you stepped together into forever love.
Keisha McDonnough Virtue is a research analyst and writer. A Jamaican native and South Florida resident, she is passionate about poetry, wedding stationery and vow writing. Check out her shop at everaftervows.etsy.com.