Your wedding vows are probably the most important words you will ever say to your beloved.
Repeating Traditional Vows
Many couples choose to repeat traditional vows.
. . . to have and to hold,
from this day forward,
for better or for worse,
for richer or for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
’til death do us part . . . .
There is something very meaningful about saying the words that thousands of couples before you have used.
And, of course, there are many other vows that are equally beautiful and personal. In fact, when couples prefer the repeat-after-me type of vows, I send them many options and ask that they “choose by number or mix-and-match to create something that’s unique and right for each of you.”
Reading Personal Vows
However, for those couples who want to write their wedding vows to read to each other, I like to offer as much help as I can.
Make a “Wedding Vows” Date
At our first meeting they receive a two-page “Writing Your Own Vows” handout. I encourage them to sit down together over a cup of tea (or a glass of wine) and talk about what they envision when they think about their wedding vows.
I suggest that they talk about some of the words: “If I say ‘I will honor you,’ this is what the word “honor’ means to me.” (Or other words like “cherish” or “respect” or “support.”)
Borrow From Other Resources
To offer some additional inspiration I send couples my collection of wedding vows, which has been growing since I began performing weddings in 2000.
I also encourage them to use any other resource they would like: The Internet, Pinterest, lines from their favorite movie or song, a Hallmark card, their own heart, etc.
I recently read an article entitled “Nine Vows for Modern Couples Who View Their Union as an Equal Partnership.” This article originally appeared in Vol. 2 of Catalyst Wedding Magazine, and speaks of including values such as Integrity, Mindfulness and Creativity.
“I vow to champion your dreams, to believe in you, and to support you in the creative endeavors that make your heart sing.”
I will be sharing this simple, thought-provoking writing with future couples.
Length of the Wedding Vows
Couples are often concerned about how long their vows should be. While there is no “right” answer, I tell that that somewhere between 150 words and 450 words is common.
In addition, I ask them to send me their wedding vows ahead of time so I can print them on nice paper in big font – just in case tears of joy make them difficult to read!
And since couples often prefer not to share their vows with each other prior to the wedding, I let them know whether there is a big difference in length.
“You don’t have to change anything! I’m just letting you know that one of you has written 200 words and the other has written 500.”
(Sometimes they laugh and say, “Of course; that’s normal for us!” And other times one will say “Thank you; I would like to add a little more.”)
A Few Final Tips
It’s not unusual for couples to feel emotional about reading these Very Important Words to their beloved. And doing so in front of their dear friends and family probably intensifies the fear.
Here are a few ideas that might help:
Start early! Don’t wait until the day before the wedding to write your vows. Give yourselves enough time to enjoy the experience … and keep the frenzy to a minimum!
Practice reading your vows aloud, and do so in front of a mirror. This gives you the opportunity to hear how the words sound. It also allows you to make eye contact (albeit with yourself) in preparation for looking into your partner’s eyes during your ceremony.
Don’t rush. Stop and take a breath, recompose yourself as needed, and don’t try to rush through the reading of your wedding vows.
Renewal of Vows
Bonus tip: Consider “renewing” your vows annually by reading them to each other every wedding anniversary. This is a beautiful reminder of the words of love you expressed to each other as you began your married life.