HWB-008479.jpgPHOTO: Her World Brides March – May 2011

If you’re marrying in church, they may be little or no choice when you declare your vows. But if you’re having a civil ceremony, there’s nothing to stop you from writing those words that will make your ceremony more meaningful – for you, your husband and, perhaps, even your guests.

Writing your own vows is actually easier than you think. Just bear these in mind:

Review your style
Decide if you want one encompassing vow which you both say together or separate vows (you write yours, he writes his). You can use these as your vows or as personalised promises to each other, either before or following the more traditional vows (“I, Mary, take you, Kelvin…”).

Once you’ve decided the kind of vows you will be saying, the rest will fall into place.

What goes into your vow?
Three ingredients make a good vow:

  • A declaration of your love (“Mary, you’ve filled my heart and life in ways I never thought possible”).
  • The promises for marriage (“Kelvin, I promise to embrace our differences and similarities and remember that our fights are also a way to help us grow.”)
  • Personalised touches (“Mary, I will always try to remember to pick up after myself”).

Remember, at the heart of a vow is a promise, an agreement between two people. Keep it sincere and you can’t go wrong. Decide on the tone you want your vows to take, then choose the words that feel right to you. Keep it short – one to two minutes is about right.

Getting to a pro
If you’re stuck for words, your officiant (or celebrant) can be of help. He or she may be able to guide you to books that you can check out, or tell you of interesting examples from other couples’ vows. Or, you can check out children’s books, for inspiration.

Going live
Of course you’ll need to practise before the big day. But don’t overdo it – you want to sound natural, like you mean it, not stilted. If you’re worried about forgetting the words, have someone hand you a cue-card and take it back after you’re done saying your vows. Feel like crying? Go ahead! 

Getting creative
Giving your vows a personal touch will not only make the ceremony more meaningful for you and your fiance, it will also make your guests feel they are part of something special. Some ideas to get you started:

  1. Share your love story
    This is a lovely touch, especially when not every guest knows how the two of you met or how you sustained your relationship. Include anecdotes of the first meeting, first date, when you knew the other was “the one” or any interesting in-betweens. It can be a poignant or funny moment; choose the mood as you see fit.
     
  2. The future together
    Share what you see in the future for both of you – five, 10 or even 50 years from now. It can be anything, from how you plan to raise the kids to starting your own family traditions. Consider things that make your relationship unique and how you see yourselves growing old together.
     
  3. Have fun too
    Yes, the exchange of vows is a serious part of the cermeony, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Let your personalities shine through – actress Rebecca Romjin, a lost cause in the kitchen, reportedly promised her husband John Stamos, she would never cook for him. He, in turn, vowed that he wouldn’t let her cook. You can think about your quirks and see how those can be turned into promises that are just a little different.
     
  4. Compare
    While you may want each other’s vows to be a surprise, it’s best to share a general guideline before the ceremony. You don’t have to reveal exactly what you will say but agree on the promises you want to make to each other, so you don’t end up contradicting each other at the altar.
     
  5. Classic examples
    If all else fails, and you can’t seem to come up with the right words, then revisit the classics. There may be songs, poems, books or movies from which you can borrow or adapt a line or two to suit your relationship and ceremony.

This article was first published in Her World Brides September – November 2004.