This is the second of four guest posts by Rev. Judith Johnson author of The Wedding Ceremony Planner. Rev. Johnson also writes a weekly column about spirituality for The Huffington Post.
Many people are afraid to write their own wedding vows and share them at the ceremony. Relax! Anyone can do a great job – with a few good tricks of the trade. Remember, the entire day is fundamentally a celebration that you two found each other, fell in love, and want to spend the rest of your life together as marriage partners. The centerpiece of the ceremony that officially joins you together is the sharing of vows. Personalizing your vows is a special gift to your partner.
Wedding vows are a legal requirement of marriage and are promises made publicly about your intention to love, honor, and cherish your partner. They can be as simple as saying “I do” to a question posed by the officiant or as elaborate as you wish.
Here are 6 tips to writing fabulous vows and delivering them with heartfelt ease and grace.
1. Relax, Breathe, and Have Fun With the Process: The two biggest problems with writing your own vows are thinking you can’t do a good job and/or making it a competition with your partner. Just trust that your heart will speak eloquently if you just get your nerves out of the way.
2. Set Some Guidelines With Your Partner: Decide together some basic things like:
- Do we want to say the same vows or different vows?
- Do we want to keep our vows secret from each other until the wedding?
- Approximately how long or short do we want our vows to be?
- How formal or informal do we want our vows to be?
- When are we going to write our vows? (You might want to set a deadline and promise each other not to procrastinate).
3. Go First to Your Heart. Don’t worry about finding the right words – just make some notes about what you want to communicate to your partner and focus on answering these questions:
- Why have I chosen this person to be my partner?
- What do I love and appreciate most about this person?
- What promises do I want to make to my partner about what I will do to demonstrate my love and respect for my partner?
- How will I cherish him or her?
4. Think About What Touches Your Partner’s Heart and Imagine You are Having a Heart to Heart Talk.
- What touches your partner’s heart?
- What would be a comfort to them to hear you say in your vows?
- Do you have any special connections, memories, or trigger words that might help you say what you want to say?
5. Finding the Right Words. Select and edit your words based on how they sound spoken out loud.
- First try to write your vows straight from your heart and remember simplicity is often better than using too many words.
- If you need help, ask your officiant for help or check out the 49 vow samples in my book or others on wedding ceremony design. Or, do an internet search of wedding vows.
- As you read what others have written, pay attention to which words or phrases resonate with you and take a word here or a phrase there to put the pieces of your vow together.
- Find someone you trust (your officiant or a friend) and ask them to give you feedback and/or to edit your vow.
6. Delivering Your Vow During the Ceremony. It’s more important for your partner to feel your love than for you to get every word right.
- Write your vow in verse form not paragraphs on index cards.
- Practice, practice, practice – preferably in front of a mirror making eye contact with yourself and referencing the actual cards you will use during the ceremony so you can become familiar with the layout.
- Breathe deeply, take your time, smile, and consciously relax in the moment. Remember that these words are the promise you hold in your heart for your beloved.
This public declaration of your vow before families and friends can be based on as little or as much of your personal investment as you choose. Consider taking the time to write a beautiful and thoughtful vow as a precious gift you are giving to your partner and give him or her your very best.
Reverend Judith Johnson, PhD is an interfaith minister, ordained in 1985, and author of The Wedding Ceremony Planner: The Most Important Part of Your Wedding Day – the bestselling guide to wedding ceremony design. If you have any questions or topics you would like her to address in a future blog, feel free to contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org .