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Below, Truly Engaged writer (and recent bride) Rachel shares a few tips about writing your own wedding vows, based on her own wedding experience.
Writing your own wedding vows: it's sweet, it's romantic...and it's also absolutely, positively terrifying.
Even though I'm a (web) writer by profession, actually professing my love, in prose form, is intimidating. Especially when it's the words that will seal two lives together. And especially when it's read in front of my closest friends and family. Throw in a microphone, and a public outdoor ceremony at a park, and you've got a giant ball of nerves and pressure. Yet, I knew I wanted to do it. I needed to do it. I wanted the words to come from the very heart it was pledging: my own.
Luckily, Tim has a romantic—and literary—side as well. Two weeks into dating, he wrote me a beautiful little poem (which we ended up quoting in our vows). Therefore, he didn't completely freak when I confessed my dream to draft our own wedding vows.
Having lived through the vow-writing process myself, I decided to share five tips I discovered, or found helpful, while writing my wedding vows. Perhaps these tips might help you, too! Happy writing. :)
1. START EARLY.
It's hard to force inspiration or creativity. Give yourself plenty of time to let inspiration come to you naturally, and authentically. How early? Well, I'd say at least 3-4 months in advance. Your vows are one of the most important parts of your wedding day. Honor the commitment you're about to make by giving yourself the time to carefully craft your vows together.
Tip: Keep a pocket notebook (and pen) with you at all times! You never know when inspiration will strike--in the car, in bed, at work. (You can also use your smartphone, but as a writer I'm old-fashioned and love the look and feel of paper. Use what works for you.)
2. GET ON THE SAME PAGE.
Our officiant gave use some excellent advice: Keep the vows cohesive and harmonious by agreeing to a general length, tone, and style for the vows.
Do you want your vows to be playful and sweet, or spiritual and serious? Our officiant sat down with us to help us determine the general tone we wanted to set with our wedding vows. We decided ours would be joyful and romantic, with maybe just a hint of humor sprinkled in to reflect our silly side. I'm really glad our officiant helped us define the "voice" of our vows. It really helped shape the words we ultimately chose.
Vows can be a few sentences, a paragraph, or several paragraphs. The length is really up to you and your partner, but it's a good idea to to agree on a general length together. That said, the vows should feel comfortable and genuine. If you're not a wordsmith, but your partner is, don't force the words out--just do what feels natural.
Do you and your partner want to co-write the same vows, or write individual ones? It's completely up to you and your partner. Sit down with your partner and decide which approach fits your relationship, personalities, and comfort level.
Tip: Make a date out of it! To decide on the essentials for your vows, try going out for coffee, or taking a walk around the local park. Find a comfortable setting to talk through and decide on these important elements to your vows. We had our conversation on a sunset stroll around the lake!
3. FOR INSPIRATION, TAKE A STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE.
To ignite your inspiration, look back at photos, journal/diary entries, old emails, etc. between you and your partner. Set aside (or make copies of) ones that capture your heart in a particular way. Memories, emotions, little quirks you love about your partner...jot down anything that comes to mind when you revisit these favorite mementos of your relationship. You could also record yourself on your phone, if you'd rather talk than write.
4. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
This tip seems obvious, but it's also important! Once you've written your vows, practice reciting them in front of a mirror, or in front of your maid of honor (or best man). While you don't have to have your vows completely memorized, it's good to feel familiar with the words. That way, you can frequently glance up at your partner, which is more romantic than staring and speaking down into the index card you're holding. :) Public speaking is hard--especially when you're speaking such intimate words as your vows. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel. For me, practicing definitely helped calmed my nerves for the big day.
5. TO SHARE OR NOT TO SHARE...THAT IS THE QUESTION (THE ANSWER IS UP TO YOU)
Should you share your vows with your partner before the big day? That's a personal question, and it will ultimately depend on what is best for the two of you. If sharing them ahead of time will make the two of you feel more relaxed, then by all means, share. If you'd rather keep it a sweet surprise, that's fine too--but it's a good idea to share your vows with your officiant, so he or she can compare the vows the two of you wrote. The officiant make sure the general tone/length/style flow together.
So what did Tim (my husband) and I do? A compromise of both. In other words, we shared a written DRAFT of our vows a few weeks before the wedding, but the FINAL version was saved for the wedding day. We also chose to share them in written form (not spoken out loud). Doing it this way allowed us to get a general idea of our vows to each other, but we never saw the final version until the wedding day, and we never heard the vows spoken until the ceremony itself.
So what did the final draft of our vows look like? Well, some things are best left private. :) However, below is a glimpse at the intro section to each of our vows:
As you can see, we're suckers for sappy romance! :) But that's our style, and that's what fit our personalities and relationship. Every partnership is different. As a recent bride, I think the best advice I can give is this:
When it comes to writing your own vows, don't aim for poetic perfection or grammatical precision. Aim for authenticity. Find the words that truly speak what your heart feels inside. I think if you start from the heart, you can't go wrong. :)
To end, here's a photo of Tim pausing to wipe a tear while reciting his vows to me. (Good thing you can't see my face, because I was a crying mess, too!)
Happy vow writing!
Rachel for MagnetStreet Weddings