Scared. Intimidated. Excited. Nervous. Confident.
These are all descriptors of how you may be feeling when thinking about writing and speaking your own vows. I must admit, as a person who wrote and spoke their own vows, it was extremely intimidating, but also highly rewarding. I spent hours racking my brain over what to say and how to speak from my heart. Thankfully everything went wonderfully, albeit I was a blubbering mess, and it was an incredibly special moment that Amanda and I were able to share with one another.
But enough of that, you’re here because you need a little help, a gentle push in the right direction.
Over the years we have been fortunate to have witnessed and listened to numerous couples write their own vows. Funny. Serious. Deep. Promising. Every couple has a unique voice and endless stories they could share.
So, how do you write your own vows?
First, let’s establish that there is no right or wrong way to create words of adoration. Your story is unlike any other and your narrative will be wildly different from the next couple. What is common is a wedding vows format that make the delivery and flow feel natural, confident, and compelling.
1) Find a comfortable oasis
With all writing endeavors, whether publicly spoken or not, I always begin with finding a comfortable, calming spot. For me, this is typically in a recliner while listening to one of my favorite Pandora stations, laptop in hand. (The station varies based on the writing being done.) Your location for writing may vary vastly, but one thing is for sure, don’t wait until your wedding day. While writing vows on your wedding day makes for great video clips, it is definitely not the right space and time to create these heartfelt words.
So hold up your right hand and promise me now that you will not write your vows during bridal prep.
2) Queue the soundtrack
As mentioned above, I enjoy having a soundtrack to write along with. I find it motivates, encourages, and guides me. For you, this may be a distraction, but the point here is to find a noise environment that best suits you. Some couples watch TV or even sit in a quiet space to motivate their thinking.
3) Let it go, let it go!
Now that you are in your comfortable place, your “soundtrack” is flowing, and you have your writing device in hand, it’s time to let it go. Just start writing. Yep, that’s right, just begin writing whatever pops into your mind. I know this sounds illogical at first and it will usually look like a scribbled mess, but I like to think of this as the purging of your brain. All the mixed up thoughts and ideas will undoubtedly jumble together into one big mess and that’s ok. This is where we begin to create ideas and begin to enter our flow.
4) But what do I say?
I bet you haven’t written a thing, you are likely sitting there, befuddled with confusion about what in the world to say. I admit, the previous step was a bit daunting and indirect. So let’s get moving on the right path. Of course, I still want you to write with undying vigor, even the most seemingly useless content, but let’s give it a direction, a topic of choice.
A story from your past.
Brainstorm a bit about how you have ended up where you are today. What were the moments, decisions, failures, successes, that all led you to this point? To this person? To this partner in life? The best vows we have heard all start with an opening story. A reason for being with this person for the rest of your life.
For me, my story was simply the fact that I really, truly did not know what the word love meant. How it was felt and perceived until meeting my wife. I began my vows with a story about how in 6th grade, a teacher called upon me in class and asked me to define the word “love.” My response was superficial, textbook, and based on what I thought she would want to hear. However, after later returning home, I sat and thought about that word. About how complex and undescriptive it really is. How it is a word that cannot be defined but rather felt. It wasn’t until meeting Amanda that I really knew what love felt and looked like, which ultimately led me to want to spend our lives together.
- So, what is your story?
- How has life’s journey led you to this point?
- What is special about your path?
- Why have you chosen this person to be yours forever?
Qualities about your soon to be spouse.
You see something that most others don’t see. You’ve watched, observed, and listened. Your fiance does some crazy things and other acts of kindness that make your heart skip a beat. This is what makes your relationship special. This is, more than likely, why you have decided that you cannot live without this person by your side.
For me, it was the respect that Amanda always had for me. She saw the best in me, all my top shelf traits that most would ignore. In the world of dating, we are always sizing people up, but she cut straight through that and looked at what made me great in her eyes. Beyond that, she is one of the few people willing to listen to my cheesy humor, bad jokes, and shower serenading. In fact, she is crazy enough to actually enjoy these things about me.
- What do you love about him/her?
- What is it that makes you pause and think, man I am lucky?
- What is a quirk about the other that leaves you smiling long after they have walked out of the room?
Promises for a lifetime.
One common tradition of vows is to share promises toward the other. This is really great way to express what you do and will continue to do for and with that person throughout your lives. What is even more special is to custom tailor the promises to your relationship. Don’t just state the obvious, but go a step further and reveal more about your or your fiance’s character.
5) Humor from the heart
Ok, we are writing, the ideas are starting to flow, now let’s mix it up a little bit. You will likely be crying, taking deep breaths, and trying to hold it together. There is no better way to catch your calm than with a bit of humor. It can help break up the endless stream of “love tears” to prevent you from drowning in your own puddle of joy. Think of something funny you two have experienced together. A moment where things just didn’t work out, but you were able to laugh it off later. Think of the things they do that are absolutely ridiculous, but somehow you find it adorably cute.
When Amanda and I first got together, I let her know via AOL instant messenger (yes I am getting old) that I had something “very important” to ask her. Something that I could only ask her in person. The next time we saw each other she inquired as to what was so serious that it had to be done in person. I hesitantly asked her to be my girlfriend. What are we in middle school? Who asks that? Quirky? You bet, but it’s something silly that makes up our story and I wouldn’t change a thing and neither would she.
6) Forget inside jokes and embarassing stories
While inside jokes will be hilarious for you, it’s important to remember that you will have an audience surrounding you. These inside jokes will be confusing for them and leave them to feel left out. Plus, they are called inside jokes for a reason.
The same goes for embarrassing moments. While you and your fiance may be able to laugh at some of the more humiliating moments, their parents may be a bit uncomfortable. If you don’t want to say it in front of your momma, don’t say it at all.
7) Keep it concise
2 to 3 minutes – MAX
I know, here I am creating this lengthy article and I am telling you to wrap it up. The truth is, most guests will get a bit antsy once the vows stretch on in a rambling mess. Aim for around two to three minutes. It sounds short, but as you’ll learn in a bit, it really is plenty of time to fit in everything. After all, this is just sharing the best parts about your relationship. Setting a proper time limit will enable you to really boil your feelings down into the best of the best.
8) Storybook ending
One of my favorite techniques in writing and video editing is the storybook ending. You may or may not be familiar with this term, but it basically means ending your vows with a connection to how you began them. For my example above, I spoke in the beginning about how I did not truly know the meaning and feeling of the word “love.” At the end, I storybook around to connect how Amanda is the reason I now know the true meaning of love. She is the reason I know what love feels like, day in and day out. That was my way of a storybook ending for my vows. It is a nice, cohesive way to tie everything together into a nice package.
9) Practice makes perfect
Ok, you’ve done it. You’ve successfully created your vows and everything looks great on paper. All set, right? Not quite. It’s time to practice, out loud. Awkward? A bit, but I guarantee it will help you out tremendously.
When I wrote a eulogy for my grandfather’s funeral, I felt as though I had written the perfect words to express the love we shared throughout love. While the words were perfect, my delivery would have been far from it had I not taken the time to read it out loud numerous times. Standing in front of a mirror, paper in hand, I began to read. Three words in and I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed with emotion. You see, I hadn’t really processed these words quite yet and it wasn’t until I said them, out loud, that I really began to understand what I was saying. It became real.
Whether your writing is perfected or not, reading out loud will allow you to “make it real.” To see where you may choke up or what words you want to emphasize. Of course, it will also help you with timing out your vows to make sure they don’t run on too long or feel like you are rambling.
Pat yourself on the back, you nailed it.
Personalized, hand-written vows are the perfect way to enhance your wedding day, share your love with your partner, and make lasting memories for your wedding video. The most important thing to remember is that you will love each other no matter what. Don’t sweat it and speak from the heart. You’ll do great