Writing Your Vows
Majority of our clients feel strongly about including personalized vows into their ceremony. After all, the ceremony is the reason for all of the planning. Taking the time to write something special is the ultimate way to honor the celebration and make it uniquely your own. With that being said, “how to begin writing your wedding vows” is a struggle we see almost all of our clients experience at some point in the planning process.
To make the “getting started” part a little less painful, we’ve interviewed two of our favorite professional officiants to get their best advice.
When To Start
Pastor John Fuchigami’s first piece of advice is, “don’t wait until the last minute.” He states that starting at least 3 weeks prior to the wedding is ideal. Here is his basic timeline for getting started:
o Week One: Start having a discussion with your fiance on the style, length, and structure of your vows. And then create your first vow draft.
o Week Two: Complete your vows and let it “stew.”
o Week Three: Review and fine tune it until it is a masterpiece worthy of presenting to the one you love.
In his experience, waiting too long may mean that you end up hurriedly writing your vows on a restaurant napkin (according to John, that’s happened before) or having vows that don’t do justice to the genuine and deep love you feel for your fiance. He also states that having time to review your vows can give you a fresh perspective. What sounded great when written may sound cheesy or ordinary after even just a few days.
Tips For Getting Started
The best thing you can do when starting to write your vows (or anything for that matter), is to create an outline. Think back to your 5th grade class when you first learned to write an essay. The topic of your vows is evident, but what will the body consist of? The easiest thing to do is to come up with three sections or topics as a couple. That way your vows will have a complementary structure and agreed upon theme.
Here is our own vow outline cheat sheet:
We’ve found that starting with the past is always a good idea. You can talk a bit about the specifics of how you met or when you fell in love. Not only does it make the ceremony more personal and educate your guests on your love story, but it is also a lovely way to re-evoke the feelings you had for your partner when you first met. Depending on your personality, this may be a good place to include some humorous stories or inside jokes.
In the next section, you can transition into the present. This is a perfect place to talk about what you love about your partner and your relationship together now. Articulating specifically what you love about your partner is always one of the sweetest parts of any ceremony. Honoring how much you’ve grown as a couple is also a beautiful way to celebrate where you are now.
The final section of your vows is best reserved for the part where you state your hopes and dreams for the future. Aside from painting a picture of your future together, you may also want to include some promises. We always love when our clients incorporate some genuine and serious vows as well as some humorous ones.
Length of Your Vows
Aside from deciding on an outline together, it is also a good idea to agree on the length of your vows. No one wants to get to the altar and find out their 3 paragraph vows are being overshadowed by 10 pages of vows from their partner.
Some ideas for setting the general length include:
Get custom vow booklets to write your vows in. Perhaps agree on a certain number of pages you will both use.
Set an agreed upon length of time for your vows. Some people want them to be short and sweet (1-2 minutes each) others want them to be the bulk of the ceremony (5-7 minutes each).
Agree to an approximate word count.
With the length of wedding vows in mind, Stephanie Hughes the owner of Knots and Shots Hawaii shared a funny story with us:
My absolute favorite personal vow story was a groom who stapled like 100 pages together, creating a large scroll. He didn’t tell anyone that he did this, including me. So he began reading his vows which were about two paragraphs in length, and as he read, he paused, and let the scroll roll half way down the aisle. When I looked up at the bride her eyes were huge as were mine! There was an uproar of laughter for what seemed like 5 minutes. Even the bride took a while to regain composure. It was really awesome.
Memorizing Vows Versus Reading Vows
John Fuchigami shares his thoughts:
Memorizing is always nice because it shows how much you are investing, not only into your big day, but more importantly . . . into your relationship. These are vows you intend to have in your heart and also live by. Why not start putting them in your heart for your wedding day?
However . . . at the same time, a wedding is a very big deal! There is a lot of planning and pressure involved. Many couples simply don’t have the time to memorize their vows and many are worried that in the heat of the moment they may just blank and forget everything anyway! I would say 95% of couples write out their vows. So, you’re in good company if you don’t want to memorize your vows!
Stephanie Hughes argues against memorizing vows:
She says that nerves are usually so high already when the couple is standing up the altar. More often than naught when a person attempts to memorize their vows, they end up feeling on the spot, forgetting their words and improvising a little too much. In the end it is less eloquent and less touching.
With that being said, when clients are adamant, she encourages them to send her a copy of the vows as a back up just in case. That way, worse case scenario, she can have them available in a pinch.
Here is our two cents. Whatever you DO choose, it is important for you to consider two things:
1. Are you a natural public speaker?
2. How do you want to feel during your ceremony?
Thinking about these things in advance will help you to choose what is best for you.
The final step is asking one trusted person (your officiant, your planner, or a close mutual friend) to review both sets of vows and privately share your feedback with each party. This way you can still keep them a secret from each other, but you won’t have any unpleasant surprises during the ceremony.
As planners, we’ve done this for many of our clients and 95% of the time, they are perfect. The other 5% of the time we usually suggest adding an additional section to have a complementary theme that is already included in the other partner’s vows. The idea is not to spell check or edit grammar (we want your vows to be in YOUR voice). Instead we are trying to help you match the length and/or to assist in creating a more well rounded set of vows to compliment your partner’s vows.
Examples of Awesome Vows from Past Weddings
Here are some of our favorite wedding vows that were captured on video:
With so much pressure to get them right, we know that writing your vows is a challenging task. With that being said, getting started is always the hardest part! We hope this simple guide will get you off on the right foot.
Best of luck and happy planning,