When your parents got married your mom was the wild one who had the word “obey” removed from her vows. Yes, traditionally the bride promised to “love, honor, and obey…” her husband. Some women are still okay with that and others may be crossing their fingers if they must intone those words. But you’re different and you and your beloved have decided that you want to write your own vows that will be sincere, meaningful, and unique.
Now that you’ve made that decision, you have that deer in the headlights feeling. Not to worry. Start by looking online for other lovely samples of self-scribed vows that you can use for inspiration or just flat out plagiarize. As you are going through this exercise there are 5 things to consider: Timing, Setting, Meaning, Audience, and Delivery.
TIMING – How much time do you expect this to take? Whatever number of minutes or hours you’ve come up for creating your vows, double it. Some folks can riff off a few lines of “I’ll love you forever…” in a matter of seconds while you may write as if you are chiseling a stone tablet. If you want to truly express your personal commitment to your future spouse be prepared to invest some energy in this endeavor. And waiting until the processional starts is really a lousy idea.
The length of your vows is another part of the creation equation. The more you want to say the more time it will take to write it. Calculate that human speech is about 130 words a minute, if you’ve written out a full page, that’s about 500 words or a good 4 minutes’ worth of talking. Be sure you are comfortable jabbering about your sweetie and your commitment for that chunk of time.
SETTING – What you would say at a cozy ceremony at a log cabin in the woods may not be the exact verbiage you’d want to use at the cathedral. If you are having a formal religious ceremony, check with your officiant to see how far you can deviate from the standard vows and still remain respectful, yet personal. You may find that you are only allowed to choose the readings and select certain pieces of music to put your personal stamp on your nuptials and that the vows may be cautiously tweaked or must remain as printed.
MEANING – Your wedding vows are offered to, as they say, “God and everybody” and while it is wonderful that you are willing to commit to always taking out the trash, you may want to dig a little deeper. Committing your heart and soul to another person to ensure their health and happiness for the rest of your life is no small thing. This is possibly the only opportunity you may have to fully express your absolute devotion to the person you consider THE ONE. Take advantage of it and go for broke. Be fearless and remember that everyone is rooting for you.
AUDIENCE – Everyone will be listening to you as you exchange your vows. It will seem as if time has stopped when you start to publicly proclaim your eternal fidelity. Keep it moving! Nobody wants to hear every little way that you will be the best spouse ever for the next 100 years. They want to joyfully weep a little bit as they catch a glimpse of your future life together before you say your big “I Do!” If you notice the audience is getting antsy or your officiant has dozed off, you have gone on too long.
DELIVERY – Speak UP! While this is a very intimate moment for the two of you, you did invite all those people to witness your union and they want to hear you. By practicing saying your vows aloud, you’ll be more confident and less shaky when it is the real deal.
Also, it is perfectly fine to read your vows rather than memorize them. Wedding jitters and emotions are a lot to manage for your little brain, so expecting it to pop up with your excellent expression of love on cue is possible, but unlikely.
Humor is good. Jokes not so much. This is not a stand-up routine, this is you (two) pledging your troth to each other. Once you’ve gotten your words in order, run them by your most trusted confidant who will give you an honest assessment of your work. That person might be your intended. Or you may choose to wait to wow them with your vows at the altar.
Remember that these are your wedding VOWS. This is your promise to each other to always be the better half. This is the conversation that marks the start of your married life. Put your heart into it.