For many people, writing wedding vows is a scary prospect. Not only do you have to put your deepest, most intimate feelings into words, but you’ll also be saying those words out loud in front of all your friends and family.
However, as overwhelming as it may seem, I always encourage couples to write their own vows rather than using pre-written vows from a template. I believe that your vows are the most important part of your ceremony. They are your promise to the person you love the most in the world and should be heartfelt and sincere, so there’s nothing better than words you’ve written yourself. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to tell your partner how much you love them, so it’s worth putting your fears aside and making the effort to write your own vows.
I often get a lump in my throat when couples are exchanging their vows, especially if they are shedding some tears. I have been blown away by the heartfelt sentiments and promises I’ve heard during my time as a celebrant, especially those made by couples who are shy and not at all used to public speaking. With some help and encouragement, I believe that everyone has the ability to write vows that come from their heart and touch the hearts of everyone lucky enough to witness them.
Where should I start when writing my vows?
As a starting point, I suggest that you jot down ten words that describe your partner and ten words that describe your relationship. This exercise will help get you in the right frame of mind.
Following this, you should write down what you love most about your partner, what you each bring to the relationship, what marriage means to you and your hopes and dreams for the future.
You might find it easier to complete this activity over the course of a few weeks or months, making a note in your phone or a notebook every time a new thought comes to mind. Often, your day-to-day life will remind you of the things you love most about your partner.
What can I do if I’m struggling to find the right words to describe my feelings?
If you’re stuck, it can be helpful to look at vow examples, books, films and poetry for ideas, pulling out any words or phrases that express your feelings.
Listed below are some word triggers that might be useful. When looking over these words, feel free to select any that represent your feelings.
Adorable, attractive, beautiful, caring, charismatic, charming, cheerful, complete, considerate, constant, courageous, desirable, determined, emotional, enduring, energetic, eternal, exciting, forgiving, generous, gentle, genuine, graceful, happy, honest, humorous, independent, lasting, lively, lovely, loyal, mutual, popular, precious, reliable, romantic, safe, sensational, significant, sincere, soft, sweet, trustworthy, unconditional, understanding, vivacious, wonderful.
Affirm, appreciate, aspire, commit, confide, declare, embrace, endeavour, promise, protect, understand, wonder.
I would recommend avoiding any negative words (such as sickness or sorrow) or things that your partner may feel uncomfortable sharing with your ceremony guests.
How should I structure my vows?
Once you’ve decided what you’d like to say in your vows, you should structure them into an introduction, middle and end.
The only legal requirement in New Zealand is that each person must say “I [full name] take you [partner’s full name], to be my legal [wife/husband/partner]”, or something similar, to each other at some point in the ceremony.
For the introduction, I usually suggest that couples start with the legal requirement outlined above. Following the introduction, your own words can be used in the middle. To end your vows, you might like to conclude with word such as “I promise this to you today, tomorrow and forever.”
Should we mention other people in our vows?
If you have children, you will probably want to include them in your vows. At the conclusion of your vows, you could say something like “Today we start a new family together, for the rest of our days. We promise our love and our loyalty to each other, and to our children.”
This is a lovely way to include your children or step-children in the ceremony. You could also gift the children something at this point, such as a piece of jewellery or greenstone.
Should we keep our vows secret from each other?
Most couples prefer to keep their vows secret until their wedding day, although it’s completely up to you. By following the formula that I suggest for writing their vows, most couples do share a similar tone and length, even when they’ve each written their vows separately. However, ensuring that the vows complement each other is part of the celebrant’s role.