Writing your Vows: A Complete Guide to Saying Your Vows With Style

Writing-your-vows-2Humanist Wedding Celebrant and CONFETI contributor Natasha Johnson guides us through writing personalised vows to inject intimacy into the big day.

There is simply nothing more beautiful than hearing couples open their hearts and telling one another how they feel, how they are made to feel and how they pledge to spend their future together. I’ve been marrying couples for seven years now and I love the fact that I still well up when I hear personal vows. I would not have it any other way. More and more couples are now deciding that along with any legal or traditional vows that they will have to say or respond to, they would also like the opportunity to inject a more intimate touch into their ceremony, with their own personal vows. There is something so romantic and so special knowing that you will say vows to your loved one that no-one else has ever said before. Vows which are truly unique to you and your partner, that reflect your partnership.

Personal vows truly are a beautiful element to a wedding ceremony, however they do not just happen. You have to make them happen. They require thought, preparation and planning, so that you can make your vows the best that they can be and the best reflection of you both. Here are my top tips to help you get in the right frame of mind for writing your vows and once there, how to set about writing them!

Set the guidelines

Firstly, you need to decide whether you will be writing your vows individually or together. Writing your vows individually means that both you and your partner will have your own personal pledges, with each of you writing what is important to you. Writing your vows individually, does not mean that you cannot know what your partner has written, as many couples write individual vows but work on them together. However, many couples also write their vows separately and wait until their wedding day to hear what their partner has written. A surprise element of the ceremony! Then there is also the option of you and your partner writing and saying the same vow to each other. This means you will both shape the content of your vows together and pledge identical elements to each other. This is where invaluable vow preparation will help you decide on what is best for you both, which in turn will help you when writing the actual vows.

Secondly, once you have decided on how you will be doing your vows, whether individually or together, you will then need to work out with your partner what style of vows you are going to have, so that you both know how your content will be shaped. Personal vows basically fall into three categories; pledge vows, qualities vows, mixed pledge-qualities vows. In a nutshell, a pledge vow is where you make pledges and promises, a qualities vow is where you say why and what it is that you love about your partner and a mixed vow is where you do both; you say what it is you love about your partner and why they are the one for you and then you make a series of promises and pledges to them. The good news is that once you’ve decided on your vow style, you’ll be just a little step closer to getting them down on paper.

Make Time

Writing your vows the night before or morning of your ceremony is not really the way to go in ensuring your vows will be the best they can be. I have seen wonderful vows written this way, but it’s best not to risk it with something so important. Why not have a vow weekend? Maybe spend a relaxed Saturday, putting some thoughts together, a few words or sentences here and there or brainstorming ideas. Then get writing, when you feel you have everything you need. You can then use the Sunday, with a fresh pair of eyes, to review what you came up with the day before and if you still like what you have written, then you must be doing something right. The key point here is that vows take time.

Get inspired

Sometimes, the best way of writing something for yourself is to see what others before you have done, for some wonderful vow inspiration. Reading and researching other peoples’ personal vows (the internet is a great resource), will really help you to think about what you like and don’t like and what you want to say and don’t want to say. Also, asking yourself some questions and writing down the answers can be a fantastic way of forming your vows. One bride once told me that after noting down the answers to some important questions she found that her vows were pretty much in place and all she needed to do was a bit of finessing to make them ready for the ceremony.

What made me fall in love with you?Writing-your-vows-1
What do I love about you?
What things do I love most about you?
What annoys me about you?
What do we have in common?
How are we worlds apart?
What have you taught me?
What do I think I’ve taught you?

Hopefully, these questions will get those creative juices flowing and help you to think of other things, which will be useful for shaping your vows. You may have noticed that one of the questions is ‘what annoys me about you?’ Believe it or not, it is a nice and very realistic element to include in a vow, because it is your way of saying that you know that your partner is not perfect, because nobody is and that you know all the little faults and annoyances but you still want to be with them forever! This is after all what marriage is about, learning to accept each other for all that we are and all that we are not!

Another good method is the ‘I love you because…I love you despite…’ approach. Why not think of three examples for each sentence and see what the results are. These could be the building blocks for your vows. Write in your own voice.

One important point for couples to remember is that your vows should sound like they have been written by you! This may seem obvious but sometimes it is not the case. Unless you are the biggest Shakespeare fan, there is absolutely no reason to write your vows like you are a 16th century wordsmith. You must be yourself in order for your vows to sound like they are yours. Do not say things that you do not mean, things that don’t represent you, or things that you don’t want to share. Obviously you want to have honest vows but that doesn’t mean that you need to share everything, some things ought to remain between the two of you, because after all, you need to remember that your vows are going to be said in public, in front of your family and friends!

Have fun

It is a fact that vows are ultimately a serious pledge of love and commitment but that does not mean that they have to be serious in tone or nature.

A vow that mixes some serious pledges with some funny light-hearted pledges is often more reflective of the couple than ones that are not. If you are known for your sense of humour or you have something funny (and appropriate) to say about your partner then there should be no reason not to.

There really is no such thing as a wrong vow. If you write them from the heart, they will be as they should be and this includes their tone, their content and their length (although generally, one or two long paragraphs is good). So, now hopefully you are feeling the vow inspiration running through your veins and looking desperately for somewhere to write it all down.

Good luck!

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