Writing meaningful and heartfelt vows for your wedding ceremony may seem like a daunting task but with the right advice you’ll find it an enjoyable and rewarding process. Here are our top tips for writing your vows, with advice on structure, content and originality.
Tips for Writing Your Vows
Before you begin with a blank sheet of paper in front of you, take a moment to consider all the reasons why you’re writing these vows, how they will be received, and who else will hear you say them. Ask yourself what you want to achieve from the writing of your vows – consider how you want to tell the love of your life what they mean to you and how much you appreciate them being in your life. Most importantly, think about what promises you intend to make.
The following tips for writing your vows should help to guide you through, and there are links to further advice at the end should you wish to hire the services of a professional writer, or if you just need some sample vows to give you an idea of what to say.
You should first start by agreeing some guidelines about the kind of thing you and your partner are writing. If the two vows wildly differ the audience will probably be amused by the dramatic irony. You may want to listen to each other’s speeches beforehand or get a trusted friend to listen to both to ensure consistency. Remember that whilst these vows are deeply personal, or should be, they are also for the wider consumption of the wedding congregation. Consider how this audience will receive these statements when composing your vows.
Allow yourself some time away from the hustle and bustle to write. Make preparatory notes and then begin to jot down some ideas. Build the vows outward from the first truthful and meaningful sentence. Don’t leave the vows to the last minute. You’ll need some time for your thoughts to clarify. Once you have written down all the main messages, edit your words to ensure the tone is just right.
Short sentences work better than longer ones: they have more impact and are easier to decipher (especially if you are speaking without a microphone). Remember to vary your sentence length. Intersperse longer sentences so you don’t tire the congregation out. Discuss the length of your vows with your registrar/celebrant to make sure it’s not too long. About a minute or two is just fine.
These are your wedding vows. Now is not the time to be guarded, obscure, pretentious or equivocal. You should state truthfully how you feel, what you promise and what’s important to you.
Read your vows out loud. How does it sound? Check the music of the sentences. If you keep stumbling on the same passage then rewriting it may make it easier to pronounce. Practice on a close friend and listen to their suggestions for improvement. Sometimes meanings can get muddled or there are ambiguities you don’t immediately recognise so it is important to make sure it’s clear.
You could read some love poetry or romantic prose – if only to understand how the literary greats put their feelings into words – but don’t copy someone else’s words or style. Be true to yourself, steer clear of the clichéd and trite and remember there is always poetry in the truth as you see it, no matter how plainly spoken. You should also probably remember the contradictory advice of T.S Elliot: “Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal.” If you do steal, make sure the passage fits organically with the rest of your vows. Consider adding in a romantic quote, or better still, write your own.
Consider using anaphora or epistrophe. It’s a technique you’re probably familiar with from the Bible: repeating the beginning or ending of sentences with the same string of words. e.g. I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride / I have gathered my myrrh with my spice. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey / I have drunk my wine and my milk.
Practice your speech to yourself just before the ceremony. Make sure you pronounce and enunciate the words clearly. Emphasise the important parts. Inject a sense of drama if you feel that’s appropriate but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to comes across as melodramatic. If in doubt read it ‘straight’.
Don’t stress and worry about your vows. Take your time and if you really struggle with writing you can always ask someone to help clean it up for you. Don’t worry about the public speaking either: it will only take a minute to say your vows, half the congregation won’t hear you anyway, and you’ll coast through on adrenalin alone. Remember to smile as you say them. And be happy, it’s your wedding day!