Writing Your Own Vows Resources

How to create vows that speak from the heart 

by Karissa D'Ambrosio

You and your fianc้ become partners for life with the heartfelt words you speak at your ceremony, making promises that mean the world to you. To give your vows that special personal touch, follow our guidelines.

Kick it off with tradition

Ask your Officiant for a look at the vows that would ordinarily be used at your particular church, synagogue or other ceremony venue, so you can use them as a jumping-off point for your own words of love and commitment.

Be sure to ask the Officiant if you will need to include any particular words or terms in order to make your "I dos" valid in the eyes of your faith or the law.

Celebrate your history

First, discuss with your fianc้ the things that make your relationship special. Did you meet in some unusual way? What were some of the things you discovered you had in common? Think about the milestones in your relationship. When was the first time you exchanged "I love yous"? What are a few of the experiences you’ve shared? A look at the past can get you thinking about what you want to promise each other for the future.

Look ahead

This is a great opportunity to discuss with your fianc้ the kinds of things that are important about marriage to both of you. What do each of you consider the most meaningful aspect of the marriage? What do you want for your future together? What do you especially value about one another? Now it should start becoming more clear to you what you want to promise each other at the altar.

Let loose

You might want to begin by writing your vows in the form of a letter that only your fianc้ will see. Thinking about a room full of friends and family members listening to every word can cause writer’s block, but in your private letter you’re free to pour your heart out. Then go back and pick out the parts you want to share with the crowd. You can give your honey the unedited version on your wedding night.

Get coordinated

Not every couple likes to share their vows with each other as they write them—some choose to keep them a secret from each other. If you do decide to surprise each other at the altar, just be sure you don’t end up promising different things. Simply compose at least one line with your fianc้ that includes the important promises you want to make—then be sure to weave them into whatever else you plan to say.

Borrow from the classics

Help is at hand if you get stuck along the way. There’s always Shakespeare—or even Springsteen. Scour the works of your favorite poets, novelists, playwrights, children’s book writers and songwriters for quotes to include in your vows. Or pick something pithy from that romantic movie you both love.

Get quirky

Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine by making promises that may be slightly off the beaten path. Brad Pitt vowed to always "split the difference on the thermostat" with his bride Jennifer Aniston. And Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, who is presumably quite inept in the kitchen, promised to "never cook" for her husband John Stamos.

Whisper sweet nothings

Perhaps you feel most comfortable reciting traditional, time-honored vows at the altar, but still wish to find a way to add a more intimate message to one another. Do it privately! Ask your Officiant to announce a moment when the two of you will whisper those not-for-public-knowledge vows into each other’s ears at the ceremony.

Or promise each other that you'll recite those more personal vows to each other in the honeymoon suite later that night.

Creating Words Of Our Own

So, you want to chuck tradition and write your very own words of love to one another? Being able to boil down all the feelings you have, write them down, and say them on the most nerve-racking day of your life takes some planning. Here are some tips to get you started.

Talk to Each Other

Before you begin composing your flourishes of eternal devotion, sit down and have a talk. Decide together how the vows will be arranged - do you want to say the same vow to one another, or do you want them to be different? Also, decide on a length - usually, 4 or 5 sentences is plenty. Finally, be sure to cover word choices - do you both want to include "I love you" or "You're my best friend" in the vow? Make sure this is clear before you start, so you're on the same page and nobody's taken off guard at the altar.

Not Kidding Around

Remember, your wedding vows probably represent the most serious commitment you'll ever make, so avoid inside jokes or stabs at humor for your audience. Choose carefully exactly what you want to say, and then simply say it.

How Do I Know What to Say?

Sometimes it can be difficult to say exactly how you feel for one another in just a handful of words, so we suggest that first you write down everything you'd want to say if you could. Here are some questions to ask yourself, to get your brain and your heartstrings going.

  • When did you meet, and where?

  • What state of mind were you in before you met?

  • When was the moment you realized you were in love? How did it feel?

  • Think about when you got engaged. Where were you? Do you remember the song that was playing, the meal you had, what you were wearing? What did it feel like?

  • What are three things that inspire you about your loved one?

  • What are the goals you are looking forward to together?

  • What have you learned from your love? And they from you?

  • What qualities do you believe will keep your marriage strong? Specifically how will you accomplish that?

  • Do you have novels, poems, or songs that make you think of your love? Write down special lyrics, or the meaning behind them. Why do they move you so?

  • Compare how you felt before you met to now. What's changed? In what ways do you see the world through "new eyes"?

Boil It Down

Once you can name the things that are important to you about the other person, and how you feel about committing to them, you can then begin to distill down the very basics of how you feel, and what you want to promise. Once you've answered all those questions, it becomes very clear where you want to head with your vows.

Practice Them - Together

I know, I know, you want it to be a "surprise". You don't want to give away your most precious promises until the drama of the altar unfolds. But (and it's only a suggestion) you might want to hear each other's vows before the Big Day. You're going to be nervous, first of all, and you don't want any unexpected element to throw you. Also, you're going to be SO nervous, that I guarantee you (from experience) you won't remember a word they say, anyway. Practice saying your vows behind closed doors several times. You'll both cry with joy, you can work the kinks out in private, and you'll feel much more confident once you're in the hot seat.

Take a Deep Breath

Once you're at the altar, just before it's your turn to speak, stop everything, and take a deep breath. Enjoy the adrenaline, for a moment or two, of making a huge decision. And, be sure that when you begin to speak, you take your time and pronounce every word. Your guests will be able to hear you better, and you may be able to avoid the "total blank-out" brain-thing that happens during the ceremony.