General Guidelines for Writing Wedding Vows; Length, Ideas, Originality

Vows get at the essence of what marrying this person means to you — and are meant to be directed solely to the most important person in the room, the one standing opposite you. Put any self-consciousness about your guests out of your mind. They can go three minutes without being entertained — and these may be the only three minutes during your entire wedding day when it’s only the two of you…eyes locked in an eternal free fall. (Honestly, time does not exist when you’re “at the altar” during the ceremony; that’s why the length of the entire ceremony ought to be at least 20 minutes long.)

So write your Vows in response to this awe-inspiring moment — but moreover, in response to marrying your most favorite person in the world! For this reason, “You” is the most important word you can use in your self-written vows.

There is no “right” length. Say everything you want and nothing more, nothing less. It’s complete when you’ve expressed your feelings and main promises well, to your satisfaction. What Australian Wedding Officiant, Josh Withers, calls “The Goldilocks Principle.”

It’s absolutely fine to borrow from poems, romantic comedies, spiritual texts, Supreme Court rulings (e.g., Obergefell v. Hodges), song lyrics, etc. — and then make the words your own.

Your vows can be clever and light, but ought to reflect the seriousness of the commitment you’re making. Even so, feel free to interject a funny comment. One Groom humorously quoted comedian Rita Rudner, “It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.” It fit.

I’ve read of another couple who met in a public school where he was a teacher and she a visiting consultant. The Groom started his Vows by paraphrasing Casablanca, “Of all the classrooms, in all the high schools, in all of New York City, you walked into mine. And I’m so lucky you did.”

Use the vernacular you’ve developed as a couple. As in the above example, if you like to watch Black & White movies together, start there. If you’re foodies, allude to a shared experience of that.

Please don’t hesitate to speak in oblique terms. Your guests don’t have to know to what you’re referring. By “oblique,” I mean you don’t have to spell it out. By way of example, say you’ve talked it over and vow to keep the fire burning in your marriage; don’t skip this very important promise because you’re embarrassed. You could telegraph the sentiment by saying something like, “I promise that, once in a while, I will let you choose what I wear when we go out.”

Your Vows are the most personal of everything you’ve put into your wedding. For you to speak them yourself in your own words means a lot. Don’t be afraid you’re going to cry. It’s likely. Expected. Always a crowed-pleasing sweet moment. And you’ll get through it. So do consider writing your own Vows. It is a rare gift to your new Husband or Wife. But if you really just can’t, think about writing a short love letter for the occasion to be delivered to your Bride or Groom the night before. Or keep sealed envelopes in a box with a bottle of wine for a wedding anniversary. That works, too.


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