My Foolproof Guide to Writing Vows
Updated: Mar 24, 2022
Oh vows! Sweet, sweet vows. There are so many ways to go about expressing your love and promises within your marriage ceremony that it can be hard to know where to start. It's unnecessary for the process of crafting vows to become another element of stress or overwhelm in the experience of planning an elopement/wedding. The tidbits below are meant to be helpful guidelines/insight for you to go about vow writing in the least stressful way possible. Nothing below is a hard and fast rule, so take what works and leave the rest :)
1. Come to terms with the truth that words can do a great job of explaining and expressing various aspects of human experience, but they really can only point to what it means to love another person— the experience of human love and lifelong partnership is often beyond being broken down via language, and words can sometimes fall short. This means, you're off the hook! You don't need to be able to express in the grandest, most eloquent way possible how you feel about your person, you just need to be able to do so authentically. When you take the pressure off of yourself to create vows that sound really good/encompass every single aspect of your feelings for them, you are likely to set yourself up for a good and successful writing experience.
2. You don't need to be a poet or a writer to craft wonderful vows. As an officiant, something that I have often witnessed when folks share their personal vows, is that they are a (rather accurate) reflection of the various personality traits that the individual embodies: the wordy romantic types will have colorful language and create imagery with their words to describe their feelings, the more introverted/laid back/simple types will sometimes use less imagery and tend to be more 'to the point'. Like in tidbit #1 above, this means that you can take the pressure to be anything else other than who you are, off the table. It's so much less about creating vows that fit some ideal image of romance, and more about ensuring that you are being true to who you are.
3. Decide if vows are going to be a joint or solo journey. Some couples like the idea of coming up with identical vows that they will each take turns saying (similar to when an officiant/minister provides vows for you; they tend to be the same), and some prefer to have their own separate journeys in the crafting/writing process. Neither options are better or worse, it's all about what feels right for you both! In the event that you both prefer to be a little less vulnerable or perhaps feel less inclined to share in a more freeform way, crafting vows together can be a great choice since they are meaningful (because you both wrote them) but don't require you to be sharing how you feel in an extensive way.
4. Decide whether or not you will be sharing elements of story or if you would prefer to jump straight into the vows. Some couples like the opportunity to share aspects of their journey together, what the other person means to them, when they "knew", inside jokes, etc. and others shudder at the idea of sharing the more vulnerable bits. Again, neither is right or wrong/better or worse, it's just about getting clear on what works for you. And, this doesn't need to be the same for both of you-- as with tidbit #2 above, this aspect can be a reflection of the differences in your personalities. It's totally okay for one person to share story and for the other not to. But of course, if you'd prefer to make a mutual decision on this one, then you absolutely should!
5. Get clear on the wording that feels best for you. Examples include: "I vow to ____", "I promise to____", or my personal favorite and the way I structured my own vows "I will do my best to ____". This one is pretty straightforward. Sometimes it's just helpful to know that there are other options outside of the more traditional language we're used to hearing. You can also weave together your own words in your own unique way to format your vows.
6. Once you've got your wording clear, work out which values you want to touch on. You have likely already shared with your person all of the ways that you hope to show up in the world through your partnership and marriage, and now is the opportunity to write it all out. Common value themes include: respect, integrity, supporting one another through thick and thin, continuing important self work, growth (both personally and together), and a willingness to admit wrongs and move forward.
7. Timing. I recommend using a timer to check how long it takes you to read your vows out loud. Staying within the 2-4 minute range is great. BUT, it's your day! So if you want to have 30 second vows or 5 minute vows, that is absolutely a-okay in my book. My husband and I's vows were both in the 4 minute range, and while they both felt a little on the long side, we were both glad we shared what we did.
8. Be willing to step away from writing and/or do more than one draft. If you are super lucky and write on a whim, you may nail your vows in one go— great! But don't feel pressured to do so. If you feel like you *have* to be perfectly successful and only write your vows one single time, this could make for a stressful experience. If you are using vow books and don't want to have multiple drafts in your keepsake, then write on a separate piece of paper first.
9. Start jotting down the ideas that come to you in your notes app on your phone, or on a scrap piece of paper that you keep with you. It's easy to forget something that you would've liked to include and that's completely fine! But this can be limited if you start to compile the inspirations that come to you before you actually sit down to craft them all together in a formal way. The beautiful thing about vows is that, though you are crafting them for a particular moment in time, they really are aspects of your relationship that will evolve with you. As you both grow together, your vows, or rather, the ways you hope to show up in your partnership will expand along the way. In a sense, they are an ever-growing reflection of your shared and personal journeys in life. So don't fret if you don't compile every single wonderful idea you had.
10. Revisit your vows on your anniversary. While this one doesn't actually help you in the process of crafting your vows, it is beautiful to set the goal to come back to them in the future. This little ritual can be such a sweet way to reconnect with your partner and prompt meaningful conversation, giving you both the opportunity to see how your marriage is reflecting your original intentions.
As you can probably tell from all of these tidbits, an essential part of the way that I like to direct the vow writing journey, is to take the pressure off. If we want to write from a place that is heart-centered and genuine, we need to let go of all of our preconceived ideas about love, and all that we have been taught about relationships and romance in movies and TV, and lean into what our own personal love stories and journeys are.
Real life is messy and being a human in this modern world can be difficult, but finding another to share the journey of life with is invaluable. We've come to accept that planning a wedding is inevitably stressful and intense and while that certainly can be the case, bringing awareness to the areas of this process where we can actually have excitement and ease is just so helpful. Writing vows, to me, should be an enjoyable part of preparing for your big day, one where you get to connect to the feelings of gratitude and appreciation that you have for your person. They don't need to be anything other than what they come to be when you finally write them. Allow yourself to be present, mindful, and in touch with the experience. Stay genuine to yourself and your values. And do your best to relax about the process and enjoy it. If you do, your vows won't be anything short of magical.