Details Advice: Talking Points

Simplicity and planning are words to live by when personalizing your vows.

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Dictionary.com defines “vow” as “a solemn promise, pledge or personal commitment.” On your wedding day, you and your fiancé will make a vow before family, friends and witnesses to live together in love for the rest of your lives. And some couples use their wedding vows as a way to personalize the wedding ceremony.

Traditionally, wedding officiants develop standard ceremonies for the weddings they perform. However, many will let you create your own vows. The Rev. Kevin Knox of A Beautiful Ceremony in Orlando has been performing wedding ceremonies for nearly 30 years. He encourages couples to write their own vows while keeping in mind the KISS principle – keep it simple, sweetie. “Start organizing your thoughts and feelings on paper but don’t try to say it all,” he explains. “Write short, simple statements.”

Follow these simple tips to help create wedding vows that are uniquely yours.

Talk to your fiancé.
Make sure he’s comfortable with writing vows for the ceremony. Decide if you’ll write one set of vows that you and your future spouse will both use or if you’ll each write separate vows. Determine the tone you’d like your vows to set: Are they going to be short and sweet, longer and lyrical, a bit funny, religious, romantic? Will you be tweaking the traditional wedding vows or writing something completely unique? Knox suggests that you don’t try to memorize your vows or try to ad lib while at the altar. It’s perfectly all right to have a cheat sheet in your hand as you share the vows.

Make a plan.
Ask your wedding officiant whether his or her ceremony will allow you to personalize your vows. If the officiant agrees, ask for his or her guidance. Remember, wedding officiants have performed many weddings and they can offer advice about the words and phrases you choose. Knox suggests stating your vows in a positive statement. Instead of saying “I’ll never be unfaithful” say “I will always be faithful.” There are several different types of vows to consider, such as repeat vows. These are most common and can be a lot easier than reading your own vows out loud, according to Knox. “Repeat vows can be designed so that you each repeat them separately or you can repeat them at the same time while looking into each other’s eyes,” explains Knox. “It’s a good idea to have your officiant review the vows for any expert advice they can offer.”
 
Do your research.
There are chapters in many wedding planning books about the vows as well as entire books and online articles dedicated to writing unique vows. These resources include questionnaires to help you define your relationship, ideas for themes and even specific phrases that can be strung together to create elegant sounding vows. Knox’ A Beautiful Ceremony provides a ceremony planning kit. “There are also helpful websites that will list some good questions to get your writing juices flowing,” Knox says. “Your answers to these questions will probably give you more vow content than you need.”

Borrow from the experts.
Visit your local library, bookstore or browse the Web to find love song lyrics, poems, quotes and religious phrases that reflect your relationship. Use these sources as inspiration or select direct quotes. “Sometimes you will struggle to say something in your vows and you’ll find that someone has already said it in a perfect manner,” Knox says.

Write and rewrite your vows.
Compose your vows at least a week before your wedding rehearsal. Read them aloud to make sure the words flow properly and you’re not repeating the same words or phrases. Tweak as necessary, and remember to keep it simple. Feel free to share your vows with your fiancé and anyone close to you to get their input.

Take a cheat sheet.
If you’re doing repeated vows, make sure your officiant has a copy. If not and you’ve memorized your vows, still bring a written copy to the ceremony. You may become nervous and forget what you’re supposed to say; reading your vows is completely acceptable.

Make your vows a keepsake.
Print your vows on paper that coordinates with the rest of your printed materials and add them to your wedding album.

Your wedding vows are your promise to create a life together with your partner. What you say is important for defining who you are today and who you hope to become as a couple. By creating your own vows, you can personalize your ceremony to reflect the relationship you’ve developed that has led you to this most important day.