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How To: Write Wedding Vows


It’s July, which means full-blown wedding season is officially upon us. And that means one thing: a lot of you are scrambling to write your own vows. So, reader and professional writer Jen Girdish is here to share her vows and how she wrote them (and her hot wedding outfit…achem.) And in the words of the first ever Wedding Graduate East Side Bride, “The vows are more important than any of the crafty sh*t. And because we memorized them and practiced saying them to aloud each other, they are imbedded in my brain. I love that.”

How To: Write Wedding Vows | A Practical Wedding

It was never a question that Michael and I were going to write our own vows. We started our relationship by wooing each other over Gchat and long email chains about how much Friday Night Lights made us cry. We love to talk about how we feel about each other. We love to compare it, categorize it, and Tweet about it. Deciding to write our own wedding vows was a no-brainer.

I also have an MFA in creative nonfiction; writing about relationships is the closest thing I have to a skill. Vow writing should’ve been up my alley.

But it wasn’t. Vow writing was the hardest thing about the wedding planning process. I often made myself sit down at the computer to really, I mean really, start writing my vows this time, and nothing came out. I felt pressure because I was a writer. I felt pressure because whatever I wrote, I’d have to remember for a very long time. Nothing I wrote seemed important enough. I felt pressure for other, incredibly dumb but seemingly big-deal reasons. I kept thinking, What if my vows aren’t cute enough?

Another dumb reason: I didn’t have any great examples to work from. My favorite stories, essays, songs, films—the stuff that feels so true—are all about love that doesn’t last. That makes it incredibly hard to write about promising to love someone forever. Even if you really, really, really mean it.

I went through all most every book in my library for inspiration. Then, one day we decided on a reading from a Ruth Krauss/Maurice Sendak children’s book called “I’ll Be You and You Be Me.” I realized that everything I love about children’s books—the ability to communicate complicated emotions in simple sentences—was perfect. No need for perfect, overly-articulate compound sentences.

Obviously, that’s just what worked for me. There is no right way to do this—what you promise to your partner is personal and unique. However, when it’s the night before the wedding, and you’re obsessing over whether or not your fiancé’s grandmother is going to boo your promises to her grandson because you referenced backgammon, it’s nice to have a few suggestions and reassurances.  So here they are: some ideas for the nuts and bolts of writing your own “non-traditional” vows. I’ve also included our vows, because there aren’t many examples around, and I also like oversharing.

Decide if you want to write them together. Either way you decide is the right way. My husband and I like to surprise each other—we’re also a little too competitive—so the surprise element was fun. It felt like wrapping a gift for him. However, a friend of mine got upset because he didn’t think his vows were as good as his wife’s. It’s a good idea to consider what kind of people you and your partner are and whether or not the element of surprise would actually be fun, or another stress point.

If you don’t write them together, consider picking a structure that you both can use as a jumping off point. It’s not a bad idea to make sure that you and your partner are going to be vowing somewhat similar things. Michael and I decided to use the phrase “I promise to” as an overall structure, and to end with “thank you for marrying me.” It gave us a good place to start, and still let us write from our own voices.

Decide on a word-count maximum. It’s nice to have a constraint sometimes, especially if your husband-elect is threatening to put on a scuba suit and perform the vows as an hour-long, aquatic-love-metaphor themed rap. We settled on a 150-word maximum. It gave me peace of mind that we weren’t going to make our guests to sit through thirty minutes of vowing.

Details, details. Every creative writing workshop will tell you that good writing is in the details—specifics that speak to a larger, universal truth. It’s not a crazy idea to apply this to your vows. I focused on a few things that I thought symbolized our relationship and (eventually) wrote my vows from that. Think of it as a writing prompt. A few (commonsense) places to start: What are the little things that your partner appreciates that you do? How does that symbolize your overall relationship? And the biggy: Is there something that you can work on to build an even better, healthier relationship? I promised Michael that I would participate in our relationship no matter how hard it might seem, because my general tendency is to shut down during conflict, and I wanted to promise in front of our community to work on that. I also promised to roll my eyes with him and not at him—because let’s be honest, I’m never going to stop rolling my eyes.

Remember that the vows are ultimately just for you and your partner. If you are a silly person, I’m here to tell you that it is okay if your vows are a little silly, or funny. Or if you’d rather just write one simple line: DO IT. If you want to rap them while wearing a scuba suit? Go ahead—if your partner doesn’t mind. Your vows don’t even have to sound like vows; you could write an essay, a sonnet, or a smooth love jam.  Vows should sound like you, especially when you’re making promises to your partner. Of all days, you wouldn’t want them to sound like someone else.

How To: Write Wedding Vows | A Practical Wedding

And if you start to think, what if my vows aren’t good enough? I give you permission to slap yourself.

Jen’s Vows

I promise to curate a faithful and fantastic marriage with you.
I promise to treat you with kindness, respect, appreciation and silliness.
I promise to participate in our relationship, even when it might be hard.
I promise to let you know when you are getting too arrogant at backgammon.
I promise to roll my eyes with you, and not at you.
I promise to make laughter an integral part of our family.
I promise to love you until I am extinct.
Thank you for marrying me.

Michael’s Vows

Jen, for the rest of our very, very long lives:
I promise to love you with all of my heart, honor you with all of my actions, and treasure you like actual treasure.
I promise to keep you warm when you get cold, and to stand in the way of the sun when it gets hot.
No matter how many books you get, or how many times we move, I promise to always carry them all.  Every time.
And wherever we go, I promise to be there, holding your hand and telling you, “I love you.”
You’re my best friend, and you’re the best thing that ever happened to me.
Let’s get really, really, really old together.
Thank you for marrying me.

Photos by Megan Rossman

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  • http://www.lovelyatyourside.com LovelyOlivia

    Great post. Eric and I wrote ours separately, had my sister (the officiant) look over them, to make sure the structures were similar, and we never discussed them together before the ceremony. They were a total surprise to each other. I loved, loved, loved that element of it. Also, mine were more silly than his, but I tend to be a little more silly (“I promise to always go to bluegrass festivals with you…I promise to have a fantastically quirky family with you.”). I didn’t realize how important the ceremony would be until we were living it; standing up there, reading the words WE chose to write for each other was amazingly profound. I couldn’t really imagine us not writing our vows! It was a great choice for us (and we both did have some help from the officiant-sister), but I could see how it could become frustrating and difficult for others (even for Eric, who I came home to find one day watching Donna and David’s Beverly Hills 90210 wedding for…inspiration…yep.) Anyway, great post!

    • http://www.lovelyatyourside.com Jenny

      Just for the record, I went BEYOND help. I wrote them each a madlibs- they didn’t necessarily follow it, but it got them both thinking. It was along the lines of “Olivia/Eric, since the first time you (insert cute story here), I knew (what did you know? That you wanted to spend your life with her/him? That you loved her/him?)” etc. It got them both thinking about what they wanted to say AND thinking in a structure. I read both their vows before the wedding and found it really funny that they used similar wording and metaphors. Two peas in a pod, I tell ya.

      • theemilyann

        So – you might never see this, but is there a way you could post up your “mad lib”? *here’s hoping!*

  • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

    “I promise to keep you warm when you get cold, and to stand in the way of the sun when it gets hot.
    No matter how many books you get, or how many times we move, I promise to always carry them all. Every time.”

    Possibly the most romantic thing I’ve ever read. Having been married nearly a year now, I’m starting to see that this is the stuff of love. The you-were-at-work-so-I-cleaned-the-bathroom and the I’m-driving-because-you’re-too-tired kind of love.

    • http://jolynn.wordpress.com Jo

      Right?! The carry the books you get part is meaningful to me too!

      • Jes

        I loved the carrying books part as well. My partner just helped me move what felt like a billion books, and he knows committing to me will require that every time we move. I may have to suggest he work that sentiment into our own vowels! Thanks for sharing.

      • http://txtingmrdarcy.wordpress.com Txtingmrdarcy

        I LOVED that line. :)

    • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

      LOVED the bit about carrying books. So true in our relationship as well! (Though if the hubs had said something along those lines in his wedding vows, I don’t know if I could’ve resisted making out with him then and there!)

      • kadiann

        i totally agree on that point

    • http://www.tiffanyandhenry12 tiffany

      very good thats was real sweet i need you to help me with my wedding vows

  • http://jolynn.wordpress.com Jo

    Dear APW: I love you. And Jen? This is entirely awesome. The problem is it’s TOO awesome. ;) I already wrote my vows for my weekend wedding, and I totally have vow envy.

    Ah well, it was entirely beautiful and wonderful and perfect!

    • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

      weekend wedding!!!! ahhh!!!! :)

    • shotgun shirley

      Congrats!!

  • http://www.laughterinthelou.com Emma

    For those who are fraught over appreciating tradition and wanting to spice it up, you can do both! We repeated a pledge, somewhat similar to the lovely ones posted today, and then answered “yes” to the more traditional question of taking this person. Remember that there are some words you might want to say, and some that you just might want said :) Examples helped me a lot, so here are ours for ideas:

    I promise to respect you truly: as an individual, as my partner, and as my equal.
    I promise to support and encourage your interests, desires and aspirations and to accept your support and encouragement of my own.
    I promise to delight in the laughter,
    take serious the important,
    and imagine the profound.
    I choose you as my person for all that life may bring us.

    • meg

      I love this by the way. We also did a (very traditional) mash up. We said the traditional Hebrew vows AND said vows from Song of Songs. So you can totally do two things. Brillant point!

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      We did this too! We did the (English) declaration of intent (the questions followed by “I do”), our own (French and English) together-written vows, and then the civil Québec (French) legal marriage vows. I loved having some of everything. :)

  • http://lezgethitched.blogspot.com Diana

    I love this!! Both vows made me cry. Thanks, Jen!

    • Jess K

      Yep, also got a little teary right there.

  • FM

    Picking someone you trust to look over them can help a lot with the process! My friend asked me to kind of referee her and her husband’s vows, because they didn’t want to see each other’s but they wanted them to feel balanced (especially because my friend feels that her husband is a better writer, and wanted some assurance that hers were as good and also get some help editing).

    • meg

      This is a GREAT idea. I’ve been to services where the vows were super awkwardly unbalanced (ie, you probably don’t want one to be jokey and the other to be heartfelt, awkward….) so this is a great way to make sure they match, but still keep them a secret.

  • http://cakesandbunting.blogspot.com/ claire

    God bless APW. Just when I’m thinking ‘oh cr*p. We have no time and haven’t yet written our vows” this comes along. I’ve emailed it to my other half – thank you!

  • SpaceElephant

    I predict that this post will almost immediately win the”Post Most Emailed to The Half of The Engaged Couple That Does Not Read Wedding Blogs” award. I know *I* just forwarded the link to my better, less internet-y half.

    Great stuff, thanks!

    • meg

      Ha!

    • http://www.linseykitchens.com Linsey

      I concur! I just broached the ceremony/vow talk with the other half in the middle of a long hike in the woods–no escape! And now this. APW, you save souls, you know that?

      And Jen, mind if I borrow Mike to move my books? All of them? Or better yet, I’ll just sneak that part in my man’s vows. Cause those kind of marriage secrets are good, no?

  • e

    Does anybody know of similar posts about writing the whole ceremony? We’re trying to do that in addition to our vows. Ack!

    • http://www.lovelyatyourside.com LovelyOlivia

      I used the book “Wedding from the Heart” by Daphne Kingma…I took bits and pieces from the different ceremonies (and actually from the introduction), and with the help of my sister and now-husband, edited the whole thing down. I found, in writing our own ceremony, that books actually helped more than the internet!

      • http://www.lovelyatyourside.com Jenny

        Yes, and I picked up a copy on amazon for CHEAP.

      • Manya

        I Love that book! I was going to post that as a suggestion, but should have known someone else would!

        I wrote our entire ceremony and that book really helped me to get started and get into the structure and flow. I added things: children’s ceremony, ring warming, etc. As suited us, but that book was foundational, and the author is a reclaiming wife kind of gal.

    • SpaceElephant

      We found 2000 Dollar Wedding really helpful to write our ceremony: http://2000dollarwedding.com/2011/06/write-your-own-wedding-ceremony-script.html

      • Meg

        We also found 2000dollarwedding’s collection of wedding scripts to be invaluable. Check them out for sure!

    • ElfPuddle
      • meg

        I was going to say. Also, go to our How To section. We have some other really good ceremony posts.

    • Colleen

      We started with the *very* helpful The Wedding Ceremony Planner by Dr Judith Johnson. It has a lot of very specific suggestions from a wide array of religious and secular sources, which we especially liked.

  • http://www.twitter.com/eskaybe eskaybe

    We “wrote” our own, but mostly pieced together various parts that we liked from fairly traditional samples we found while googling.

    I, [name], choose you [name], to be my [wife/husband], my best friend, my partner.
    I vow to love you and grow with you
    through good times and bad, in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health,
    as we face life’s challenges together.
    I promise to trust, respect, and encourage you,
    to be patient with you and comfort you,
    to laugh with you and cry with you,
    to work with you to achieve the things we value and dream of,
    and to cherish each day we share together.

  • http://www.thefamiliarwilderness.com Erin

    We didn’t write our vows, but I love when couples do. Those promises, no matter how they’re said, always get me choked up :)

  • http://love-vs.blogspot.com Vilija

    When couples write their own vows I find it almost magical, you get a glimpse into their relationship and a picture of the things they really love about being together. I like the sense of adventure and the ‘real-ness’ that comes from homemade vows. We didn’t write our own vows, we stuck with tradition – but I can now think of a few I could have added.

  • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie C

    I’ve been to about three weddings a year since I graduated college, and I’ve never heard anyone do personal vows. I absolutely love Jen and Michael’s! I think keeping things specific, short, and personal (whether that’s sweet or silly or serious) is absolutely the way to go.

  • Courtney

    LOVE this post! And very timely for me! My fiance and I are just turning our attention to the ceremony, and were at a loss for how to begin. Once again, APW (and Jen!) rocks my world.

  • http://herecomesthebride2011.wordpress.com/ Caitlyn

    I have always loved the idea of writing your own vows but it can be really hard! This was so helpful and would make it so easy!

  • http://www.brindey.com Brindey

    Hi guys-
    So how long is too long? I wrote my vows. They are 4 short paragraphs long. Should I do some cutting? If not 150 words, then what?

    • Anna

      hmmm … I think if you are thinking it is too long- it is probably too long

    • Edelweiss

      It’s awful, but I have to do that to my own writing all the time, I call it “killing my puppies” because it hurts so bad.
      In this case just remember you also have a card you can give your partner that day, anniversaries in the future, birthdays, etc.
      That’s actually how I managed to calm down my whole wedding planning. I’ve started an Evernote tag I call anniversary. And every amazing idea I have that’s so emblematic of us but I really shouldn’t be trying to cram into a single day gets saved there. And we can take a train ride through the mountains (because we first met on a train) on an anniversary. And you can write down your four paragraphs now, but share only one now and each following paragraph can come every 10th anniversary (or something)…

      Although also – it’s YOUR wedding and YOUR vows. So remember, it’s only too long if you feel it’s too long.

      • Manya

        Haha! I love “killing the puppies!”

        This is one of the biggest mistakes writers make: They mistake “Throat Clearing” for actual essential content.

        Most of us have to clear our throats for a paragraph or two before we get into the real meat of what we want to say…. but once it’s written down it’s hard to cut it! Be bold!

        One of the techniques I use is to open up a blank document next to the full draft. I then cut and paste from the full draft onto the blank page. It helps me to see the essential parts, without hitting “Delete” which is pretty painful.

        Good luck!

    • Ginna

      You could also choose a time limit instead of a word count. Practice reading your vows out loud and timing yourself, then compare with your partner and decide what you feel comfortable with. I would guess 2-4 minutes each would be a pretty safe bet.

      • http://www.brindey.com Brindey

        Thanks guys!

      • marbella

        Definitely a good idea. If you speak for 4 minutes you’ll probably realise that’s a very long time!

  • http://memorableceremonies.blogspot.com/ Maureen Thomson

    I love the idea of starting each sentence with “I promise…” Going about it that way would give even those most adverse to writing their own vows enough confidence to give it a try.

    I also love, Jen, that you memorized your vows as opposed to repeating them after the officiant or reading them off cards. I understand that the shy and introverted among us would have a tough time even contemplating this and I’m not advocating it if you’re the type who would freeze up and forget everything at that one special moment.

    But if you can pull it off, it does indeed etch the moment into your brain forever. I memorized my vows when I was married in 2007. Every year on our anniversary, hubby and I restate our vows to each other–and yes, I memorize them again each year. Yes, I need a quick brush up. But it’s pretty much like riding a bike–the words always come flooding back.

    Powerful stuff!

    • Ris

      I love that that’s your anniversary tradition. That is so beautiful.

    • SpaceElephant

      Interestingly, my fiance and I are NOT memorizing our vows, even though we both have degrees in theatre and strong performance backgrounds (and he is an actor). Our reasoning? We don’t want to perform on our wedding day. We don’t want to be actors. We want to be present, authentic, and real. And for us that means not memorizing a single thing.
      It’s been fascinating to see the places where we, as performers, are eschewing that part of our lives for our wedding, and where it is helpful. Am keeping it in mind as a potential Wedding Grad topic after it’s all said and done (7/16!).

      • Remy

        Yes! My beloved and I have performance backgrounds, and I KNOW I could cram the text into my brain, but then my focus would be on regurgitating it and not forgetting anything. To avoid that, we’ll be memorizing two lines, max, for the ring exchange — “Wear this ring, think of me, and know that I love you [ring inscription here]” — and then including an officiant’s query/response section for our vows, somewhat like this:

        Groom, will you cause her pain? (I may)
        Is that your intent? (No)
        Bride, will you cause him pain? (I may)
        Is that your intent? (No)
        (to both) Will you share each others pain and seek to ease it? (both say, Yes)

        Groom, will you share her laughter? (Yes)
        Bride, will you share his laughter? (Yes)
        (to both) Will both of you look for the brightness in life and the positive in each other? (both say, Yes)

        • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

          this is sweet.

  • Amandover

    This is a great post!
    We chose to write our own together, so we promised the same things. We borrowed from Quaker vows we found, and others.
    I have to admit, it might have been more powerful in the moment if we’d written surprise vows. But we worked on everything else together, and it didn’t seem right to do the most important part separately. For us.
    Anyway, for reference:

    “[Name],
    Today, I make you my family.
    Loving what I know of you and trusting what I do not know,
    I will turn to you in every joy and every struggle.
    I will build a life that makes you proud,
    and I will honor your dreams, wherever they may lead us.
    I will share my adventures with you,
    and I will make my home wherever you are.
    I promise to cherish and delight in your spirit and individuality,
    to face life’s challenges with patience and humor,
    and to nurture our growth.
    Whatever is placed before us,
    I will be right here by your side for the rest of my days.”

    • http://www.linseykitchens.com Linsey

      Keyboard tears…

    • rose

      love your vows – might have to borrow a phrase or two for my own! thanks for sharing!!

  • meg

    How is no one talking about HOW HOT JEN’S OUTFIT IS???? Priorities people, geeze….

    • http://www.laughterinthelou.com Emma

      My sincere apologies. I was distracted by the vow thing. The dress is stunning and the shoes are shazam!

      • Aurélie

        Yay for the blue shoes!

      • meg

        Also, the necklace.

      • http://ejsisme.blogspot.com Emily

        *brb, I’m stealing “shazam” as an adjective forever.*

    • shotgun shirley

      She’s GORGEOUS!! Love love LOVE it!

    • Molly

      I have been searching the comments trying to find the designer of her dress! Thanks for reading my mind, Meg.

      • Jen

        Pssst. It’s a Jim Hjelm that was several seasons old.

        (Thanks for all of the warm and lovely comments, everyone!)

  • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

    Argh, why couldn’t this have been written 4 months ago?! Mrs. McPants entered her vows in a ‘write your own vows’ contest AND WON. It was awesome because we got free shit for the wedding but it was not so awesome in the ‘holy crap, her vows WON A CONTEST, how can I possibly compete with that?’

    Funnily enough, I got the majority of my vows written while waiting at the dentist’s office about a month before. (I typed them onto my cell phone. Oh, brave new world) I looked at it as an exercise in ‘what are the sweetest, truest things that I could tell her about how much I love her?’

    • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com KA

      There are “write your own vows” contests?! Who knew! Congrats on all the free stuff, and having a super eloquent wife!

      I too started drafting in my cell phone during a flash of inspiration and OF COURSE the damn thing got deleted. So be warned, people, back up!

      And thank you, thank you, thank you for this most helpful post as I set out to write it a second time.

  • http://smittenimmigrant.wordpress.com Pluis

    Your vows are lovely! And yes, the book carrying is deeply touching for all bibliophiles and their spouses :)

    I need to confer with my partner about writing vows ourselves – I think we will, but haven’t gotten a formal yes yet (neither about or to the vows, hehe).

    If I’m going to cry anywhere during the ceremony, it’s going to be at the vow point, for sure. Thanks for the advice, the idea of coming up with a shared structure for both the vows is really useful!

  • Moz

    This is such a lovely, generous post. Thank you so much for sharing these with us.

  • Darcy

    We used “I take you for who you are and all that entails.”

    Short but epic when you start thinking about it.

  • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com/ Morgan

    We didn’t write our own – we picked form a list of about 20 pre-written one that the pastor offered. The last line of the one we choose has the line that stays with me always.

    “I choose you on this day with all my heart.”

  • http://www.craigathenawedding.blogspot.com athena

    THANK YOU to APW and Jen for this awesome post!! Our wedding is in August and our officiant wants our vows and finalized ceremony NOW! Haha

    I have always wanted to write my own vows because I am a writer and a reader and working towards a PhD in English, but Craig has always been wary of it because he isn’t confident in his writing skills (despite my telling him how articulate he is). At any rate, we decided to write them together to ensure balance and continuity, but everytime we’ve tried to do that we have struggled immensely.

    I think it’s almost more difficult for me to write them though, for the same reasons Jen had a hard time. Being a writer adds so much pressure (from yourself, mind you) to write beautiful, original, heartfelt vows. So, again, thanks for this post, it helps SO much!

    Lastly, my fiance (who is crazy for thinking he isn’t creative enough to write great vows) suggest this line as part of our vows: “I promise to be a champion for your dreams.”

    I cried, it’s so perfect and beautiful.

  • Anne

    We also wrote our own, so let me add another example to the list. Our process was: we procrastinated like whoa (although we also wrote our entire ceremony, so that took up a lot of the advance time and brain space), then we brainstormed the major elements together while eating ice cream at my favorite ice cream place, and then I wrote mine in a 6am flash of inspiration the day before our wedding, then he adapted mine with his own details. We read them from paper, and actually, my aunt (the officiant) wound up with two copies of mine and none of his, so we had to have a brief pause in the ceremony while the wedding planner grabbed a copy of his vows…it was actually pretty funny, and is one of the small imperfections that make the ceremony that much more vivid in my memory. Anyway:

    Taylor, I love you.
    I love waking up with you in the morning,
    and falling asleep with you at night,
    and everything that happens in between.
    I love that, in big ways and small,
    my life is more adventurous and full and rich because you are in it.
    It might not always seem like I love this
    when I’m hanging off a rock by my fingers, but I do.
    I’m constantly amazed by the way you genuinely make time
    for the people and things that you enjoy most,
    and don’t just let them get lost in the daily shuffle.
    The way you care so deeply about people
    and about getting things right,
    whether it’s hunting down the perfect parts to build my bike
    or learning to make scrambled eggs the way I like them
    or planning our lives together…this makes me feel so loved,
    and makes this decision to trust you with the rest of my life
    such an easy one.
    I know that I am and will be a better person because you are in my life,
    both because you push me when I need pushing
    and because you are so wonderful, and I want to be worthy of your love.

    From today, I promise to try to be a good person
    and a great wife every day.
    I will work to put us first,
    even when that means putting your needs or goals ahead of my own.
    And I will do my best to do 51% of the work, even when it’s not easy or fun.
    I will go outside when it is Saturday and gorgeous out
    even though I think I want to read a book
    because I’m always glad I did and because it makes you happy.
    Most importantly, I promise to spend the rest of our lives
    building on the happiness we have found together.

  • shotgun shirley

    I love the ‘thank you for marrying me’ lines. Very sweet.

    We had a Catholic wedding, so Catholic vows, but I think I (and perhaps others already married) can use these guidelines for love note writing. :)

    • meg

      WEDDING GRAD POST.

    • Ashley B

      I’m having a Catholic interfaith (I’m the inter) ceremony next year and I can’t decide if I’m relieved or disappointed we don’t get to write our own vows. I do like the idea of a love note though!

  • Kelsi

    word to the wise:

    Don’t procrastinate and try to write your vows the day of.
    Your mind will likely go blank, like mine did.

    Vivid memory of driving the half hour to our site with my mom’s friend talking incessantly behind my head as I sat with a blank piece of paper. I was nervous and getting pissed and wanting to yell “SHUT THE EFF UP SO I CAN WRITE MY WEDDING VOWS”, but I didn’t.

    So I free styled and it was okay.
    My husband wrote a short two-liner so he matched my short, on-the-fly words. Luckily our amazing friend led our ceremony and made up for it, and then some.

  • Cassandra

    Best part: “No matter how many books you get, or how many times we move, I promise to always carry them all. Every time.” Your man is a smart one! Mine has faithfully carried all my boxes of books through two moves (and after every trip to the library or the used book store)…

    Sadly, Boyfriend and I are both social science PhD candidates and I suspect our skills at survey design and statistical reports aren’t going to be much help on this front! I’d really like to give it a try, though.

  • Manya

    I loved this post so much! And yes, Meg, she is HOT in that lace dress!

    Writing our vows was the thing I was most excited about and it ended up being the biggest negotiation/ conversation/ compromise in the entire wedding process. I wanted to write our own vows, keep them secret, memorize them and then say them during the ceremony (with prompt cards, if necessary).

    He, on he other hand, wanted to say ‘i do.’ Full stop.

    I am loquacious and very expressive. He is more reserved and shy. He said doing it my way would 1. Make him so nervous that it would ruin e day and 2. Make him suffer by comparison (which is baloney, by the way…the guy is a brilliant writer and competent speaker). Also, his first wedding was a Quaker ceremony, where he had to do a big speech and he hated it. And Baggage must always be respected. Sooo… We went back and forth, looking for an acceptable solution to both. We have ended up with two sets of vows… Personal vows that are almost Identical, that we will each read, followed by traditional vows read by our officient and “I do.” I’ll post them after our wedding in 10 days (!)

    At first I was disappointed, because this was the entire crux of this wedding thing for me: bearing witness to our commitment, speaking it out loud and requesting the support of our community to remind and help us uphold these vows. But in the end I really love our ceremony. Making him suffer at all at the wedding was just unconscionable and too ironic for words! We have other compromises too… He will dance the first dance with me, long and slow and lovely. Then I will boogie with friends all night while he goes and blows up a big basket of fireworks and rockets. Both of us are so glad the other will be doing something they love and we’ll check in all night.

    So excited!

    • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

      What about writing your lovely, expressive personal vows anyhow and then reading them to him at some other point of the day? I ask because my husband and I did the very traditional “I do’s” and “repeat after me” vows during our actual ceremony, but that night, after we were all alone, we were so amped up on wedding magic that we just sort of spontaneously making private pledges of the “I promise to always love you,” “I promise to always try to put our relationship first,” etc. Both the traditional-in-front-of-people vows and the private, off-the-cuff, just-for-us ones were equally powerful, in different ways. Just a thought?

      (And also – fireworks display???? Awesome. When will we see a grad post? :D)

      • Manya

        This is a really good idea. We have had one of those tearful conversations, while we sat holding hands and listening to the CD we made for our welcome bags. It was awesome.

        I actually have an awesome gift planned… I did a boudoir portrait shoot with the most amazing photographer in Phoenix, and she’s put the pictures into an incredibly sexy little black book. I’m slipping that into his dressing room with a rose, a letter and the poem “The Cinnamon Peeler’s Wife” (as per a Team APW suggestion! YAY!).

        That will be another way to share the more intimate promises I want to make to him that might be a little TMI for a mixed crowd.

        Then, when we go to dinner, going along with our vintage adventure travel theme, everybody else has an inexpensive compass marking their place, but I got a beautiful brass compass for him engraved with this poem: “And you… a windrose, a compass, my direction, my description of the world.” It will be waiting for him on his dinner plate–I just love the idea of the surprises continuing throughout the evening. OMG, so excited I can hardly stand it!

    • theemilyann

      “bearing witness to our commitment, speaking it out loud and requesting the support of our community to remind and help us uphold these vows. ”

      This just became my wedding vow thesis. Thank You.

  • Laura

    Aww, Jen! I wish I could’ve time-traveled and read this post when the Hubcaps and I were working on vows. Your advice is dead-on, and it probably would’ve saved me a lot of stress. Yours are beautiful, and the closing “Thank you for marrying me,” darn near made me cry.

    I can’t agree enough with the advice about either writing vows together with your partner or having someone you trust look them over. I spent a lot of time stressing over whether our vows would be imbalanced until it finally dawned on me that reading them to each other ahead of time wasn’t going to make the wedding day any less special for us. Once we did that, I felt a lot more relaxed and prepared.

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  • Kelsey

    LOVE this post!!! So, Meg, I was thinking… it might be cool to have an archive of wedding vows here on APW… So many people are willing to share, it could be great inspiration for others! The officiant at our wedding was a good friend of ours. When I told him we were having trouble writing our own vows, he sent me the ceremony and vows that he and his wife used (written completely by them). I’m not going to lie… we only made small changes to the ceremony and vows, but used them almost as they were originally written. They were already so beautiful! And they totally didn’t mind (I made sure to ask). I don’t think anyone willing to share their vows here would mind if some (or all!) of their words were used to unite another couple in marriage, right? Just an idea!

  • Amy March

    Just had to share my favorite part of Will and Kate’s wedding- I’ve never wanted to write my own vows (so traditional) but loved their idea of writing a prayer together to be shared as part of the service. Think it could be a great opportunity to express gratitude for the unique things you share. hope for a long future of enjoying each other, and ask for your blessings to be shared.

  • Erica

    I’m getting married in August and have just started the vow-writing process, so thank-you again, APW, for the perfect timely post! I was wondering about the experiences of those who did show each other their vows before the ceremony–do you think it’s better to keep it as a surprise, or are you happy to have seen them before? I’m worried about the balance/same wave-length issue and I’m a little neurotic when it comes to writing so I’d have trouble trusting the editing to someone else–but I’m also concerned that it might not be as feeling-ful and fun if we both know what the other is going to say in advance? Thoughts?

  • http://craftosaurus.blogspot.com craftosaurus

    Those are such lovely, heartfelt vows, Jen!

    We wrote our vows (the whole ceremony, really, but that’s less relevant here) together, and we’d decided that we wanted to say the same vows to each other, rather than have “my vows” and “his vows.” It was TOUGH, yo. I like writing and editing (other people’s work. ahem.), but I do. not. like. collaborative writing and editing.

    At the end of the day, though, the process of figuring out exactly what was important to us and what we were going to promise each other — what our marriage was going to be about, in a very fundamental way — is one of my favorite memories. Not the process of “is this sentence awkward?” and all that, but arriving at the finished product, knowing WE wrote our vows and they were perfect for us, and feeling that sense of anticipation of actually vowing the vows out loud in front of people. Indescribably wonderful.

    Now, saying them out loud in front of people was not what I expected at all. I felt very exposed (duh), and a little bit awkward, and as a result that part of the day is a little blurry. My warm-fuzzy vow memory is definitely the “just finished writing them” moment.

  • http://www.linseykitchens.com Linsey

    I know I’m late on this one, but I just read this over at the Seattle Times, and some of it makes for great vow material…especially the part about the toilet paper and getting lucky with a load–complete one–of laundry.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/homegarden/2015514115_marriage07.html

  • http://www.wed4less.wordpress.com Lindsie

    Thank you so much. I am also a writer (a current English (creative writing) & journalism double major) and feel the same way about writing my vows, mostly because my fiance is always so much cuter than me in regular interactions. Everyone expects me, as the writer, to have great vows, but they don’t understand that I write mostly angry/sad poetry :)

    These are some amazing tips! Very helpful!

  • Sez

    I’m finally getting back to APW after a bit away from computers while on vacation (SO wonderful!) and loved seeing this. My little sister just got engaged (!!!!) and so of course I’m emailing posts to her in somewhat over-the-top fashion!

    My husband and I strayed pretty far from traditional vows, but like everyone here, we were true to ourselves with how our ceremony went. For our vows we chose a poem that, for us, contained all of the nuances of the traditional vows, but also meant something personal to us (it was the one of the first poems that my husband ever shared with me when we were together and I kept it from that day on…)

    A Line-Storm Song, by Robert Frost

    We shared the poem by reading alternating stanzas and exchanging our rings after we finished. It was short and sweet, and my not have been fully understood by everyone there (i.e. my grandma, bless her for being supportive anyway), but it was just right because we made it mean what it meant for us.

  • LM

    So heartbreakingly lovely! I wish we all had the courage to say what’s in our hearts that way.

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  • Erik

    Thank you for this beautiful explanation of your process. My wife and I are renewing our wedding vows after 15 years next week and we’re writing our vows. I’m not good with words in this manner, I feel, and this gave me great insight on some things to at least start my focus with. I pray you and your husband truly do have many, many years of happiness together!

    God bless you guys!

  • Hannah

    Thank you. Thank you with all my heart, my fiance is a writer and I am not. This is so helpful and it makes me feel that no matter what, I will be okay!

  • Jenn

    This is beautifully written! I love this advice article. Even if my wedding days are far ahead of me, I’m glad to have found sites like this that would help at least ease my suffering for the pre-wedding jitters – for the future of course.

    What’s funny is that both you and your husband’s name are mine and my boyfriend’s. How ironic is that? And also are the names of my friend’s relatives! So you’d be the third “Jen and Mike” I’ve heard of. Hah!

    Thanks again for this! Much appreciated!

  • alison

    Great article. I was truely struggling with writing my vows, trying to make them perfect. And then I was just myself and it flowed! Thanks!

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  • nick

    thanks so much for your post, i feel much more confident about writing my vows now :)

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  • http://www.weddingwire.com/JessicaAbhishek Jessica

    Our Vows are laced with multiple traditions from multiple cultures, but my Fiancee wanted to write his own vows. So our wedding ceremony is turning out to be very complex.

    The mantra chanted during Hasta Milap (where to grooms scarf is tied to the brides sari, in my case, my veil) is:

    Om Mahalaxmiyei Vidmahe
    Vishnu Patniyai cha Dhimahi
    Tanno Lakshmih Prachodayat.

    which basically translates:
    Om(The great God), Let me meditate on the greatest goddess, Who is the wife of Lord Vishnu, Give me higher intellect, And let Goddess give the wealth and prosperity.

    Pronounced:
    AUM MA-HALAK-SHH-ME CHA-VIDMA-HE
    VISH-NU PUT(as in put-put golf)-NEAN CHA-DEE-MA-HE
    TAN-NO LUCK-SHME PRA-CHO-DA-YAHT

    In Gujarati weddings, the saptapadi is taken with a slight difference. With each step taken, the groom helps the bride touch seven betel nuts with her right toe.

    The Seven Vows are the most important part of a marriage ceremony, and with the completion of these steps and vows, a couple is taken as married. The couple then take the blessings of the elders in the family, by touching their feet.

    1. Groom:
    You will offer me food and be helpful in every way. I will cherish you and provide welfare and happiness for you and our children.
    Bride:
    I am responsible for the home and all household responsibilities.

    2. Groom:
    Together we will protect our house and children.
    Bride:
    I will be by your side as your courage and strength. I will rejoice in your happiness. In return, you will love me solely.

    3. Groom:
    May we grow wealthy and prosperous and strive for the education of our children. May our children live long.
    Bride:
    I will love you solely for the rest of my life, as you are my husband. Every other man in my life will be secondary. I vow to remain chaste.

    4. Groom:
    You have brought sacredness into my life, and have completed me. May we be blessed with noble and obedient children.
    Bride:
    I will shower you with joy, from head to toe. I will strive to please you in every way I can.

    5. Groom: You are my best friend, and staunchest well-wisher. You have come into my life, enriching it. God bless you.
    Bride:
    I promise to love and cherish you for as long as I live. Your happiness is my happiness, and your sorrow is my sorrow. I will trust and honor you, and will strive to fulfill all your wishes.

    6. Groom:
    May you be filled with joy and peace.
    Bride:
    I will always be by your side.

    7. Groom:
    We are now husband and wife, and are one. You are mine and I am yours for eternity.
    Bride:
    As God is witness, I am now your wife. We will love, honor and cherish each other forever.

    Then we’re doing the written vows which mine go as such:

    I, (my name), do so solemnly vow to you, (his name), to make you part my loving and eccentric family. I vow to love what I know of you and trust what I do not know, though I hope you trust me to dig for those unknown out of pure curiosity. I vow that I will turn to you in every joy and every struggle, no matter how simple or complex they may be, and that I will be there listening when you turn to me. I vow that I will share my adventures with you, be them in my head or in a book I read, and to create as many adventures with you as I can. I vow that I will make my home wherever you are, and I vow to make that home a sanctuary from the outside world; for it to be peaceful and refreshing. I vow to you that I will cherish and delight in your spirit and individuality, as well as to face life’s challenges with patience and humor, albeit some sarcasm too. Whatever is placed before us, I make this vow to be right there by your side as your friend, as your supporter, and as your encouragement; to always feed you home-cooked meals, and if they turn out slightly inedible, to let you order from your favorite places. I vow to always seek to share the things you enjoy, but I do pray that it will never become football one day. And wherever we go, I vow to be there, holding your hand and telling you, “I love you.” ( fiancee’s name), you have made my life seem that much warmer, and that much safer, and when you are away the world seem that much bleaker and my sleep less peaceful. I thank you for the hope you have brought back to me. I thank you for creating dreams in my life I had never even thought I could dream of. For now and forever I vow to you, my love, my body, my soul.

    (insert ring exchange)

    Then from my background we have a Scottish vow:

    You are Blood of my Blood, and Bone of my Bone.
    I give you my Body, that we Two might be One.
    I give you my Spirit, `til our Life shall be Done.

    You cannot possess me for I belong to myself
    But while we both wish it, I give you that which is mine to give
    You cannot command me, for I am a free person
    But I shall serve you in those ways you require.
    I pledge to you the first bite of my food and the first drink from my cup
    I pledge to you my living and my dying, each equally in your care
    I shall be a shield for your back and you for mine
    I shall not slander you, nor you me
    I shall honor you above all others, and when we quarrel we shall do so in private
    and tell no strangers our grievances.

    This is my wedding vow to you.
    This is the marriage of equals.

    tie red ribbon around joining wrists.

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  • Sarah

    No lie, I stole my vows from someone on APW, did a little tweaking, showed FH and he said, “Yup, that pretty much says it all”.

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  • Gianina

    Thank you so much, my fiancé was freaking out about her vows. So to help her I was questioning if we could tell each other what each others were. I found this and told her that we could write them together. And the once phrase part of this made her feel a lot better because that’s all she has right now. Thank you so much.

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  • Nicole

    Seriously this saved my life. I needed to hear all this and the guidance is so helpful. Thanks!

  • ANILKUMAR BILLU

    hi this anilkumar i want to wedding to be differnt. i have a idea

    my name ANILKUMAR and her name DURGADEVI

    starting letter of my name ‘A’ mateer ends with her starting letter ‘D’ like that i need

    A………………………………………………..D

    N………………………………………………..U

    I…………………………………………………R

    L………………………………………………..G

    K………………………………………………..A

    U………………………………………………..D

    M……………………………………………….E

    A……………………………………………….V

    R………………………………………………..I

    in that i need some beautiful matter pls help me.

  • Albert einstien

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  • patrick stella

    My name is Cecilia Lugard from UK, what a great happiness in my life, i
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