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.”
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. Continue reading How To: Write Wedding Vows