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Real Wedding Vows For 2020 (And How To Write Your Own)

Updated for a global crisis

It’s funny how not too long ago, wedding vows felt like the thing that landed at the bottom of your wedding to-do list. At the top of the list was all that logistical (and sometimes fun and pretty stuff): figure out your seating chart, nail down your perfect dance party playlist, create an amazing photo booth filter. And then the pandemic happened, and in an instant, weddings went from “all the things,” to “just the things that really mattered.” Deciding where guests will sit elbow-to-elbow, or how they’ll pack a sweaty dance floor seem like problems of the past.

Because suddenly, in 2020, weddings (such that they are) have been reduced down to the few things that matter the most. The two of you. Vows to spend the rest of your life together. (And seriously, I hope ‘rona hasn’t taken away your right to wear some really good outfits.)

And in 2020, we’ve been reminded why those classic words have been in wedding services forever: “In sickness and in health, till death do us part.” Suddenly, we’ve all been forced to remember that the most important thing we have in this world is our love for each other, and our commitment to care for each other till the end.


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And it feels fitting that while 2020 has removed many things from weddings, the most beautiful thing remains. Wedding vows are the commitment we make to each other. They make us understand what we’re committing to. They’re the heart and soul of the wedding. And while this virus has taken so much from us, it hasn’t taken that away.

So it seemed like a fitting time for us to refresh our best tips on how to write your wedding vows and give a comprehensive list of real marriage vows (including vows from world religions) to get your own creativity flowing.

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But before we start, a note. You don’t have to write your wedding vows. You might want to. However, in this particular moment, you might not need one more task on your plate. Or perhaps you want to say the time-tested traditional marriage vows, echoing the generations before you. (I did.) Or maybe you’re looking to tweak traditional vows just a little bit to make them feel like yours. Whatever you’re looking for, chances are we’ve got something on our list that will help you craft the promises you want to make.

Couple reading wedding vows with text "how to write wedding vows"

How to write wedding vows

This might feel obvious at first, but just because you might have known that you’ve wanted to write wedding vows for years and years, your partner might not. Talk to them! Decide together that you definitely want to write them. There is nothing wrong with saying traditional marriage vows. But if you’re going to DIY this, both of you have to be equally committed to this concept.

Remember that vows don’t have to be long or complex, or put you on the spot. Hannah Nielsen-Jones, officiant with River and Root Ceremonies in Washington, D.C., advises,  “Consider how comfortable you are with public speaking. If it’s not something that you enjoy or if it’s something that makes you anxious, it is 100% acceptable to ask your officiant to structure vows so that you only have to say ‘I do’ or ‘I will’ or something similar. If speaking on your own feels hard, you can also consider speaking at the same time as your partner, so you are saying the same things to each other at the same time.”

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How To Write Wedding Vows: Step By Step

Once you’ve decided that you want to write your vows, this is how you get started (with plenty of stealing from our collected sample vows, below).

Talk to your officiant

Many houses of worship may require you say all or part of the traditional marriage vows of that religious practice. Sometimes this won’t preclude also saying vows that you wrote (though sometimes it will), but you’ll want to know what the rules are—and what the religious reasoning for them is—upfront. Some officiants may ask to review your vows before the ceremony, so be prepared to have them early if this is the case. (And if you’re doing this virtually, you can see our best tips here.)

Two grooms walk down the asile

Come up with a plan

Will you write your vows together, or separately? Will you show them to each other beforehand, or will you keep them a secret until the ceremony? Do you want to set a due date for when you need to have your vows written? If you’ve decided that you will not see each other’s marriage vows before the ceremony, Nielsen-Jones of River and Root Ceremonies recommends showing them to someone else. “I encourage people to send them to their officiant or a good friend beforehand at least two weeks before the wedding (2020 update: a day before the wedding is just fine). This has at least two benefits: 1) you will actually write them before the day you get married, and 2) the person who looks over them can let you know if they are roughly congruent in length and tone.” You don’t want to be promising to care for someone on their deathbed, while they’re promising to always DVR Grey’s Anatomy for you. As Nielsen-Jone says, “In my experience, it’s rare that the vows are so different from each other, but when they are, I would say that half the time couples try to meet in the middle, and half the time they say, ‘Yep that’s our dynamic! let’s keep it that way!’ The aim of this is to avoid an unfortunate surprise during vows.”

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Create a Structure For Your Wedding Vows

Think together about how long you want your vows to be, and think about how you want them to fit into your ceremony. Having a structure will also help you keep your word limit and help your vows match your partner’s. Finding a structure that works for you may require some tracking down, but don’t be afraid to mix and match from lots of examples you find. And of course, look to your own story and build around that. Alexis Dent, who owns vow-writing company XO Juliet, says, “I always recommend including an anecdote or quote to start, at least one anecdote in the middle, and a clear declaration of vows towards the end.”

wedding couple standing on a hill

Research types of wedding vows

A good place to start is reading traditional vows. See what strikes a chord with you. You can even incorporate these into what you write, or use them as a jumping-off point. Secondly, steal ideas! Borrow freely from poetry, books, and even movies or video games. Jot down words and phrases that capture your feelings. The quotes you keep closest to your heart ring true for a reason. Use them. And if you’re someone who keeps a journal, go back and steal from your past self too. You’re not publishing a book or writing a college essay. Plagiarism is both allowed and encouraged (though as always: avoid cultural appropriation, which is a whole different thing). The truth is, most vows are plagiarism since we’re hoping to steal some wisdom from people that have gone before us, both in vows and in marriage.

Think About Your Relationship

Take some time, both separately and together, to think about what you love about each other and what makes your relationship special. Write down the most memorable moments you have shared together, good or bad. Think about the promises you want to make to your partner, and which ones you don’t. Alexis of XO Juliet says that “The best advice I would give to someone who is writing their wedding vows is to include the tough times in their relationship. It makes it much more meaningful to hear about the struggles the couple has endured. We all know that relationships are not all rainbows and butterflies, but people get so wrapped up into thinking that vows only have to be about the perfect times. Including an allusion to hard times makes your vows more relatable, and it also seems honest.”

Jackie Reinking, a wedding officiant specializing in elopements in New York City, says that if you get stuck, ask yourself some questions. “What is something your partner did for you that made you feel special? Is there something about your partner that you never want to live without? Think back on the first time you said, ‘I love you’. Why was that the moment you had to say it?” She advises that “After reading the question, take a mental note of the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t give yourself more than a couple of minutes to flip through your thoughts. This shouldn’t be something to add stress but an exercise in feeling the joy of how much you absolutely adore this person you are marrying.”

Edit for tone, and then shorten

It’s best to decide on your overall tone before you put pen to paper, but make sure to go back over your words and refine the tone you want to achieve. Poetic and romantic? Humorous but touching? It’s up to you. The most important thing is that your marriage vows ring true and sound like they’re from your heart. However, while your vows can be lighthearted, they should, in some way, acknowledge the seriousness of the commitment you’re about to make. Use humor in moderation, and remember, at the end of the day, making the audience laugh is not your goal. Keep in mind that your vows shouldn’t be so personal that they can’t be followed by anyone, so don’t make them overly cryptic or embarrassing. You’ve invited your family and friends to witness your vows in order to make your bond public, so think about your words from their point of view—your guests want to feel included in that moment, even if they’re not feeling exactly what you’re feeling. That means putting a soft limit on inside jokes, deeply personal anecdotes, obscure nicknames, or code words.

And then, shorten. Aim to have your vows last for about one minute or less per person. Believe me, it’s longer than it sounds. Get at the heart of what marrying this person means to you; pick the most important promises and make them well. If you have more to say, save the more personal thoughts and give your spouse a letter on the morning of the ceremony.

Bride and groom holding ice cream

Practice Your Wedding Vows

Memorization is optional, practicing is not.

Not only will practicing help with your delivery, but it’s also an important part of the editing process. Beth Stokes, a Humanist wedding officiant in Massachusetts and owner of Well Wed by Beth, says “My best advice for delivering vows is to practice. Especially practice saying the whole thing out loud. Send your partner out to dinner with friends while you walk around your place practicing. You’d be surprised how many words sound great on paper, but stiff and ungainly when spoken. Practice looking up while you read your vows, so you can actually look at your partner as you say the words. Beth advises that “Once you’ve got the right words for delivering your vows aloud, use different colored pens if you want to underline words for emphasis. Insert pauses that will allow you to look at your partner in those moments. You want to connect with your partner when saying your vows.”

It’s common to mumble or speak softly when reading, so practice your vows to make sure your family and friends will hear you. These are words that are meant to be heard by the assembled crowd, so check how they sound when spoken. Read your vows out loud to make sure they flow easily and watch out for tongue twisters and run-on sentences—both easy mistakes to make when you write marriage vows. And then, practice slowing down and speaking clearly. Beth notes that “unless you’re a professional speaker, you’re probably rushing through the reading. Aim for 150–170 words a minute. During the ceremony, see if you can pace your reading to a pretty relaxed inhale and exhale.”

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Then do what you want

At the end of the day, they’re your words. Do what you wantSeriously. Your vows don’t even have to sound or read like marriage vows; you could write an essay, a sonnet, or rap them if that’s what is going to mean the most to you. Vows should sound like you, especially when you’re making promises to your partner. On this day of all days, you shouldn’t sound like someone else, so write vows that matter to you and feel authentic. 

Couple kissing after saying wedding vows

THE BEST SAMPLE WEDDING VOWS TO STEAL (OR BE INSPIRED BY)

Now that you know how to write your vows, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite vows from APW couples, along with marriage vows from religions across the world, to get you started. And yes, we’ve added some real vows, written just for 2020. Let’s look at some of the best real wedding vows we’ve come across, plus a selection of beautiful traditional vows from world religions.

2020 Wedding Vows

I promise to love you every day of our lives; even in the event that a pandemic caused by a bat virus turns the world upside down and forces us to quarantine.

I promise to cherish you for eternity; even if we are putting together backyard furniture during said pandemic because we didn’t want to pay for assembly and this resulted in my nose being bruised.

I will do my best to never forget to order our groceries a few days before we are out, knowing that Instacart will repeatedly tell me “no delivery times available”, which will in turn cause us to mass panic.

I hope to be your constant strength, even when I am certain every single day that the tickle in my throat is not in fact allergies but The Virus and that causes mini (big) mental breakdown.

I promise to continue learning with you, like reading crisis news articles to you out loud every single day when you absolutely did not ask me to. You’re welcome.

Most importantly, I vow to be one of the first to hoard toilet paper, as to save us from having to worry about where we will get our next roll. (Also this is a joke please do not stockpile TP, for the love of all that is good). And with these promises, I know we can build a quarantine life that we are proud of. I love you. Wouldn’t want to be stuck inside with anyone else.

Kaila Strickland (pictured at the top of the post)

Romantic Real Wedding Vows

Alex, you are my best friend. I promise to laugh with you, cry with you, and grow with you. I will love you when we are together and when we are apart. I promise to support your dreams and to respect our differences and to love you and be by your side through all the days and nights of our lives.

* * * * *

I, Alex, choose you Sam to be no other than yourself. Loving what I know of you, trusting what things I will discover. I will respect you as a person, a partner, and an equal. There is little to say that you haven’t already heard, and little to give that is not already freely given. Before you asked me, I was yours and I am devoted to you in every way. I marry you with no hesitation or doubt, and my commitment to you is absolute. Do you take me to be your lawfully wedded husband/wife/partner?

* * * * *

I choose you. To stand by your side and sleep in your arms. To be joy to your heart and food for your soul. To learn with you and grow with you, even as time and life change us both. I promise to laugh with you in good times and struggle alongside you in bad times. I promise to respect you and cherish you as an individual, a partner, and an equal, knowing that we do not complete, but complement each other. May we have many adventures and grow old together.

* * * * *

I, Alex, do pledge you, Sam, my love, for as long as I live. What I possess in this world, I give to you. I will keep you and hold you, comfort, and tend you, protect you and shelter you, for all the days of my life.

Personal Vows

I love you unconditionally and without hesitation. I vow to love you, encourage you, trust you, and respect you. As a family, we will create a home filled with learning, laughter, and compassion. I promise to work with you to foster and cherish a relationship of equality knowing that together we will build a life far better than either of us could imagine alone. Today, I choose you to be my husband/wife/partner. I accept you as you are, and I offer myself in return. I will care for you, stand beside you, and share with you all of life’s adversities and all of its joys from this day forward, and all the days of my life.

* * * * *

Today, I promise you this: I will laugh with you in times of joy, and comfort you in times of sorrow. I will share in your dreams and support you as you strive to achieve your goals. I will listen to you with compassion and understanding, and speak to you with encouragement. Together, let us build a home filled with learning, laughter, and light, shared freely with all who may live there. Let us be partners, friends, and lovers, today and all of the days that follow.

* * * * *

I, Alex, take you, Sam, to be my husband/wife/partner. I promise to always be your biggest fan and your partner in crime. I promise to create and support a family with you, in a household filled with laughter, patience, understanding, and love. I vow not just to grow old together, but to grow together. I will love you faithfully through the difficult and the easy. What may come, I will always be there, each one believing that love never dies. As I have given you my hand to hold, so I give you my life to keep.

Modern Real MArriage Vows

I take you as you are, loving who you are now and who you are yet to become. I promise to listen to you and learn from you, to support you and accept your support. I will celebrate your triumphs and mourn your losses as though they were my own. I will love you and have faith in your love for me, through all our years and all that life may bring us.

* * * * *

Officiant: Do you, Sam, promise to be a loving friend and partner in marriage, to talk and to listen, to trust and to appreciate, to respect and to cherish Alex’s uniqueness? Do you promise to support, comfort, and strengthen him/her/them through life’s joys and sorrows? Do you promise to share hopes and dreams as you build your lives together, and to grow with Alex in mind? Will you strive to build a home that is compassionate to all, full of respect and honor, filled with peace, happiness, and love? Do you promise to always be open and honest with Alex, and cherish him/her/them for as long as you both shall live?

* * * * *

I, Sam, take you, Alex, to be the wife/husband/partner of my days, the companion of my house, the friend of my life. We shall bear together whatever trouble and sorrow life may lay upon us, and we shall share together whatever good and joyful things life may bring us. With these words and all the words of my heart, I marry you and bind my life to yours.

* * * * *

Today, surrounded by people who love us, I choose you, Alex, to be my partner. I am proud to be your wife/husband/partner and to join my life with yours. I vow to support you, push you, inspire you, and, above all, love you, for better or worse, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, as long as we both shall live.

* * * * *

I take you to be my spouse. I promise to choose you every day, to love you in word and deed, to do the hard work of making now into always. To laugh with you, cry with you, grow with you, and create with you. To honor the divinity in you, of you, and around you. To be your kin and your partner in all of life’s adventures. Loving what I know of you and trusting what I don’t yet know, I give you my hand. I give you my love. I give you myself. Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?

Indian wedding couple holding hands

More-traditional WEdding Vows

I, Sam, commit myself to you, Alex, as wife/husband/partner, to learn and grow with, to explore and adventure with, to respect you in everything as an equal partner, in the foreknowledge of joy and pain, strength and weariness, direction and doubt, for all the risings and settings of the sun. We tie these knots to symbolize our connection to one another. They represent our trust in each other and our combined strength together.

* * * * *

Today, surrounded by people who love us, I choose you, Alex, to be my partner. I am proud to be your wife/husband/partner and to join my life with yours. I vow to support you, push you, inspire you, and above all love you, for better or worse, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, as long as we both shall live

* * * * *

OFFICIANT: Do you, Sam and Alex, pledge to create a life of mutual respect, compassion, generosity, and patience toward each other as you grow together in years?
COUPLE: We do.
OFFICIANT: Do you pledge to recognize each other’s individuality and celebrate each other’s uniqueness as a strength in marriage? While at the same time, will you guard one another’s weaknesses with understanding, support, and inspiration?
COUPLE: We do.
OFFICIANT: And do you pledge to share the love you have for each other with all living beings? To be a couple that lets their marriage radiate into others, making their lives more beautiful because of it?
COUPLE: We do.
OFFICIANT: Sam and Alex, if you will face each other and repeat after me.
Sam: Alex, I give you my life. With all that I am and all that I have, I honor you.
Alex: Sam, I give you my life. With all that I am and all that I have, I honor you.

* * * * *

I, Sam, take you, Alex, to be the wife/husband/partner of my days, the companion of my house, the friend of my life. We shall bear together whatever trouble and sorrow life may lay upon us, and we shall share together whatever good and joyful things life may bring us. With these words and all the words of my heart, I marry you and bind my life to yours.

* * * * *

You have taught me that two people joined together with respect, trust, and open communication can be far stronger
and happier than each could ever be alone. You are the strength I didn’t know I needed and the joy that I didn’t know I lacked. Today, I choose to spend the rest of my life with you.

I promise to love you for who you are, and for who you are yet to become. I promise to be patient and to remember that all things between us are rooted in love. I promise to nurture your dreams and to help you reach them. I promise to share my whole heart with you and to remember to show you how deeply I care for you, no matter the challenges that may come our way. I promise to love you loyally and fiercely—as long as I shall live.

Do you take me to be your lawfully wedded husband/wife/partner?

* * * * *

I, Alex, do pledge you, Sam, my love, for as long as I live. What I possess in this world, I give to you. I will keep you and hold you, comfort, and tend you, protect you and shelter you, for all the days of my life.

 Have you written ‘rona wedding vows? If you have, please share! What were your wedding vows? What marriage vows have moved you the most? Share in the comments!

A Practical Wedding Planner

Parts of this post were excerpted from the #APWPlanner. For more useful advice like this, get your #APWPlanner at AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE, INDIEBOUND, or on ITUNES.

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