In wedding ceremonies conducted by non-religious marriage celebrants you have to take your vows “I take you blah to be my lawfully wedded wife/husband”. Those words are legally required for you to actually get married. But if looking into each other’s eyes and saying the robotic phrase that everyone who gets married says doesn’t feel right to you, adding in what’s known as personal wedding vows will stir up those romantic feels.
Within the ceremony, I put personal wedding vows after the legally required vows. That way there’s no awkward back and forth of the microphone, it all comes out as one meaningful statement.
What are personal vows? Personal wedding vows are an opportunity to express your relationship, your love, your connection, your future dreams, your view of married life and your promises as a spouse. Really, they can express whatever you think is important as you take the vow to be married.
Now that I’ve put the whole personal vow thing on the table, I get it might sound a bit daunting! I mean, say whatever you think is important, can lead to wondering BUT WHERE DO I START?!
Some people start thinking about what they’d like to say since the day they became engaged. I'm guessing, you're not that person. Therefore, some hints might be handy. Here’s my foolproof guide to writing your personal vows - in 7 steps!
There’s no need to write a novel. 200 words is enough to express how much someone means to you. If you have a huge list of things to say, think about what might be better saved for the reception speech, a future Valentine’s Day card or spur of the moment text message. Choose the things that most make you want to marry this person. The qualities about you and them that will inform what married life will be like.
“You are the wind beneath my wings. With you I feel like I can fly higher than an eagle.” Nope, nope, NO!!!! What you just read is fluff. Cotton candy, sugar coated fluff!
Your personal vows need to be fluff-free and that means getting personal.
Highlight the things about your lover which really tick your boxes. What makes them unlike any other person? In the times when you are angry with them, what draws you back in? To do this you might need to think about the dynamics of your relationship. The things you rely on as a couple to keep you moving forward. Make a list of personal things about your relationship, especially personal things that perhaps people on the outer don’t know or realise. Circle 3-5 and write your personal vows around them.
This is an old trick but a good one. Instead of talking at surface level, be specific and detailed in what you say.
For example, you want to mention how you love cooking together:
DON’T SAY: I love cooking with you and sharing a meal together.
DO SAY: I love that when we cook, I’m your sous chef. I chop ingredients, while you master the flavours.
This tactic works for personal attributes, values and personality quirks. How will you know if you’re being specific enough? You will create a picture in your mind through your words.
Obviously getting all lovey dovey in front of other people can be a little awkward. Many people will naturally fall back on comedy as a comfort zone. There is nothing wrong with adding a little comedy into your personal vows, however, know your audience! And by audience I mean the person you are marrying!!!
Personal vows are not the time to test out new material for open mic night. It’s not cool to throw in jokes about ex-boyfriends, a big gut or bad music taste if your guests will be laughing but your fiancé will be fuming.
A nice way to do it can be to link to something shared – movie, song, pet hate or pet for that matter! Again, think of something personal. Things that are light-hearted, that you’ve both laughed at from time to time.
To get technical for a second, vow means promise. This is not a speech but pledge. Make sure you haven’t got too caught up in the personal qualities that you have forgotten to spin in some actual vows.
To keep it simple, let’s circle back to the methodology mentioned before in Get personal. “Circle 3-5 personal things about your relationship and write your personal vows around them.”
Say you’ve circled the following:
“I trust her.”
How can we make that quality a promise or vow, especially on your part?
“I trust her.” - What does that mean? Can you think of a simple example of showing trust in your day-to-day life? Maybe it’s so subtle you haven’t realised it’s a show of trust between the two of you? Maybe it’s even something that gets on your nerves?
Let’s also bring in the other principle of “Be specific” and the memo around using comedy – know your fiancé!
Example: “I trust you with everything. I promise to keep my faith in you and your good judgement. So much so, I’ll keep asking you to choose my outfits until death do us part. I know it drives you nuts that I can’t dress myself, but believe me, you have better style than I could ever hope to have. If we left it to me, I’d wear my basketball shorts to dinner with our friends.”
And see how suddenly we have a picture of them in basketball shorts at dinner? For sure, this has pre-empted a “YESSS!” from their intended. Some light-hearted banter or heckling during vows is a big tick in my books!
I promised this would be a foolproof guide and it wouldn’t be without giving you the structure or format to put these ideas into ready to roll personal vows.
[Acknowledge] "Name/Nickname/Pet name"
[Personal quality] "You are …"
[Circumstance] "Like when …"
[Personal quality] "With you I …"
[Promises] "I promise to …" (Aim for 3 promises minimum)
[Personal quality] "Together we …"
[Finisher] A closing statement i.e. "I am so happy to call you my husband/wife/spouse."
Following this structure and shooting for 200 words will make your vows meaningful without being over the top.
If you’ve got this far and still have no idea what you’ll write about. Here are some questions to get your thoughts started. Of course, you can also fill in my Couples Questionnaire, but here are some more for bonus points.
With all this in mind, hopefully you’re ready to start writing your personal vows. Hopefully this guide will give you enough ammunition to come up with something original and accurately you. But if you’re still uninspired, Google might help get you started but do not quote word for word!
And if you’re really struggling, give me a call or shoot me an email. I’m happy to help put your thoughts and feeling into words. It’s important we get this right! Happy writing lovers!