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Writing your own vows is an incredible way to personalize your wedding ceremony. It's a chance to tell your story, give guests a peek into what makes your relationship tick, and to share meaningful, sweet words with the person you love. It can also be a pretty challenging task because it's so intimate — you're really baring your heart to your fiancé, and you're doing so in front of your family and friends. The hardest part? Getting started! Thankfully, JP Reynolds, M.Div., celebrity officiant (you might recognize the name from BRIDES Live Wedding), counselor, and author of Ever Thine, Ever Mine, Ever Ours: Choosing the Right Words for Your Vows, is an all-around ceremony expert, and has shared a few tips for putting together vows that are deep, poignant, and from the heart.
Write your vows down.
"Your wedding ceremony is an out-of-body experience," says Reynolds. "You'll barely remember it (and you'll be lucky if you remember your own name!), so make sure you've got your vows written down instead of trying to memorise them." You might want to make a few copies, giving one set to your officiant, one to the best man, and one to your wedding planner.
Don't try to say everything.
While it's understandable to try and fit everything you're feeling into your vows, says Reynolds, "it's impossible to fit every single emotion and memory into your vows." That is, of course, unless you want a ceremony that's hours long!
Keep them a secret before the ceremony.
"Your vows are a gift to one another, so don't share them ahead of time," Reynolds explains. "It really doesn't matter if one person's vows are longer than the other's. Let them be your words, and don't worry about whether or not they're perfect."
Listen to your heart.
Take a good amount of time to slow down, retreat into your heart, and really think about what you want to say. "Use your personal vows as an opportunity to remember why you're promising what you're promising to the person you're making these promises to in this crazy world of ours!" he adds.
Let the clichés flow.
Writing your vows isn't the time to worry about being corny or cheesy. "If the words are heartfelt, then they're not cheesy," says Reynolds. "I've never heard vows that made me roll my eyes!"
How to structure your vows:
While you don't need to write your vows together, setting up a structure will ensure that your vows follow a similar pattern, and are a similar length. Here is Reynolds' go-to format:
1. Begin with a memory, anecdote, or story of a moment in time when you realized that your partner was "The One."
2. Flowing from that memory, tell your partner what you appreciate, treasure, and value about them.
3. Next, express your gratitude for the gifts and memories they have given you.
4. State what you vow to do, and to be, for your partner.
5. Somewhere within those promises, be sure to say "I take you as my husband/wife" — that phrase is what turns your words of love into a vow.