Photo: Allyson Magda Photography
Declaring your promises for the future to the one you love the most could be the sweetest moment of your wedding ceremony. But writing your own vows is one thing. Saying them in front of your loved ones is entirely different — and might be enough to provoke cold feet. So we turned to Stevi Hanson, a wedding officiant in Sonoma, California, for tips on how to recite your personalized vows without a hitch. She recently performed five ceremonies in one week, so trust — she knows her stuff.
1. Be real.
The words you land on hint at the life you'll create together. As you're reading your vows, don't be afraid to be yourself and let your relationship shine through, even if it departs from what you've written down. "Things like letting your partner hold the remote once in a while or promising a date night once a week or even promising to put the toilet seat down" are all fair game, Hanson says.
2. Take the time to write down your vows.
Like really write them. "Don't put your vows on your phone and then read them off your phone," Hanson says. "This makes it look like you are reading them off a website or a text — plus it makes the pictures look ridiculous." Turn your vows into a keepsake by writing them in a small notebook, like one from Field Notes.
3. You don't have to say them in front of everyone.
Not a fan of public speaking? That's OK. If practicing until it's perfect will still make you overwhelmingly stressed on the big day, find an alternate way to share your promises for the future. "If couples really don't want to say them in front of an audience, I suggest they say personal vows to one another earlier in the day, write them in a note, or ask if they could speak them quietly to one another during the ceremony rather than booming on a microphone," Hanson says.
4. Look at your fiancé.
As beautiful as your handwriting in that notebook may be, eye contact with your partner should be the goal. "You are making a vow to them, and they should feel it, not just look at you looking at a piece of paper," Hanson says.
5. It's OK to be emotional.
That intimate eye contact could make you choke up, but don't fight it. "I say bring on the tears!" Hanson says. Reciting your vows is a huge moment, and everyone will understand if you need to take your time. Deep breaths and an officiant who makes you feel comfortable and encourages you along the way will help you break through the tears and say what you need to say.