Wedding vows aren't just pretty words—they're powerful language that legally binds you. In fact, you're married as soon as you speak them—even before being pronounced husband and wife. Personalizing your vows makes them all the more meaningful. A few ways to get started:
Don't cram every possible sentiment into your vows. Considering that your ceremony is likely to have all sorts of readings, blessings, and other spoken words, keep your vows simple.
Browse through books of quotations and poetry. If you have a favorite line from a movie or song that expresses your feelings, use it as a starting point.
Change the wording in traditional vows if you don't want to write all-new ones. Use a thesaurus to come up with variations. For instance, instead of love, honor, and obey, consider treasure, admire, and celebrate.
Do your own take on the questions of intent, usually answered by "I do." Rather than "Will you love and honor him? Comfort and cherish him, and forsaking all others, be faithful to him?", try "Will you promise to be honest in your relationship, and give him support and strength?"
Begin writing at least two months ahead. If you're writing your vows together, do it over a quiet dinner at home or a lazy Sunday brunch. Discuss your hopes for the future. Reminisce about your first date and when you realized you were in love. Write down actual phrases you use. Play with ideas and sentiments. If you're writing vows separately, pen love letters to each other. To start, complete these sentences: I am lucky to have met you because… What I wish is… I promise to…
Ask your officiant, friends, and relatives for examples of customized vows they've come across. Cut and paste what you like to create your own version.
Read your vows aloud, listening for awkward phrases or repeated thoughts or words. Give your officiant a copy ahead of time; it can be helpful to have another set of eyes review your writing.
Have a copy at the altar, even if you plan to memorize your vows. Nerves can ambush the best of intentions.
Include a declaration of love and an expression, for example, "I love you with a depth I cannot express in words, but one that fills me with peace and happiness. (Groom's name), in the presence of our family and for all the world to see, I choose to be your wife. May our bond grow stronger from this day forward."
Check out these sources:
This custom-design site creates art using your vows and is also a free source for love poems, pertinent quotes, and traditional religious vows from Buddhist to Quaker.
This Internet-based book offers a variety of vows that can be mixed and matched. Try downloading from, say, the Fairy-Tale Dream Vows, Lifetime Commitment Vows, and the You Complete Me section; $12.
The Create-a-Vow kit offers prewritten vows and materials for designing your own, plus decorative paper; $24.95.
Words for the Wedding, by Wendy Paris (Perigee, 2001) Stuck for a sentiment? This book offers hundreds of poems, quotes, and blessings to choose from.
Anatomy of I Do's
Include a declaration of love and an expression of promises for the future, and a line that says you are taking each other to be a spouse—the latter is what makes it legal. Close with optimism and strength. An example:
Declaration of love: "I love you with a depth I cannot express in words, but one that fills me with peace and happiness.
What makes it legal: "(Groom's name), in the presence of our family and for all the world to see, I choose to be your wife."
Hopes and closing: "May our bond grow stronger from this day forward."