It's only the biggest day of your life and you've got one chance to get your wedding vows right. No pressure, huh? Whether you're writing your own or going the traditional route, take our word for it: you'll want to be as prepared as possible. And no, that doesn't just mean practicing them out loud. From what you say to exactly how you say it, here are nine common wedding vow mistakes all couples should avoid making.
1. Going On and On (and On and On)
Keep it short and sweet, recommends Dezhda "Dee" Gaubert, owner of No Worries Event Planning. "Only talk about one thing you love the most about your partner, one personality trait you like best or one example of his commitment to you, not two, three, four or five. There is more emotional impact and power with brevity." Plus, your guests will start to lose interest fast once you get beyond the 200-300 word range.
2. Getting Too Personal
TMI! Some couples write what is essentially a love letter to each other and not ceremony vows, explains ordained officiant Bethel L. Nathan. "They forget how emotional they might be in the moment so it can be tough to read out loud, not to mention awkward standing there reciting something so personal in front of a big audience." Lauren Chitwood, owner and founder of Lauren Chitwood Events, agrees. "When writing your wedding vows, remember that your intent is to make the commitment of marriage in front of witnesses," she says. For this reason, it's wise to avoid sharing things that would make you so emotional you can't regain your composure or cracking inside jokes guests won't get.
3. Waiting Until the Day Before to Write Them
Time is winding down and you still haven't written your vows...oops! This mistake is all too common, according to Nathan. His recommendation? Write them two weeks out. "It's close enough to the wedding day for the sentiments to be what you want to express, but far enough out to actually get done and be able to be focused."
4. A Lack of Consistency in Length
Nothing is more awkward than the bride or groom keeping things short and sweet while the other gives a lengthy speech, says wedding planner Marilisa Schachinger, event planner. "Simply discuss a general timeframe together, like 1-2 minutes, beforehand so that you both share for an equal amount of time, allowing that portion of the ceremony to flow smoothly."
5. Not Using a Microphone
Especially if you're having a big wedding. And even if you do have one on hand, oftentimes the couple forgets to speak into the microphone when reciting their vows so no one can actually hear what's being said, notes wedding planner Leah Weinberg, owner of Color Pop Events. Simple solution: Practice your vows with a microphone so it's second nature.
6. Wanting to Speak From the Heart...On the Spot
Whatever you do, please don't try to memorize your vows or simply speak from the heart when the time comes (and if your spouse-to-be thinks this is a good idea, make sure he reads this.). It never goes well, warns Nathan. "With all of the emotions and nerves and excitement running through you the day-of and in that moment, most of the words disappear from memory and rarely is this ever smooth or well done." His advice? Take the time to write your vows ahead of time and put pen to paper, even if it is just as a backup.
7. Misplacing Your Vows
It happens more than you think. This is why it's always best to have at least a couple of copies on hand the day of. Houston wedding planner Chelsea Roy of Everything But The Ring suggests giving one copy to your planner or officiant the night before during rehearsal and another to the maid of honor, who can curl it up in her hand with her bouquet and hold it until the time comes, or the best man, who can stick it in his suit pocket for safekeeping. "Give them back to these people or to your officiant after you've read them, and be sure they get to a safe place to be saved as a keepsake."
8. Forgetting the Tissues
Better to be safe than sorry, right? "I've had brides give these to their maid of honor or a family member in the front row and they've come incredibly handy," says Gaubert. You can also have your partner put a hanky in their pocket for you just in case.
9. Not Making Eye Contact With Your Partner
One of the most common vow mistakes Becki Smith of Smith House Photography sees as a wedding photographer is the couple telling their vows to the officiant rather than to each other. "This is especially common when brides and grooms are reciting traditional vows where they repeat after the officiant," she tells us. An easy fix for this, according to her, is to simply ask your officiant to remind you before vows start to join hands and look at each other.