Writing your own wedding vows will almost always garner tears from both the nearly-wedded couple and those celebrating with them, so it's no surprise that more and more brides and grooms are straying away from traditional vows, and opting for more modern, personalized wedding vows. Another benefit of penning your own promises? In lieu of conventional wedding vows, you can write feminist wedding vows that show that you and your partner are truly equal. This is the perfect moment to share your own ideals and values, both as individuals and as a unit, for the life you hope to build together on your own terms.
In 1981, Princess Diana made headlines when she chose not to include the word "obey" in her vows to Prince Charles. Instead, she promised to "love him, comfort him, honor, and keep him, in sickness and in health," giving way to an ongoing, international discussion about the language used during a wedding ceremony. Feminist brides rejoiced, and the modernization of traditional nuptial proceedings was officially set in motion. In 2011, Kate Middleton took the same approach when she married the late royal's son, Prince William. And of course, Meghan Markle followed suit when she married Prince Harry on May 19, 2018, also opting to omit the word "obey."
But several decades after Princess Diana's royal wedding, modern-day brides are still poring over how to write wedding vows that are rooted in both reflection and equality. Read on for some guidance on how to successfully organize your thoughts and create vows that are undeniably true to you.
Wedding Vow Template
While some couples opt to write their own vows to ensure a well-balanced exchange, others choose to revise the familiar, giving new meaning to the age-old phrase "to love, honor, and obey." Ultimately, there are six simple facets that should be present in all vows and embody the life you hope to create together.
1. Tell your partner how much they mean to you. Because if not now, when? It's important to start your vows, and your marriage, with a few simple words that let your partner know how grateful you are for having them in your life and just how much you care about them. A simple "I love you," goes a long way here and can even help diffuse some of those jitters.
2. Acknowledge that there will be ups and downs. There's a reason why a version of "in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer" is a staple in most traditional vows regardless of culture or religion. While you don't have to include those exact words, touching on the fact that you're aware there will be highs and lows ahead of you shows that you've really thought your marriage through and are in it for the long haul. You can even include examples of previous obstacles you've overcome on your journey to where you stand now and how those trials have better prepared you for the road ahead.
3. Personalize them. Make your vows unique to you and your spouse-to-be, not what you think everyone will want to hear. Remember: this is your ceremony and should reflect on what marriage means to you. This also makes things far more interesting for your guests. No one wants a cookie-cutter vow exchange (you wouldn't be reading this article if you did), so don't be afraid to inject some personal quirks, examples, and personality into your words.
4. Give your partner a shout-out. We've already mentioned tailoring your vows to who you and your intended are as a couple, but let's not forget the reasons you are marrying this person to begin with—as a single entity. There are so many qualities that made this human stand out to you and allowed them to embed themselves deeply into your heart. Share some of them out loud so that your guests can see them through your eyes for just a moment.
5. Make promises. This may seem obvious, but some exchanges just end up being long-winded love notes between partners. Save that for a personal moment between just the two of you. During the ceremony, be sure to include some promises (these are your vows, after all) that you intend to keep throughout your marriage.
6. Accept that you will need outside support. It can be sweet to acknowledge that every strong marriage needs some external support to get through those highs and lows we mentioned before. Whether you seek out religion, a therapist, or the very friends and family that are present on your wedding day, humbly acknowledge that you may need some help every now and then.
Wedding Vow Tips
While balancing feminist ideals and gender equality throughout your vows can be a difficult act, several real brides and grooms share the tips that helped them find the perfect words for their special days.
1. Each partner writes their own vows. "We wanted there to be balance in the opening lines; we didn't want [our vows] to be identical because we're different people working on different things, but we wanted to make sure each person's promise was met with a similar one," explains Chloe Pinkerton. This is where having a discussion with your partner about your expectations for the individual vows can go a long way in keeping you both on the same page.
2. Be mindful of language. "The word 'partner' (rather than 'husband,' 'wife,' or 'spouse') was important to us because it involves the idea of equality and doesn't have any of the possession connotations that some of the other partnership words involve. We also wanted to steer clear of the idea that men and women have defined, gendered roles in a relationship," says Pinkerton. The couple also chose not to use some of the more common phrases, like "to have and to hold" and to "take [your partner]" because, as Pinkerton explained, "the language felt very ownership-centric, and as a result, dehumanizing."
3. Revise traditional vows to fit your beliefs. Injecting your own personal values and perspective into a conventional cultural or religious vow structure can be a great alternative if having both aspects is important to you. "Our attitude was kind of: 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it,'" Peter Rocco explains. "I think the traditional vows end up capturing most of what people try to say when they write their own anyway—with some minor tweaks in our case." He and his now-wife, Marie-Ellen Ehounou, modified the pre-existing vows so that "honor and obey" would be excluded. Despite using traditional vows as guidelines, the couple did make it clear they were entering an "equal loving partnership." "I felt pretty strongly that it was important to have something about partnership even if we didn't call each other partners," Ehounou says.
3. Consider your choice in officiant. When writing her vows, Abigail Myers says she "didn't have to think too hard about shedding the patriarchal elements of a traditional Christian wedding because our church is famously, wildly progressive, and our (female) pastor is a fierce feminist, so we trusted her implicitly and absolutely to use egalitarian wording." Finding an officiant who shares your ideals and beliefs can be an important factor in successfully executing your dream nuptial ceremony.
Answer These Questions to Get Started
Creating your own feminist wedding vows is all about highlighting the equality and balance in your relationship with your significant other, and establishing a framework of sorts for the new life you're forging together. But it is important that your vow exchange is just that: balanced. Have a conversation with your partner before you each write your vows to share your expectations with one another and come to an agreement about what those vows will sound like. You can still keep your sentiments a secret from each other until the big day, just make sure you're both generally on the same page regarding the following questions:
- How long do you want to be speaking for?
- Do you want your promises to be serious or funny?
- Are there any shared values or a common outlook that you both want to include?
- Are there any particular phrases (religious, cultural, literary, etc.) that you want to be incorporated into the vows?
- Do you want the vows to be super-personal, with shared experiences and inside jokes, or stick to a more general and generic structure?"
Wedding Vow Examples to Inspire Your Own
"I promise to love and support you as you continue to grow and learn. I promise to make time to play your favorite games and mine.
I promise to try to make the world a better place with you.
I promise to laugh with you and cry with you through good times and bad. Most of all, I promise to be your equal partner forever." —Chloe Pinkerton & Ross Kennedy-Shaffer
"I promise to support your ambitions and dreams.
I will comfort you when you can't be strong, and I will lean on you when you can.
And, most simply of all...I will love you." —Fiona Tapp
Need more inspo before getting your own vows down on paper? Check out some additional creative examples from real brides to help you brainstorm your very own expression of love.