Writing your own wedding vows can be tremendously meaningful and can personalize your wedding ceremony in a way that nothing else can.
But actually writing them can be a daunting task.
Dr. Reece W. Manley, DD, M.Ed., Rev. has kindly shared his thoughts on how to accomplish this important task:
The vows at your Wedding or Holy Union are the single most important element of the ceremony. It is the point where all the crowd fades, the price of your dress doesn’t matter and the bubbles in the bottle all but come to a stop. The vows are the point where you are standing in the presence of God and the love of your life and you are making a promise to the other you will abide by for the rest of your life. That’s why it is so important to make vows personal, obtainable, enjoyable and, most importantly, memorable.
Rule Number One: Make vows personal. While traditional vows do contain very important components, they often miss the mark and bringing a sense of “belonging” to what you want to say to your beloved. Vows mean so much more when they belong to you and yours and not to 15,000,000 others who have repeated the same words. An easy way to begin to make vows personal is to add a line that refers to something unique to your relationship up to the point of the weddings. Whether it is the white rose he brought you on the first date or the mai-tai she spilled on your mother at the rehearsal dinner, something that makes the vow uniquely yours will mean a great deal for the moment they are spoken as well as the moments that follow for years to come. For example, “Ann, I promise to celebrate the graciousness you showed to me when you forgave me for forgetting our first week anniversary” or “Dewayne, I promise to show you the love as bright as the first star we saw together” will make them YOUR vows.
Rule Number Two: Make vows obtainable. This is important. You are making very serious promises here and you should only be making statements you mean and your other can rely on for the years to come. For example, I would never include “always obey” in vows because there will be times when to obey would be impossible, immoral, or in certain circumstances might even be illegal. Of course, you do not want to be so vague that you have given yourself a magical get-out-of-matrimony-free card. But, you have to make certain what you say is among the most sacred of promises you will ever make. For example, “I promise to always to take time to see your side of every situation” is more realistic than to swear before God you “will always believe everything you say.”
Rule Number Three: Make vows enjoyable! Of all the moments of the ceremony that are out of your control after the ceremony begins, you will still have total control of this one! So long as your pastor can lead you back and forth, or you can read aloud from your copy, you are going to be in control of this, so take heart and enjoy them! One of the ways you can make them enjoyable is to inject a little bit of humor into the vows. Yes, these are sacred words, but there is a reason the Fruits of the Spirit of the Christian faith include both Love and Joy! Don’t turn the vows into a comedy routine unless that is truly who you are, but do add at least a little bit of the unique humor you each hold. And, along with humor, add a at least one line in the vows with absolutely no other purpose than to bring joy to your other. Whether this is an inside joke or a favorite quote, the addition will go a long way toward making the vows stand out fifty years down the road long after everyone has forgotten whether they had beef or chicken.
Finally, Rule Number Four: Make your vows memorable. Not easy to memorize, but memorable as in easy to recall for the rest of your life. Think of the vows as a gift you are giving to each other, to God, to the friends and family gathered and to the world itself. Make it a gift that counts and a gift easily recalled when times are difficult. By making your vows memorable, you will be bringing joy to not only your beloved, but their family and friends and one day to your own children and the young ones God will bring into your life to touch and mold. What makes a vow memorable? A combination of genuineness, joy, honesty and individuality. Ask yourself three simple questions to test your vows. First, is this vow coming from deepest part of your heart and soul, filled with love for your other? If you find yourself wondering, answering no or just avoiding this issue, ask yourself what you are scared to put out in front of God and loved ones that you want to promise. Talk with your pastor, a therapist or a close friend whom you admire and explore what you fear. Next, does saying the words of this vow feel you with feelings of peace and joy or do you sound like a used car salesperson? If the latter, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Finally, ask yourself if these are vows you would find in the most romantic, most ideal love story you could ever imagine or event? The answer to this question needs to be yes, because you are right in the middle of such a story and these are the lines you deliver that will slay the dragon, kiss the frog and make your marriage as magical as anything on Earth can be.
Dr. Reece W. Manley, DD, M.Ed., Rev. is a fully licensed officiant in all 50 states and territories of the United States and often travels to perform ceremonies. For more information, write him at firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2009 Reece W. Manley.