From joyous tears shared during family dances to belly laughs echoed throughout toasts, weddings are filled with emotions. But for the couple, there’s one sentimental moment that stands out from the rest: the exchange of vows at the ceremony right before the marriage is made official.
Vows are an opportunity to express your love and respect for one another while teasing the bright future that lies ahead. And with family and friends watching, it becomes a special moment for all lucky enough to witness it.
While it’s easy to play Mad Libs with pre-written vows you find on Google, many couples choose to personalize their wedding vows as a way to communicate their one-of-a-kind love for a one-of-a-kind ceremony.
“Personalizing your vows infuses true emotion into the ceremony, brings the audience into your story, and gets them invested in the outcome,” explains Brian Franklin of Vows and Speeches. “It’s the only time of the wedding where you get to hear the couple talk about each other and their story, which many in the audience may not know well, if at all.”
If your wedding is nearing and you’re starting to plan the ceremony, follow these pro tips from industry experts to nail your vows in front of everyone.
Embrace the vulnerability
Wedding vows are meant to be personal, not perfect. So instead of getting stuck on word choice or sentence structure, let your heart do the talking.
“You don’t have to be a poet or a great writer or have to quote something romantic,” assures Jamie Chang of Mango Muse Events. “All you have to do is put how you feel into words. How that comes out, the words you choose, or even the format doesn’t matter. When your vows sound like you and come from the heart, that’s what makes it special and makes your ceremony one of a kind.”
Remember: You are saying “I do” to a future with someone who loves every part of you, including the stumbles and mispronunciations. Don’t let fear of judgment stand in the way of getting your point across.
As Jenna Porter of Jenna Noelle Creative notes, “it’s important to share from a vulnerable place and hold space for them to do the same not only so they are clear on why you are in this moment, making this promise, but so that in articulating these things to them, you may also find yourself renewed clarity for yourself.”
Marriage is a judgment-free zone, so let your wedding ceremony follow suit, and don’t hold back. Instead, have fun and be yourself!
Go for the smile
You understand your partner better than anyone else, so use that intimate knowledge to your advantage! You know precisely what makes them laugh and smile, so sprinkle your vows with sweet and silly nods to your relationship that will elicit their beautiful smile.
“This is one of the most joyous days of your life, so recite promises that will make you and your partner smile,” encourages Frank Guertler of Bunn DJ Company – Richmond VA.
Jen Sulak of Weirdo Weddings offers a great way to do so. “If you are a lover of movies, books, poetry, and music lyrics, I think it is super fun to include quotes that INSPIRE you and ignite your love for each other!” she notes. “There is something about HEARING words from your partner that light you up!”
Oh, and most importantly, “remember to say those three little but oh so important words, ‘I love you,’” Guertler advises. (You’d be surprised how often that gets left out of vows!)
Tell a story
While your guests will have a blast at the reception, the ceremony is why everyone is there celebrating your love. But, in many cases, guests may only know one side of your story (whether it’s yours or your partner’s). Sharing some background details about your relationship makes everyone a part of your story, which is the whole point of a wedding!
“If you don’t have an officiant doing a highly personalized ceremony that tells your story as a couple, your vows should spend a little time talking about how this relationship started and developed,” Franklin says. “Your audience will be much more invested in the celebration if they know how you got there.”
While you don’t have to reveal every last detail, a funny anecdote or sweet memory adds color and meaning to your vows by painting a picture for all of your guests.
Hint at the future
A wedding is just one day, but marriage is a lifetime. You and your partner surely share some ideas for what the future holds, and your wedding vows are the perfect opportunity to commit to forever and make promises to one another.
“Remember, vows are promises,” states Betsy Scott of Hudson Valley Weddings at The Hill. “So use meaningful examples to show how you will honor them.”
Peter Mitsaelides of Brooklake Country Club & Events elaborates, suggesting to “personalize your vows by expressing your hopes for the future and how you will build that future as a couple. Acknowledge that your marriage needs support from the family and friends that have gathered to be with you. And marriage, just like life, can be a bumpy ride. Reassure your partner that you’ll get through the challenges together.”
So whether it’s a cozy home filled with little ones or a lifetime of travel adventures, look at your ceremony as a chance to set intentions for your future together.
Make it your own
Personalizing your vows is all about making your wedding your own, but it goes beyond simply talking about your relationship and your hopes for the future. Instead, look past the surface level and express your love from the core.
“On your wedding day, your officiant will tell your love story, and friends will give you a toast,” explains Maureen Cotton, officiant and founder of the Mini Vow Writing Retreat. “They can talk about how your personalities beautifully complement each other; they can talk about changes they have seen and what they wish for you.
“But,” Cotton continues, “your vows are a chance to say something only you can and have it deeply received by your partner with the loving support of your community listening. This is the most important question to ask yourself: What is something that only I can say to my beloved?”
It doesn’t matter if what you have to say seems too silly or too deep. It doesn’t even matter whether your guests understand it. Stay true to your heart with your vows!
Ask for help
Writing and reciting wedding vows comes with undue pressure, especially when personalized with precious details from your love story. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it out alone!
“Ask your officiant ahead of time if they’re willing to help, and they might even be able to help you write them too!” says Julianne Smith of The Garter Girl. “Tell your officiant that you and your partner have written unique vows and you need their help on the wedding day. You can give your officiant unique lines for you each to repeat.”
Or, if you’re stuck with writer’s block, consider hiring a professional writer to help with your vows. “Although you think this portion needs to be 100% you, it will be you but just better,” promises Loren Petrowski of Marry You in Hawaii.
“I would communicate this idea with your partner to make you feel good about this decision,” Petrowski adds. “Or, especially if one of you is a writer, for example, that person may feel comfortable using someone for help so that you will not be overshadowed by their vows during the ceremony and can help to deliver your message more succinctly and eloquently.”
Working with a professional writer allows you to include all the sentiments, stories, and inside jokes you’d like, providing well-crafted vows without the pressure.
Practice makes perfect
While perfection is not the goal, a confident delivery is! Whether you write your vows or hire someone, it’s up to you to say them at the altar. Practicing helps you work through your speed and tone, so you can feel prepared and self-assured when the time comes.
“It is one thing to write them down, but totally another to say them out loud,” confirms Keith Willard of Keith Willard Events. “What seems to come across as amazing in our minds may not when done in the spoken word. So write them down, speak them out loud, and rewrite them.”
While it is certainly acceptable to use a printed copy or mobile device to read your vows, it’s still wise to practice beforehand and tweak them as needed.
The exchanging of vows marks the transition from fiancé(e)s to newlyweds, making your marriage official. If you want to celebrate this moment in your own way, work with your partner and officiant to personalize your vows for a one-of-a-kind ceremony.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.