I’m pretty sure you’re super pumped up for your wedding, getting ready to marry the love of life. You grab your pen and paper, huddle at your glitter-and-ribbon covered desk, and get your brain geared up to write the best wedding vows the world has ever seen (and thank the Lord when the critics start singing praises about how it’s SO much more romantic than When Harry Met Sally and The Notebook combined).
But your brain shuts down before the ink even touches your paper. You bite nervously at the end of your pen thinking, What if my vows are just plain gawdawful… or even worse, lame? You begin to have a minor freak-out before abandoning your efforts in favor of a delicious slice of Nutella-slathered cake.
I get it. Writing your vows can be intimidating and scary. After all, how the hell do you fit in all you love about your future spouse in the span of a few minutes??? And to do it in a tastefully, witty, and original manner? Defeating Voldemort or preventing the Red Wedding seems to pale in difficulty compared to writing your wedding vows.
First step is, don’t worry. You will be fine. You can do this. YOU CAN DO THIS!!!
And onto the next step.
DON’T Approach Your Vows Like Mad Libs
There is a boat load of templates for your vows out there, and it’s super easy to pick one really fancy-sounding template out and plunk in the words as needed. While I am of the opinion that you can certainly use templates and modify them to suit your own needs, there’s something that rings just a little lazy when you’re trying to play pick-and-choose with a word bank. Rather than consulting a thesaurus when finding a synonym for “generous” (EDIT: I just looked “generous” up in the thesaurus. There’s “magnanimous”, “munificent”, and “prodigal”… stick with the words you use in everyday conversation.), take a look at the template and the elements you liked about it, and try to write them in a way that sounds most natural to you.
Keep it Simple and Sweet
Like every good essay/book/type-of-prose, a good piece of writing should have the hook, line, and sinker.
The hook is what gets the ball rolling, that indicates to your audience and spouse what direction you’re going with your vows. Think of it as your “thesis” and transition from this to the next part.
e.g. I give myself to you as your wife/husband, although, to be honest,
I have always been yours from the moment we first met.
The line is EVERYTHING you love about your spouse, from his/her obsession with peanut butter, his/her quirky habits, his/her mole-slash-beauty-mark right in betwee- okay, you don’t have to go THAT far. Additionally, it is also what you vow you will do for your spouse. But this is the meat of your vows, and you want to dedicate a good amount of time and effort to showing the world how really damn lucky you are to be marrying the person of your dreams. Just think back to the first moment you realized you loved your future spouse. Hopefully it makes for a good anecdote. It doesn’t? Then think of all the special things about this person that makes you realize you can’t conceive spending the rest of your life without this person in your life.
e.g. The first time I saw you, you were wearing this amazing leather jacket.
You told me you thrifted it at a flea market in Italy one summer day,
wearing it as a badge of pride in that shimmering heat.
You looked so cool, I was afraid to approach you for a moment. I decided
to take a leap of faith and introduce myself, thinking I had nothing to lose.
And what a leap that was, to see you in all your
beauty — the way you laugh at puns no matter what, how you furrow
your eyebrows when you give it your all, etc. etc.
Then you write about what you will do for your spouse:
e.g. I will be your biggest fan, cheering you on as you sing in the car and rap in the shower.
I will be your stylist, staying up into the night debating your sartorial choices.
I will laugh at your defiant bang and smooth it down with the rest of your hair.
I will always let you have the last bite of pork belly and give you those
face massages you always seem to like so much.
I will secretly check the seams of your clothes and fix any rips or tears.
The sinker is what’s going to really knock the dams down. Hopefully by this point, your audience members are sniffling and blubbering, and the sinker is what you need to really get the waterworks going. The sinker should be a statement that suggests both a sense of closure and new beginnings.
e.g. I will fall asleep by your side and wake up by your side,
thinking nothing is quite as beautiful as the sunrise.
How will I capture this moment? With a memory? A photo?
But then I see you smile in your sleep,
and I write this for you instead.
I didn’t mention “short” because sometimes people perceive “short” as three sentences. Three sentences and a weird sound effect if you’re lucky.
Speaking of short…
Keep an Eye on the Clock!
Because nothing is more awkward than knowing you’ve finished too fast or gone on too long. And while some people are great it, winging it probably isn’t a desirable option for something as important as this.
The time that you probably want to shoot for is approximately around 1~2 minutes. You might think that’s really short, but I’ve learned a thing or two in Speech & Debate. Ten minutes can seem like FOREVER from the perspective of the audience member, and ten minutes can seem like hell for the speaker thanks to cotton mouth.
Hence, my rule of thumb. If you’re on a word doc, your vows should only be as long as half the page, single-spaced or around 200-300 words. It might not seem a lot, but think of it as an exercise to make every word really count. You’ll have to pare and revise your sentences like no other (from experience, it’s a lot easier to write more than to write less), but your throat will thank you for it at the end of the ceremony.
Rehearse Like It’s the Opera!
Okay, probably not, but practice makes perfect and the way that you speak is definitely not the way that you write.
Be sure to speak slowly so you don’t trip over your words. Practice in front of the mirror so that way you know when to make eye contact. Time yourself so that way you know if you’re going at the right tempo. Straighten your back and speak from your stomach/diaphragm, so you’re able to project your voice clearly.
Although this sounds pretty extraneous, the practice will give you confidence (especially for those who aren’t all that hot about speaking in front of a large crowd).
Remember, It’s About You & Your Spouse
Just forget the whole wedding craze and festivities and stress for a moment. Remember that the reason why you’re throwing this whole she-bang in the first place is to make a lifelong commitment to the love of your life. It’s honestly the little details that your fiancee will appreciate the most (most likely because your fiancee will be surprised you pay that much attention about things he/she doesn’t even notice). If you’re having writer’s block or are afraid that you’re going to cry and be all mushy when writing your vows, just take a break and shoot your fiancee with a Nerf gun or something. Hopefully that’ll give you both a good laugh, and you’ll feel inspired to give your wedding vows a go again.