How to write your own vows | 15 tips for writing vows from REAL celebrants!
So you’re getting married, everything is going so well, you’ve found your venue and you totally know which vendors you want to book! You’ve done your homework! No wonder you feel pumped, but there’s still a lurking fear in the back of your mind, right? The one that’s reminding you of the vows you still need to write, and speak in front of all your friends and family. Now, if that last bit isn’t your thing, maybe an elopement is a better idea for you, check out my 11 major benefits of eloping vs wedding. But if you do want that traditional wedding (no judgement, I love elopements and weddings alike), then you might need to learn how to write your own vows.
Now of course, you could outsource this, like paying someone to write your High School Shakespeare essay, but let’s be blunt here, that is a bullshit cop out. Your vows need to come from you, from your heart. They need to have your voice. So if you are wondering how to write wedding vows, how long wedding vows should be or even how many jokes you can squeeze into a wedding vow, this post has you covered.
How to write your own wedding vows
Writing wedding vows does not need to be intimidating. After you go through this list you will have a significantly better idea of how to write your own vows. If you still find yourself stuck, I will be linking to all the celebrants who contributed to this post, many of whom have tools for vow writing, so get in touch, who knows, they might be your celebrant! Anyways, let’s not f**k around any longer, I interviewed 6 of the best wedding celebrants in Newcastle to pick their brains and get their best advice that they give their couples in terms of how to write your own wedding vows. So let’s jump right in, 15 tips on how to write your own vows, from REAL wedding celebrants.
1. Think about your relationship
“Every Celebrant will tell you that vows can be anything you want them to be, and they can be! Fun, silly, romantic, bat shit crazy – as long as they’re a reflection of your relationship and come from the heart.”
Lauren from Hungry Hearts Co is a big believer in your wedding vows being a reflection of your personality, and your relationship. If you’re a couple of absolute weirdos, be weird, if you’re a couple of nerds, be nerdy, just be yourself and don’t try to be someone you are not. Remember, at the end of the day, your partner is marrying you, because they love you, so be true to yourself.
So how do you do that I hear you saying? Sounds easier said than done, right? Sit down, and have a think about your relationship. Who are you two? If you had to sum your relationship up in only a few short sentences, what would they be? Whatever you come up with, use that to help guide not only what you say, but how you say it. Your guests want to be brought into your relationship during your ceremony, and your vows are one of the easiest ways to do this. No need to go overboard (I’ll cover that shortly), but make it personal, make it a reflection of your actual relationship.
2. Agree on a tone
“There is nothing worse than when one partner’s vows are romantic, genuine and personal, and the other partner has decided to use this as an opportunity to test out their stand up comedy act…you need balance!”
Jeremy, from That Altar Guy absolutely nailed this. As a wedding photographer, I can back this up, it is so cringe when one partner is so clearly not on the same page as the other partner. Yes, be yourself, of course, but there is a limit. Vows are not really the time to be hilarious (save that for the wedding speech), sure get a couple of jokes or funny things in there to keep it light hearted, but it isn’t a stand up routine.
So, how to write your own vows in a way that avoids issues like this? Simple. Speak to your partner. Relationships are built on communication, well so are vows. Get an idea of where they are going with the vows. Are they trying to be funny, really personal with loads of inside jokes, or go with the standard copy and paste style traditional vows? Once you know which way they are going, it gives you much more confidence in knowing what you should write. This is certainly going to make for a more cohesive set of wedding vows come your wedding day.
3. Practice, bloody practice
“Practice! Please for the love of weddings everywhere, practice. And this means speaking it out loud. Saying the vows out loud makes them real, and allows you to actually hear them. Time yourself, and get used to saying the words, so on the day you can deliver them like an absolute legend.”
I couldn’t have said it better. Julie (from Julie Muir Celebrant) always makes a point of her couples practicing their vows countless times before the big show. When I spoke with Julie she suggested two main things; firstly make sure you actually speak out loud. “So many people just read in their head, and that doesn’t work, it just doesn’t”. Secondly, do it in front of a mirror if you can. Why? Well it really helps to be able to see how you look when you are speaking. Are you slouching, hunching, do you just look a bit weird? Work it out now, because on the day, you want to deliver the vows with absolute authority so you blow your guests, and most importantly your partner away!
Once you’ve done this a few times, “you will either be feelin it, or not feelin it…there is no right or wrong” according to Jaya Bargwanna. Only you know if the vows you have written have real meaning, and will actually make your partner tear up (that’s the goal by the way). So think, long and hard. You will only ever get one go at saying your wedding vows, so you want to make sure they are as close to perfect as a good slice of woodfire pizza.
4. Ask your celebrant for help
“Find someone (like your kick ass celebrant) that will be the sounding board for you both to make sure each set of vows are equally matched in terms of length and tone. This ensures you don’t outdo each other in the spotlight but it also means you’ll be way more relaxed delivering these in the moment knowing that they’re on par. So if you’re up shit creek with your vows, at least you’ll know your partner is too!”
Listen to Monty (yes there are two Monty’s in Newcastle and they are both absolutely amazing) from Holy Matrimonty, the man knows his stuff. I get this so often, people asking why celebrants charge so much money (pro tip, they don’t) for only 30 minutes work. Now I won’t go into all the stuff they do, but one important thing they can do for you is be a soundboard for your vows. Heck, they know how to write vows better than anyone. About a week or so out from the ceremony, you can send them in, and your epic celebrant will give you some feedback in regards to tone, length, vibe (without giving anything away). When I asked Julie about this, she said it was probably the most important aspect to vow writing, and one of the reasons she thinks her couples always have tear jerker wedding vows!
I can back this up personally. In my relationship, I am the joker and a bit wild, and my wife is a bit quieter and more reserved. Our celebrant knew this, so she made sure to go over our vows a week before the ceremony. Thankfully, she provided quality feedback and I was able to change my vows up to match my wifes (and trust me…not a dry eye in the house). If your celebrant offers their help, take it, this is part of what you’re paying them for.
5. Do your Research
“A bunch of celebrants will tell you not to use google for their vows. This is fine if the couple are super confident or they’re the reincarnation of Shakespeare, but some couples need a hand. Google that shit. I’m not advocating lifting whole slices of crap from the net though, and don’t google “wedding vows” because you’ll get 5 million pages of the same “love, honour and obey” waffle. Rather, think about something that’s meaningful to you and your partner and bang that in front of “wedding vows” when you search. No matter how whacky you think it is, someone else has already taken a swing.”
When I spoke to Monty King (yes, another Monty), this was one of the strongest points he made when thinking about how to write your own vows. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Any attempt to be completely original will probably fail, because someone has done it. Want to do do a Star Wars themed wedding vow? Been done. What about Simpsons based vows? Also been done. Is that a bad thing? Heck no! If it worked before, it will work again.
The only caveat Monty places on this (which Jaya and Lauren were really strong on too), is that if you do pinch some stuff from Google, make sure you put your own spin on it. Don’t copy and paste, take inspiration! After all, “If you can’t put into words how bloody special your other half is, then what the dickens are you doing getting married?”
6. Think about your promises
“Try to summarise your relationship in a few words. Jot them all down and pick 3-5. Use these words as a theme for each promise, which will relate to how you’re going to keep this marriage thing alive. For example, if you’ve scribbled down: fun, romantic, hilarious – you’re going to write a fun promise, a romantic promise and a hilarious promise. They don’t have to be anything other than relatable to your relationship!”
People really struggle with this bit according to Loz from Hungry Hearts Co. What do I promise to do? Should I be funny and promise to give my partner the last chicken nugget (yes, yes you should)? Or should I be serious and promise to love her until my dying breathe (also something you should do, but a bit morbid)? Well, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Remember, one of the most common tips on how to write wedding vows is make it personal. Think about your relationship. If you’re loving and romantic, make your promises loving and romantic. If you’re both silly and a bit weird, be silly and weird. Remember, you aren’t just saying random things, you are making promises that you should realistically be able to keep. A great suggestion from Holy Matrimonty is to think about what you are already doing for your partner, what promises you make to them on a daily basis, these will be the promises you should reconfirm because they are the promises you will likely be able to keep up forever.
7. Take them on a roller coaster
“Take them on a rollercoaster. I’m talking a little bit of humour, a little romance, a little truth, a little fiction, a nickname, a secret, a favourite moment and a big fat “I LOVE YOU”! This will be more memorable and meaningful than just reciting a list of unrealistic promises that everyone has heard a thousand times before.”
This should be a concept really familiar to you. This is how musicians write songs, how filmmakers direct movies, and how writers author books. There is no difference when thinking about how to write your own vows. To keep it simple, you start with something that packs emotional content. From there you drop it down a bit and mellow it out before coming back with something funny, or perhaps something really romantic. You keep going in this vain, like a rollercoaster. Take your audience on a ride says Holy Matrimonty. If you simply have all funny content, from start to finish, then the impact of your jokes will be lessened. If you go the really sappy and romantic route, from start to finish, then it’s hard to distinguish the really important promises. Instead, change it up, keep your audience guessing, so that way when you do drop a joke, or something really sweet and personal, it has the desired impact.
8. Don’t be embarrassing or inappropriate
“I highly recommend not saying anything negative about your partner – even as a joke. If this is your second or third marriage, for the love of Spiderman, don’t say something along the lines of “I reckon I’ll do better this time around, aye.” This is also probably not the place to make a joke about overhearing your partner on the toilet that one time. It’s your wedding day, make sure your marriage lasts longer than the reception.”
I cannot verify the importance of this point enough. As far as tips on how to write wedding vows go, this is a biggie. If you want to be embarrassing, or even hit up some inappropriate jokes (caveat, be careful when doing this), save it for the wedding speech when people are a bit more liquored up and will laugh at anything. As Jeremy says above, you can completely ruin the vibe of the ceremony with an ill placed joke. Trust me, I’ve seen it. I believe the line was “I promise to do you more than any of your exes ever did”. To say it made the crowd go flat is an understatement and the shots I got showed how embarrassed the bride was.
Now don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to be sappy and romantic with all those cliche lines you hear in the movies, remember, keep it personal. But know the limit. Again, go back to point 4, use your celebrant as a soundboard. If you are saying things that could kill the vibe, your celebrant will catch that before it ever becomes a reality.
9. Just start, don’t procrastinate
“DO NOT WING IT! Unprepared vows are a train wreck and your lover deserves more effort than this! So just get a start, don’t leave it to the morning of, or the hour before. If your partner is worth marrying in the first place, they are worth taking the time to write solid wedding vows. So just sit down, grab a drink, a pad and a pen, and start!”
Like all good (but difficult) things in life, the hardest part is starting. The common belief that, “i’ll just wing it’ is such a dangerous one. I think Monty (Holy Matrimonty Monty) sums it up nicely in saying that if your partner is worth doing all this in the first place, then they surely are worth the few hours it might take you to write 250 words.
If you sit down and find yourself stuck, first of all, figure out why you are stuck, what is it that is stopping you from being able to start? Try to think about why you are doing this, often getting clarification on your ‘why’ can help clear the writers block. Now make a plan, like an essay. Honestly, write your into, your 3-5 sentences (remember what Loz said about promises above), and then your conclusion. If you get hung up at any point, get up, go for a walk, grab a drink, pat your dog, wrestle with your neighbours cat if you need to, but do not give up. Get back to it and get it done!
Pro Tip from Jaya, “most of my clients, like me, get their best work done in the shower”, so strip off (or shower fully clothed you pervert), jump under that steamy stream of water and let the creative juices flow. Just make sure you actually remember it for when you get out.
10. Grab some help from your favourite drink
“Having trouble starting? Grab a seat, notepad in hand and some smooth tunes in the distance, wrap your lips around your favourite brew. Maybe it’s a margarita, maybe it’s whisky, maybe it’s a cup of milk, no judgement here, you weirdo, and just start. Let your liquid friends help move that pen, it works better than you think.”
Some of the best laid plans and speeches started with a good stiff drink. By the same token, some of the worst plans and speeches started the exact same way, so take this with a grain of salt, but according to Lauren, grabbing your favourite beverage can be the catalyst you need to start your wedding vows.
In fact, I can attest to this. When I began writing my vows, I had a serious block. I am not much of a writer (more of a talker), and nothing was coming out. For me, a trip to the cupboard, right to the back (that’s where the good stuff is) lead to me my fa ourite bottle of tequila. Now, I didn’t need half a bottle, but one glass to sip at was enough. Within 10 minutes I was writing, it was all coming out. I later sent that to my celebrant who helped me cut things out, cut things down, and generally polish it. Success, and all it took was a cheeky drink, no need to twist my arm.
11. Create a plan & structure
“Break it down into 3 sections – (1) what you love about each other, why you want to be married, what brought you here, (2) the vows, what you vow to do, or what you promise to do, normally around 5 things. Use your personality, be yourself, be genuine. Don’t be all of one thing, for example, romantic start to finish. Sandwich in there some humour, stories, something serious and finish off with something romantic, contrast is good, and (3) finish off with your hopes for the future, whatever they may be, wrapping it up with a bow and tell both your partner and guests what is coming next for you.”
Julie uses a really simple structure here, and to make things even easier, she has a download available to people who get in touch with her, which goes into even more detail on how to structure your wedding vows. Unfortunately, I see a lot of couples waffling during their wedding vows. They kind of jump from one thing to the next, without any real sense of connection. So think of a structure, think of what you want to deliver, and how you want to deliver it. Don’t start with your ultimate promises, because, where do you go from there? You want to build up to the final statements of the vows throughout the course of them.
When writing your wedding vows, the best way to do this, is to think about a structure on how to deliver them, like Julie says, start with something you love about each other, create a sense of love and feeling. Then go into your vows, remembering to keep them realistic. Don’t vow to give them a massage every night before bed if you don’t mean it. Finally, end with your hopes and dreams. Set a platform for the future of your family, and give your guests a glimpse into what life holds for you, this is the perfect way to end. Without a structure of this kind (it can be different to this, this is just an example), your vows will just waffle around, without any real impact, you don’t want that.
12. Write everything down, then condense
“Write it all down. Like a brain dump. Get everything out on paper, all your single words to sum up your relationship, all your promises, all your stories. Once they are out of your head and in front of you it becomes much easier to pick and choose what will make the cut. From here, condense it down to the 3-5 themes that will create your vows. A good length would be approximately 250 words as a minimum, but don’t go over A4 page territory.”
Solid advice Julie! No matter what you do in life, get things out of your head, and get them onto paper. Once you can objectively look at them, you can make decisions about them so much more easily. Musicians do this, writers do this, heck I do it with my photos! We create more than we need, so that we can then widdle it down to the absolute gold bits. So if you know you have a 250 word minimum and say a 400 word maximum, don’t aim for that, aim for 1,000 for example. Once you get that all out on the paper, cut back. Ask yourself, and be honest, “will this take my vows to the next level, or do I just like it?”. If it won’t take your vows to the next level, you might just be emotionally attached to it because you wrote it. Scrap it.
This is easier said than done, so if you’re struggling, do as I did above and ask your celebrant to be your sounding board, they will help you. Eventually you will be left with some wedding vows that capture your relationship perfectly and succinctly so your guests, and most importantly your partner will melt over every word you say.
13. Avoid Cliches
“In keeping with wanting to make things personal and relatable, please try and avoid cliches. The reason for this is, even though you mean what you’re saying, the use of cliches can often, unintentionally, cheapen what is being said. A cliche cannot be unique, and lacks the genuine tone you want wedding vows to have.”
I see it all too often. “I never knew what love was, until I found you”. Now, you might genuinely mean this, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you don’t. However, it doesn’t sound genuine, for the simple fact that people are so accustomed to hearing people say this. Every wedding, every anniversary, every romcom they have ever seen. So it seems so familiar, and it doesn’t pack the weight you might intend it too. So if you find yourself writing cliches, write them down. Then stop, and think of a different way to say it.
For example, you might want to write “love conquers all” in reference to perhaps some very difficult times you both endured to end up here. Instead, maybe say something like “No matter what difficulties we faced, or what obstacles life placed in our way, I always knew that the love we had for one another would be enough to get us here”. Now yes, this isn’t perfect, and it does rest on some common phrases. But as a whole, it comes together as a more genuine and emotionally heavy statement. As always, lean on your celebrant. They will help you with all things on how to write your own vows!
14. Read them to ONE person
“Not only do you need to practice your vows, but I highly recommend you read them to at least one person. This will help you get some feedback on the vibe and the jokes (if you use them), and whether they will work on your crowd and partner. It will also make you feel more confident. But remember, whoever you choose will have heard your vows, so either make it someone not coming to the wedding, or someone you are ok with hearing the vows before the big day.”
So you’ve used your celebrant as a sounding board, yes? And you’ve written a nice and concise set of vows, right? Perfect. So there is just one last step, and this is something that Jaya gets all her couples to do. Read your vows to someone else! Now, this is a touchy one, because you might not want to read them to your mum, or dad, or even your mates, because you want them to hear them for the first time at the wedding. You want them to feel the full force of the emotions you have packed into your vows.
So what do you do? Here is my two cents. Find someone you know and trust, but who may not be coming to your wedding. So for me, that was a friend of mine from the UK who could not afford to travel to my wedding. I had a skype call with him, read my vows, and got some feedback. Because he knew me and my partner he was able to give me a really good idea about how the vows would go on my friends and family, and of course, my now wife.
If you can’t do that, feel free to pick someone who will be at the wedding, but be aware that they will of course not have the same feeling on the day as they would have if they had never heard them. Either way, having someone close to you give you feedback will be priceless, and will bolster your confidence too!
15. Have fun with it!
“SMILE FFS! You’ve just married your best friend, and I can only imagine that’s a pretty crackin’ good feeling so bloody show it! Relax & enjoy this moment, take your time & know that once you mic drop, you’re literally only minutes away from hitting the bar with your favourite people. YEWWWWW!”
Honestly, at the end of the day this is supposed to be the happiest day of your life. Do not let the vows get you nervous or worried! Like Monty says above, just smile! Seriously, look at your partner, look into their eyes. Try not to stare at your palm cards while shaking profusely. Remember, everyone in the crowd is there to celebrate your love, they are your closest family and friends so you know none of them are going to rag on you if you accidentally stumble or say the wrong word (just don’t say the wrong name…don’t be Ross from friends).
Just remember, you are only moments away from marrying the love of your life, so have fun with it, smile, enjoy yourself, and then you can hit the bar with your nearest and dearest.
Here are a few wedding vow examples I was lucky enough to be given permission to use:
“So you need a lot of things to get across the universe. A warp drive, wormhole refractors. Even a tardis. But the thing you need most is a hand to hold. And yours is the hand I choose to hold for the rest of time and space.
You’re the Amy to my Rory.
The Rose Tyler to my 10th Doctor.
The River Song to my 11th Doctor.
The Bad Wolf to my Oncoming Storm.
I promise to never be cruel or cowardly. Never give up. Never give in.
Because life is short, and you’re hot.
You, me. All of time and space.
Watch us run.”
– Monty King (yes the celebrant)
“I promise to love and cherish you as much as I do our fur baby. From this day on, I will lint roll the chairs whenever we have guests so we don’t look like a couple of degenerates. I will love you in sickness and in health, as long as you take care of the vet visits because they upset me. I promise to cuddle with you as much as I do the dogs and pick up treats for you whenever he gets some, too.” – Anonymous
“I just want your company, that’s it. Just your company and your support—your undying support. Oh, and for you to forswear all others besides me—just all those things. Oh, and your kidneys—can you give me a kidney? Just one—and oh, your whole life—everything in your whole life—so I guess that includes your other kidney and your internal organs and soul and such. So that’s all I want. Just that. Think you can handle that?”
For more amazing real wedding vows examples, follow this link to check out Julie Muirs samples page. On this page she has hundreds of real vows her clients have shared with her to share with you. You will find all kinds of inspiration here, enjoy!
On average a good minimum length is about 250 words, but do not go over 450 words (or about the length of an A4 page. Once you go this long it’s become more of a wedding speech than wedding vows.
It’s hard to say. On the one hand, only you can write genuine vows from your heart, if someone writes them for you, even with your input, the words won’t be from your heart. On the other hand, if writing really gives you anxiety and you simply do not think you can do it, hire someone to write for you, I suggest your celebrant as they will at least know you and your partner.
The simple answer is something you actually know you can commit too. Don’t commit to buy your partner a Ferrari every birthday if you know that isn’t possible. Simple promises, things you are already doing work well. Remember, if you aren’t already doing these promises before being married, you probably won’t start after, so look at your relationship and see what you are already doing, and promise to continue doing that forever, your partner obviously loves it or they wouldn’t be marrying you.
There is no simple answer here. But a fun way to determine it is to play scissors paper rock in front of your guests. It will add a bit of light hearted fun and humour into your ceremony, and will mean there is no bias in choosing who goes first.