Words by Maggie Downs
When writing your own vows, it’s important to speak from the heart—and be on the same page.
Congratulations! Somehow in this wide and magnificent universe filled with billions of people, you and your partner managed to find each other, fall in love and merge your separate narratives into one. And now you’ve decided to condense all those mighty hopes, wild dreams and boundless emotions into your own original wedding vows.
Wow, good luck with that.
Actually, writing your own vows doesn’t need to be stressful, says Diane Smith-Hoban, executive director and officiant for Journeys of the Heart, a nondenominational ceremonial ministry that serves greater Philadelphia and beyond.
She recommends that couples pick a night, go out to dinner and have what she calls a “vows writing summit.”
“Have the conversation together about the essence of what you want out of your marriage, then go into separate corners and write the vows,” Smith-Hoban says. “That way you’ll be in a similar mindset when writing. You’re not coming to it from different places.”
The purpose of the summit is to determine exactly why you’re doing this whole thing. It also helps create a blueprint for married life.
“A lot of times people will say sweet, loving things to each other, like ‘I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you’ and ‘you make life worth living,’ but those aren’t vows. Vows are promises. What are you promising each other?” she says.
Promises can be things like: I promise to provide comfort and peace in our home, I promise to be true to you, I promise to encourage you to achieve your goals, I promise to listen.
Keep the writing authentic to who you are. That means the vows don’t have to be traditional—they can be offbeat and fun. So include a little levity, if that’s who you are. But don’t diminish the seriousness of this union. You’re choosing someone forever, and that’s a big deal.
Also don’t be afraid to use other vows for inspiration. Looking at templates online can be a great way to inspire your own vows, Smith-Hoban says.
“There’s been a real evolution in ceremonies, and there are so many resources for people who want something different,” she says.
Keep in mind there is more room to be irreverent and showcase your personality during the rest of the ceremony, according to Smith-Hoban.
“Other parts of the ceremony offer lots of space for creativity,” she says. “There’s the opportunity for telling their love story and how they met. You can pull in readings, insert poems and songs, talk about what they imagine for the future, and then pull it all together in a beautiful reflection.”
She also asks that couples submit their vows to her before the big day and suggests others do the same with their officiants.
“If the groom says ‘You make the best French toast’ … and the bride promises to honor his dreams, that’s not on the same level,” she says. “So I can gently guide them there.”