Of all the important parts of your wedding day, your ceremony is definitely the highlight. This is the moment when you take your vows and commit yourselves to each other so it’s the perfect time to tell your partner exactly how you feel. Writing your own vows can be special, moving and it adds lots of individuality to your wedding ceremony. If you’re writing your own vows or if you’re wondering whether you should, here’s all you need to know.
The first thing to mention is that if you’re holding a civil ceremony on your wedding day, there are certain words that you have to say for the ceremony to be legally binding. Your registrar will provide you with details of these and, usually, you’ll have a choice of a few acceptable options. However, most registrars will also give you the opportunity to write your own ‘vows’ that you can say at another point in the ceremony. This usually takes place during the ring exchange as this isn’t the legally binding part of the ceremony. Your registrar will probably want to give your words the ok before the big day so do check with them if they need to approve things ahead of time.
On the other hand, if you decide to work with an independent celebrant, you’ll have free reign to say or do exactly what you want. Yes, you’ll still have to go through an official ceremony if you want your marriage to be legally recognised but you can do this before the big day, which is then all about you. You can choose to celebrate wherever, whenever and however you like and you can include any religious or non-religious elements you like or you can mix the two.
So, we spoke to wedding celebrant Tamryn Lawrence of Wild & Oak to find out how to write your wedding vows, whether you’ve opted for a civil or celebrant-led ceremony. Here are Tamryn’s top writing tips:
- Give yourself plenty of time to write your vows because trying to write something so important under pressure isn’t a good idea. This is something to really enjoy so give yourself time to do just that.
- Talk to your partner before you start writing and decide if you’ll share your vows with each other before the big day or whether you’ll keep them secret.
- Note down anything that you feel is important in marriage or anything that you really want to say to your partner. You’ll probably notice similar themes in your notes and these are the areas to concentrate on.
- Don’t be afraid of emotion or humour in your vows – you’re writing from the heart, you’re not prepping a presentation for work.
- If there’s a snippet of poetry or a line from a book or film that sums up how you feel, use it. There’s lots of fabulous writing out there that’s perfect for a wedding.
- That said, make sure that there’s still plenty of ‘you’ in your vows. This is your moment to really say what you feel so avoid borrowing everything or relying too much on those old romantic clichés we’ve all heard hundreds of times.
- Remember your audience – they want to feel part of your ceremony too so try to avoid anything that they won’t understand and definitely ditch anything that might embarrass anyone.
- If you’re working with a celebrant, your ceremony starts as a blank piece of paper so ask for some example vows so you can see what formats and styles you like.
- They’re called vows for a reason so you should make some promises or commitments to your partner. Some couples don’t like to use the phrase ‘I promise’ and will opt for ‘I’ll always try to…’ or ‘I will’ instead. Say whatever feels right to you.
- Before you write too much, think about how you might feel on the big day. If you feel you might be emotional or nervous, don’t give yourself too much to read or say. I’ve worked with couples where we’ve had two versions of vows prepared so the bride could choose on the day which one she wanted to use depending on how she felt. This can be a good idea so you’re not under any pressure.
- Write your vows and practice them – things that looked good on paper might be tricky to say or sound too clunky when you read them out loud. If you can learn your vows, so much the better because you’ll be able to look at your partner as you speak rather than looking down to read. However, even if you think you’ve learned every word off by heart, still have a copy with you on the day in case of nerves.
- Your photographer will definitely be taking photos of this moment so print yourself a nice copy of your vows or pop them inside a special vows book that you can keep. I always have extra copies of vows and readings with me at ceremonies I conduct, just in case!