Your wedding vows are often considered the hallmark of the wedding ceremony. They are meant to acknowledge your love and commitment, to share what you mean to each other, and to express promises that will build the foundation of your marriage. Personal vows are not a "legal" part of your ceremony, so they can be highly unique and romantic!
In my experience as a wedding officiant, I've discovered many different ways couples can express their love in wedding vows, and wedding words, that are meaningful. Sometimes this takes the form of vows they write themselves, sometimes they borrow from favorite readings or songs, and sometimes they opt for classic or traditional vows that are romantic and have endured through time.
Many Couples Love Classic Vows
Couples often choose traditional or classic vows, even in offbeat or highly personalized ceremonies. These vows are familiar, and so many people related to them. Sometimes if you are having a very creative and different ceremony it helps anchor it with a touch of tradition. For example, I have used this vow, or one similar, hundreds of times.
I, Diana, take you, Michael,
to be my husband.
To have and to hold
from this day forward
In good times and bad times,
In sickness and in health.
To love, honor, and cherish,
All the days of my life.
Some Couples Like Being Very Creative!
Many couples like to make their declarations come alive in readings, poems, and music that speaks to their feelings for each other.
• Tim and Patty adapted two of their favorite songs for the ceremony. Tim read the lines from Chicago's "Inspiration," and Patty shared sentiments found in "From This Moment" by Shania Twain. Then she had a guitarist and singer play it live immediately after she and Tim exchanged vows.
• Maria and Michael used poetry. The bride was shy about speaking, so Michael read Oriah Mountain Dreamer's stirring poem, "The Invitation."
• Steven and Deborah chose not to speak vows themselves. Instead, they had their officiant read their favorite song, "My First, My Last, My Everything" by Barry White. Okay, I may have sung a sentence or two.
Simple Tips For Selecting or Writing Your Wedding Vows
Words and promises of love, adoration, and commitment are an important part of your ceremony. Use them thoughtfully, but try not to stress yourself about the content or the presentation.
• Choose language and sentiments that are truly meaningful.
• Pay tribute to each other and the relationship you have built together.
• Find a way to express your vows that allows you both to truly look forward to making your promises to love, honor, cherish, and more.
• Never force the writing of your vows or push yourself to speak vows when it doesn't feel right.
• Trust that the wedding altar is a safe place for you both to share what is in your hearts. Often, the rest of the world will fade away and it will feel like it is just the two of you there, sharing an intimate, loving, and deeply romantic moment.
It's Okay If You Don't Write Your Own Vows
One of my couples was stumped when it came to their vows. It was causing them anxiety. So I interviewed them about qualities that were important in their married life and wrote this vow. It's been used by other couples, over time, who felt the sentiments fit.
On this day,
our new adventure begins.
I will stand by your side,
As your partner in life.
I look forward to sharing
Laugher and tears,
Comfort and challenges,
Great joy and triumphs.
I want to inspire you,
And be inspired by you
Be your best cheerleader
As you follow your dreams.
And hear your cheering,
As I achieve mine.
Let us grow together,
In heart, mind, and spirit,
And stand together to face the world.
I will cherish you always.
You are my one and only true love.
Sometimes It's Best to Skip Vows
When I work with couples, I offer them materials to help them identify the perfect vows, and I spend time discussing all possibilities: Will they write them? Select them from existing vows? Read to each other? Or will we approach them in a repeat-after-the-officiant fashion?
Sometimes they decide they don't want to speak much in the ceremony, or they are afraid they will end up in a puddle of tears. Sometimes they just don't want to include vows. That is totally fine too.
At the wedding altar, the love in your heart is easily conveyed by a look, a touch, a way of being. It doesn't always have to be put into words.
This column is excerpted from my new book, Your Perfect Wedding Vows.