Write Your Own Wedding Vows

Don't go by the book! Add a personal touch to your ceremony by declaring your love in your own words.

No doubt you've worked hard to stage a wedding reception with tons of individual style, so why should your wedding ceremony be any different? Get personal, and consider writing your own wedding vows. It's not as daunting as you might think. Here's how it's done.

What's Your Style?

Decide if you want to say separate wedding vows (you write yours, he writes his), or if you'd rather each recite an identical, all-encompassing wedding vow that you compose together. You can also combine these options: Take turns making personalized promises to each other, and then solemnize these statements by exchanging more formal, traditional vows ("I, Jason, take you, Kimberly, to be my lawful wife, to have and to hold…") or a variation that you decide on together ("I, Stephanie, promise you, David, to always be your wife, your friend, your lover…").

What Makes a Good Wedding Vow?

Keep in mind that at the heart of every wedding vow is the idea that you're making a pact. The "agreement" should have these three features, in no particular order: a declaration of love ("Sam, my beloved, I fill my heart with you, to love you until the end of my days"); promises for your marriage ("I pledge to embrace both our similarities and our differences" or "I promise to start family traditions"); and personal touches ("Four years ago, I thought that men like you didn't exist"). Before you both begin writing, decide on the tone you want to set. Your words may be different, but the style should be more or less the same. A practical note: Keep wedding vows one to three minutes long.

What Should You Say?

It depends on what you want to emphasize. Maybe it's fidelity ("I promise to be faithful to you"); the notion of two people coming together, but maintaining their individuality ("I promise to have the courage to let you be yourself"); or the importance of family ("I promise to create a family with you and to take yours as my own"). Revisit certain "places" in your mind: how and where you first met, the first time he kissed you…symbolically, can you tie any of this information in to what you want to pledge to your partner? You can also be specific, even humorous, about the needs or requirements you plan to fulfill throughout your lives together. When Jennifer Aniston married Brad Pitt, for example, she promised to always make his favorite banana milkshake!

Consult a Pro

Your officiant can guide you through the wedding vow-writing process by directing you to resources and examples from recent clients. If you're having a religious ceremony, he or she can help you write wedding vows that pertain to your faith's conventions, ideals and symbols.

Performing "Live"

Things to remember when you take your wedding vows for real: Practice beforehand, but don't overdo it—speak naturally. If you need to read your wedding vows from a note card at the ceremony, have someone hand the card to you and take it back when you're done. And if you become a little emotional? It's okay to cry!

Writer’s Block?

There’s no reason you can’t rework vows that others have used. Check out books like Weddings From the Heart, by Daphne Rose Kingma (Conari Press, $16.95), and websites like celebrantusa.com for template ideas. Here’s one we like:

Robert, you are my lover, my teacher, my accomplice and my counterpart. I will love you and honor you, respect you, encourage you and cherish you, in health and in sickness, through sorrow and success, for all the days of my life.

Here’s how Charlotte and Bruce, a couple from Little Rock, Arkansas, modified the example above:

Charlotte, you are my lover, my friend, my lifelong companion. You are my accomplice, my cheerleader, my favorite thing. As your husband, I pledge to treat you with respect, love and loyalty through all the trials and triumphs of our lives together. This commitment is made in love, kept in faith, lived in hope and eternally made new.