(Spoiler Alert: The whole process takes 15-20 minutes. I’ll even show you a trick on how to write your wedding vows in 30 seconds.)
If you aren’t convinced that you should write your wedding vows, know this: It’s not an option.
(If you already committed to writing vows, skip to Part 3.)
Part 1: Why you should write your own wedding vows
A wedding day should be filled with unforgettable moments.
The bride and groom having a quickie in the bathroom stall.
I am not arguing the wedding vows as important as the garter toss. But I am arguing for making the vows a wonderfully simple, beautiful and meaningful part of the day.
One of the mantras I repeat often is that the wedding ceremony is usually the most forgettable part of the day. So one should not agonize too hard over the wording.
Let’s face it, having a wedding officiant, minister or priest ramble on for 20-30 minutes is no one’s idea of fun. Your guests came to see you. So why not give them a few moments to remember.
And the simplest and easiest way to have your wedding ceremony stand out is to write your own vows.
(Another great way to make your wedding meaningful and beautiful is to have a loved one perform the ceremony as your wedding officiant.)
Oh, and your partner might appreciate it too.
Part 2: How not to write your wedding vows
Before we dive in…
…if you want to write vows along the lines of, “I promise to leave the toilet seat up”, you can go ahead and look elsewhere online. In fact, here are a few articles that offer generic advice along those lines:
I did a Google Search and scoured just about ever website and article on the subject and they all said almost the exact same thing. Literally repeating the same advice over and over again.
And yet, 90% of the suggestions repeated over and over are useless, boring or uninspired. So please ignore the mundane crap.
I can sum up all the hundreds of articles of advice in these 3 steps:
- Look at photos of your fiancé
- Ask yourself why you love him or her
- Come up with promises
More likely than not, you’ll end up with a long, sappy and unforgettable jumble of thoughts and words.
So if you want to follow the advice of the uninspired – go ahead and spend your day scribbling and obsessing and crossing out and rewriting.
Or, you can try something quick, painless and easy.
Part 3a: How to write your own vows in 30 seconds or less
If you don’t want to be bothered with taking 20 minutes on this project, do this and be done in less than minute.
You’ll need to write 3 sentences. Maximum.
And as a special bonus, I’ll give you 3 sentences you can use.
Here’s what you write (or even better, you can memorize):
Today is the best day of my life.
Today I get to marry my best friend.
I will love you forever.
Let’s call these your fall back vows.
These are the vows that if you don’t do anything else, you’ll be ready for the big day.
You don’t need to say anything else.
(By the way, if you can’t say these words sincerely you should reactivate your Tinder account.)
Here’s the simple fact: you have a million things to think about, worry about and choose before your wedding. Crossing this off your list will make you feel a 100% better.
And crossing this off your list will also hopefully inspire you to come back to the vows later on and add/subtract or replace with your original vows.
If you use the 3 sentences above, or something similar, you will cry. The maid of honor will have runny mascara. I, being a sympathy crier, will have to wipe away the tears.
Because here’s the thing:
I’ve performed thousands of weddings. I’ve heard every vow. Almost none of them register a blip on the emotional radar. It’s because vows usually sound contrived, canned, copied and unnatural.
And quite frankly, standing there reading off a piece of paper in front of all your guests can be a bit intimidating and uninspired.
So get those 3 sentences memorized and tell your fiancé you are done with your vows. They will resent you because they are agonizing over theirs while you’ll be enjoying cocktails at the beach.
Part 3b. How to write vows that are personal, deep and inspired
Ok, so let’s say you really want to spend the weekend looking at photos, writing in your journal and watching The Notebook. I’ve got you covered. But again, this will take you 20 minutes tops.
Here’s the best way to go from blank page to a masterpiece of wedding ceremony creation.
Start with a stream of consciousness exercise.
Borrow a page from writers. Start writing. Don’t lift the pen. Or if you’re on your computer, start typing. Go for 5 minutes. Write everything you can think of about your fiancé. Let your mind wander. Don’t edit. Just write.
The idea is to capture thoughts, ideas, impressions and memories of your lover. Whatever comes to mind.
Funny story – I did not follow my own advice when I got married (it hadn’t occurred to me to write my own vows) and instead recited the traditional vows.
However, in the interests of providing guidance in this article, I sat down and wrote about my wife to give you an idea of what it might look like:
Amber is stunningly beautiful. Tall, thin. Dark hair. She has the most ridiculous laugh – sometimes I love it and sometimes it drives me crazy. We are so different in many ways. She’s a freaking maniac with details. She obsesses about the smallest thing. Again, sometimes I love it but others I wish she could just pick a damn kitchen counter color.
She is complex. So fun to try and understand her and how she works. She’s a mystery that I hope I never solve but will never stop trying.
I remember the first time I saw you. Tall, a long dress, a short afro. You were sitting on a bench and I was trying to get your attention. I remember your smile and feeling a rush. I knew I wanted to see you again.
I loved talking with you. You remember everything I say – for better or worse. I felt like you were a great adventure. I had no idea what was going to come of our meeting but I was hoping for something great.
We fight hard but the highs are so high. Even at our worse I couldn’t imagine being away from you. I want a big family with you. I never wanted kids. Now all my goals have changed.
You are driven. You can talk to anyone. You are always the smartest person in the room.
Ok, so that’s what I did in just around 5 minutes. I threw a lot of differing and random thoughts against the wall. And now to the next step.
We need to distill down the thoughts and ideas from your stream of consciousness exercise.
And here’s the secret to this part:
Put constraints on yourself.
Or as one artist put it, “creativity is subtraction”. Here’s what I (the artist) mean.
Limit yourself ceremony vows to 50 words.
Take all those random thoughts and start to cull out the crap. Reword good ideas. Reduce and cut until you distill down to the 50 most powerful and meaningful words.
Special note: Let me be blunt, but completely honest – no one, and I mean no one will remember the vows.
The only thing people will remember is whether you make a mistake or said something beautiful. They won’t remember what you said, but they will remember if they were good or not.
Here’s what happened when I reduced my stream of consciousness exercise:
I’ve never met someone that drives me crazy like you do. And I love it. You are my grand adventure and I’m having the time of my life. Your laugh and intelligence are the sexiest things about you and I can’t wait to make lots of babies with you!
I don’t know if these are the best vows I’ve ever heard but I promise you they would be a hit! They are short, sincere, true and real. And that is the true measure of good wedding vows.
Steal like crazy.
In one of the best books I’ve ever read on the creative process – the author instructs you to steal. In his artistic profession outright plagiarism is frowned upon. But in our wedding world, it is welcome and encouraged.
Let’s face it, in the history of weddings, every vow you could imagine has been uttered by a nervous bride or groom at some point or another. So why waste too much energy when you can either copy or modify a vow from someone else.
Again, play around with wedding vow sites and find all the statements/promises that resonate with you. Then, modify them to more accurately apply to your relationship and marriage.
Caveat: Please don’t write a bunch of promises. By that I mean, don’t recite a laundry list of “I promise this” and “I promise that”. It’s boring, uninspired and probably disingenuous.
Example: “I promise to always support your decisions.” Why would you make such a promise when more likely than not, there are a thousand exceptions to this promise (i.e. he decides to quit his high-paying job as a corporate attorney to raise a prize rose garden on your back porch.)
So again, when stealing, look for profound but real/authentic thoughts and make them yours.
Bonus Rule 1. Have a glass of wine, beer or vodka when writing your vows.
Let the alcohol make you feel warm and safe. Let those happy thoughts drift towards your lover. Let the words flow.
Don’t forget to read them the next day to make sure they sound as good as they did after your 3rd margarita.
Bonus Rule 4. Don’t listen to me.
Instead do something creative and fun (if you are creative and fun).
I had a groom say something along the lines of:
“I am here today because I want the world to know that I love this woman more than anything. And now, I’m going to share with my wife what she has in store for tonight and any night she chooses for the rest of her life.” He then whispered something in her ear.
That was one happy bride…and apparently one talented groom.
Please note: attempts and humor can fall flat and might even annoy your fiancé. So make sure you know what you’re capable of.
If after all this valuable information you still don’t want to write your own vows you can always go with The Traditional Wedding Vows.
And finally, here are my vows to you:
If you pour yourself a drink, write about your lover for 5 minutes and reduce the words to 50 words or less, you will enjoy your wedding ceremony more, your wedding day more and you’ll love me for it.