When you're in the wedding business, one of the biggest stresses you hear from future brides and grooms comes from writing their own vows. I have heard my fair share of concerns and freak outs, and being a writer I have been asked countless times for tips regarding the matter.
The cold fact is that most people aren't natural-born writers or speakers (if you are, go you!) and it's extremely difficult to find the balance between the sincerity and depth of the feelings you want to express to your future spouse. You also need to keep your explanations concise, to the point and enjoyable for the friends and family watching. How do you write the perfect vows? If there was a formula I promise I would share it with you! But in its place I have some failure-proof tips that will guide your speech from mixed thoughts to articulated beauty.
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Nothing good will come from procrastination except rushing, stress and the possibility of what you want to say coming out all wrong. Prepare early and give yourself plenty of time to think and prepare so that you are confident and ready when the big day comes.
Start by looking through religious or inspirational texts, poems or quotes from writers and plays. Writers like Thoreau, Frost, E.E. Cummings or even Shakespeare are great resources to find and steal ideas from. Emerson is a great poet who references nature, which could be symbolic for your marriage. "Adopt the pace of nature: Her secret is patience." Patience is key and if you have that, nothing can stand in your way.
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You can also take ideas from people who have already written great vows. About two years ago I saw a man take the "for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health" excerpt from the traditional vows and make them his ow, expressing what each meant to him in relation to his spouse and their relationship. I don't think a single eye was dry when it was over as the wife had recently gone through breast cancer. Pastor Ed Young wrote "Commandments of Purity," making 10 commandments to his wife like "Remember your date night and keep it holy. Husbands, what you did to get her is what you do to keep her!" Taking some alone time to reflect on your relationship highlights and the future challenges and meaning of marriage is a great way to tap into your feelings. Take a walk through the park, go for a drive whatever your thing is—do it.
While writing your vows, be environmentally cautious and use recycled paper or even an iPad or tablet. In my past experience it takes dozens of times, trials and errors to get it right.
Stick to your Values
Sometimes with all the rigmarole and frenzy of planning, it is hard to remember what your wedding is all about--your community coming together to witness your vows and to celebrate you and your partner's commitment to one another. Creating a ceremony that reflects your values and beliefs is extremely important.
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A lot has been said about how to "green" a ceremony with environmentally themed poems, songs, and scripture. You can also bring your green values to life by using eco-friendly ritual objects alongside the spoken vows. It is always sustainable to use things that are already in the family, and incorporating vintage or heirloom pieces makes your wedding even more meaningful.
Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page in regard to length and tone of your vows. Are you keeping things light, funny or serious? Who is your audience?
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Once you have a clear idea of particular points you want to make write them down and organize them into an outline and build your speech off of that. Do not wing it.
Practice Makes Perfect
Do it in front of a mirror. I'm serious, it will help familiarize you with how you want to say what you're saying.
Good luck with your vows and remember to enjoy every moment!