In my role as a celebrant, couples come to me for assistance in a variety of different areas, but by and large, the most common request I receive is for help with writing vows. And I can totally understand how the angst and pressure to write the perfect vows can build in the lead-up to your wedding day. After all, the whole reason your day exists is so that you have an opportunity to make this grand expression of love. That’s what a wedding is. It’s not the flowers or the dress; it doesn’t really matter which car you arrive in, or what cake you have, if you serve beer and wine, or whether Aunt Ethel will be allowed to serve her famous punch; no one will care if you do or don’t release doves [please don’t release doves], or if your flower girl has a tantrum and refuses to elegantly walk down the aisle scattering rose petals…
Although in part these things, your wedding day is so much more than aesthetics and booze.
So yes, the vows ARE important. This is something I think you should definitely put some time, energy and thought into so that you can say something truly meaningful to the person you love most. But I get it, it is not an easy task. Succinctly and adequately expressing how you feel for that person in words is HARD and actually, kind of impossible. I think we can all relate to the fact that words often fail emotion and the only good thing about that is that it is true for everyone. Well, except maybe for poets, but I’m sure even poets have their off days.
In response to your cries for help and as means to simplify the arduous task of vow writing, I have put together a cheat sheet. These simple tips will ensure you end up with a set of vows you feel proud to say to your special person and leave your guests reaching for the tissues.
1. Keep them short and sweet. Once you put pen to paper, it can be really easy to get carried away with wanting to pour your heart out and say EVERYTHING. But truly, anything more than a couple of paragraphs is starting to verge on overkill. Save some of that content for your reception speech or put it into a letter for your person to read before/after the ceremony. It will be much more meaningful that way and people won’t tune out halfway through.
2. Don’t try to make them funny. I mean it’s ok to throw in a line or two that your partner (and guests) will find humorous but I’d say it’s more important to focus on making them meaningful. And I get that some people are naturally funny and humour might be a large part of your relationship so that’s fine, let that natural humour filter through, but if you are TRYING to be funny then you run the risk of coming off as insincere, which is the last thing your vows should be.
3. Keep your private lives private. You may well love the fact that your partner has a toe fetish or knows all the right places to massage you, but no one else needs (or wants) to know that and we don’t want to send your grandma home early with heart palpitations. Save that stuff for the honeymoon.
4. Don’t make grand promises you won’t be able to keep. Like, if you hate football, don’t promise to watch it with your partner. The day will come when the last episode of your favourite show is screening at the same time as the State of Origin and someone is going to get let down. You don’t want that person to be you. #learntthatthehardway #offspring
5. Be real and avoid clichés at all costs. That is all I’m going to say about that.
6. If you are really stuck on where to begin, find a format you and your partner both agree on so that you have a bit of a template to work from. Brides and grooms will often tell me they just want to have an idea of what their partner has written so that they know they’re on the same page. A template or a guide will assist in putting your mind at ease. For example, decide on five things you both want to cover while writing your vows:
* What has brought you to this point? “I am standing here today because…”
* Reason/s why you love your partner. “I love you because…”
* A favourite memory you share. “One of my best memories with you so far is…”
* How that person has changed you. “Because of you I feel…”
* What you look forward to in the future. “I look forward to…”
And then finish with a simple, genuine statement such as “Thank you for loving me”
They don’t have to be those five topics, and it doesn’t have to be limited (or extended) to five; as long as they are mutually agreeable, that’s all that matters. Once you have agreed on these you will find it much easier to begin the vow writing process.