More than 50% of my couples initially tell me that they intend on writing personal vows. Of that 50% I’d say 49% eventually reach out to me in something of a panic – “How do I write my vows? What should I say? How long should they be?”
Well, here is what I tell my couples. . .
Begin with a memory, an image, an anecdote, that brief story you cherish because it captures so much of the two of you and speaks to what your heart knows is true.
Flowing from that memory, what are you grateful for? For who the other is in your life, for what the other has done and has been for you.
Flowing from the memory that is a snapshot of your life together, flowing from all that your heart is grateful for, what do you promise to do and be for the other?
Your words can be sweet, simple, silly, personal, desperately romantic – whatever you want.
Couples often ask me, “How long should my vows be?” There’s really no way to predict how long it will take to actually say your vows because you can’t predict your emotional state at that time. I suggest if you want to make sure your vows are balanced in terms of length, you decide together how many words you’ll cap out at.
Some couples agree on the number of sentences they’ll write. I suggest you pick a number and then focus on making those sentences the “best” sentences you can compose. I’ve heard couples offer just half-a-dozen sentences that were moving and I’ve heard other couples offer a page worth of sentiments that were equally moving.
I strongly suggest you take a hybrid approach to your vows where you begin with your personal sentiments and then, with a nod to tradition, your officiant asks the iconic “I Do!” question.
This means your personal words don’t have to be “vow-y” because you’re following them up with the traditional wording. Your personal words are just that – words of love, gratitude and appreciation.
In the hybrid approach, after the couple each offer their personal words, I then say:
Having spoken from your hearts, on behalf of your family and friends, I ask. . .
“A, do you take B to be your wife / husband, promising to be true in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, loving her/him and honoring her/him all the days of your life?” I Do!
“B, do you take A to be your husband/wife, promising to be true in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, loving him/her and honoring him/her all the days of your life?” I Do!
A strategy for actually writing your vows
- Make the time to go some place where you can compose your personal words.
- Write in stream of consciousness – don’t write and edit at the same time.
- Decide before starting how long you’ll write for, i.e. 10 minutes or 30 minutes.
- Do not pay attention to interruptions of any kind – silence your phone.
- Put aside what you’ve written when time is up and get on with “stuff.”
- Go back to your personal vows the next day or the day after.
- Put it all aside again.
- Revisit in a couple of days and do the final edit.
10 Questions to Consider Before You Write Your Personal Words of Gratitude
Settle down with paper & pen or tablet and answer these questions.
You can use your answers to help craft your personal words.
- When did you realize you were in love? What triggered this moment?
- What do you know now about life that you would not have known had your partner not been in your life?
- What is an experience – sweet, whacky, or poignant – that helped you to see your partner in a fuller, clearer, light?
- What do you miss most when you’re apart?
- What do you most respect about your partner?
- What three words most describe your partner?
- How has your partner helped you to become more “you?”
- What gifts do you offer your partner that give them and your relationship
strength and health?
- What one experience has most strengthened your relationship, convincing you that you must go through life with together?
- What dreams and goals do you hope to bring to life in 10-years? 20-years?
There’s no right way or wrong way to any of this.
You’ll have a lifetime to share your vows with each other!
Are you thinking of writing personal vows to each other?
If so, I invite you to check out my book –
How to Write Your Vows: Giving Voice to What Is Deep Within