How to Write Personal Wedding Vows
Personal wedding vows aren’t exactly easy to write. I did it myself recently, and it’s a lot harder than it looks! But, along the way, I discovered a few simple tips that can help you write your own personal wedding vows. Words that have the real power to strengthen your marriage – you can do it. Here’s how.
Imagine how it will feel to stand face-to-face with your beloved and say what’s on your heart without sounding cheesy or cliché’. When you write your own personal wedding vows, you get to:
It sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it? I can say after having filmed over 200 weddings that the ones with personal wedding vows and/or personal letters have been the ones with the most magical sense of connection felt by everyone in attendance.
I knew when Chasen and I were engaged in October 2017 that we would write our own personal wedding vows and letters. I don’t suck as a writer, but pouring out my heart and knowing others would hear it was so much harder to do than I thought. In fact, I resisted for weeks leading up to our wedding. When it was down to just five days before we left for our week in Mexico, I finally opened up a blank doc and typed the first word. 44 revisions and 4 hours and 26 minutes later (over the course of those 5 days) I had finished. Chasen also put off writing his vows and letter, but when our plane left the runway we both had a little booklet with our personal vows and a special letter tucked away in our carry-ons.
If you’re like I was and you don’t know where to start when it comes to writing your own wedding vows, this is for you.
You know that amazing example you found online of someone else’s vows, don’t copy them. It sounds like it’s a good idea but stop and reconsider for a minute. I’ve seen this, let’s call it the “Google inspiration strategy” backfire too many times. I once had the sweetest couple read letters from one another on their wedding day. Their letters had several of the EXACT SAME SENTENCES they had both copied from Google. They had a great sense of humor about it, and they had a good laugh later about how they both plagiarized the same love letters that someone else had written.
I’ve seen the same thing happen multiple times before with wedding vows and toasts. Citing a quote from a famous artist or author is great. I love quotes. Just be careful not to do it more than once or twice. And never cite Webster’s dictionary or Wikipedia. Be original. It will mean a lot more to your fiancé and to you when you look back on it, if you take the time to share your own feelings.
Tone, general theme, and general timeframe are important to decide upon together. Don’t overthink it too much. Just have a conversation together at some point before or during the writing process to make sure you’re on the same page. It could be embarrassing if you dig way down deep to share your heartfelt devotion in your vows to him, but he goes for quick and funny in his vows to you. There isn’t a wrong theme, tone, or timeframe. Decide what feels authentic to the two of you and then decide to keep it similar.
Title one doc Vows. Title the other doc Letter. Draft everything on your computer or tablet instead of pen and paper. It’s easy to make changes, or cut sentences and move them around on a Google doc. More on this later.
It may be common sense, but it’s important to not overestimate your ability to write your personal wedding vows all in one sitting. Write for 30 minutes. Put it away. Come back to it the next day. Reread what you wrote the day before and make changes to the parts that don’t seem quite right. Then continue writing and revising over the course of a few days. Don’t stress over the organization of your writing while you’re in the process. Just write what comes to your mind. You can organize it later.
Ok, let’s start! Open the document titled “Vows” and move on to Step 4.
As you begin to write your personal wedding vows, don’t worry about saying everything perfectly. Just get your thoughts out of your heart and onto the screen. Let these prompts get you going. Use the ones that feel authentic to you. Don’t sell out and say something that doesn’t sound like you, but there’s no better time to tap into your inner romantic. If the two of you have decided to mix in a little humor, feel free to do so as long as it honors your honey and puts him or her in a nice light.
If you keep a journal, you may want to pull key statements from past journal entries. I’ve written about Chasen randomly in my personal journal off and on since we started dating. Going back to reread my old journal entries reminded me of how I felt during key moments in our relationship. Pulling a few sentences here and there rounded out my vows and my letter in a way that gave honor to who we were then and how far we’ve come. Maybe you don’t have a journal, but you have old text messages or emails you’ve written to your fiance’ that you could pull from? The idea here is not to copy something you’d already said, but to bring back some of your own most heartfelt thoughts about him or her.
After you’ve given yourself several short writing sessions and completed the first 6 steps, you’re ready to do a little rearranging and rewording.
I’ve read articles that advise you to shorten your vows to one to two minutes. I’m going out on a crazy limb here. It’s your WEDDING for crying out loud! Your guests are here for one reason and one reason only – because they LOVE you. They realize this is your wedding and the vows are the whole reason a wedding exists. Without your vows your wedding is actually just a party. No one is going to get bent out of shape if you open up your heart and share your feelings about each other before pledging your lives to one another forever. No one will pull a stopwatch out and hold it in your faces. It’s important for you to go at your own pace. There’s no rush.
I once shot an outdoor ceremony at a ranch in rural Oklahoma. To set the scene for you, the guests were all seated on hay bale benches with saddle blankets draped across for comfort, the wind was blowing in a huge storm, and in Oklahoma everyone knows how important it is to keep an eye to the sky. Tornado Alley is a real thing. The wedding planner quickly seated all the guests; everyone knew it was about to pour buckets of rain any minute. We had to get this show on the road!
But, here’s the best part. The bride and groom? They couldn’t have cared less. They had been waiting for this moment their months if not their entire lives. Lauren took out multiple pages of notes and began to share her heartfelt personal vows with her groom. She never rushed. Then Brad did the same. The honesty of their words was felt by every person in attendance. Many guests shed a few tears, but the best part was that Lauren and Brad were able to pour into each other in that moment with friends and family to witness, and it was all captured on camera. They can relive that once-in-a-lifetime experience anytime they wish. I know they are glad that didn’t stick to a time limit.
I discovered when writing my own vows and letter, the best strategy for editing was to read them out loud.
Here’s how it works:
Each time you sit down for a writing session, go to a quiet room, close the door, and practice reading what you’ve written so far. No one needs to listen. Read your vows out loud. Does anything feel uncomfortable and awkward? Maybe something you’ve written feels too private to be said for all to hear during the ceremony. If so, just cut and paste that part over to your letter document. As you do this, you’ll be building your letter AND polishing your vows at the same time.
Reading your vows out loud for editing is also giving you practice for the real thing, your ceremony.
After you’ve organized, edited, moved some sentences over to your letter, and reworded as needed, it’s time to finalize your personal wedding vows. For our couples, we have a special way of shooting letters on the wedding day, so be sure to ask your videographer what they’d like you to do with your letter.
For now, back to your vows.
Copy the final draft of your vows into a special booklet. There are several places to purchase pretty pre-made booklets just for this purpose. I found mine on Etsy. If you have more time than we did, you could order them from your stationery vendor.
A few tips:
Your personal wedding vows will be one of the most cherished keepsakes you own. Recite them with feeling on your wedding day. Afterwards, frame them, reread them, save them as a special mission statement for your marriage.
Hopefully you’ve invested in a quality professional filmmaker who knows how to capture your ceremony as it should be, with clear audio and with clear, close angles of your faces, but without being in the way or upstaging you during the big moment. You’ll want to be able to watch and listen to your vows again and again. The magical sense of connection you felt in that moment was well worth the time spent writing your vows and letters. You’ll never regret it. I would love to do just that for you at Leslee Layton Films. Schedule a free consultation!
Thank you for sharing this process with me. I would love to hear from you. How did this process work for you? Which step was the most helpful to you? How have your feelings about writing your personal wedding vows changed?
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