Here’s the thing, by the time we get around to marrying someone we’ve, hopefully, already let them know how much we love them, and we probably even do it every day. But when it comes to reciting our vows on the big day, it’s a little different. First off, the setting is pretty formal. Second of all, we have a live audience lingering on our every word. Needless to say, the circumstances are bit more intimidating and bit less intimate than your everyday casual couch-potato cuddle session. And for those of us that have stage fright or typically let our actions speak louder than our words, the responsibility of writing our own vows can rack our nervous. However, especially if you fall in either of the aforementioned camps, your ceremony can be the perfect opportunity to finally overcome your fear of public speaking or shout your love from the rooftops (metaphorically speaking, of course).
While we’ll leave the specifics of what you say and how you say it up to you, we thought we’d hand over some tried and true writing wisdom to help you get your footing. We want you to see this process for the wonderful privilege that it is, not as a daunting task. Read up, get excited, then get started!
1. Plan ahead. Many of us often put off the tasks that are most important to us. Ironic, as this is completely counterproductive, but true. However, when it comes to your vows, procrastination is not your friend. One of the most important pieces of advice we’ve ever received as writers is, “the best writing, is re-writing.” Truer words have never been spoken. Giving yourself a few weeks will allow you to have more fun with the process by relieving any time pressure and help your vows reach their full potential. Plus, working only a few minutes at a time will get you out of your own head and ward off any writer’s block. If you happen to get unexpectedly inspired the week of your ceremony and end up scrapping your previous drafts, that’s fine. Just make sure you’re not winging things on your wedding day. And of course, you can ad-lib if you find yourself swept up in the moment, but generally this is not something you want to “do live.”
2. Take Notes Ever notice how your writer-friend always carries around a notebook (we’re partial to Moleskines, ourselves). Those handy portable pieces of paper are a writer’s best friend. No, it’s not just an image thing or an homage to pre-tech old-fashioned print journalism. The pocket-size notepad or notebook is a great tool for catching ideas and inspiration as they come to mind throughout your day. Often, when we start writing something our brains subconsciously keep working on it. How convenient? You’ll be surprised how many times a lightbulb will go off when you’re doing something totally unrelated or unromantic. You don’t want to end up kicking yourself later when you sit down to write and you just can’t remember the eureka moment you had while you were waiting in line for your morning latte.
3. “Pitch” to your partner. We know, this sounds horribly business-like and passionless, but it doesn’t have to be! Trust us. Go on a date night or a nice evening stroll and simply take a few minutes to chat about what you two have in mind. Discussing your and your partner’s expectations, abstract or structural (i.e. length!), is a great way to remove any anxiety. However, transparency doesn’t mean you have to divulge everything. We know you may want to keep some things for the special day, but your vows don’t have to be totally top secret. And as with anything marriage-related, collaboration is key. Speaking of, if you haven’t already, once you’ve decided to write your own vows you may want to sign things off with your ceremony officiant to see if he or she has any particular guidelines or restrictions (this is particularly important for religious venues).
4. Use your own voice. Unless you’re intentionally quoting a personally inspiring passage or person, use your own words. Just because this may seem like a big deal, fancy-shmancy event, you don’t need to use high flung language that just isn’t you. Put down the thesaurus! Simple and from the heart never fails, but phony always flops. No need for big words or words in other languages of which you are a non-native speaker for that matter (we all saw what happened in Bridesmaids). Be yourself. We’re the 100th person to tell you this, but it really holds true here. The people you’ll stand before on your big day, especially your significant other, already love and appreciate who you are, so give the people what they want!
5. Read them OUT LOUD. We don’t care if you’re in public, mumble to yourself or something. Looking momentarily ridiculous now will be so worth it when the actual moment of truth rolls around. The most fool-proof way to detect awkward wording is to read things aloud. Silent reading is so automatic that we often miss mistakes or even add in words that aren’t (but should be) there. If you’re up for it, you can even read your vows to a close friend, which is also a good way to make sure your doing #4– friends are usually the first to sense when we sound a little off. Just make sure you set up guidelines for feedback if your pal tends to get a little hands-on when they help you out. Let them know before you read that you’d appreciate commentary on any standout wording or structure, but not overall content. After all, you should be writing your vows for your future Mr. or Mrs. above anyone else.
There you have them! Five simple tips for DIYing your vows. Still a little anxious about the actual recitation? Butterflies are just another natural beauty of the big day. So just go with your gut, fluttering and all. If it makes you feel any better, noticeably nervous exchanges are absolutely adorable in their authenticity. You are literally vibrating with emotion (if you ask us, shaky vows mean a sturdy marriage).
And remember, no one is going to stand up and object to your union because you accidentally used passive voice ;).
Great! Now that you’ve checked off vows, treat yourself to some I-do eye candy on us! We promise this counts as wedding planning too…
Follow R&G on Instagramyour daily dose of wedding inspiration
Featured photo: The Robertson’s Photography