Part 2: How to Write Your Own Personal Wedding Vows
Welcome back to part 2 of How To Write Your Own Personal Wedding Vows with Less Stress. In Part 1 you learned the first five steps:
STEP 1: RESIST THE URGE TO GO ONLINE AND READ EVERYONE ELSE’S PERSONAL VOWS FOR INSPIRATION.
STEP 2: COMMUNICATE TO YOUR FIANCE’
STEP 3: OPEN TWO WORD DOCUMENTS
STEP 4: GIVE YOURSELF MULTIPLE SHORT WRITING SESSIONS
STEP 5: USE OUR LIST OF 14 EASY SENTENCE STARTERS TO GET YOUR THOUGHTS MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
If you need a refreshers on any of the steps in Part 1, just click here. In Part 1, I also shared the link to our free handy list of 14 sentence starters to get your sentimental creative juices flowing.
In Part 2, I’m going to teach you how to finish your writing and get those vows (and yourself) ready to repeat them with feeling on your wedding day. It’s three simple steps to go from the planning and writing stages in Part 1 to the polishing in Part 2.
Without further ado, let’s jump right into Part 2: How to Write Your Own Personal Wedding Vows with Less Stress, Steps 6-8.
STEP 6: PULL FROM YOUR OWN WORD BANK
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.
STEP 7: ORGANIZE AND EDIT
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. If you choose to do a little organizing and editing between sessions, do it!
TAKE AS LONG AS YOU PLEASE.
I’m sad to report, The Knot gets it wrong, in my opinion. It sounds like I’m hating on The Knot, and really that’s not my goal, but contrary to their advice to “Shorten your vows to one to two minutes, max” I’m going to go 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 (or at the very least they LIKE you). They realize this is your wedding and the vows are the whole reason a wedding exists. Without 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 feeling about each other before pledging your lives to one another forever. No one will pull a stopwatch out of his suit pocket and hold it in your faces.
Okay, have I ranted long enough about this? Did I rant no longer than one to two minutes, max? I’m having a little fun with this point, but it’s important to slow down and reflect. In my personal wedding experience, our officiant gave a beautiful message, our friend sang the perfect song, we prayed along with our guests, and we exchanged our personal vows. I’d estimate our vows took a total of around 8 minutes while the rest of the ceremony totaled another 8 minutes or so. The Knot would not approve, but we’re rebels like that. Your timing is completely up to you. And, as they say, You can’t rush a good thing.
Quick Story Time!
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 the 1-2 minute max according to The Knot.
Super Important Bonus Tip! PRACTICE READING YOUR LETTER
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.
Reading aloud for practice will help you memorize your vows as much as possible, so practice like it’s the wedding day.
Don’t speak too quickly. Slow down and feel every word you are saying.
Make as much eye contact as possible with your fiance’ as you share your vows.
Don’t worry about anyone else hearing you other than your honey. These vows are just for the two of you. If you’ve hired a quality videographer who understands how to capture excellent audio, you’re going to be able to hear your vows just fine in your film.
Practice as much as you can leading up to your wedding day.
If what you’ve written brings out emotions like laughter or tears, let the emotions come. Don’t try to stifle your feelings.
My poor makeup artist didn’t realize who she was talking to when she told me after finishing up my makeup that I shouldn’t cry. My first tears of the day came WHILE she was still doing my makeup when my sweet friend Angela came to see me. And then more tears afterwards when my mother-in-law delivered gifts from my hubby. And then again when my sister and I called my Dad back in Oklahoma. And again when I read Chasen’s letter. And all of that happened BEFORE I even left my room, so you can imagine how many more times I cried before the end of the day. I’ve never regretted those tears. Outward signs of how happy you’re feeling inside are always worth sharing with those you love. I hope you’ll think about giving your loved ones your true heart’s expression on your wedding day, too.
STEP 8: INVEST IN A VOW BOOK
After you’ve organized, edited, moved some sentences over to your letter, and reworded as needed, it’s time to finalize it all. 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. If you’d like to know more about the way letters can be captured in a way that makes you look and sound your best on camera AND makes the most sense to your story, a talented videographer would probably love to tell you!
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 likely order them from your stationery vendor.
A few tips:
Avoid large sheets of paper that make crinkling sounds, especially if your wedding is outdoors and may be windy.
Write neatly and use the pages to help you chunk paragraphs.
Every time you turn a page, it should be a natural place to pause.
These books are a great keepsake. If you have your vows memorized, you may want to consider having them written down in a vow book anyway. Just for backup.
Your officiant can keep your booklet in his pocket just in case you need some help in the moment. Better safe than sorry!
Most importantly, NEVER read from your phone.
Your personally written vows can be one of the most sacred 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.
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 own vows changed?
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