Personal Wedding Vows

Jun 2, 2016

I bet you’ve heard these wedding vows before – at a wedding, real or televised:

“I, X, take thee, Y, to be my lawful, wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part. This is my solemn vow.”

This traditional text covers the ground well, wouldn’t you agree?

It’s quite easy to affirm vows that someone else has written (and that’s not meant as a criticism – it’s a fact of life). It will certainly be a challenge to improve on them.

However, for such a solemn and significant moment, wouldn’t it mean so much more if you came out with something unique, something that you yourself had written?

Well, of course, there are pros and cons to consider.


Reasons to think twice

  • You may not see the point of trying to improve on something already good.
  • You may be far from being the greatest writer in the world.
  • You may dread public speaking, not least at an occasion as massive as this.
  • Saying lovey-dovey things is hard enough face-to-face, let alone in public!


Reasons to embrace the idea

  • The important thing to realise is that, by writing and reciting your own vows, you are acknowledging the step you are both taking, and showing that you are not trivialising your relationship.
  • The mere effort involved in writing your vows and in reading them out publicly shows and confirms your commitment.
  • It is also something your guests will love and appreciate – and so, indeed, might your partner!


How you can achieve this

There’s nothing to stop you receiving help when you write your vows. You can use (or, preferably, adapt) somebody else’s vows (whether from true-life or fiction). You may bounce a few ideas off a more literary-minded friend or relative. You can also practise reading your vows to them and gain from constructive criticism.

When you read your vows on the day, try and make at least occasional eye contact with your partner (and you should direct your vows to him/her anyway). Control your nerves, if you are able, and ensure you read slowly and clearly (people will really want to hear what you are saying).


One example

This is what one partner wrote (with minimal editing on my part!) for a lovely same-sex wedding that I conducted:

“I am truly and utterly blessed to have found you, my love. You show me love that exceeds my expectations and grows daily even on what we might call a bad day.

“So from this day on:

“I promise to always give you my all in every way,

“I ask you to accept my flaws, as I know I’m not perfect.

“I promise to be patient, respectful and caring.

“I promise to be your partner in everything, even in crime.

“I promise to be faithful, honest and mindful of your heart.

“I promise to always be myself the woman you fell in love with

“And with that I take you, XY, as my wife and my equal.”

There could be any number of criticisms you could level at this piece of work. Should this bride be offering to be a partner “even in crime”? The piece does not rank as “high literature” and the syntax is not that great.

But if you’re looking for sincerity, it hits the nail right on the head! This bride has clearly done much thinking and is clear in her mind what she will bring to the marriage table. She is more than willing to affirm publicly what she will do to make the marriage work, and, simply and clearly – and rather charmingly – has done so.

You can even include a bit of humour (“I promise to catch and remove all garden spiders that come into our home.”), but only do this, if you are reasonably sure you can carry it off.

So don’t be afraid of going for something that is hard work (attainable, but hard work). Public speaking can be wonderful (with the right support – and your celebrant will be able to help you). The results will be so worthwhile – master your self-doubt and nerves, and you will be amazed at the difference your personal vows will make.

And, don’t forget, when your partner has returned the favour, you will always have those vows to throw back at him/her , if he/she happens to show signs of sliding! A powerful weapon!