Who said wedding vows can’t be funny?
What should the tone of the vows be?
I have absolutely nothing against people who deliver traditional wedding vows. Or who write their own, solemn ones. I do respect them. Vows are highly significant. They are normally carefully chosen and delivered in the presence of a crowd of people who really matter to the couple.
As a civil celebrant, I’ve heard (and helped with) quite a few in my time.
But injecting a bit of humour and personality into those vows can work and may be absolutely appropriate. Not least, if the couple have got a rich sense of humour.
How do you do it?
I’m afraid there’s no template to follow. Nor is there a right or a wrong scenario. What you can do is to write a series of promises that contain a little humour.
One way to do this is to throw a funny line in among some serious or unfunny promises.
You can also deliver your line humorously. Maybe there can be a reference to a failing of your loved one that will be recognised by your partner and, possibly, a good number of guests! You may want to mention something about your (or your loved one’s) character.
That doesn’t mean to say that it should be all about humour and there’s no point making trivial promises. It’s not meant to be a stand-up routine. You shouldn’t force the humour. Don’t be aggressive or disrespectful.
Mention a thing if it is true (and genuinely funny). If your partner is arachnophobic, a vow such as “I promise to save you from any spider that crosses our threshold” will resonate among your guests!
A few thoughts
It goes without saying that you and your partner must both be willing and happy to write your own vows!
Before putting pen to paper, think about what makes your relationship tick.
Then write a few lines, leave your work for a day or two, come back to it and redraft, if needs be. You may need to do this a few times. When you are happy with it, practise reading it aloud. (If you’re really nervous, your celebrant will read it for you, but it’s normally better to do it yourself.)
Personalising your vows is all about originality. If you need a starting point, here is a kind of template. By all means, use it but ADAPT IT for your own circumstances.
Use your partner’s first name first, and then say the following:
- I promise to [eg, always be at your side] – maybe 3 things
- I promise to be [your rock] – maybe 3 things
- I promise [to take your advice occasionally] –2/3 funny things
- I promise not to [check e-mails while we’re eating together] –2/3 funny things
- I promise to [love you unreservedly] – 1 or 2 serious things
Have fun with it!
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).
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!
Having looked (“https://vowsthatwow.co.uk/?p=549 “) at the history of marriage vows, it’s time to explore them in a little more detail.
What is their significance?
- unite the couple legally
- are a public declaration of the couple’s love for each other (before God, if the ceremony is religious)
- are a public declaration of the couple’s commitment to each other
Do vows have to be religious?
In secular marriages, wedding vows can take any format – there is nothing to stop the couple from writing their own. Indeed, most celebrants would encourage that. The vows can be inspired by poetry, music or even films. They usually state each other’s expectations of marriage as well as declaring mutual commitment.
Religious marriage vows
Each religion has its own prescribed vows. (Any alterations would have to be discussed first with the officiant.)
Christian wedding vows may well include the familiar: “Do you, …., take … to be your wife/husband? Do you promise to love, honour, cherish and protect her/him, forsaking all others and holding only unto her/him?”
In Muslim weddings, it is usually the cleric who declares what the couple accept to do, but an example of a vow read out by the couple is as follows:
Bride: I, …, offer you myself in marriage and in accordance with the instructions of the Holy Koran and the Holy Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him. I pledge, in honesty and with sincerity, to be for you an obedient and faithful wife.
Groom: I pledge in honesty and sincerity, to be for you a faithful and helpful husband.
Hindu marriage ceremonies have seven steps of marriage which represent seven vows/promises that the couple make to each other in a wedding ceremony full of ritual.
Writing Your Own Wedding Vows
I have produced guidance and advice on writing vows in a separate blog, which I trust will be useful (“ https://vowsthatwow.co.uk/?p=519 “).
Michael Gordon is a wedding celebrant based in London.
Last time, we looked at reasons for writing your own marriage vows. We also looked at suggestions how best to go about this.
Of course, you might already have all the ideas you want for the content, but you would probably welcome a few pointers as to what might work well.
Whether you are writing traditional wedding vows or not, the following could be worth considering:
- You will probably want to express deep emotional love for your partner (why else are you going through this whole ceremony?!)
- You can mention your first meeting (was it ‘love at first sight’ or organic growth?)
- You may want to talk about when you first realized you were in love
- How has your life changed since you met your partner, since you fell in love?
- Talk about your plans and aspirations for your future life together – or growing old together
- Promise to stay together in the future, come what may
If you feel uncomfortable expressing such emotions publicly, you can always quote from a song, film or poem that captures what you want to say. You can also use metaphor or simile to get your message across beautifully and effectively – and less embarrassingly!
So think through what you want to say, plan it, put it on paper, and leave the draft for a day, if possible. Then review it and get feedback from someone who knows you (and who will be honest!). Finally, use the above tips to put it all together. Make sure to practise saying it.
To come up with a meaningful, original and affecting set of vows is not as difficult as you may think. The results will certainly be more than worth the effort!
Michael Gordon is a celebrant based in Harrow.