Expert Advice To Follow For Writing Your Own Wedding Vows

Wedding vows are the most beautiful and memorable part of any wedding ceremony, during which the happy couple exchange promises of love, commitment, and dedication. Because of how meaningful this exchange is, more couples are ditching the traditional, cookie-cutter vows in favor of writing their own. "Your vows and promises that you want to make to each other in those moments — be it in front of your community in a wedding or just to each other in an elopement — are for you," officiant Bethel Nathan tells Wedding Wire. "Vows can also include words of endearment. But many just focus on the promises themselves as vows." 

Writing your own wedding vows also makes room for humor and laughter, to quote your favorite books or movies, and references of your unique story. "If the words are heartfelt, then they're not cheesy," JP Reynolds, celebrity officiant, tells Brides. "I've never heard vows that made me roll my eyes." 

As intimate as personal wedding vows can be, it can be overwhelming to sit down and actually write them. You know why you love your partner, and you may already have an idea of the vows you'd like to make to them. But with no set structure or template to follow, you may find yourself staring helplessly at an empty page begging inspiration to strike. If you've decided to write your own vows but aren't sure where to begin, the expert advice and ideas below will help get you started. 

The benefits of writing your own wedding vows

While there is something beautiful and structured about the classic vows, writing your own wedding vows comes with a number of benefits. First, it gives you the opportunity to tell your love story in a meaningful way. "More than ever before, couples are wanting to write their own rules and make the ceremony about who they are as individuals and as a couple," vow expert Tanya Pushkine tells Elle. "People are tired of hearing the same old traditional vows — they want uniqueness."

Personal vows offer a moment of connection on your wedding day as well. The entire day is a whirlwind of preparation, photographs, family, and friends, which leaves very little time for just you and your partner to be with one another. Exchanging heartfelt promises, either privately or in front of your guests, is a remarkable moment that allows both parties to express their true feelings to one another. You have the opportunity to talk about how you want your marriage to be, and all of the wonderful and honest ways you plan on making those dreams a reality.

In this way, writing your own vows can also be viewed as a personal constitution. Rather than simply acknowledging you will be there for one another in times of sickness and health, wealth or poverty, personal vows can dictate specifically how you will show up for your partner in ways that matter to them most.

How long should wedding vows be?

Writing your own wedding vows can be loads of fun. Alongside all of the joy and happiness they bring to your ceremony, there are also no right or wrong ways to structure them. This freedom is great if you're a strong or creative writer, but probably less so if you're not. In this instance, you may have a lot of questions about how long your vows should be or what format they should follow to keep guests engaged.

On average, each person's wedding vows should last no longer than three minutes. This equates to roughly 300 to 500 words. "For many couples, it's helpful to agree on a specific word count for wedding vows," Lindsay Rolfson tells Canadian Living. "Since people speak at different speeds, especially when they're nervous or excited, word count is an easier way to keep vows 'short and sweet' rather than setting a time limit." Wedding vows that go on for too long may lose their impact. It is also a good guideline to follow so that one person doesn't speak significantly longer than the other.

If this word count or timeframe doesn't seem like long enough to say everything you want to say during your vows, consider penning a reception speech or a special letter for your partner to open while they are getting ready. Not only will this letter be a special, romantic, and emotional touch for your big day, it can be made into a lovely keepsake after the wedding.

Confirm you can write your own vows with your officiant

Before you sit down and pour your heart out on paper, talk to your officiant and confirm that you are allowed to write your own wedding vows. After all, it would be a huge disappointment to spend time and effort writing heartfelt vows you can't actually use.

Although wedding vows are a much anticipated element of the wedding ceremony, they are not a legal requirement. Only the Declaration of Intent and the official proclamation by your officiant announcing you as a married couple are required wording. Many traditional ceremonies, particularly those affiliated with a religion or house of worship, don't have vows or a specific vow wording to use. For example, Jewish and Muslim ceremonies typically do not have an exchange of vows and the Catholic church prohibits personal vows.

If you are allowed to write your own vows, it is also possible that your officiant will want to review both sets of vows before the ceremony. This is generally so they can properly facilitate the exchange of vows and provide each person with the proper cues during the ceremony.

Discuss the tone and format with your partner

Once you've received the go ahead to write your own vows, you should sit down with your partner and discuss the general tone and format you'd like to stick to. Do you want your vows to be humorous and lighthearted? Would you like them to be so emotional they make every guest cry? Do you want to discuss your values as a couple or simply exchange a bulleted list of promises you'd like to make? Some couples opt to write their own vows from the same prompt. For example, you and your partner can agree to write about the first time you knew the other was "the one" or the first time you said "I love you." Discussing these elements alongside timing or a maximum word count can simultaneously give direction and ensure both parties are on the same page. It can also help eliminate pre-ceremony jitters.

While you don't have to discuss the actual content of your vows ahead of time, there is no rule that says you have to write your vows in private either. Workshopping your vows as a team may sound unromantic but it allows you both to spend time together amidst the chaos of wedding planning. Choosing the vows you'd like to exchange together may help you remember why you're planning a wedding in the first place. Many couples choose to write their vows together to avoid uncomfortable surprises or maintain a sense of unity in the wording of their ceremony.

Give yourself time to write your vows

One of the most important things you can do when writing your vows is to give yourself plenty of time to write them. "Allow time for proper planning and practice, and give yourself enough time to develop, organize and rehearse your vows," Lindsay Rolfson explains to Canadian Living. Anywhere from six weeks to two full months ahead of the wedding should be sufficient time for you to make an outline and begin filling in stories and promises you'd like to share with your partner. You don't have to write all of your vows in one sitting, but the earlier you start working on them the longer you will have to put everything together, edit, and practice reading them.

Even if you give yourself plenty of time to write your vows, writer's block may occur. If it does, don't fret. "Don't judge yourself, and give yourself time," Alicia and Angie, Vow Muse, tell Woman Getting Married. "One of the most difficult things about experiencing writer's block as you pen your wedding vows is that you start to be self-conscious about why you're having a hard time ... This does not benefit you at all, and it doesn't mean anything negative about you or your feelings toward your partner."

Don't get too personal or tell embarrassing stories

There is nothing wrong with writing humorous vows if you agree on that beforehand. In fact, they can be an endearing, lighthearted addition to what is generally a serious, semi-formal occasion. However, you should probably stay away from embarrassing stories or personal anecdotes that might not sit well with your guests. You also want to avoid telling too many inside jokes that no one else will understand. They may make you laugh but they'll fly over everyone else's head. It is also a major faux pas to share your partner's secrets or talk about their exes during your vows. And it's important to avoid telling lengthy stories with too much detail. Too much information, even if it is sweet or funny, can come off as rambling.

Generally, you don't want to spend too much time talking about anything negative during your vows. However, Alexis, a senior assistant at copywriting company XO Juliet, offers Wedding Vibe some different advice. "The best advice I can give to those who write wedding vows is to include difficult times in their relationship. This gives an idea of what the couple went through. The struggle becomes more meaningful ... We know that interpersonal relationships are rainbows and butterflies, but people are so focused on thoughts that the vows should be a perfect time. Including clues in difficult times can make it easier for you to understand the vows and look very honest."

Think about your values

Writing your vows is the perfect time to think about your values, both as an individual, as a spouse, and within the boundaries of your marriage. What is important to you? What do you love and appreciate the most about your partner? Why are you choosing to spend the rest of your life alongside this person? Consider the foundation you'd like to build your marriage upon and include tenets such as honesty, trust, faithfulness, and respect.

As you think about the promises you want to make to your significant other, you should also think about the less romantic values you want to bring to your new marriage. For example, how do you and your spouse's values align when it comes to finances and personal spending? To your individual careers or professional goals? While you probably won't want to spend your precious vows laying out promises for financial success, you can use these elements as guideposts for framing what matters most to you in your relationship. Outlining these values will help clarify your priorities and point you in the right direction for writing genuine vows.

Make promises you'll keep

Above all else, vows are simply promises you make to your partner. Writing your own vows allows you to personalize these promises so that they fit the person and the relationship perfectly. But what promises should you make? It can be tempting to rattle off a list of grand statements — but promising your partner everything under the sun can lead to unrealistic expectations.

Instead, make promises you can keep. Also remember that the promises you make during your vows are intended to form the basis of your marriage. Alongside all of the hopes and dreams you share with your partner, you should also talk about how you will navigate the hard times and the support you'll offer in times of struggle. In times of difficulty, your vows will serve as a roadmap to get you both back on track. And you should consider what promises you want to make to yourself as you take your first step into married life. Approach the promises you plan to make from a place of honesty, respect, and love. When you reach the end of your promises, don't forget to summarize your hopes for your future marriage.

Where should you write your wedding vows down?

Just as there are no rules to the formatting of your personalized wedding vows, there are no restrictions on where you write them down or how you deliver them. You can type up your sentimental promises on a piece of printer paper, all nice and neat. You can also write them by hand on stationary or type them into your phone. However, if you and your partner don't love the idea of dragging a college ruled spiral notebook down the aisle or reading from the Notes app on your phone, personalized vow books are a sophisticated alternative.

Vow books are small, journal-like books used specifically for handwriting your vows. Vow books range in quality from leather bound books to handmade paper stitched together with ribbon. These special books can be customized to include your wedding date, your names, or your initials for an extra special touch. While beautiful, they are also practical. If you memorized your vows but forgot what you wanted to say halfway through, having them written in your vow book can save the day. They are also a tangible keepsake that can be passed onto the next generation.

Have someone read them when you're finished

It might seem strange to let someone read your special vows before your partner gets to hear them, but doing so is a great way to ensure both sets of vows are balanced. "The best vows are individual and full of personality, but balanced with your partner's," Natasha Bird tells Elle. "It's not going to go over well if one set is just lighthearted joshing, while the other delivers theirs with a stream of tears. So, if you don't want to have to reveal your writing to each other ahead of the day, you can pick one trusted person to look over them and give selective feedback."

When choosing a person to read your vows, pick someone who you both love and trust to give constructive feedback. It could be a friend, a family member, or your officiant if they're willing. Just make sure they don't share your vows with anyone else if you're trying to keep them a secret.

Consider exchanging your wedding vows in private

If the thought of saying your precious wedding vows makes you break out in a cold sweat, you don't need to forgo them altogether. Instead, consider exchanging your wedding vows in private, either with your officiant before the ceremony or during your first look. "While the wedding is a single day, the vows a couple make to each other are for a lifetime, so taking time to offer and receive them in an intimate space can be incredibly special," wedding planner Sara Bauleke tells Brides. "If a couple has planned a larger wedding, but doesn't love being in the spotlight, a private vow exchange is often appealing and can allow for the couple to connect in a way that they aren't comfortable doing in front of a larger group."

Private wedding vows also allow for more authenticity and comfortability. They also mean you and your partner can do or say whatever you want to without fear. "Couples have the freedom to share their most intimate memories, inside jokes, and heartfelt promises within their private vows," wedding officiant Daniela VillaRamos tells The Knot. "There are no rules to follow, no time limitations, no need to edit oneself or think about anything other than your love and commitment to your partner-in-adventure."

Don't forget to practice

Once you've written and edited your vows to perfection, it's time to practice. Even if you plan to read your vows from a vow book during your ceremony rather than memorize them, practicing saying the words out loud can help you feel more comfortable when the big day arrives. "When you practice, focus on speed and inflection," writer Katelyn Peterson tells Elle. "Many people often speak too quickly when they are nervous. Slow down so your new spouse can really hear every word you have to say. And practice having a natural rhythm to your voice so your message does not come out in a monotone manner."

Practicing your vows will also help you stay present during the ceremony. "I practiced reading my words out loud in the shower where my fiancé couldn't hear me," beauty director Jenna Rosenstein tells Harper's Bazaar. "I wanted my vows to feel incredibly intimate and personal to our relationship, so that when I was reading them it felt like I was truly talking to just him and not the crowd."