The date is set, the officiant booked, the dress purchased. Now, it's time for the hard work.
We mean it. Writing vows can be a painstaking, agonizing process. This makes sense, of course—what are you going to say to your future spouse, while standing across from them at the altar? What are you going to promise to them? What are you going to vow for the rest of your marriage?
Once you've worked through that absolute juggernaut of emotion... how, then, are you going to say what you need to say? How long should you speak? In what order should you arrange your vow? Funny? Solemn? Romantic? Straightforward?
The frustrating truth is that those specifics are up to you. You've got to choose what feels the most natural and honest to yourself and your relationship. If you start to feel like you're performing, you might be heading in the wrong direction.
However, there are several rules of thumb to help you get started. Here are five tips for writing modern vows.
Image from the Wedding Playbook.
Call them by their name
Begin your vows by identifying your partner. Not in the crowd, no, but identifying them by who they are to you. Use their real name, bring in nicknames, and descriptors of what they mean to you.
For example, you might say, "[name], you are my best friend, my teammate, my opener of tightly lidded jars." Continue with a brief reflection of your relationship. "Over the last two years, nothing has become clearer to me than the strength of our love, and our ability to laugh and grow together."
Tell them when you knew they were the one
This is an adorable anecdote to add in to your vows. This moment, if one doesn't spring to mind, can probably be found in the quiet moments of your life. Have you ever looked over at your partner in the grocery store, and thought, "oh dang, that is the person for me"? Tell that story.
For example, "I'll never forget the day we shopped for our Thanksgiving dinner. You were in the produce section, carrying both of our baskets, tapping cantaloupes like it was the most serious, dire task in the world. I watched you for a minute before I came over, because I just loved watching you be yourself. I knew then I wanted to be your wife."
Photo from Junebug Weddings.
Tell a story which illustrates the love you share
Now is a great time to practice your transitions. Lead into a story which, outside of the moment you realized you loved your partner and wanted to marry them, illustrates a moment that you two demonstrated your love for one another.
For example, "My certainty about you was only confirmed the night you brought the tent into the apartment and made a "campsite" for us when we got rained out. That meant everything to me, and it showed me that you were so committed to me and our happiness together. It also proved your humour and spontaneity, two things I value so much in our life."
Segue into the things you love about them
Now it's time for the compliments! Don't spend too long here on abstract concepts. Especially if you have an audience, it is best to keep this rooted in examples so that everyone can follow along and understand. Ask yourself, why do you want to marry this wonderful person? What makes them so wonderful?
For example, "But that's not all I love about you. I love how you rough chop onions like a crazy person, even when I ask for a fine dice. I love how excited you get when you finish a really tough crossword. I love how you pour my wine before your own, every time."
Here, these concrete examples say, I love how quirky you are, how curious and excitable you are, and how generous and loving you are.
Photo from A and Bé Bridal.
Lead into your promises
Now's time for the big guns—why we're all here. The vows! In this section, you are meant to communicate to your promises and hopes for your marriage. There are lots of examples out there, but this, more than anything, needs to come from you. Again, be specific. Don't say, I promise to love you forever. First, you can't promise that. You don't know for sure that you'll be together and love each other for the rest of your lives, though we all certainly hope so.
Tend instead toward statements like, "I promise to grow with you, and to accept you for all the parts of you that I know, and all the parts I will come to know as we go through life together." Less utopic, specific, still extremely meaningful. Your partner knows you love them. Tell them how that love will endure in a practical sense.
Tell them you love them, and sign off
Before your vow runs long, end on a high note. Beyond the nitty-gritty, sickness and health stuff, tell your partner how excited, thankful, and in love you are. Now is the time to be a bit lofty and inspirational.
For example, "You are my entire world. I am so honoured and thankful to be standing here, moments away from being your wife. I am so excited for the rest of our lives, and for decades spent chasing our dreams together. I love you."
Then, drop the mic, get pronounced, smooch away, and run toward your portrait session. Sneak in a moment of quiet with your partner. Then, dance the night away.