My wedding vows were the most important element of my wedding: more important than the food, the guests, the clothes, the music – everything. They were the reason that us and all our guests showed up, because without them there was nothing to celebrate.
In the UK the civil ceremony is not terrible – there is some love in there – but it is a bit dry and it’s over too quickly. Marriage is huge! I certainly felt like it should take longer than five minutes.
This is some practical advice to help those that aren’t writers get started when it feels like writers’ block has taking hold.
Talk to your partner and agree a plan
If you have an agreed template half the work is done.
Think about length. You can use time or a word count as a guide. Bear in mind that reading out loud at a measured pace will take you through about 180 words a minute.
Consider some themes. Do you want to share personal anecdotes or history? Would you rather talk about the other person, the things you will promise to them, the way they make you feel? Are jokes OK – can your vows be funny? You may want to draw upon quotes from literature or, Eastenders if it’s more your thing.
Bear in mind, if you are having a civil ceremony in the UK, all references to religion must be omitted. Be cautious about not using any words or phrases related to god or religious practices. Your vows are checked before the ceremony and must be approved by your registrar.
Read them aloud, many times
Reading something out loud makes it sound totally different. It also takes longer to read out loud than it does in your head. Make sure you can read through your vows smoothly. Consider swapping words that are clunky or that you trip over, not because anyone will laugh at you (everyone will be swooning over all the love in the room) but for your own comfort and piece of mind.
Don’t feel pressure to learn them by heart. Anything that makes you feel better about public speaking is a good idea. And, don’t fret too much about being heard. Yes, everyone wants to hear what you have to say and it’s beautiful when your declaration is loud and proud, but as long as your registrar and your new spouse can hear you, that’s enough.
Reading your vows to one another before the wedding
Being that our vows were the most important aspect of our wedding, we did not feel comfortable about the idea of not sharing them with each other beforehand. It would have been a shame if one of us had pitched them much more personally than the other, or one of us had just made a better job of it. I was nervous about being over-emotional on the day and didn’t want to risk being thrown into a fit of the sobs by a surprise.
We set aside an evening to share and planned a nice dinner over which we could profess our love to one another. Then, I got impatient and made my husband email me his draft because the tension was too much. But the idea was there, and if you can hold out it’s probably a lovely private thing to do. And yes, after reading one another’s, we did both make some minor tweaks, so it was worth it.
I’m over-thinking, help me!
Below are some ideas that might help the over (or under) thinkers. Some templates and themes that will get you started. They may lead you to your own structure and themes, which would be better still. If so, please feel free to post them in the comments.
1. Three lines on why your partner is fantastic, three lines on how your partner makes you feel and three lines on what you promise to you partner.
2. Ten lines; five reasons you are grateful for your partner and five promises you are making to your partner (you could alternate the thanks and promises too).
3. A quote that you have chosen from a book, film or song followed by three or four reasons this makes you think of your new spouse.
4. Tell an anecdote about your partner and then explain why it contains all the elements of you relationship – think about elements like trust, affection, energy and the obvious one (love).
5. You could try writing a poem, even something lighthearted like an acrostic poem, if the idea of something heavy doesn’t fit with who you are.
Themes to reference
Old age (if you’re not there yet)
Space and the planets
Nature – land and sea
Travel and places
The elements – earth, fire, water, the periodic table
The arts – literature (yay!), visual art, famous artists, music, films
Being more than the sum of two parts
Amplification of sound, saturation of colour
Food, wine, friends, family, fun