As the Reflective Groom and I approach our first wedding anniversary this weekend (awwwww!), I thought it would be an apt time to look at wedding vows: how we ourselves went about it and how it turned out, with hopes of inspiring or guiding other soonlyweds out there who might also be trying to put pen to paper.
I knew from the start that I wanted us to write personal vows, as well as recite the traditional vows promising “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health”. The traditional vows were important for us to include because, admittedly/path- etically, we had seen them in so many films and TV shows that it simply wouldn’t seem like a wedding without them. The personal vows were important because I didn’t want a cookie-cutter ceremony, where we would simply be passive and silent participants.
My groom and I agreed early on that we would share our draft vows with each other well in advance of the wedding day and work on them together. We concurred that while it would of course be nice to have them as a surprise for one another on the big day, it wouldn’t be good if one of us had personal vows that were so much better, more meaningful and just plain longer than the other’s, and left one of us feeling bad on the day.
Off we go! So I started off with some suggestions from our officiant. To prepare the ceremony as a whole she had sent us documents with many sample vows, readings and ceremony rituals to lend us some inspiration. I read through these, highlighting words or phrases that I really liked, and crossing out parts that I didn’t. Starting with this approach led me to then Google (and YouTube) for other sample wedding vows online that I could borrow from. By then I had a few bits and pieces, but the process of cobbling together others’ words left me feeling a little like I was “stealing” other newlyweds’ feelings rather than expressing my own. I felt a little stuck.
I then changed tactics and started searching online for advice on where to start with writing vows. One web- site suggested starting out by writing your partner a love letter about why you’re excited to marry them, and another suggested answering guiding questions like what you love about your partner, what you love about your relationship, and what you’re looking forward to about your future together. I dutifully completed both exercises and felt a little bit more on course with what I wanted to say at our special day.
Making the rules
I had been doing most of this research and preparations on my own, before my groom and I got around to having a more concrete discussion about our vows. He said that he would prefer to keep our personal vows to one minute each, as he did not feel very comfortable saying emotional things in front of 70 other people, so shorter would be better. At first I was surprised by how brief that would be, but conceded that no one really wants to hear us prattle on for five minutes each, anyway. Knowing from experience that one minute equals about 150 words (when speaking at “giving a speech” speed rather than conversation speed, which is 200 words per minute), I realized that what I’d already cobbled together so far was more than enough; now it was simply a matter of paring back and picking the best from what I already had, rather than researching more. Win! (The beautiful “I Promise” poem by Dorothy Colgan, which was in and of itself 150 words, though beautiful, would be first to get slashed.)
During this chat with my groom I mentioned that I’d found during my Googling some humorous vows, like Brad Pitt famously promis- ing Jennifer Aniston to split the difference in the thermostat, and this couple hilariously reciting the vows they wished for their partner to say. This int- rigued my groom (who I think is a laugh riot), and he was keen to hear other examples I’d found. I showed him my favorite find from Offbeat Bride, where the groom vowed: “I promise you happiness in your life. If anyone ever makes you cry, I will beat them up and then buy you an ice cream. And though it will never be my intention, should I ever hurt you and make you cry I will do whatever I can do fix it. I will then beat myself up and buy you an ice cream.” I’d pasted into the bottom of my vows odds-and-ends document, knowing that I as the bride couldn’t really say it myself. Fortunately, the Reflective Groom loved it and asked if he could use it. Hells yeah, you can!
We agreed that if he would have something funny in his vows, then I should have something funny in mine, too. However, we also concluded that we didn’t want something as important as our wedding vows to be one giant stand-up bit. We settled on just a couple of humorous sentences and the rest to be more serious and meaningful, making sure we had a strong opening and conclusion, and – of course – some actual serious vows in there.
Back to the drawing board
Heading back to the draw- ing board with these guide- lines and word limits, I wrote down some headings to put my vows into the following structure: intro- duction, what I love about my groom, what I love about us, serious vows, funny vows, and the conclusion. Once I finished picking my favorites and slotting everything in, my vows added up to 350 words – way over our limit! Rather than trying to cut down words here and there, I simply decided to scrap the whole second and third sections and instead move them to my speech for the wedding reception.
When my groom and I both finished working on our vows individually, we came back together and delivered our draft vows to each other. It was quite emotional! We loved what each other had come up with, and interestingly we both thought that the other’s vows were much more powerful than our own. We gave each other some advice on wording here and there, but otherwise our vows changed very little from the ones we presented to each other that day.
Want to find out what our vows were and how they went down with our guests on the day? Tune into The Reflective Bride next week!