One assignment that can send knees knocking, teeth chattering, and minds racing? Writing your own wedding vows. How do you sum up a love that will last a lifetime? Where do you begin? It’s not the easiest thing in the world to put your heart on the page, but with some time and reflection, you can do it. Take a breath and follow our lead. In just 10 steps, we’ll help you navigate the path, from racing first thoughts to final draft to reading them confidently to your love on your wedding day.
1. What Do You Want To Say? (AKA: Write From the Heart)
The first question, and perhaps the most difficult when it comes to forming your wedding vows, is deciding what exactly you want to say in the short time you have to speak during the ceremony. Find a quiet spot and sit with the question. Listen to your heart: What promises do you want to make? What words immediately come to mind? Quotes? Images?
Think back on your relationship. What memories immediately spring to mind? If you’re drawing a lingering blank, think of a book you love or a poem you enjoy reading. Take a break, read a few chapters or lines, and loose your thoughts a little. Give yourself some space to breathe, then come back to your ideas.
2. Free Write for a Few Minutes
A good way to get your thoughts from your brain (or heart, as the case may be) onto paper is to free write while you let your mind wander. Grab a pen and a piece of paper, and write down what comes to mind in a stream-of-consciousness fashion. No idea is too simple, no thought too small. Write and write and write. Get it all out. Once it’s all down on paper, read it.
3. What’s the Main Point?
Do any themes jump out at you? What seems to be the biggest, most important idea that emerges from what you’ve written? Think about the important moments you and your fiancé have shared together, both the happiest moments and the most challenging. What promises do you want to make as you move forward into the future together? Find a central vow, which may be as simple as “I will always love you” or “I promise to stand by you, no matter what.”
4. Do You Want To Tell a Story?
Are there any stories or examples you can think of to support the central themes of your vows? What special experiences have you shared together? Do you have a favorite song? A poem? A quote about love? Start making a list and writing them down.
5. Write a First Draft
Taking the central ideas and promises that emerged in your moments of free writing, reminiscing, and brainstorming, start crafting a first draft of your vows. Start with the main point and add details around it. Add a story or quotation if they feel appropriate and authentic to what you want to say.
6. Remember: What You Say Is More Important Than How Much You Say
Vows can be as long or as short as you want them to be. The most powerful vows are usually the most clear, detailed, and succinct. Once you feel that you have written exactly what you want to say in the way you want to say it, put it aside for a few hours, even days. Come back to your vows with fresh eyes, and then...
7. Read Your Vows Aloud
Reading what you've written aloud is good practice, of course, for the big day, but it’s also important to hear the words as they’ll be said. Things always sound different when heard aloud versus when read silently: Are there any phrases that sound awkward? Any points you want to emphasize? Any edits you want to make? Now is the time to edit, make changes, and add polishing touches.
7.5. Read Your Vows Aloud to Someone You Trust
You're not quite finished with the reading aloud, which is why this is step seven-and-a-half. After you read your vows aloud to yourself, have a trusted friend or family member listen to you read them. Do your vows sound like you? Do they say what you want to say? Ask for feedback and give it appropriate consideration.
Proofreading your vows is an important way to refine the writing as well as catch any typos. Take some time polishing your vows and correcting any grammatical mistakes. You’ll likely be nervous when you read them on the big day, and you don’t want to stumble over any misspellings when you read them aloud at your wedding.
9. Revisit Your Vows Regularly
If you write your vows in advance, be sure to take them out and read them to yourself on occasion in the days leading up to the wedding. This will help you familiarize yourself with the words and ensure that you don’t forget what you’re saying when you're swept up in the energy of the moment.
10. Take a Deep Breath
When it comes to reading your vows to your fiancé on your wedding day (in front of all your family and friends), take a deep breath first. Steady your hands, look at your beloved, and speak directly to them.
Good luck! And don’t worry: Beyond anything else, the most important thing is to write your vows from the heart. That’s what your love wants to hear anyway.
WATCH: 5 Genius Tips Only Wedding Planners Know
Did you write your own vows for your wedding day? Looking back, what would you add, if anything? What advice would you give to people writing their own wedding-day vows?