couple reciting wedding vows
Joshua Aaron Photography

There's a four-letter word that will have most brides and grooms breaking into cold sweats the night before their wedding. That word? Vows. While most of your ceremony is going to be fairly similar to every other wedding in recorded history, if you’re writing your wedding vows, it’s an opportunity to add a personal touch. They're the first time you get to publicly commit yourself to your partner and tell your closest family and friends what they mean to you. But what do you do if you're not a professional writer? How do you even know where to start? My wife freaked out about her vows for weeks (she was marrying a professional writer, after all) but the key is just to write from the heart.

If you're trying writing your wedding vows and have no idea where to begin, check out this list of questions you can ask yourself to help get the creative juices flowing.

Why am I marrying this person?

There are billions of other people in the world. Why did you choose this one? What is it about the person who you've chosen your life with? When writing your wedding vows, zero in on the little things that make you smile. Talk about the way they yawn. Vow to never stop giving them a bite of your burger when they ask. Find a way to highlight all of the wonderful reasons why this person stole your heart.

What makes your relationship special?

Every couple has their own language. That's not necessarily a literal language, but a way you do things that makes your relationship unique. Maybe it's kissing each other on the forehead when you wake up. Maybe it's taking a picture of every wine bottle you've ever shared. Think about the very specific things that you do together that makes your relationship special.

How can I be better?

When you really think about it, vows are more about you than the person you're marrying. Ask yourself how you can be better because a huge part of marriage is challenging yourself to be a better person for the sake of your relationship. Vow to do the things that make life easier for both of you. Vow to do the things you hate just because your soon-to-be spouse love them. Vow to be better in any way you can because that's what love inspires you to do.

What can't your partner live without?

This question is a great way to realize all of the sacrifices you're making going into your marriage. If you’re writing your wedding vows, think about what your partner just can't live without (besides you, of course!). Does he have to catch every big college football game? Will she cry if she can't go to the beach every summer? Vow to make those things a part of your lives together.

Where will your future take you?

Vows are inherently forward-looking statements. They're about what's going to happen down the line, not in the moment. Imagine what you want your future to look like. Then write your wedding vows towards that vision. Make a vow for every decade of your life. Make a subset of vows for how you'll promise to act when you're old and decrepit. Vows are wishes. They're dreams of what your future will be.

What can you promise only to your special someone?

There are things you'll do for your family. There are things you'll do for your friends. Beyond those things are what you'll do you for your partner. Those are the promises you want to make at your wedding (assuming they're appropriate...). My wife vowed to always let me have a bite of her dessert, especially when it's really good. If her best friend tried to take a bite of her cake, my wife would stab them with a fork. Those “only for you” promises are the types of vows you want to make on your magical day.

When did you know for sure?

This question won't lead to the basic version of vows, but it speaks to a larger idea. Vows don't have to be specific promises. They can be acknowledgements of how you got to where you are romantically. For my vows, I didn't read through a list. I printed out an email I sent myself three months after I first met my wife. I told myself in my email that I was going to marry that girl and I was so happy to be right about that fact. In that way, it was a vow to myself at the time that I could finally share with everyone around me. Sometimes the most out-of-the-box vows are the most meaningful.