So, the big day is tomorrow...and you were supposed to have finished writing your wedding vows a month ago. Or maybe you both agreed to not write your own wedding vows and then changed your mind the day before your walk down the aisle. Whatever the situation, you now have to put pen to paper — and fast.
First, take a deep breath. Your fiancé(e) probably knows he or she is marrying a procrastinator and loves you regardless. But you should still try to impress your soon-to-be spouse by writing some truly amazing wedding vows that seem like you spent weeks on them. Ready?
Here's how to write wedding vows in 11 procrastinator-friendly steps.
1. Decide what tone you want your wedding vows to take.
Don’t try to be anything you’re not. If you’re a silly person, you can add some humor to your wedding vows. On this day especially, you don’t want to be anything other than yourself. Whether you’re funny, musical, sentimental, or concise, stay true to who you are.
One big rule of writing your own wedding vows? They should echo the tone of your wedding, whether it be casual, elegant, or themed. Annie Lee, a wedding planner with Daughter of Design in New York, New York, says, “I believe in personal vows, sharing the small inner moments of everyday that make people feel like they know you. Guests should leave feeling like they are closer to the couple after the wedding.”
2. Write anything that comes to mind.
There’s actually science behind this: Free writing is an efficient way to pour all of your thoughts onto one page. That way, you can see them all in one place. Not to mention, it gets your brain going. Think about: If you’re too worried about what you’re going to put on the page, you’re never going to write anything at all. And remember, none of these words ever have to see the light of day. They’re just for you. And if you need some more inspiration...
3. Peruse pictures of you and your partner from your relationship.
If you need a little extra sentimental inspiration, photos tend to stir up emotions. Skim through your favorite early photos of you two as a couple to remember feelings from the beginning of your relationship. Try thinking of memories like the moment you first saw your future spouse, the moment you knew you were in love, or the moment you knew you wanted to marry them. Whether or not these memories end up in your final wedding vows, revisiting the early days will stir up important emotions (which is the key to writing your own vows). JP Reynolds of JPR Weddings in Sherman Oaks, California, recommends beginning your personal wedding vows with a memory of a moment when you realized your partner was your one and only.
4. Pick your favorite memories.
After you’ve taken a trip down memory lane, now’s the time to pick your favorites. Luckily for you, wedding vows are supposed to be relatively short. Try to stick to one or two especially meaningful memories; the examples offered above, such as the moment you knew you were in love, are good options. These memories don’t need to completely cover your entire relationship, because that’s impossible. Think of the classics — when you look back on your wedding in 20 years, which memories will still be vivid and important in your mind? Express your gratitude for all that your partner has given to you.
5. Think of your guests.
Stay away from inside jokes, because while these jokes may be significant to you and your spouse, you don’t want to exclude your guests. You should also not write anything too personal or embarrassing in your wedding vows — your partner might not be a fan of sharing intimate details with everyone you know!
6. Come up with some promises.
Wedding vows are composed of promises, and both vague and specific promises are needed to make the best handwritten vows. Think big – “I promise to always cherish you,” or “I vow to always be honest about what I’m thinking.” Also, think small – “I promise to always make enough coffee for two in the morning,” or “I promise to comfort you when your favorite team loses.” The promises are also a great place in your wedding vows to showcase both your serious, sentimental side, coupled with your funny side. For every “big picture” promise, you can include a more specific one. Try to vary your language by using words such as, “vow,” “pledge,” or a simple “I will.”
7. Think about the future with your partner.
Of course, that’s what this day is all about. You and your spouse are declaring your partnership and beginning to build a life together in front of your family and friends. At this stage of your wedding vow writing, you should start to think of what you will be doing with your spouse in the future. This part is slightly different from your promises, where you talked about what role you will play in nurturing your relationship. Now, talk about what lies ahead – your goals and the adventures you want to have. This is the time where you can talk about the type of couple you are. Whether you’re an adventurous couple, a career-oriented couple, or an artsy couple, this section of your vows should reflect that. For example, “I can’t wait to collect art with you until we grow old,” or “I look forward to many more adventures to come.”
8. Finish off your wedding vows.
Figure out what you want your last sentence of your vow to be. JP Reynolds recommends saying, “I take you as my husband/wife” somewhere within your promises and wedding vows – “that phrase is what turns your words of love into a vow.” End your vow with love and emphasis.
9. Edit it down.
At this point, you should have jotted down some memories, picked your favorites, made a few promises, and looked toward the future. Luckily for you, procrastinator, wedding vows should only be one or two minutes, max. They may be one of the most important parts of the ceremony, but personal wedding vows shouldn’t drag on. If something’s important, you only need to say it once, with emphasis.
10. Practice out loud.
Anyone will tell you that you need to practice, and unfortunately, even though you waited until the last minute to write your wedding vows, this step can’t be skipped. Practice it once, and time yourself. Then edit it down some more. You’ll likely talk more quickly when you’re nervous at the ceremony, so keep that in mind while practicing — and try to speak as slowly as possible, even if you think you sound a bit ridiculous. Plan where you’ll take significant pauses, and write them in the margins. Of course, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, especially since there’s not much time left before your ceremony. Practice it a few times through until you’re not stumbling over any words and pat yourself on the back.
11. Make a clean copy for yourself.
Even though you’re working on it at the last minute, the copy you bring to the wedding ceremony should look nice, and be easily readable. Make a copy with no cross-outs or eraser marks. Write in where you want to take pauses. Annie Lee of Daughter of Design, remarked that this sheet of paper will “end up in the photos. I suggest a nice note card that matches the wedding colors or a little notebook or pad.” You may want to make two copies, and give one to your officiant, so they can prompt you if needed.
No matter what tips you may find, including these, don’t stress too much over writing your wedding vows. Be concise, but be yourself. You don’t have to suddenly become a wordsmith to create memorable vows. They’ll be meaningful because you wrote them.