So, the big day is tomorrow...and you were supposed to have figured out how to write your wedding vows a month ago. We get it, there's a lot involved with wedding planning and it's easy to avoid writing those vows. Or maybe you both agreed to exchange traditional 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 future spouse 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—plus some vow examples to help you get started.
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 write funny wedding vows. A bit more sentimental? More romantic wedding vows may be appropriate. On your wedding 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 every day that make people feel like they know you. Your wedding 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 and helps combat writer's block. Think about: If you’re too worried about what you’re going to put on the page or following a template, 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 from your love story 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 first time you saw your future spouse and best friend, 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 marriage 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 as your writing wedding vows; the examples offered above, such as the moment you knew you were in love, are good options. You might also think about some hard times that you were able to work through together. 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 soulmate 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 closest friends, family members, and loved ones (or just yourselves, if you're opting for an elopement). 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. A few wedding vow examples: “I can’t wait to collect art with you for the rest of my life,” 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/spouse” 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 in your first draft, 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 marriage 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 become a keepsake and “end up in the wedding video and photos. I suggest a nice note card that matches the wedding colors or a little vow book [a great gift idea!] 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 with your whole heart.
Sample Wedding Vows
We asked wedding vow and speech writer Katelyn Peterson, owner and creator of Wedding Words, to share some of her favorite vow examples to help inspire your own:
"Had I known you were a Red Sox fan when we met, I would have never agreed to a first date. But then I also would have never said yes to this moment and I can not imagine spending my life with anyone else.
Despite your inability to show up on time or your capacity to prank me...
Ignoring the fact that you can't sing and yet, you're still the first one up at karaoke night...
And even though you still wear that Red Sox jersey around our West Village neighborhood...
...I love you and I choose you to be my partner for life.
I promise to cheer you on as loudly as I do my beloved New York Yankees.
I promise to make you smile during the challenging times and make you laugh during the good times.
I promise to love all of you...the parts that make me feel special, the parts that drive me a bit crazy, and the parts that leave me completely perplexed...peanut butter on pickles...really?
Today, I take all of you, for exactly who you are, and for always."
"First date coffees turned into one-year anniversary cocktails.
Your apartment soon became ours.
And today marks a commitment to forever.
From the moment we met, I knew you were special.
Your laugh made me feel comfortable.
Your hand made me feel safe.
And your heart showed me a kind of love I'd never felt before.
As we begin this new chapter together, I make these vows to you:
I promise to be the trustworthy and faithful partner you deserve.
I promise to support your dreams and talk through our disagreements.
I promise to love you with my whole heart for my entire life.
We have already created such a beautiful partnership together and I can't wait to spend a lifetime designing more memories with you."
A Mix of Romanic and Funny Vows
"Little did I know when I accepted a job in Los Angeles that my new co-worker would one day become my spouse. But as I stand here in front of you today, I couldn't dream of a better partner or future.
With you by my side, my life is full of more joy, adventure, and kitchen dance parties than I ever thought was possible.
You're the only one who can simultaneously make my heart swoon over your romantic gestures while also making me laugh until I cry.
Throughout our marriage, I promise to care for you when you're sick and to advocate for you when you're too shy to send back your meal.
I promise to protect your heart, your secrets, and your comic book collection.
I promise to spend our marriage making you feel happy, supported, and loved.
You're my best friend and I love you."
Real Wedding Vows
These vows were written and recited by bride Lauren to her husband, Adam:
“I, Lauren, choose you, Adam, to be my husband, best friend, and faithful partner. In you have found the love of my life and my truest friend. Your unfaltering energy, ambition, and generosity are admirable and contagious. You inspire me, challenge me, and remind me to always find the fun in life. You make me a better woman. I will work with you to build a life together and I will strive every day to strengthen our relationship. Thank you for choosing me to love and grow old with. On this day in front of our family and friends, I vow to have the patience that love demands, to speak when words are needed, and to share in the silence when words are not. I promise to support you emotionally and spiritually so that we can continually grow together as one. I will be your greatest supporter and toughest adversary. I will remain your greatest supporter and toughest adversary. I will remain yours in want and in plenty, in sickness and health, in failure and in triumph. I promise to encourage your dreams, honor your goals, and cherish you until death parts us. With all of my heart, today and forever, I love you.”