ceremony vows
Photography by Deanna Michele

Wedding vows are some of the most important words you’ll ever speak, but they can also come with a whole lot of pressure—especially if public speaking isn’t exactly your forte. While some take the time to write out their vows or practice them beforehand, figuring out how to recite your wedding vows in front of a crowd is an experience that can leave you more anxious and than in-the-moment. Luckily, reciting your vows doesn’t have to be daunting, and it all starts with a little preparation beforehand. 

We’ve enlisted the help of two professional officiants to share their biggest advice for reciting your wedding vows with total confidence. 

Before the wedding day...

Shift your mindset. 

“I often tell couples not to get caught up on the word “vow” as that word itself seems to evoke unnecessary stress and anxiety,” Autumn Pappas of Happy Heart Ceremonies in Greenbank, Washington said. “Think of your vows as a sweet love note that you are writing to your significant other to tell how you feel about them, how you will support them in marriage, and what you are looking forward to in your lives together as a married couple.  Authenticity speaks volumes, and it will make it easier to naturally recite your wedding vows when the time comes.”

Don’t procrastinate. 

Don’t wait until the last minute to write your vows.  I would suggest writing them at least four to six weeks in advance,” Pappas said. “Often, the month before a wedding involves finalizing multiple details for your big day, and the last thing you want to be worried about is your vows. This also gives you time to adjust them if needed and practice reciting them.”

Practice makes perfect. 

“If you are writing your own vows, practice reading them out loud. Writing for reading is much different than writing for speaking. Some words or phrases may be awkward when recited. Spend time reciting your wedding vows out loud so you can keep your tongue ties to a minimum,” Reverend Maureen Jeffries of Glen Rock, New Jersey said. 

For additional practice, Pappas suggests reciting your vows in front of a mirror, to a close friend, or even recording yourself to playback and listen. “I often audiotape myself practicing a ceremony beforehand so I can listen back to it and discover parts of my ceremony where I can improve,” she said. Every public speaker, even the professionals, have room for improvement. 

Visualize the moment. 

“Close your eyes and visualize the ceremony beforehand. Take in all the small details of the moment in your visualization. Where are you standing? What does the ceremony location look like? What are you wearing? Who will be there with you? Well-known speakers often do this, and it really helps them with their speech delivery,” Pappas said.

On the wedding day...

Speak directly to your partner. 

“Remember this is not a play, and you are not performing in front of an audience – you are reciting heartfelt promises to the person you love most in the world and your friends and family are there to witness this and celebrate,” Revered Jefferies said. “Hold your partner’s hands, look into their eyes, and talk to them. They’ll only be about six inches from your face. You don’t have to project your voice, and you do not need to impress any member of the crowd. You just have to be in the moment.”

Remember to breathe. 

With experience as a meditation teacher, Revered Jefferies always advises her couples to manage their wedding day jitters through breathing. “While you are standing up there and feeling nervous, remember the power of three deep breaths. Inhale through the nose – out of the mouth for one breath. Then, inhale through the nose and imagine the breath coming from your shoulders. This will help you release tension. For the third breath, inhale and exhale and imagine the breath coming from your belly button. This will help you to relax so that you can really be in the moment as you recite your wedding vows.”

Embrace your emotions. 

“I hear from couples over and over again: “I’m afraid to recite my wedding vows because I might cry.”  My reply is always, go ahead and cry! We’re human after all, and if there’s any day of your life that it’s okay to be emotional; it’s your wedding day,” Pappas said. “All of your closest friends and family will be there to support you, and so will your spouse. Sometimes I even get emotional as an officiant. It’s okay to cry and embrace your own emotions.”

When it doubt, Reverend Jefferies added, “Remember that your guests all love you and are there to celebrate with you, not to judge if you stumble over your words or begin to cry or even forget your own name. Simply hold your partner’s hands and lean into their strength.”