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Some people are born writers. They have a certain knack for putting how they feel into impressive, cohesive and inspiring sentences. Though it’s an effortless task for a handful of lucky wordsmiths, some of us struggle to put pen to paper. That’s why writing your vows can feel overwhelming and stressful, when in reality, it’s meant to be a special experience where you reflect on both your past and your present.
To ease some of the stress associated with this task, it can be helpful to following a traditional wedding vow template. Consider it sort of like those term pages you pulled all-nighters to finish in college: with these steps, making a promise to your soon-to-be-spouse is a little easier. And even if you don’t follow this verbatim, it can serve as a sounding board to allow those creative juices to flow.
Whether or not you and your fiancee are religious, or if you’ve agreed to infuse your vows with some signature humor or keep things earnest and emotional, our template will help shape the statement you’re about to make.
Set the scene for your wedding guests
Think back on the weddings you’ve attended that had memorable speeches. Regardless if it was the parents of the bride or groom, a best man or maid of honor, there was probably one thread that linked them all together: storytelling. After all, that’s why children love to be read to, and why so many of us tune-in to movies that have a captivating plot. Your relationship is a blockbuster and best-seller of its own, which is why it should always start by setting the scene.
As wedding vow and speech writer Katelyn Stanis explains, this helps the audience (and your partner!) envision exactly what you were thinking about when you wrote your vows. You want to address your partner with an anecdote or a specific memory that always comes to mind when you think of him or her. Stanis provides these examples:
Beth, little did I know six years ago when I hesitantly accepted a blind date invitation, that I’d be here today committing my life to the most wonderful woman.
Stewart, from the moment we met, I knew you were special.
You can consider this your ‘lede’ in a journalism article or your ‘hook’ in a traditional five-paragraph paper. The point is to ensure everyone is not only listening to you, but lingering onto the next words you’ll say.
Describe what you admire in your partner
Hopefully, there’s at least a handful of reasons why this person is your person. Now is the time in your vows when you can express the details that make them so unique and the right match for you. An effective way to brainstorm is to take some quiet time and listening to music, and list anything and everything out. It can be as simple as the way their hair smells, the face they make when they’re concentrating, how they sing when they cook or the way they never let you forget your own sister’s birthday.
No matter how unimportant you think it is, wedding expert and owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, Kevin Dennis reminds grooms even the smallest things are important. And sometimes, they mean more than the expected characteristics most people would say about their partners.
Marina, I love how every baby on the subway smiles at you, and I love how patient you are with my nieces.
Kyle, watching you built our back porch, armed with just your optimism and a bunch of supplies from Home Depot, made me admire you more deeply than I thought possible.
“The little moments can sometimes be the most meaningful, and these are the idiosyncrasies that you want to pull from when you reflect on all of the times that you’ve spent together,” he continues. “What are some of your favorite memories that stand out to you? What bits of your partner’s personality do you want to make sure you showcase to your guests?”
Express what you appreciate most about your relationship
When you finally stumble upon someone you can tolerate for more than a date, or someone who challenges you to be a better version of yourself, it’s an eye-opening experience. After so many poor dating experiences, or people who just couldn’t keep your attention, you know a relationship is right when it’s different than all of the rest. During your vows, it’s important to address not only your fiancee, but also the bond you share together.
Eric, you’re always there to listen to me when I’m in a bad mood, and you’ve never made me feel crazy when I’m upset.
Alison, you treat everyone in the world as an equal. You have a big heart, and you’re committed to fairness in a way that everyone can see.
As Dennis explains, this is an ideal time to retrace the steps of your relationship and think about the hurdles you’ve endured together. The trips you’ve taken. The milestones you’ve reached. All of this plays a captivating tribute to your wedding day, and serves as the purpose you are deciding to join your lives in forever-and-ever (amen) bliss. “Regardless of how long you’ve been together, it’s likely that the two of you have experienced tremendous change, and you’ve endured all of these transitions together — whether it be through career changes, relocating, life events, and more,” he recommends. “Not every relationship can withstand these things, and it’s important to acknowledge how strong your bond is because of the support you give one another.”
Add some humor to hold your guests’ attention
If you’re doing your job right, folks in the audience will be tearing up. Your parents may even be sobbing. Your partner, hopefully, is touched by the effort you put into your vows. Before grandma starts weeping or your pregnant sister faints, add some humor to this emotional exchange. Not only will it provide a break in the intensity but Dennis says it can also ease some of the pressure you feel to be outwardly vulnerable.
I knew I loved you when you tried to get a great selfie of us in Iceland and almost fell into that volcano.
I’m so proud to be your partner, even though you don’t believe me that our basement is haunted. I think, in time, we’ll discover that I was right, that those clanking noises were not just the pipes.
“It never hurts to infuse some humor in your vows,” he continues. “Your loved ones will cherish the funny, sweet anecdotes you’ve shared over the years. A little laugh here or there won’t take away from the ceremony, and it can represent your personality.”
Make 3-5 specific promises in your vows
Here’s the heart of wedding vows: what you promise, from this day forward, as witnessed by your treasured friends and family members. A big reason why couples choose to write their own vows, rather than reading the traditional ones, is to have the opportunity to make specific pinky-swears to each other. Rather than promising everything under the moon, Santis suggests sticking with three to six ones that you feel incredibly strong about, and of course, know you can withhold.
I promise to take Bailey for a walk if you’re frustrated and can’t handle her puppy energy.
I vow to leave exactly half the quart of ice cream in the freezer for you, even if it’s my favorite flavor.
“Does your impatience challenge your relationship at times? Be honest and include these not-so-perfect images. These are the promises that will make your vows more meaningful,” she explains. “Avoid writing too many playful promises. It may sound funny to promise to always pick up your dirty socks but is that the most important vow to make for your marriage?”
If you do decide to have some random vows — like cleaning up the dishes or taking out the trash — just ensure you end on a serious note.
Close with a loving wish for your marriage
Last but not least, you want to wrap up your ‘story’ just like you did in the opening. When possible, you can even tie it back to whatever you shared to set the scene. This could mean referencing your first date again, or perhaps expressing how beautiful this person will always be to you, and so on. The keyword of this closer is ‘heartfelt’ and it should be something that makes everyone (especially your partner) feel warmed by your commitment. Santis provides this as a killer example:
I know times won’t always be easy but I also know that our marriage will be beautiful because I get to spend the rest of my life with my best friend, the most loving person I know, my wife.
Ending with ‘my wife’ or ‘my husband’ is key, since it sets the tone for the new journey you’re about to enter together.
Only obey the “rules” of writing your own vows if they help you
One last thing here: if these steps don’t feel right to you? That’s okay. Take it as fodder, and build off of your own version. As wedding expert and founder of The Wedding Academy Kylie Carlson says, just like there isn’t a rulebook that fits all for marriage, there isn’t a vow template that is effective for each writer.
“Your ‘template’ can be as simple as incorporating your intentions for your future as a married couple,” she continues. “Whether this is making progress on starting a family or buying a home, or even promising to stay humble and patient during the ebbs and flows of years to come.”