Wedding vows used to be pretty standard, and were delivered by whoever was officiating at the ceremony. We’re talking “do you promise to have and to hold, in sickness and health,” etc. But now we live in an age of Facebook and Instagram, where the creativity of your self-expression is seen as a measure of your worth. Your bride is probably pressuring you to come up with some heartfelt words to repeat in front of all your friends and family. If this has you on edge, read on for these 10 wedding vow writing tips.
Write Your Notes
Get your pen and paper, a laptop or your phone. You are actually going to write things down. Believe us when we say it will make everything much easier. We know, we know: Biggie Smalls never wrote out his verses, he just memorized them. Did you seriously just compare yourself to The Notorious B.I.G.?
Brainstorm the things you like most about your woman, then delete all the various body parts and sexual positions you’ve written down. Hopefully you’ll have some nice flattering things left to say about her personality. Think about how your relationship evolved (emotionally—not the blow-by-blow of your first hook-up), and the future you envision with her. You now have a base to work from.
Use Your Own Voice
Yes, google “write your own wedding vows.” Sure, consult that book of Pablo Neruda poems that somehow ended up on your bookshelf. But remember that clichés, hyperbole and cornball metaphors are not your friends. Is her love really like a red red rose? Does she literally make your heart swell with joy? Writing your vows is an opportunity to be authentic and original, so seize it.
Remember that detail is king—it’s far more effective and interesting than blurry universalities. And trust us: you want to be effective and interesting.
Keep It Tight
Don’t be a gasbag. It’s your wedding day: the last thing you want to do is make your girl roll her eyes (she’ll have a lifetime of opportunities to do this). Don’t give a laundry list of shared private memories and life goals, or make a bunch of promises you know you won’t keep (“I will clean out the cat box every other day for as long as the cat shall live.” ) Short and sweet, son: short and sweet.
Accentuate The Positive
Stay away from negatives. As in, “I even love the hairy mystery growth at the nape of your neck.” (In fact, don’t ever use the word “even.”) Stick to positives.
Stay On Point
This is not the time to refer to how hot the maid of honor looks in that body-hugging gown (is there ever a time for that?). Nor is this the time to kiss up to your future father-in-law or wax poetic about your life’s journey. Stick to your relationship with your wife.
Revise ‘n Tweak
You think Shakespeare just coughed up perfectly polished sentences without editing? (Okay, maybe he did, but you’re not Shakespeare). Writing your vows is not a quick, five-minute chore you dash off before hitting the gym. After your first attempt, put your notes away for a few days to let it all percolate. Fresh eyes and the passage of time, rereading and tweaking—these will make your words clearer and therefore better.
Don’t Wing It
Like most forms of public speaking, the more you’re familiar with the material, the lower your risk of making an idiot of yourself. Practice aloud to any friend willing to listen with a straight face (or even one who’s rolling on the floor), recite ideas to your dog or the shelf of paint thinners in your garage. Get used to the sound and rhythm of your delivery. A day or two before the wedding, write a clean final draft and, on the morning of, try not to leave it folded in the front pocket of your other pants.
No Open Weeping
If, as you practice, you hit a phrase that has you sobbing like a middle-aged woman listening to Adele, cut that phrase. Manly emoting is ok, but ugly crying is not.
Make Eye Contact
Look your girl in the eyes. Gazing at her will give you a boost of strength, and make your words seem even more sincere. Oh, and don’t forget to savor the moment—it’s a good one.