The MANual: Wedding Speeches

Should You Memorize Your Vows?

Reciting your vows may take less than two minutes, but next to the moment you say “I do,” they may be the most important part of the entire ceremony. So how to handle the moment? Is it better to repeat after the officiant as grooms have done for years or to speak from memory, as shown on every big and small screen version of a wedding you’ve ever seen?

Susan Barone of Luxury Weddings Worldwide believes that before making these decisions, a couple should include the officiant. “As each couple is very unique so are their wedding vows,” explained Barone. “One of the best methods we use is to match up the right officiant with the right couple.” Couples who are unsure of how to proceed can benefit from a trusted advisor like the officiant, who can help with the decision.

Tradition: Repeat After Me

For those who choose a traditional religious ceremony, the couple repeats vows after the officiant speaks them aloud. This is perfect for those who want to lessen the stress of their wedding day but doesn’t allow for individuality, as the words and ceremony are the same for every couple.

Hilary Sloan, a senior public relations executive and recent bride, wanted a traditional ceremony with modern additions. After meeting with their officiant, and her groom were asked to individually write down their thoughts about one another and their commitment to their marriage. The officiant incorporated their words into what was said before the couple exchanged the traditional vows, repeating after the officiant. “We didn’t see our vows as the way to express emotions to one another, we both gave speeches at our reception instead.”

For grooms who are shy, don’t like the spotlight or want to focus on enjoying their wedding day and not on forgetting words, being led through the vows without having to memorize is the right choice.

Modern: Speaking from the Heart

For contemporary-minded couples, speaking their vows from memory is part of their commitment to one another as they marry. An easier step may be to memorize the traditional vows, which for many are familiar words and phrases. But first, don’t think this can be done the night before or the week before. Give yourself some time to commit these precious words to memory.

Consider copying the words to your mobile phone or tablet, using time while commuting or at the gym to memorize the words. Finding the rhythm to repeat the words out loud will help in repeating them at the wedding ceremony – just remember it’s not a rap or a joke – but will also allow your personality to shine through.

Those grooms who want to make the ceremony more about them and their bride, writing their own vows and speaking them from memory will make it unforgettable. For grooms who regularly lead meetings or do public speaking, this process will be easier, although the words will be unlike any work brief.

Take the time to write down how you feel, and use your Dad, best man, family or friends as a sounding board and audience as you practice. Recruiter David Campbell is well known for his friendly personality and ability to speak to anyone, and at his wedding, he spoke his vows from memory to his wife as a way to honor their commitment. “I’m glad I did it, but I wouldn’t recommend it to every groom. It was stressful.”


Bottom Line

Memorizing your vows isn’t a test. The day is about celebrating love and commitment and sharing your joy with family and friends. It’s not about being stressed out by words.


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