If you thought proposing was a stressful experience, just wait until you’re standing up in front of a room of everyone you know, spilling your heart out to the love of your life. Gulp.
For those couples who decide to write their own vows, it can be stressful to figure out what you want to say, how you want to say it, and how to work up the courage to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Before you allow yourself to give into major anxiety and procrastinate until the last minute, take these tips from the pros on creating something your spouse-to-be will never forget.
What to include in your wedding vows
Long story short: what you include in your vows is entirely up to you. However, there are a few standards across all exchanges, according to Jena Coway, the associate director of weddings and special occasions for Atlantis Paradise Island. These include, but are not limited to, the name of your spouse your name, what you’re promising to them and your hopes for the future you’re building together.
“These promises should be personal, genuine, and really evoke a reaction from your spouse — and often the guests too,” she adds. To do this, it’s important to think critically about what you will say, while not taking it so seriously that you lose your steam.
It’s okay if you weren’t exactly top of your English class. Or if those term papers in college were the very worst part of studying. Not everyone is a wordsmith or enjoys writing but there are ways to lengthen your attention span and supercharge your creativity. Try these tricks when you sit down to craft your masterpiece.
How to create an outline for your wedding vows
At the root of writer’s block is perfectionism, according to Katelyn Stanis, toast and wedding vow writer. All too often, brides and grooms want every last word to be 100 percent beautiful that they get lost in the details, rather than the sentiment. To get your juices flowing, and take some of the heat off, she suggests answering these questions:
When you think of your fiancee, what makes you most grateful?
What do you value most in marriage?
What promises do you want to make to your partner?
How does your fiancee make you feel special and loved?
From here, you can write a killer outline to guide your speech.
When you’re anxious about a deliverable at work, or you need to collect your thoughts, what do you do? Likely, you jot down a to-do list or you create a rough blueprint of what you need to cover. Why not follow the same regimen for your vows?
As wedding planner Kylie Carlson explains, having an outline can make a huge difference in breaking through writer’s block, and they help you to think deeply about what you admire in your partner. “They don’t have to be conventional reasons, but rather, why you love them and why they’re the one for you. Retrace the steps of your relationship. Maybe your first date was particularly noteworthy, or your engagement story was one for the books that you want to relive with your guests,” she suggests. “Adding a small anecdote can really help you if you’re feeling stuck, and it can add a sentimental touch to your vows.”
Take your time and don’t write vows the week of your wedding
Though pulling an all-nighter for work or school is manageable with tons of caffeine, you probably don’t want to be exhausted the day before your wedding. That’s why Conway stresses the importance of giving yourself time to start, revise, edit and finesse before the big day.
Even if you only have an outline (see above!) that you add to throughout the wedding planning process, it’s better to have something to go off of, other than a blank page. “As your fiancé or fiancée does something cute that you may want to include, or a memory pops into your head, jot it down. These little notes will provide inspiration for when you’re writing your final vows and it will all come together,” she shares.
Listen to old songs and look at old photos from your relationship
When your writing doesn’t flow, you can’t find the words and you keep drawing blanks, you need something to help you channel the past. That’s why the founder of Fantasy Sound Event Services Kevin Dennis suggest turning up the tunes.
Go through your various playlists from road trips or songs that were popular when you first met to help take you down memory lane. Or, if you’re more visual, scroll through photos on your phone or Facebook for the same effect. “These little moments can help you understand how the two of you made it this far, and the nostalgia definitely helps to inspire some romantic thoughts,” he explains.
Talk to your partner before you write your vows
You’re about to make the most profound promise of all, so why not ensure you’re on the same page before you write a word? Stanis says the happiest of couples take time to address any concerns and set various structures as a twosome. “You’ll want to align on the tone, length, and structure of your vows,” she continues. “It can be awkward when one person recites five minutes of romantic prose and the other spends 45 seconds listing off a couple of playful promises.”
Find a way to relax before writing
Likely the biggest hurdle to overcome is your own energy, according to Conway. Especially when something feels overwhelming, most of us will find any distraction we can to avoid the task at hand — even if it’s laundry, email or cleaning. To create a safe and comfortable place to use your imagination, Conways suggests doing whatever you can to blow off steam, from hitting the gym, going for a drive, having a drink at home or taking a quick power nap. Whatever works when you’re trying to focus on other parts of your life, use those tools for this all-too-important feat.
Make your vows personal and unique to your voice
Your partner is marrying you because they love exactly who you are — and not just to check off a box on their life’s timeline. That’s why wedding vows should be an extension of your personal relationship and who you are as individuals. That’s why Conway encourages couples to be thoughtful and kind, but also not sticking to a script that limits their personality.
“Vows don’t have to be generic and adding your personal touch with a reference that he or she will get will make it that much more special,” she continues. “Don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit! Yes, there are a few points that your vows should cover in some manner, but so be scared to put your own spin on things and be creative.”
Address your past challenges and what you’ve overcome together
Most of the time when we select a person to pair our lives with, it’s due to the fact that we can trust them. That they have proven to be our confidants, our support system and our greatest fans. And though it’d be great if every day was rosy and wonderful, life is full of challenges. And relationships have ups and downs that while emotions to address, are often part of what you are marrying who you are marrying.
That’s why Carlson suggests including what you’ve been through as a team in your vows. “It’s not necessary to get into the nitty-gritty details — instead you can just acknowledge how much stronger you are together because of the obstacles you’ve endured,” she shares.
Ask a trusted friend to read your vows
No matter how long you have been with your fiancee, your friends and close family members have been by your side longer. And if you are lucky to live near them, they have also witnessed your relationship grow over time. That’s why they make the perfect proofreaders and editors to your wedding vows, offering a unique perspective that perhaps, you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Dennis says to seek their wisdom as a second (or third)-read.