Groom Duties, Wedding Vows

A Guide to Private Vows: Why You Might Want Them and How to Write Them

As you will soon figure out once you start wedding planning, there are endless choices to be made about, well, everything. From the venue to the food, the music to the booze, it’s easy to get burnt out fast. But of all the decisions you’re tasked with, what you promise to your soon-to-be-spouse is among the most important. After all, this (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime speech is what will help to guide your marriage in the many years — and decades — to come. 

While tradition states that these vows are spoken in front of your loved ones, some couples are choosing to share their promises to one another alone. Sometimes, these replace the ceremony monologue, but in other cases, private vows are considered an addition. “This is a great alternative for couples who want personalized vows but aren’t comfortable reciting emotional details in front of their family and friends. It’s intimate and personal but you still have the photographer and videographer present to capture the moment,” explains wedding vow and toast writer Katelyn Stanis.

If you aren’t sure which route to take, consider these benefits and tips from wedding experts. 

Why you might consider private vows for your wedding

Some like it hot, some don’t mind it cold — and others are somewhere in between the two extremes. There isn’t a right or a wrong way to get married, and it’s important for couples to discuss what each party feels the most comfortable with when it comes to professing their love and commitment. Private vows aren’t for every duo out there, but here are some things to consider if you think they could be for you:

You don’t want to be in the spotlight.

Some folks thrive when the attention is zeroed-in on them, while others get mega uncomfortable, fast. If you’re in the latter group, the mere concept of having everyone watch you share intimate and vulnerable promises with your partner is enough to make you break out in a sweat. Private vows are a nice solution for this, as wedding expert and owner of Key Moment Films, Mary Angelini says it reduces the stress of speaking in front of a crowd. “For some, saying them privately allows them to be more authentic with themselves and their partner. A private person may find they will shy away from more intimate topics if they were to say them in front of a large group,” she adds.

You’re getting married in a church that doesn’t allow custom vows. 

One easy way to decide if you want to have private wedding vows is to check with your minister. How come? Stanis says though usually rare in today’s modern weddings, some religious groups do not allow any vows other than ones from scripture. If this is the case, and you have more to say than what’s in the book, you may want to consider private vows before or after your ceremony to personalize your promises to one another.

You want at least one moment of your day that’s private.

Maybe you don’t mind all-eyes-on-you. And perhaps, you’re actually looking forward to having quality time with those you love the most. But, when it comes to your relationship, you want to have at least one moment that’s just yours. Many couples feel this way, according to Kylie Carlson, wedding expert and founder of The Wedding Academy. By selecting to do private vows as part of your first-look, you reserve the space for intimacy and connection, without having to worry about who is watching or listening. 

You wanted to have an intimate wedding — but didn’t. 

Or more to the point: your guest list got out of control, fast. Blame it on your parents who wanted to invite every last cousin, or the fact that your soon-to-be-spouse has many siblings, but your dreams of an intimate were just that: a wish that wasn’t possible. If this is the case, private vows can give you the secluded moment you desire with your partner, away from everyone — and everything — else. “Private wedding vows are your opportunity to walk into marriage the way you imagined: intimate, private, and personal,” Stanis adds.

How to write private vows

Unlike traditional wedding vows, the private alternative offers a little more wiggle room and opportunity for creativity. But with any speech, getting started early and developing an outline will serve you best. Here, tips on how to make this intimate moment even more special:

Make them as personal as possible. 

When you’re trying to tell a sweet story from the early days of your relationship, it’s important to set the scene for anyone who wasn’t part of the experience. But if it’s just the two of you? You don’t have to fill in the details. “Since you aren’t reading your vows in front of anyone but your fiance, you don’t have to worry about context. Your partner will understand the experiences you shared without you having to really explain any anecdotes,” Stanis explains. “Instead, focus on being direct and to the point for articulate and impactful private vows.” Though it depends on how in-depth you want to be or what’s important to you, Stanis says six promises are a great place to start for most private vows.

Don’t worry about length. 

And on the note about writing, let it flow. And if it goes long, then be it. Carlson says private vows should be as short or as long as you need or want them to be, since you don’t have to sweat about remaining on schedule. The only audience is your partner, who likely, will soak up every last word. “This is the time to say everything you want to say, and there are no restrictions,” she adds.

Allow yourself to get emotional. 

Some people opt for private vows since they feel uneasy about being emotional in front of a group of people. If this sounds like you, then consider this time with your partner to be your invitation to let it all out by saying vulnerable, difficult and profound promises. “Don’t hold back,” Stanis encourages. “Your partner will appreciate your honest and heartfelt vows.”

Write it, if you want.

One of the biggest trends in private vows are via the written word, according to wedding and event planner Danielle Rothweiler. In other words: if you don’t want to perform a monologue in front of your partner, you can write everything you want in a card and give it to them before the ceremony, or even on your honeymoon. “This is a great moment for both people to sit alone, and read the words their fiance has written,” she explains. “It’s often captured by the photographer and videographer and can be a truly touching moment. The words, spoken by the author, frequently make it into the final cut of the video, or sometimes even over the first dance.”

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