One of the most beloved moments on your wedding day is likely to be when you stare into each other’s eyes and exchange vows. It’s the stuff of movies and you want magical memories that will last a lifetime.
You don’t want to be the dude that disappointed his babe at the altar.
Here’s how to avoid any vow-delivery drama.
You can use traditional vows or have a vow consultant pretty much craft them for you. But really? This is one job that’s best done by you. Talk to your soon-to-be wife about the two of you doing your own. Worse case scenario, if you don’t like what you come up with, you call fall back on tradition and use prewritten vows, or put out an SOS to a consultant for help.
Forget About Winging It
Sometimes in life you can just vibe on the atmosphere and go with the flow. This is not that time. Being prepared will go a long way in calming the nerves and creating the stuff that makes for a video that’ll show the kids that dad had swag.
Tracy Brisson, a wedding officiant and owner of Savannah Custom Weddings & Elopements, offers a free vow writing guide on her website savannahcustomweddings.com. She offers her advice, “First, this should not be an independent project for each person getting married. You should decide together on length, format, and tone before you begin writing. I recommend that nervous couples stick to bullet points (i.e., promises) and less of a narrative tone as that can be more easily delivered and just as sweet. The goal of good wedding vows is to make them specific to your relationship, and not necessarily flowery.”
Once you agree on the basics, get to work. Sure, there are a million things to do, but don’t keep pushing off getting around to writing your vows. You don’t want to be the guy who’s on the way to the church writing notes on an index card.
“Set a goal of having your vows completed a month before your big day,” says Amy Abbott, owner of Amy Abbott Events.
Keep The Purpose In Mind
You’ll freak yourself out if you get it in your head that the vows are some big speech. They aren’t really. “This is a common misinterpretation. You have an audience of one — your future spouse, and it is a series of thoughts and promises and feelings,” says Brisson.
While you should make sure it is easy for guests to hear you, this definitely is an A and B conversation. Think of them as flies on the wall enjoying the moment.
Though you probably don’t want to weep uncontrollably, embrace your feelings. Says Brisson,
“Emotions are totally okay and most of my grooms have them. The goal should not be to avoid emotions, but to channel them.”
Share The Fairytale
What in the world do you say? Kat Thomas, co-owner of The Zelda Fitzgeralds, vow/speech consultants and poets that create poems on the spot at weddings and events, offers wisdom from literary greats, “As Shakespeare said, ‘Brevity is the soul of wit’. Don’t say too much and what you say automatically means more.” She takes further advice from Mark Twain, “He said, ‘If I had more time, I’d have written a shorter letter.’”
Write from the heart. “Make it personal and specific to your story. Through your words, make everyone fall in love with her just like you did.”
What’s a winning strategy? Thomas says to use four anecdotes to “paint a picture” of your relationship. One should share how you fell in love, another that tells her she’s sexy, the third, go with a funny story, and lastly, come up with one that speaks to the future.
Remember, says Raffi Bilek, a couple’s counselor and director of The Baltimore Therapy Center, “Don’t try to say everything you ever wanted to say in the vows – you will have a lifetime together to share your thoughts and feelings, and the wedding should not be the last time you do so!”
Read or Memorize?
Once you know what you want to say, your next big hurdle is delivery. Do you want to read your vows or memorize them?
“Write them down! While some may say speaking from a script may not be as genuine, I beg to differ because it adds depth and makes for a memorable moment. Taking the time to write down your vows, detailing some of the simplest things you love about her, like how she covers her mouth while she laughs or how she’s so clumsy, lol, while adding how you can’t live without her will get you in the good books with dad and keep you in the good books with her,” says Elle Clarke, poet, writer and owner of Vows By Elle.
“You shouldn’t ‘wing-it’ with your vows. This is the groom’s time to shine and carefully outlining why you are there and the reasons you won’t ever leave will make you the star or king of the ceremony,” she says.
Some bride and grooms have even opted for his and hers vow books, that they treasure as keepsakes after the wedding. “Don’t be afraid to write them down,” says Abbott.
Just be sure you remember to look at the bride as much as possible.
If you choose to go paperless, do not feel like you have to have everything memorized. Use bullet points to keep yourself on track and to make sure you don’t miss expressing important details.
Calm Your Nerves
Your beautiful bride fell in love with you and only you. If the public declaration of your undying love is challenging or making you nervous, then keep it real. Speak from the heart and tell her how you feel and keep it short and sweet. “She will love you for ‘keeping it real,’” says Abbott.
Practice. When you’re used to hearing those words come out of your mouth, they may not hit you with a wave of emotion on the big day, versus if you’re hearing yourself saying them for the first time.
One important way to make it through the vows is to know your lines well. “Go over them many times in advance – more times than you think you need. You’ll be under a lot of pressure in the moment, and you want to have those words burned into memory so that you won’t have to worry about forgetting in mid-sentence. That will be one less thing to worry about and one less pressure on you on your big day,” says Bilek.
On some public speaking occasions, a coach might advise you to find a spot on the wall and concentrate there. But not on your wedding day. “Looking at the back of the room doesn’t work when you should look into the eyes of the woman you are about to spend the rest of your life with,” says Clarke.
When practicing, there are two schools of thought. Some, like Wyatt Fisher, a psychologist and couple’s counselor, advocates practicing in front of a mirror repeatedly until you feel comfortable. “Master deep breathing exercises so you can retain breathing from your belly, which will maximize relaxation and concentration.”
On the other hand, Lauren Crain, a wedding planner, says with a mirror, you’re hyper-aware of your movements so you’ll govern yourself accordingly. This won’t give you a realistic view of what you’ll look like on your big day when you won’t be watching yourself perform. “Instead of using a mirror, videotape yourself then watch the tape. That way, you won’t overly-control your movements and you can see how you look when you perform naturally. You’ll also be able to catch any weird ticks, quirks, or awkward cadences.”