To say it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for is to put it mildly. Your wedding vows, wherein you and your bride sum up in (usually—hopefully, for the rest of us) under a minute each your love for one another and all your hopes and dreams for the future, is the most anticipated and important part of your ceremony. Wedding vows are more important than the ring exchange (because by then it’s a done deal anyway), and more important than the kiss (because we all know you’ve done that before). If you drop the ring or smoosh noses when you go to kiss your girl, everyone laughs it off to nerves, and it becomes a cute memory from your wedding. Fuck up the vows and it will haunt you to your grave. Your bride, her parents and her BFFs will never forgive you, and you’ll probably be divorced in three years.
Write this down on the walls of your brain: This is not the time to wing it.
Preparing your wedding vows means dedicating some time to getting it right, not writing them the night before or figuring you’ll just have some moment of inspiration at the altar, and an eloquent stream-of-consciousness soliloquy will spring forth from your otherwise non-Shakespearean brain. The chances of that happening are only slightly better than the chances of your new bride running off with the Zumba instructor at your all-inclusive Cancun honeymoon resort: Possible, but highly unlikely.
But reciting the perfect wedding vows shouldn’t mean that you memorize and proclaim words that mean nothing to you. Why would you want to do that, anyway? These are quite possibly the most important words you’ll utter in your life, so they should be about more than just going through the motions. Your wedding vows should be personal, funny, and heart-touching. They should make the ladies in the house—and even your hard-ass uncle the ex-Marine—get a little misty-eyed. They should make the bride blush a little and make everyone else laugh. They should make the single people in the room—and probably some of the married ones—wish they could find someone who looks at them the way your bride looks at you when you’re reading those vows.
Acing your wedding vows makes you look like a champ, makes you look like a guy who gives a fuck about the day and the moment, and, cynicism aside, helps contribute to making memories on what should be the best damn day of you and your bae’s lives.
So to make sure you get this right, use our guide to finding the right kind of wedding vows to express your love and your feelings for your bride. You can use these straight-up, personalize them a bit—which you should probably do—or just use them as a stepping off point for penning your own wedding day prose.
Be A Storyteller
The feeling hit me the moment we made eye contact in ___. It was so immediate and powerful—far deeper and inexplicably beyond any calculation of time and place. You don’t describe a feeling like that. You also can’t replicate it or force it. You just let it flow in and around you. You go where it takes you.
Make It All About Her
I promise to encourage your compassion,
Because that is what makes you unique and wonderful.
I promise to nurture your dreams,
Because through them your soul shines.
I promise to help shoulder our challenges,
For there is nothing we cannot face if we stand together.
I promise to be your partner in all things,
Not possessing you, but working with you as a part of the whole.
Lastly, I promise to you perfect love and perfect trust,
For one lifetime with you could never be enough.
This is my sacred vow to you, my equal in all things.
Make Sure Everyone Knows You’re Marrying Up
I promise to encourage us to try new and unusual things. I vow to invest in loving you daily and to snuggle you as often as possible. I vow to be the best parts of me that fit perfectly with the best parts of you. Although I will be imperfect, I pledge to be sensitive and respectful of your unique talents, abilities and quirks. I pledge to lend you strength for all of your dreams. Through our union we can accomplish more than I could alone. I believe in you.
If You’re A Funny Guy, Act Like One
I promise to leave my apple cores and dirty butter knifes on the counter
I promise to overdraft the checking account
I promise to complain about the kitty litter
I vow to encourage us to try new and strange things
I vow to fill your ‘I love you’ Bank every day
I vow to never use a recipe when fixing dinner
I vow to be the best parts of me that fit perfectly with the best parts of you
Although I will be imperfect, I pledge to be sensitive and respectful of your unique talents, abilities and quirks
I pledge to lend you strength for all of your dreams
Through our union we can accomplish more than I could alone
I believe in you
Everyman comedian John Caparulo found the right balance of funny and sweet in his wedding vows to bride Jamie Marie (but if you use this one, remember to change the name):
Jamie Marie, from this day forward I promise to be worth it. Worth the time. Worth the trip. Worth the energy. Worth the embarrassment. Worth your love. I promise that you will always count. You will always come first, and of course, if you don’t for whatever reason, I will buy you some shoes. From the moment you entered my world, you have filled it with life, color and energy like never before … like Kool-Aid in a mud puddle … or a cupcake in a salad … or a rose garden in a junk yard. You are my rose, Jamie Marie, and I promise to devote my life to being your dirt.
I’m Not Crying. You’re Crying.
I take you to be my spouse.
I promise to choose you every day, to love you in word and deed, to do the hard work of making now into always.
To laugh with you, cry with you, grow with you, and create with you.
To honor the divinity in you, of you, and around you.
To be your kin and your partner in all of life’s adventures.
Loving what I know of you and trusting what I don’t yet know, I give you my hand.
I give you my love. I give you myself. Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?
I, ____, take you, ____, to be my wife/partner.
I promise to always be your biggest fan and your partner in crime.
I promise to create and support a family with you, in a household filled with laughter, patience, understanding, and love.
I vow not just to grow old together, but to grow together.
I will love you faithfully through the difficult and the easy.
What may come, I will always be there, each one believing that love never dies.
As I have given you my hand to hold, so I give you my life to keep.
Yours, Mine and Ours
As the two of us are joined on this day, we become part of each other:
your feelings become my feelings;
your sorrows become my sorrows;
your joys become my joys;
your cares become my cares,
and your children become my children.
With your help and guidance I promise to be a true and faithful husband and parent,
always there to comfort you, rejoice with you,
and endure all the complexities of life that we will face together as a family.
My love for you and your/our children is pure and unshakable,
and I hereby commit myself to all of you from this day forward.
A Realistic Approach
I promise to always leave the lights on in the bathroom
I promise to mysteriously take three hours to make a simple omelet
I promise to create a life for us of unexpected and strange adventures
I promise that I will love you
I pledge to listen to your advice, and occasionally take it
I pledge to never take score… even if I’m totally winning
I pledge to always admire your huge, strong, kind and determined heart
I pledge that I will love you
I vow to listen, for as long as it takes for you to feel heard
I vow to watch in awe as you kick ass and take names
I vow to be your unrelenting cheer squad on the days it feels too much
I vow that I will love you
I believe that ‘me time’ is an actual concept, that can be proven by science
I believe that carefully folded socks make you happy
I believe there is no time or place I’m more content than when you’re close
Because of this and so, so much more… I believe that I will always love you
Look To The Movies
When all else fails, rely on cinematic greatness to knock your wedding vows out of the park. Here are some of the greatest testaments of love from some of the greatest rom-coms of all time. Oh, and Runaway Bride.
From The Wedding Singer, as sung by Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler) to Julia Sullivan (Drew Barrymore), with an assist from Billy Idol (If you choose to sing this at your wedding, we salute you):
I wanna make you smile whenever you’re sad, carry you around when your arthritis is bad, all I wanna do is grow old with you. I’ll get your medicine when your tummy aches, build you a fire if the furnace breaks, oh it could be so nice, growing old with you. I’ll miss you, kiss you, give you my coat when you are cold. Need you, feed you, even let you hold the remote control. So let me do the dishes in our kitchen sink, put you to bed when you’ve had too much to drink, oh I could be the man (woman) who grows old with you, I wanna grow old with you.
In When Harry Met Sally, Harry Burns’ (Billy Crystal’s) climatic New Year’s Eve confession to Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) couldn’t be much sweeter. Just pray that your Aunt Carol doesn’t drink too much pinot at the reception and try to reenact the deli scene:
I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.
OK, so when Victor Van Dort (voiced by Johnny Depp) recited these romantic weddings vows to a tree branch, he opened a portal to the Land of the Dead. Don’t sweat the details:
With this hand I will lift your sorrows. Your cup will never be empty, for I will be your wine. With this candle, I will light your way into darkness. With this ring, I ask you to be mine.
In Runaway Bride, Ike Graham (Richard Gere) describes the perfect wedding proposal to Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts). You could adopt this for wedding vows, and may your marriage last longer than Roberts’ to Lyle Lovett.
I guarantee there’ll be tough times. I guarantee that at some point, one or both of us is gonna wanna get out of this thing. But I also guarantee that if I don’t ask you to be mine, I’ll regret it the rest of my life, because I know, in my heart, you’re the only one for me.