You know how the first time you go skydiving, it’s a great idea to go “off the beaten path,” thumbing your nose at the instructor’s advice and opening the parachute in your own personal, creative way?
Or you know how when you’re injured, you just love—love!—to go to the hospital, laugh at those incompetent, by-the-book doctors, and demand a scalpel and hacksaw so you can do the surgery yourself?
If that sounds like you, then you should insist on writing your own wedding vows.
If that’s not you—if you’re a believer in doctors, dentists, parachute instructors and other such specialists—then consider keeping things simple and using the basic vows. You can’t go wrong with the textbook. No one will be disappointed. No one will be embarrassed. No one will sit in the audience and grumble, “Beautiful ceremony. But godamnit, for the love of Lucifer, why couldn’t they have gone off-script and gotten more creative?”
Just like in any other industry, officiants know how to do their job. They know what works. They know what sucks. You don’t.
If you simply must shout your love from the mountaintops? Don’t worry, you can always publicly profess your love to each other during the many, many, seemingly endless toasting opportunities.
If, however, you’re trapped by your fiancée into writing your own vows, you might as well make the most of it. Follow these 10 rules:
1. Get Buyoff from the Officiant
Obvious? Yep. But don’t take this for granted. Not every rabbi or priest or warlock is cool with you scrapping their Biblical passage for an extended metaphor of how you love your bride more than Peter Parker loves Mary Jane. Speaking of: no pop culture references. You’re writing vows, not a blog.
2. Kill the Surprise
She might think it’s just so romantic for you to surprise each other at the wedding ceremony, guarding her vows like it’s a classified matter of national security. Foil this plan. You don’t have to swap the actual words—you can preserve some mystery—but poke around to learn, at the very least, the kinds of things you’ll be discussing. Ensure you’re in the right ballpark. A few lines or a few paragraphs? Formal or casual? Personal anecdotes? Favorite song lyrics? (Barf.)
3. Use Basic Words
It started in second grade English. As children, we’re taught that in order to write well, we must write with big words. It was a lazy way for teachers to squeeze vocabulary lessons into our essays: “You must use ‘adulation’ and ‘plethora’ in the first paragraph.” This almost always makes for cluttered, ugly sentences. Same with your vows. Stick with words that you would actually use in conversation; never force in words like “pulchritude” or “sanguine,” and don’t call her the “penultimate love of your life.”
Memorize, then practice. Memorize, then practice. Repeat. It won’t kill you to memorize some lousy lines. All it takes is a few extra minutes—every day for a solid week—while sitting on the crapper.
5. Hang a Safety Net
Maybe you’ll blow off Rule 4. Or maybe you’ll choke like Tracy McGrady in the playoffs. Either way, you’ll have more confidence and peace of mind if you have a “safety net” printed out in your jacket pocket.
6. F Yourself
Use the Fs. Three of them, to be precise: Forever, Fidelity, and Falling in Love. However your phrase it, those three Fs need to be your theme. That’s your home base. Don’t worry about sounding schmaltzy. Getting scared of sappiness at your wedding is like getting scared of snow on the ski slopes.
7. Sprinkle in Some Holy Junk
Even when you’re writing your own vows, it’s a good idea to freely steal from the Bible. You can’t go wrong. It’s the flippin’ Bible. It came straight from God to your ceremony. No one can fault you.
But think twice about using these:
- “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.” — Deuteronomy 23:1
- “…the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and threw it at Moses’ feet, and she said, “You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.”– Exodus 4:24-25
- “She lusted after their genitals as large as those of donkeys, and their seminal emission was as strong as that of stallions.” — Ezekiel 23:19-20
- “If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity.” — Deuteronomy 25:11-12
Thanks to the lazy glory that is the internet, no one ever needs to do anything original ever again. You’ll find plenty of “just add water” vows out there. Some handy links:
http://elegantvows.com/ (Sort of stuffy and prissy but still gives you some ideas)
http://www.weddingvowsden.com/ (Shield your eyes from the pink)
9. Keep It Cleaner Than a Nun’s You-Know
Even if it’s an attempt at being ironic or funny, never say anything even the slightest bit inappropriate. Go easy on the humor (there’s time for that at your toast). No references to sex. No references to exes. And obviously no profanity. (You might be tempted to quote David Duchovny from Californication and say, “I love you…and I want to spend the rest of my life annoying the shit out of you.” Don’t.) In the chaste context of a wedding, any one dirty word will look glaringly out of place and be all that anyone remembers. Never use profanity.
10. Keep the Fucker Short
Next up: what you need to know about your rehearsal dinner.