Write your own vows with this rule of threes

Write your own vows with this rule of threes

Writing your own wedding vows is a very romantic idea, but it’s not for everyone. Some folks freeze up at the thought of writing anything creative at all, some get scared at the sight of a blank page or screen, and there are also those from whom words flow like water. Which kind are you?

man in black suit holding womans hand
When you write your own vows, you can read them from your notes, or repeat after the officiant.

When the words are easy

Some people think more in words than anything else. If you’re that sort, then you might not need anything more than some time to think about your future spouse to get the ideas flowing. For you, letting it all out is exactly what you want to do first, but remember that everyone needs an editor. Human brains tend to filter out anything that is familiar, like the words you yourself wrote; that makes it hard to spot your own misteaks. It’s just our wiring. You’ll also want to try reading aloud whatever you come up with in front of a friend. Sometimes the words we choose as we write don’t sound as good as they look, and might take some tweaking to nail down the sentiment. You also want to know about how long it takes to read aloud; if you are going to repeat after your officiant, double that time. Ideally, both sets of vows should take roughly the same amount of time.

When you can’t find the right words

Words don’t come as easily to everyone, and that’s okay. All of our brains work differently, and yours might be more focused on colors, or emotions, or sensations, or music. You might need a little bit of prompting to find words that match how you feel about someone you’re about to commit to in a big and amazing way. Try breaking it down into smaller pieces with this rule of threes. Block out some time, by yourself or with someone close to you like a parent or friend that you would want in your wedding party, and jot down the following:

  • three things you love about your partner
  • three dreams to share
  • three promises to make

Once you have three of each (or two, or four; don’t sweat the numbers too much; when you’re done, you’re done), just write ’em up: “Robin, I love that when we met you were wearing my favorite shade of green, I love the sound of your laugh, and I love that you’ve never been to Muskogee. I want to raise puppies with you, and get season tickets to the Panthers together, and live in a purple house together. I promise that I will never criticize your driving, that I will not water the plants because I always kill them, and that you will be happier married to me than you ever have been before.”

You can also mix it up: “I love the sound of your laugh, I want to live in a purple house together, and promise not to water the plants.” Once you have the base material, it’s just about rearranging it—but skip that part if you are the sort to overthink it. If you’re grinding your teeth, you’re done, okay?

When writing is always stressful

For some of us, writing and reading are a major headache. If you get massive anxiety at the idea of writing vows, you might want to focus your creativity on other wedding planning and give this part a pass. There are a lot of lovely wedding vows out there on the internet that you can choose to use instead. It will be lovely either way.

On the other hand, if you don’t like to write but you really, really want your wedding vows to be in your words, talk to me! I’ve been interviewing people since I was 13 years old, and turning what they tell me into a written words. Talking uses a different part of the brain than writing, and I can help you find words to match how you feel. Helping you tell your own story is what I’m here to do.

Handfasting as part of your wedding

Handfasting as part of your wedding

One of the first weddings I performed included a handfasting, which brought my life in a full circle: my first serious romantic relationship was solemnized with a handfasting instead of marriage. Handfasting is a ceremony with deep Celtic roots that involves wrapping the hands of the couple together with a cord to show that they are united. There’s a special technique that’s used, which when done properly allows each of the couple to grasp and end of the cord and “tie the knot” as they pull their hands apart.

During the handfasting itself, I’ll say something along these lines:

As your hands are now bound together, so your lives are joined in a union of love and trust.
The eternity knot of this binding symbolizes the vows you have made.
Like the stars, your love should be a constant source of light, and like the earth, a fine foundation on which to grow.
May this knot of love remain forever tied, and may these hands be blessed.
May they always hold one another.
May they have the strength to hold on tightly during the storms of life.
May they remain tender and gentle as they nurture each other.

Handfasting seems to have very old roots as a tradition to join lives, perhaps older than the traditional American wedding. Some couples choose to replace an exchange of rings with a handfasting, while others want to include both of these unity ceremonies in their own custom wedding. During a workshop session, I help my clients decide what unity ceremonies are going to be the most meaningful for symbolize this commitment to one another.

This form of tying the knot can also be used as a commitment ceremony on its own; this is perfect for adults who want an open acknowledgement of their shared lives without necessarily making the legal commitment of marriage right now, such as for at the beginning of an engagement, or when the relationship involves more than two individuals.

When you don’t want to write your own vows

When you don’t want to write your own vows

I create custom wedding ceremonies, but not everyone wants to use custom wedding vows. That’s perfectly okay! A familiar set of words can anchor a ceremony, which can be especially important if you want nontraditional elements in your ceremony, as well.

Writing your own vows can be very romantic, but for some people that extra task is going to be the one that tips you over into event-planning anxiety. Choose any of the below scripts, and we can use it whole cloth or tweak whatever wording you’d like.

Here are some examples of vows, adapted from the eminent folks at Unboring Weddings, that you can read to each other, or repeat after me. No writing or memorization is required.

More traditional

I, __________
do take you, __________ ;
to be my wedded spouse,
in the holy estate of marriage,
to have and to hold
from this day forward,
for better for worse,
for richer for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
I will love you and cherish you,
all the days of my life,
in the presence of the divine and these loved ones,
I give you this promise.

Join my life with yours

I, __________, take you, __________,
to be my spouse,
my partner, and friend.
To join my life with yours,
to share with you all that is to be, to laugh with you in joy,
to comfort you in sorrow,
to grow with you in love.
I will honor you
and be faithful to you,
all the days of my life.
This is my vow.

You are my choice

Today, I choose you
to be my spouse.
I vow to love you,
encourage you,
trust you, and respect you.
I accept you as you are,
and I offer myself in return.
I will care for you,
and stand beside you.
I will share with you all of life’s adversities,
and all of its joys,
from this day forward,
and all the days of my life.

From Jewish tradition

Today I ask
that you be a companion
and a spouse to me
with your consent and with your full knowledge.
May this marriage be a covenant
of partnership and trust
as we work to build a life together:
sometimes in unison, sometimes in harmony.
Today I bind myself to you
with respect, with love,
with friendship and with joy,
so that we may be companions and lovers
until the end of our days.

Spiritual, not religious

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 and cry with you,
to 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.

What you are to me

You are my lover and my teacher,
you are my model and my partner,
and you are my true counterpart.
I will love you,
hold you and honor you.
I will respect you,
encourage you and cherish you,
in health and sickness,
through sorrow and success,
for all the days of my life.