Now THIS Is How You Write A Wedding Vow

Illustrated By Anna Sudit.
By Claire Aven

While there's something inherently beautiful about those traditional, time-honored wedding vows, many couples are choosing to write their own instead. If you're one of those trailblazers, you may find yourself wondering where to start. Do you tell a funny (but appropriate...come on, Grandma is in the second row) anecdote? Or, do you get all sentimental? With so much to say and only a limited amount of time to say it, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the thought of writing your own vows. But, have no fear, here are eight tips to help get you started.

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Illustrated By Anna Sudit.
Get on the same page.
First things first: Make sure you and your partner are both on board with writing personalized vows — it can be an intense experience to write and read them aloud! Also, check with your officiant to ensure you're actually allowed to read your own vows, as some houses of worship require marrying couples to recite set vows.
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Illustrated By Anna Sudit.
Discuss the rules.
Even though you probably won't want to share your vows until the big day, it's good to set some ground rules. Sit down with your fiancé at least six weeks before your wedding and establish a framework: Talk about tone (heartfelt yet funny? serious and romantic?), length (150-200 words? 1-2 minutes?), what types of things you want to say (memories from your relationship? your "how we met" story? promises for the future?), and how you'll close your vows (you may both want to say the same thing — for example, "I'll love you forever" or "I'm so glad you picked me").

Or, you may want to surprise each other with a unique last line. It may be helpful to establish a template that both of you can work from, even if you end up doing things VERY differently on the big day.
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Illustrated By Anna Sudit.
Consider imposing a time limit.
If you know your partner is long-winded, set a cutoff time, à la the Oscars, BEFORE you get to the ceremony. That way, if either of you is tempted to tell the world ALL of the reasons why you love your partner, you won't be able to go on and on and...well, you get the picture. Keep your vows straightforward and under two minutes for maximum effect. You'll get to move on to the party portion of the night sooner (and your guests will thank you).
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Illustrated By Anna Sudit.
Dig deep for inspiration.
Think long and hard about your relationship and the time that you've spent together as a couple. How did you meet? When did you know that you were in love? What's your favorite memory of your time together so far? Take note of any special moments you two have shared, whether it was adopting a pet, buying a house, or simply traveling abroad. Also, think about what you like most about your partner. Does he make you chicken soup when you're sick? Does she give the world's best hugs? Your vows should be personal, so consider what makes your relationship so special.
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Illustrated By Anna Sudit.
Write it down.
After you've gathered your thoughts, it's time to get writing. So, grab a pencil or open up that Word doc, and just let the thoughts flow. And, don't edit yourself! Remember that your first draft doesn't have to be perfect, it just needs to happen. You might be surprised how easily the words come to you as soon as you put pen to paper.
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Illustrated By Anna Sudit.
Make a promise.
Just because you're coming up with your own vows doesn't mean that they magically stop being vows. Your words shouldn't just be kind, loving sentiments; they should serve as a pledge to your partner about your relationship and your future together. Make sure your promises are attainable (don't vow to never get angry, because, well, you're human) and that you really, truly mean them. Not sure what to say? Think about those traditional vows — "in sickness and in health," "for richer, for poorer," "in good times and in bad" — and put your own spin on them.
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Illustrated By Anna Sudit.
Leave the clichés out of it.
Metaphors are beautiful and clichés are clear, but they can also invoke Liz Lemon-esque eye-rolls and make your vows seem insincere. Instead, consider including an inside joke or two (as long as they're easy to weave into your vows). Avoid the flowery language. We want to see some tears (of joy, of course)!
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Illustrated By Anna Sudit.
Practice out loud.
While you might feel silly, reciting the words you wrote out loud may help you get over your fear of public speaking. (Hey, this trick helped you in seventh grade, didn't it?) Get comfortable with the thoughts that you are about to say in front of all your nearest and dearest.

Practice pauses, rework troubling sentences (if you trip up now, you'll probably trip up at the ceremony, too), and think through the structure. Does it make sense? Do you mean every word? This is one of the most important speeches of your life (no pressure), and one that you'll want to deliver without a hitch.