30 Tips from Real Weddings on Writing Wedding Vows
Many of you are recently engaged after the holiday season, or “engagement season” as it is referred to in the wedding industry, and diving into wedding plans headfirst. Though some may brush off the vows as unimportant compared to the venue or flowers, it’s important to take this component of your wedding seriously.
Marriage vows bind the two of you together as one. If you choose the traditional route, repeating those words confirms your love for one another, your commitment to a lifelong marriage, and your dedication to the importance of the occasion.
Writing your own vows offers all this too, but it also gives you an opportunity to share stories, express your creativity, and craft something truly personal and unique for your spouse-to-be.
It’s a tremendous undertaking, as you sit down and attempt to sum up all your love, dreams and promises to your partner in a few short minutes. Overwhelming as it can be, it’s well worth it: It’s a chance to tell your story, give guests a peek into what makes your relationship tick, and to share meaningful, sweet words with the person you love.
It’s also intimate—you’re really baring your heart to your fiancé, and you’re doing so in front of your family and friends. If you’re up for the challenge, we’re here to help. We’ve rounded up 24 tips that will help you write your own wedding vows.
One of the hardest parts about exchanging vows is worrying over how people will compare your words to your fiancé’s. Were hers longer? Did he get more sentimental? Did she make everyone laugh? Did he make everyone cry?
Instead of considering vow writing a competition, get on the same page about your expectations.
Find a Quiet Place that Inspires You To Write Your Wedding Vows
Don’t plan on writing romantic vows while your fiancé is in the other room with the TV blaring or when you have a work deadline on your mind. Find the time when your stress level is low, and you can really spend a few quiet minutes thinking about your relationship. To help the ideas start flowing, consider propping pictures of you and your fiancé from throughout the ties around your writing space as inspiration.
Before you can even begin writing, find a spot that inspires you.
Go somewhere that makes you think of your spouse-to-be or take a few quiet moments alone in your own space. Don’t try to write vows on your lunch break at work, or when you should be studying for an exam, or in the middle of your kitchen while your family or friends are bustling around you.
Since we waited until right before our wedding to write our vows, we were already in the Northern Neck of Virginia, staying at the Riverhouse for a few days before the wedding to get those last minute details in order. This was really the perfect place to write our vows because it held so much meaning for us. We spent so many summers together there and chose to get married there because of those memories. I sat on the screened-in back porch one early morning with a cup of coffee and wrote my vows. When Josh wrote him, he paddled out in the canoe and wrote his vows out in the middle of the water! Whatever works, right?
Make a List of Items You Want to Mention
You don’t have to try to put everything into sentences right away. The first step to writing your vows should be creating a list. Jot down all the things you love about your fiancé, what you’re looking forward to most in your marriage, and what promises you want to make to your future husband or wife. Set the list aside for a day or two, then go back and highlight your favorite items on the list. Use those as the starting point for your vows.
Once you’ve made your list, done your research, and written your first draft, walk away. Take a few days—even a week—to give you and your vows some space. After you’ve taken time apart, go back and reread what you wrote. A little separation from your words will do a whole lot of good and allow for you to fix anything with a clear head. If needed, do this one or two more times. But after three times, stop. The bottom line is that you wrote from the heart, and continuously rewriting will drive you crazy! Don’t put that pressure on yourself.
Start by drafting out some different things you want to mention. Or make a list of particular memories or words you want to hit. This can help you compose vows that include everything you wanted to say and can also help you to create a better flow or order.
Often times, it seems that people start writing and their vows stray into too-long stories and lessen their value as vows and turn into something else. You don’t want to draw out your vows, and you certainly don’t want to stand up there and ramble on and on. I wrote out little bullets about when we first met, how long we’d been together, some important memories, how much I loved him, and what I looked forward to for the future.
Rehearse - Picture Yourself Standing in Front of Your Groom/Bride
Plan to have your vows written at least three weeks before your wedding. This will give you time to write without the added pressure of the coming day and also provide you with time to practice reciting your vows in front of the mirror. Trust us: You’ll be thankful for the rehearsal when those wedding day jitters kick in!
This seems like a no-brainer, but Monique Honaman, wedding officiant and author of The High Road Has Less Traffic, says she is often shocked at how many couples leave out this little three-word phrase from their vows. “Isn’t that why people are getting married?” she asks. “Yes, we assume that’s a given that we must love someone if we are willing to stand by them through thick and thin, but it’s always nice to hear and emphasize.”
As I struggled to begin my vows, not knowing what to say first or how to make it all flow together, I pictured myself standing in front of Josh. I closed my eyes and saw the pastor and the river to my left and our guests to my right and then focused on Josh and what he would look like standing there as we got married. If you picture yourself at that moment, imagine yourself saying these words directly to your groom/bride and not to anyone else, start as you naturally would. Mine started merely with “Josh,” and moved into how I couldn’t believe we were finally standing there getting married. I then began to reflect back on our relationship over the last seven years.
For you, this may start with something funny. It may begin with a story. Or maybe, you want to start by saying “I love you.” Do what feels natural. Do what fits your relationship and the way you would usually talk to your significant other.
Be Sure to Talk About the Future
Though it’s fantastic to mention how your first met, talk about something funny that happened in the past, and all the years that lead up to the wedding, don’t forget to talk about the future too. The whole reason you are standing there reciting vows is that you want to spend the rest of your lives together. So talk about what you are looking forward to, make promises to your soon-to-be spouse, talk about future parenthood and adventures you want to have together, and talk about how much your love will grow. That piece is so important.
You are becoming husband and wife and heading into the future together without any idea of what will happen down the road. If you truly love one another for better or for worse, then you need to make that commitment in your vows.
Acknowledge You’ll Need Help and Support of Others
You’ve gathered your friends and family to celebrate your wedding, but the truth is, you’ll need them just as much during your marriage. So, Honaman recommends you “use your vows to acknowledge that you need others to help your marriage be successful,” she says. “This may mean acknowledging the role of religion or God in making your marriage work, or the role of family and friends who will help support you when times get tough. I believe it’s helpful to know the two of you aren’t in this alone.”
Share the Highs and the Lows
“Many people make the mistake of thinking that vows are only about the highs in your relationship,” says Alexis Dent, founder of vow- and toast-writing company XO Juliet. “But guests (and your S.O.) want to hear vows that are real. If you’ve been through rough spots, spots where you thought you wouldn’t make it as a couple, or spots where one or both of you had physical or emotional hardships, you should express that.”
Your guests know that no relationship is perfect, and you and your partner know it, too, because you’ve been there. “Perfect relationships don’t even exist in fairy tales. Look at Cinderella: That relationship was two steps away from not happening!” Dent emphasizes. So while positive vibes are a must-have on your wedding day, skipping the difficult parts—you know, the moments that made you realize your partner would be there for you through it all—could create a lack of realism that alienates your guests. “Of course, it shouldn’t be to the point where people are wondering why you’re getting married! But sprinkling the lows among the highs will confirm what everyone wants to hear and feel at a wedding: that love is not simply a feeling but a choice, and that you and your partner are choosing to love one another.”
Actually, Make Promises
“A common hiccup when people write their own vows is that they only tell cute anecdotes, turning the vows into glorified love letters,” Dent describes. But a vow is so much more than that: It’s a promise and a serious commitment that you’re making in front of a whole lot of witnesses. That doesn’t mean they have to be heavy, though. “You can vow to not only stick by their side forever, but also to be the one to kill spiders whenever they creep their way into your home,” suggests Dent. And if you really want to express your feelings to your partner, consider writing separate love letters to one another to share before the ceremony.
Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
Seems obvious, right? But the earth-shattering, mountain-moving, and reality-defying declarations of love belong in a Mary J. Blige song—not in your wedding vows, and certainly not in your expectations for marriage. “Stop promising perfection,” says psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author Esther Perel. “That’s a de facto lie. Promise humility, humanness, compassion, empathy or at least the effort at those things. People fear practical means boring and drab, but that’s not the case. You don’t have to promise each other heaven rather than good (and less good) ole fun on earth.”
Don’t Try to Include Everything
It's understandable to try and fit everything you’re feeling into your vows — but another pro tip for how to write wedding vows is resisting that to include everything literally. “It’s impossible to fit every single emotion and memory into your vows,” says JP Reynolds, M.Div., celebrity officiant. (That is, of course, unless you want a ceremony that’s hours long!)
Acknowledge that You’re Perfectly Imperfect
“How would it sound, if, at some point in your vows, someone just said, ‘I’m going to f*ck up’?” Perel asks. “That would get people’s attention. And, there is nothing more hopeful than promising your imperfection. It’s the opposite of what people think, but it’s like, ‘We are resilient. We’re not beginners. We’ve already gone through some stuff, and this is the affirmation of our strength.'”
When you marry at 30-something, don’t pretend you’re still an insecure 17-year-old. “Self-esteem is the ability to see yourself as a flawed person but still hold yourself in high regard,” says Perel. “A perfect homeopathic medicine is to be honest and accountable for your shortcomings, and actually to predict all-out mistakes and flops. Invent your imperfections in your vows. It’s like, ‘I have no doubt that at some point I’m going to drive you crazy, and I hope when you bring it up, I won’t be defensive and try to justify why I should be able to continue what I do. I hope when I mess up, I own it. I won’t just blame you to hide my failures better.'”
Feel Free to Mention Super Specific (and Even Slightly Weird) Stuff
We’re not saying to air out all your dirty laundry, but we are saying that it’s so much more interesting for your friends or family to hear you acknowledge your odd, but lovable, quirks in your wedding vows.
“When you break the narrative, and you begin to tell more personal stories, people listen more,” she explains, “because it’s so unusual to make vows that are not just puppy-eyed and starry-eyed, and that actually put the couple in the front of the community and say, ‘You guys are our friends. You know us. You know damn well what happens between us.’”
Avoid Words Like Always and Never
This kind of language has already set you up for failure.
Perel suggests thinking about it like this: “It’s not, ‘I’m always going to be great. It’s ‘I’m going to do my best when I’m usually pretty subpar, because you, the love of my life, make me want to be better.'”
You can, however, promise to strive for constant self-improvement, and acknowledge that it’s not necessarily your spouse’s responsibility to fix your mistakes.
Go After Laughter
The ability to laugh at yourself will serve you well in marriage and vow writing. “Humor can show a lot of relational self-awareness,” says Perel, “and that you take yourselves seriously, but not too seriously. It’s an acknowledgment of the fragility, sensibility, and vulnerability, and can help make your vows real.”
Get Inspired by Books, Songs, Movies, and Poems
If you have a favorite line from a movie or song that expresses your feelings, use it as a starting point. Also, browse through some children’s books, like Maurice Sendak and Ruth Krauss’s I’ll Be You and You’ll Be Me, and I Like You by Sandol Stoddard. Kids’ books often have a way of communicating deep, complex emotions in simple sentences so they can provide some inspiration.
Embrace Sentimentality and Don’t Worry About Being Cheesy
Writing your vows isn’t the time to worry about being corny or cheesy. “If the words are heartfelt, then they’re not cheesy,” says Reynolds. “I’ve never heard vows that made me roll my eyes!”
Feel Free to Use Other Vows as a Template
It can be helpful to start out with a set of standard vows and then personalize them. If you’re looking for a good starting place, 15 Traditional Wedding Vows to Inspire Your Own offers vows from different cultures and faiths around the world. They can be a helpful guide for anyone who is struggling to write their own wedding vows.
Practice Reading Out Loud
You’ve got it all down, but the only way to make sure everything sounds perfect is to hear how it looks. “Reading your vows out loud will help you catch spots where the grammar might be iffy or where you’re missing a word, as well as figure out if the structure is cohesive,” Dent explains. “It might sound great in your head, but hearing your voice saying the words will highlight anything that might be off. There’s a reason we learn in grade school that, if we read our writing aloud, we can better edit it properly and ensure that it will make sense.” So while your S.O. is at work or the gym, read your vows out loud…and then do it again.
Indicate Pauses and Intonation
Unlike writing a letter, vows are a speech and require moments to pause, breath, or emphasize words and phrases differently. “Not every line will be the same. In one line you might be talking about a funny moment when your partner laughed so hard they peed their pants, and in the next, you might be referring to a struggle the two of you overcame to end up at the altar—which requires very different emphasis and tones,” says Dent. Other moments also deserve a pause, allowing your guests to process the emotions you’re conveying. Dent continues, “You’ll want to allow them time to laugh or tear up without interrupting your flow. You don’t want to rush through your vows, and your guests don’t want you to either. For the best comprehension and emotional reactions, take it slow and focus on breaks, pauses, and intonation.”
Ask a Trusted Friend to Listen and Edit
“Many couples want to keep their vows secret before their wedding day, but that’s not always a good idea—particularly if you’re uneasy in the writing and public speaking department,” says Dent. “Once you’ve rehearsed out loud and made notes about where to take a breath, it’s time to practice with an audience.” You might know exactly what you’re trying to say, but that doesn’t mean your guests (or your partner!) will hear the same thing or really get it. A close friend who is a great sounding board (and a pro at keeping secrets) is an important ally to have. “They can give you constructive criticism and help you improve your vows to make sure you really get that meaning across.”
Make a Fresh Copy of the Vows for Your Ceremony
Whether you typed your vows up or wrote them on a napkin at a bar, you might think having them down on paper is enough, but imagine how they’ll look when they come out of the best man’s jacket pocket at the ceremony. “Yes, the focus will be on the words themselves, but the aesthetics matter, too,” says Dent. “Do you really want to watch your wedding video and see yourself holding a crumpled and stained piece of paper?” Instead, copy your vows neatly into a notebook or onto a clean piece of paper (that’s neatly folded!) to use during the ceremony. “Plus, this way you’ll be able to frame them and hang them in your home when your wedding is done!”
Keep the Vows a Secret From Your Partner Until the Ceremony
“Your vows are a gift to one another, so don’t share them ahead of time,” Reynolds explains. “It really doesn’t matter if one person’s vows are longer than the other’s. Let them be your words, and don’t worry about whether or not they’re perfect.
Re-Read Again & Again
Once you’ve assembled your vows, go back and read through them several times. Check for mistakes, make some updates, and maybe change the order around. You may have written out everything you wanted to mention but the law doesn’t make sense, so go back and rearrange sentences or paragraphs as needed.
After you feel that you’ve made all the necessary edits, practice! Pretend your groom or bride is standing in front of you and run through your vows a few times. This can help to weed out any bits that you might not actually want to include or help you think of something new to add. Plus, practice makes perfect, and it can be nerve-wracking to stand in front of a crowd and recite your vows. Practicing the flow will help to make you more comfortable.
Get Inspired with these Real Wedding Vows
Looking for a little more inspiration? Even after all those tips on how to write wedding vows, you probably want some actual examples. These couples penned their own vows, and look how beautiful and meaningful they turned out!
Lisa and Chris
Lisa Kurtz and Chris Harihar tied the knot in a traditional ceremony at Maritime Parc in Jersey City, New Jersey, which overlooks downtown Manhattan. Having Manhattan in sight was unique to them, as they live, work and thrive in New York City. A string quartet played during the ceremony, and their recessional music was an unexpected twist: “Headlines,” by Drake.
Lisa: “Chris, you are my best friend and the love of my life. Your kind heart, generous nature and wonderful sense of humor make it incredibly easy to love you. You are caring, thoughtful and one of the most intelligent people I have ever had the fortune of meeting — let alone marry and call my partner. I love you more than you will ever know. I promise to be loving, considerate, and patient when you’re running late at the office. When you’re sad, I will comfort you, and when you’re happy I will share in your joy. I will strive to be the very best wife I can be and continue to create a beautiful and happy home to grow our family for all the days of my life.”
Chris: “Lisa, you are the purpose of my life and my beautiful best friend. Every day, I look at you and see the perfect partner — stunning and smart, strong but delicate, loyal and loving. I am incredibly proud and thankful to hold your hand for the rest of my life. I love you, utterly and eternally. Today, in front of our friends and family, I promise to be the very best husband I can be, there for you without ask and protecting you without hesitation. With you, I am excited to build a beautiful home together, where we can watch our chubby, mocha latte children, grow into the ultra-cool nerds that they are destined to be. And though not every day will be a good day, through the hard times like wedding planning, and the good times at Greek restaurants, every moment we share will be a blessing because we are together. Know that I love you now and forever, for all the days of my life.”
Marissa and Gabriel
After surviving Hurricane Irma in 2017 together, wedding planning didn’t phase Marissa Artman and Gabriel Rocheleau. Two years into their relationship, they got married at Walker’s Landing in Fernandina Beach, Florida, in a military-themed ceremony inspired by Rocheleau’s military service.
Marissa: “Gabriel, You came into my life at exactly the right time: when I wasn’t ready, and yet, when I need your love the most. In the past two years, we’ve experienced great triumphs and natural disasters together. These trials have pushed the boundaries of what we thought we could endure, and in the end, I feel more strongly connected with you in a resolve to get up and try again. As you always say, adapt and overcome. I love you dearly for all that you are. I respect you for your passion and admire you for your quick thinking. I am proud of you for so intensely protecting those you love and adore you for your delicate nature. I am amazed by your inquisitive mind and tickled by your sense of humor. I may not want to admit it, but I even love your awful puns. You have stuck by me through the best and worst, and loved all that I am. You help me to be the finest version of me that I can. Your love for Petri [our dog] might even rival mine. You are kind, encouraging, challenging, vexing, and wonderful. Thank you. As your wife, I promise to love you with the same determination and confidence you’ve given me. I vow to support you through more ups and downs. I swear to respect you and remind you of your accomplishments and aspirations. I pledge to commit myself to our family, and the good I know will grow from it. I promise this all to you until I am no more.”
Gabriel: “Marissa, I love you with all my heart. I have been thankful for these past two years that you were not the best driver on that fateful day. Stopping in the middle of a busy 90/04 to see if everyone was okay, there I met the woman who is standing before me today. When we started dating, I gained a family, a woman who loves me, and an adorable whippet both whom I adore with all my heart. We have survived trials and tribulations, from Hurricane Irma to differing political views, we have pulled through. We are survivors, and with our perseverance and dedication, there is nothing we can’t accomplish or overcome. I promise to take care of you even when you get food poisoning on New Year’s Eve. I promise I will unclog the shower even though only one of us has long hair. Marissa, I love you unconditionally and always will.”
Devin Lee and Jeremy
College sweethearts Devin Lee Hawthorne and Jeremy Duke met at Middle Tennessee State University in 2012. Years later, when Jeremy proposed to Devin at a park in Pittsburgh, and she said happily said yes. They married each other in a beautiful ceremony at Westbury House on the Square in Columbia, Tenn.
Jeremy: “Devin Lee it is impossible for me to put into words the passionate and infinite embrace you have on my heart. You make me a full person. Your love, support, and warm affection embolden my faith and my hopes. Committing the rest of my life to you is actually pretty easy because without you I am nothing. As we begin our life together in front of those whom we are closest, I make the following vows I vow to wake up every morning and thank God that he gave me you, my perfect woman, I vow to be your steady rock in turbulent times, there to calm the chaos I vow to put your needs before my own, I vow to sell my tacky furniture. I vow to watch reruns of Gilmore Girls and Friends and eat a vegetarian meal every once in a while, Like once a year… I vow to be the man that you inspire me to be and the man that you deserve.
Finally, I vow to spend every day I have left on this earth showering you with a zealous love and a faithful commitment. A love that many waters cannot quench, a love that floods cannot drown.”
Devin Lee: “Jeremy, I can’t say we fell in love at first sight or that I wasn’t hesitant to go on a date with a co-worker, but I can say with 100% certainty that today I am marrying my soul mate. A few years back I heard a sermon about love. I learned that even though I felt ready for the responsibilities of a lasting love that I had to wait (which I hate to do). I had to wait for the person God created for me to be ready as well. During our first few months, I learned about your adventures and how you came back home because you were ready. From that moment on I knew my wait was over! Over the last two years you’ve shown me what a great love looks like and every morning I wake up and fall more in love with you. I vow to put us first and make sure we are constantly working to grow together. I vow to love you and honor our commitment when we are near and far from each other. I vow to remember Soup is a side — not a meal. I vow to support and encourage your dreams and help you grow. I vow never to get tired of hearing your pooh bear laugh and to be the first person to laugh at your skits. I vow to stand by you in life’s wonderful moments and when life is difficult. Also, for making me wait so long – I vow to make you wait for me getting ready for the best of your life. Jeremy, You’re the mmm to my bop, the Luke to my Lorelei, my lobster and I will always give you my final rose. You’re the person I waited for, and you were worth the wait. Today I become your wife, your other half and I can’t wait for all the blessing we will wait for together.”
Brooke and Steven
For their Temecula, Calif., nuptials, Brooke Peterson, a benefits specialist, and Steven Triplett, who is in retail management, spontaneously penned their feelings. The result: vows that were unstructured, yet completely heartfelt.
Brooke: “I love that you open doors for little old ladies. I love that you would spend your last five dollars just to see somebody else happy. I love that you have ‘blonde moments’ — like thinking Jamaica is part of Hawaii. But more than that, I love that you can laugh at them afterward. I love that you’re healthy and honorable, yet warm and compassionate, loving and accepting of all people. But most of all, I love that you and I both love each other so much. I promise to stand by you and to be the president of your fan club. I promise never to let anything come between us, to fight for us, to love you through good times and challenging times, and always to maintain a sense of humor and adventure as we take our next steps together into the unknown and beautiful future.”
Steven: “You are beautiful, kind, gentle, loving, caring — and did I mention that you’re funny? So funny that sometimes only YOU laugh at your jokes. When I really think about it, spending forever with you just doesn’t seem like it’s going to be long enough.”
Kristen and Dennis
Kristin Van Handel, a textile designer, and Dennis Russo, a theatre professor, both structured their vows as promises to each other—but they didn’t plan it that way; they actually wrote their vows separately. The couple loves how they just happened to express their feelings for each other in the same way.
Dennis: “As the cliché says, you showed up when I was least expecting you. I intend to love you, hold you, and grow very, very old with you. These are my promises: I promise always to be there when you have troubles, and to know that sometimes simply letting you talk about your problems is enough. I promise to be the most dependable person in your life. I promise you that laughter will always be commonplace in our house. I promise to do my best to age gracefully in body and soul, and not to become a cranky old man. I promise, from this day forward, to live my life as a member of a band and not a solo artist. I promise to lead and follow accordingly and to keep our relationship in good balance. To quote a favorite writer, ‘You fill up all those empty spaces.’ For that I am grateful, and every day you will see that appreciation.”
Kristin: “I am truly blessed to be a part of your life, which as of today becomes our life together. I promise to encourage your dreams because that is what makes you so unique. I promise to celebrate the joy of every day with you. I promise to stand by your side through life’s most joyous moments and challenging ones. I promise to be kind, patient and forgiving. I promise always to honor your passion for hockey. I promise always to remember that laughter is life’s sweetest creation, and I will never stop laughing with you. But most of all, I promise to be your true companion always. For one lifetime with you could never be enough.”