You’ve sorted the venue and found the frock… but wait, what about the speaking?! Somewhere in between worrying about the aesthetics, you’ve forgotten that you’ve actually got to do something on the day. “Writing your own wedding vows is wonderful; it’s a fantastic way to express feelings from the heart,” says Helen Schrader (helenschrader.com) who officiates at blessing ceremonies in the UAE. Here are her tips for saying your piece in style.
1. Make sure that everyone is on the same page. Make sure that your officiant and/ or church allows you to write your own wedding vows. Many religions require specific vows to be read during the wedding ceremony, so be sure to find this out before beginning any writing. Some religions require that you use the traditional wording, while others will allow you to write your own, as long as you include certain phrases. You’ll also want to make sure that your other half also wants to do it! Decide at the start whether you want to write one wedding vow that you will both say, or whether you want to write individually.
2. To get the creative juices fl owing, start to jot down your responses to the following questions: What has your partner done that is most memorable? What is the funniest thing? The kindest thing? How has he/she inspired you? How do you envisage your life together? What words would describe him or her? How has your life changed now that you are together?
3. Think about music, a film, poetry or a book that has really moved you. Perhaps you have a signature piece of music that featured when you met and some of the words can be incorporated into your vows? Once you start brainstorming ideas you will be surprised at the outcome!
4. Don’t rush. Go back to the words over again (sleeping on them helps!) and highlight passages that you might want to include in your wedding vows. Then pare things down – select the very best of all the material you have to work with. Try taking a sentence from literature, add a line or two from the answers to the above questions, and finish with a vow – for example, a sentence that begins “I promise” or “I vow”. The length of your vows is entirely up to you both, this is your chance to shine, so embrace the opportunity. Size doesn’t matter - the important thing is to be sincere and say your vows with passion. Your promises can also be incorporated into the exchanging of rings. A good beginning is to state something positive about your partner or your relationship such as, “I love you so much. Your support and encouragement is a precious gift...”. Finish off with a promise or a pledge, like “I promise that I will walk with you through all our tomorrows.”
5. Practice! Try reading what you’ve written out loud to a trusted friend or family member. The simple act of doing so might help you identify places where you can improve. Once you’ve worked out a final version, practice reading it on your own, several times, to make sure you’re comfortable with it.
6. Once you’ve started to formulate your vows, ask yourself, ‘Will I want to say this to him/her next year or in ten years time at our 25th wedding anniversary?’ It’s a wonderful exercise to do together and makes you realise what’s really important about your ceremony besides the endless preparations for your big day.
7. The vows are the focal part of your wedding or blessing ceremony; the part that your friends and family will remember and be moved by so make the most of it. If you can, try to memorise your vows or at least make a notes card (and give an extra copy to the best man or maid of honour!) so that nerves won’t spoil all of your hard work. Don’t rush it or make it too short; it is an emotional and happy time - enjoy it. If you have a civil celebrant they will have your vows written for you to read to each other.
HOW IT WORKS ON THE DAY
Introduction: The celebrant speaks about the couple – how they met and their aspirations for their future together, and invites the guests to partake in the ceremony. A professional celebrant would spend some time with the couple and ask a series of questions so he or she can write a meaningful introduction to set the scene. Within this can be a presentation of the bride by the father or other family members.
Asking: When the celebrant asks if you wish to marry the person standing next to you or reaffirm the promises they have already made. This is where you say yes. (Hopefully!)
The promise: The time when your vows come in and you express your love for each other.
The seal: Here, you exchange rings and sign the certificate.