By Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway
Personal marriage vows are a wonderful way to express your love on your wedding day. They can help to make your ceremomy unique and even more meaningful.
Personalized vows are meant to provide a sacred moment in which you can express your truest feeling for each other.
While some couples enjoy the wedding spotlight (finally) being on them, others feel nervous about writing vows or speaking vows in front of others. The vows you speak don’t have to be personally written – rather, you can “borrow” them from other sources. They are not meant to be a theater piece to impress or entertain others (but we understand they may sort of come out that way, for some couples). Most of all, they should not stress you out! So give some thought to whether you are both comfortable speaking vows.
If you are up for exchanging vows, there are a few more things to consider: Would you prefer traditional, classic vows, or more modern and personal vows? If you will be married in a traditional religious ceremony, you may be asked to speak classic traditional religious vows. In a non-denominational or interfaith ceremony, you can be more creative. Always speak with your officiant in advance about where vows fit into your ceremony. Whenever possible, select an officiant who will support you in expressing vows the way you feel most comfortable.
Ways to say I love you. There are many ways to weave vows into your ceremony. For example, your vows can be repeat-after-the-officiant style or they can be read to one another. You can utter them as part of your I dos, or speak them when you exchange rings. You can each decide on different vow, or share the same vows. You can even speak the same vow to one another simultaneously; or you can read from one long vow or statement, with each partner alternating lines. If you don’t want to say much, you can include the promises you would like to make in a longer question of intent, to which you only have to answer “I do.” Never try to memorize your vows. On your wedding day, the mind goes into Wedding La-LaLand … it is too much to ask of yourself.
Creative and sacred ways to express your commitment. You can find your vows in poetry, popular songs, or even greeting cards. You can also source ideas from the faiths or cultures you were born into. For example, from the Jewish tradition you might want to use the soulful line from Song of Solomon, “I am my beloveds, and my beloved it mine” or talk about the concept of soul mates. Some couples adapt vows from the 7 Steps (known as Saptapadi) in the Hindu faith, such as “We will share each other’s joys and sorrows with courage and strength.” You can find lovely material from any spiritual tradition and adapt it into your vows.
Write your own vows. If you do want to write your own vows, take a moment to reconnect to the energy and magic that made you want to marry this person, and let the feelings flow. Jot down some notes:
1. What do you love about your partner?
2. What feelings pour over you when you think of his/her love for you?
3. What are your hopes and dreams for your married life?
4. What promises would you like to make?
Next, write a first draft. Begin by sharing what you love about your partner (including cute and funny reasons) and letting your beloved know how he/she makes you feel. Next, share things you look forward to experiencing together. Sprinkle in promises you would like to make. Summarize by sharing how grateful you partner’s love and the opportunity to share your lives. Then go through the first draft; edit or add in new thoughts. Don’t be afraid to use a bit of humor – if that’s your style.
Speak from the heart: No matter what kind of vows you choose let your sentiments come from the heart. They do not have to be long. Keep them simple, and make them real.
If your officiat will be using a microphone, think about whether you would be comfortable speaking your vows into the mic.
Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway, is a leading interfaith and non-denominational wedding officiant in New York. She creates unique ceremonies for couples of all backgrounds and faiths, and is also widely recognized as a wedding stress expert. She is author of Your Interfaith Wedding: A Guide to Blending Faiths, Cultures, and Personal Values into One Beautiful Wedding Ceremony and Wedding Goddess: A Divine Guide to Transforming Wedding Stress into Wedding Bliss. Visit her website, www.YourInterfaithWedding.com.