Wedding Vows – the heart of the matter

Your vows are perhaps the single most important element of your wedding ceremony. This is an ancient ritual traced all the way back to the medieval church.  It is the time when you put your commitment into words, speak them out loud, and say to one another and for all to hear: I’m in!  It is an emotional and meaningful moment that changes your life forever.

The exchange of vows is a profound moment.

There are many ways to approach choosing or creating wedding vows and a few options for how to say them as well.

First the easy part – how to say your vows. In my opinion there are only two viable ways to exchange vows. Use the ‘repeat after me’ method, or read them to one another. No one should try to memorize his or her vows. That’s just crazy! I did have a groom who sang them once time, and I have had several couples who took a more improvisational approach. However, for most people, it’s best to carefully think through what you want to express and have it written down.

The hard part is deciding what exactly you will say. Should you use traditional vows, pick from the myriad examples available, or create your own? If you feel pressure to write you own vows but really don’t care to do so, just let that one go right now! You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Remember that vows are your promise to be together through whatever comes (for better or worse, in sickness or in health). That is why the ‘classic’ vow in many ways really says it all. You don’t have to elaborate endlessly on that idea, although there are many excellent variations on this theme that do add character, style, emotion and even humor.

I have come to the conclusion that many couples want to write their own vows because it is their only opportunity to personalize their ceremony. Of course in a celebrant-style ceremony the entire ceremony is about you, so for my couples, it’s not necessary. But because it is your turn to speak, you may want it to be truly unique and special.

There are some who are just very creative or a bit different and feel compelled to have unique vows. If that’s you – go for it. But please do not cram the entire history or your relationship in your vow. And a note of caution: while you may like reading what you wrote, when you actually read them aloud they will seem much longer. Edit, edit, edit – remembering it’s about the promise!

If both partners are writing their own vow and keeping them secret – please make sure they are roughly equal in length and tone. No one should be embarrassed by their partner’s vows out-shining them.

If your style is more traditional you may want to use the age-old words for that very reason. When you speak the same words so many have spoken before, it feels powerful. A traditional vow connects with marriage across the ages, and a personal vow represents the power of the two of you. I truly believe – it’s your wedding – your choice!

 photo credit: Salwa Photography

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