Giving Your Word

Going deep into choosing or creating the right wedding vows.

Whatever type of wedding ceremony you are having, religious, spiritual, secular or civil, the exchange of vows is perhaps the most central element in the ceremony. It’s something I explore in depth with the couples I work with, and I’ve found they find it often feels daunting. That is why I like to remind each couple of exactly what the vow is – and what it is not. It is your promise to one another. It is not the story of your entire relationship.

Webster defines it this way:  a vow is a solemn promise or assertion; specifically: one by which a person is bound to an act, service, or condition.

For a wedding, it is the way you express your intention to be together always. And saying this promise before friends and family, and projecting these words into the world around you, is powerful. It makes it real, and it becomes a part of your existence. Even for an elopement, just speaking the vow out loud is a powerful thing.

There are the classic vows, with which we are all familiar. Those include phrases like: ‘from this day forward’, and ‘for better or for worse.’ Then there are vows as individual and unique as one can possibly imagine.

And of course, you can write your own vows.
How will you choose, or create your vows? I suggest you start by reading through some samples and see if any ‘jump out at you.’ I give ‘my’ couples lots of examples – but anyone can find vows on the internet. Maybe the perfect vows already exist. They very likely may! After all, you really don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Or maybe you find something that is close to perfect, but not quite. In this case, pick a few favorites, go line by line to see which best reflect how you feel, and cobble them all together.

Think about some of those key phrases. Do you prefer ‘as long as we both shall live,’ rather than ‘til death do us part,’ or how about: ‘from this day forward?’ Which feels better for you?

Stylistic choices set the tone but the content is obviously important. What exactly are you promising? To love each other forever? of course, but also to respect and care for one another, to remain best friends, support each other’s dreams. How about through challenges or difficulties?  Vows can list ideas, actions, feelings, thoughts and motives, along with hopes for the future.

Both partners do not necessarily have to say the same vows. It can be interesting and meaningful to say different words. But it is important that when saying different vows, they should be about the same length and hit the same notes.  It doesn’t feel good to have one partner say something funny and the other something heartfelt and tender, or to have one partner go on and on, and the other be very brief.

When writing your vows, the best advice I can give is to get straight to the point. And while I mentioned at the top of the column that it’s not the story of your entire relationship, putting a few charming details into it can work well. Just be prudent about it, ok?

Some couples wish to keep their vows secret from one another. This is a very exciting experience. When this is the case, I request that they send them to me to check out. Not to judge but to be sure there is that balance. I let each one know, without giving away content, if they need to edit or adjust their vows, until they match up nicely. They still have the surprise element, but with balance, and that has worked out very well. If your officiant is not engaged with this process, solicit a friend’s help.

Photo by Garth Woods

Don’t let this overwhelm you. It is an important part of one of the biggest days in your life. It is perfectly fine to pick vows from a book or the Internet and say, ‘yes,’ this is for us!


Once more thank you Lisa Rhinehart and Garth Woods




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