Every couple will have different priorities for their day but one of the things I really REALLY wanted (and had to beg / puppy eyes / insist my way to) was writing our own vows. I don’t regret it for a second as it made the ceremony so much more important to me.
If you are considering writing your own vows but don’t know where to start or how to do it we have 3 different ways to approach it.
Chris was the officiant at Kelly & Tyrone’s elopement and the sweet, calm and special way he conducted their ceremony was the reason I asked him to contribute to this discussion.
The legal way
The South African Marriage Law does allow a couple to write their own vows, as long as the vows reflect words to the following effect: “I take you to be my wife/husband”.
However, it is always a good idea to discuss this with your marriage officer before the wedding to make sure nothing has changed and they don’t have their own suggestions or preferences on the topic.
Chris (the officiant’s) way
Remember that the meaning of the words “I take you to be my wife/husband” must reflect in your vows.
Keep your vows short and to the point. This is not the time to write out an A4 page, trying to fit in all the detail of what you find attractive or special about each other.
Try to memorize your vows a day or two ahead of the ceremony. It does not make for attractive photos or video if the bride and/or groom stands there with a piece of paper in their hands, trying to decipher what they have scribbled.
Don’t leave the rehearsing of the vows for the last minute. On the wedding day the stress levels tend to be elevated, which means that the memory does not work at its usual efficiency.
That of course also means that the vows must be written ahead of the big day. I sometimes see a bride or groom with their vows written on a scrap of hotel stationary, which means that it was a last minute exercise. Surely your partner deserves a more carefully and well thought out vow.
Give a copy of your written vows to the Marriage Officer, so that they can prompt you when or if you get stuck.
Remember that the vows are an emotional part of the ceremony. Don’t trip up yourself by writing extremely emotional content. There is always time at a later stage when you can tell your partner how special he/she is, with the accompaniment of many tears and sobs.
This does not mean that the vows should be unemotional, just that you should try not to go over the top.
Remember that the vows should be said in such a way that the guests should be able to hear them. Practice speaking them loud and clear.
Of late I have advised couples to consider not writing the vows on paper, but simply to speak from the heart. This creates very special moments. The Marriage Officer can then guide you through the “I take you to be my wife/husband” part, or perhaps do a formal set of vows as well.
Some bridal couples cry during their vows, others laugh. Some have even giggled uncontrollably. It might be a good idea to have the groom put some tissues in his jacket or pants pocket.
There are many of Chris’s points that I agree with. It is a good idea to write and run through the vows ahead of time, printing them out will make sure you can actually read what you wrote (my hand writing is so bad I don’t know what I have written half the time never mind when I’m emotional) and a pocket full of tissues is always a good idea.
But this is where our opinions differ…
Make your vows as emotional and intimate as you like. Although we did our own vows we opted out of speeches and to this day my husband face regrets not saying what was on his heart to me & our parents in a wedding speech.
There will be many times to tell and show your person how much you love them but there is something really sacred about stating those words in front of witnesses. Weddings are one of the few times we get to do that don’t deprive yourself of that because you are scared to ugly cry.
Definitely have your vows written down (screw the photos these are the words you will live by for the rest of your life) you don’t want to mess them up because of nervs. Plus it is a great idea to keep them framed in your house, so you are reminded of your wedding day and why every day.
Still not feeling confident enough to write your own vows? Answer these three questions with the first things that come to mind, don’t try make it sound right just let it be true to you. These answers will give you a solid base for your beautifully personal, meaningful vows.
Why are you marrying this person? Is it their strength, do they support you through anything, are they the most patient person ever?
What are the most important values or foundations for your marriage? Telling the truth, forgiving the other person, being faithful, being supportive?
What promises do you make to the other person to hold up those values?
E.g.: Today I say yes to you (insert name) because of your unwavering strength, because no one else supports me the way you do or is as patient with me. I promise to always tell you the truth, I promise to forgive you, I promise to be faithful to you and I promise to always support you.
Happy writing and if you get stuck leave me your questions in the comments below to get some more tips or suggestions.