Figuring out how to write wedding vows that are personal, meaningful and convey your true feelings — rather than sticking with the traditional script — might sound daunting, but non-traditional wedding vows are often the most romantic and are a common choice for non-religious ceremonies.
So if you want to learn how to write vows that will truly put into words just how you feel about your soon-to-be spouse, then there are plenty of things to keep in mind to make sure this important element of your special day feels magical.
After all, is there any major life event that’s more magical than your wedding? Well, maybe having kids, but you usually try to get past the wedding before you start working on that!
Whether you’re dreaming about or actually planning for your big day — from the dress, to the music, to your ideal venue — there’s no denying that the post-engagement time is pretty magical itself with engagement parties, bachelorette festivities, and bridal showers to celebrate.
The bottom line, though, is that it’s all just a great excuse for a fabulous party until you start to focus on the actual wedding ceremony itself — that’s what makes it all legal and why you’re planning this big shindig in the first place.
Having the best wedding vows for the two of you is more than just the icing on top of your ceremony. It’s an important way to remind yourselves of the commitment you’re taking.
Many couples opt for a beautiful religious ceremony in the tradition of their chosen faith. But increasingly, couples are looking for something more non-traditional and personal. They want to be intimately involved in the creation of their ceremony and they want to write their own vows.
In fact, according to Wedding Wire’s 2019 Newlywed Report, 44 percent of couples now write their own vows.
As an interfaith minister, I’ve guided hundreds of couples on how to express themselves in a way that’s personal, meaningful, and most importantly, in their own voice. You might respond “I do” to the officiant after the “question of intent”, or repeat standard words when you exchange rings, but you never get a chance to express what’s most in your hearts. That’s what the vows are all about.
There are many directions you can go when you write your vows, and it really depends on your personalities, your history, and your individual style.
Here are 5 tips on how to write non-traditional wedding vows for your big day and make sharing them extra special.
1. Talk about what you love most about your future spouse.
This one is pretty obvious, yet it can also be difficult to put into words those deep feelings. Don’t just resort to “Oh, I love everything,” or offer platitudes like, “You make me a better person,” or “You take such good care of me.”
It’s not that you can’t say those things, but then get specific. What are the qualities, quirks, and personality traits that you most cherish about your sweetheart?
Here are a few wedding vow examples to inspire you:
- “I love when you smile and how it conveys your exact thoughts at that moment.”
- “I love your deep belief in me as a person and as a partner.”
- “I love that when you decide to do something you do it 110 percent.”
- “You attracted me with your positive spirit, your huge appetite for politics, your huge appetite for food, your eagerness, your gift of open communication, and your quest to understand me.“
2. What do you promise to each other?
After all, these are your vows! Reflect on the obvious responses like love, respect, support during challenging times, etc., but then, like your, “What I love about you’s,” think about particular, personal areas that you know your partner will relate to.
Maybe you’ve worked through some important communication or trust issues and you want to affirm that you won’t revert to your former ways. Or you’ve dreamed of something special together and you want to declare your intentions to carry it through.
Whether you need wedding vows for her or wedding vows for him, this method will work either way.
Here are a few examples:
- “I promise to try and see things from your point of view.”
- “I promise to try and focus on the details.”
- “I promise to continue our efforts to build a relationship founded on a deep respect for partnership.”
- “Your friends love to say that I’m perfect for you because I laugh at your jokes … and they’re right. So I stand before you today, vowing that I will continue to laugh … as long as you continue to be funny!”
3. Create a blend of heartfelt and humorous.
Wedding ceremonies are the highest form of sacred play. This is your special day, so have a little fun! You don’t need to be a stand-up comedian, (in fact, too many jokes could muddy the sacred part of the occasion), but you shouldn’t be straight-laced and somber either.
You’ve already seen some humor in the other examples, but here are a few more:
- “I love that you let me be me: Grumpy and sarcastic.”
- “I love that you become a Yankees fan only during the playoffs.”
- “I promise to clean the dishes because your cooking is what makes you creative and happy.”
- “I promise to finally cancel my Bloomingdales card, especially after last week.”
- “You can always confide in me. I will be your big, bald rock that you can lean on whenever you are weary.”
4. Tell a little bit of your history.
The relationship expert John Gottman talks about the importance of “telling the story of your relationship” to keep your marriage strong and positive, so why not start on your wedding day?
Most of your guests will likely be friends and family so they’ll enjoy reminiscing with you, but then there are those distant cousins or co-workers of your parents who will appreciate getting to know a little more about you and your spouse.
Here are some beautiful ones:
- “I can’t believe it was just a year and a half ago, at Christmas time, that I dreamt of you coming into my life. There are several people here today who can bear witness to that dream. Your actual physical form walked into my life in the spring of last year, the season of birth and new beginnings. I’ll never forget peering into the little Tibetan restaurant, hoping that the handsome man staring up at me was my first date with ‘sailor guy.’ How lucky was I!”
- “We’ve been together now for well over six years, and those years have been full of so many transitions, changes, adjustments — your ‘extended’ sailing trip, moving to a new city, renovating our beautiful house. Life has never ever been uneventful with you … and I’d never want it any other way.”
5. Take turns speaking your vows to each other.
You can write something together that you both say, as well. In most cases, one partner will read their vows completely and the other partner will follow. But occasionally, couples will decide to write them together, either going back and forth, line by line, or each writing something personal to begin with, but ending with the same paragraph.
Both styles are beautiful and bring a sense of poetry to the vows.
Here’s a beautiful excerpt of the “back and forth” style:
Person 1: There is nothing you can’t tell me.
Person 2: I promise to let you in
1: to grow with you.
2: to do something special for you every day.
1: I promise to try and not hold grudges.
2: to watch craptastic movies with you.
1: I promise to love you
2: I promise to love you.
Together: And if you break any of these promises, I promise to forgive and move on with our life together.
And this is what another couple wrote together that they each read after their separate “what I love about you’s”:
“I give to you my love, respect, and lasting friendship.
In every way I can, I will allow my deepest self to appear.
I will remain honest and faithful to this sacred commitment.
I will strive to embrace all parts of myself, including my fears and shadows,
so they can be transformed into light.
Finally, I affirm my willingness to keep my heart open to you,
in both times of pain and in times of joy.
These are my promises to you.”
A common question from couples is whether they should share their vows with each other beforehand or wait to hear them on their wedding day.
The simple answer is, it depends on how much of a crier either or both of you are — emotions and nerves can run high when you’re facing each other with everyone watching, and while a few tears are fine, you really do want to avoid outright sobbing!
So, if you think there’s a chance of major waterworks, definitely share your vows so you know what’s coming from your partner. And always be sure to practice your own so you know the spots where you choke up and need to take an extra breath. Don’t just read them over a few times but speak them out loud so you can prepare for those tearful moments.
And truly, regardless of which style you choose or whether you surprise each other or not, the process of writing your vows yourselves is almost more important than how you share them with each other on your wedding day. It’s like writing a love letter to each other — and how often do you do that?
I believe it’s most powerful if you can read your words out loud during the ceremony, to be witnessed and held by those people who love you most. But if you feel strongly about keeping them very private, you can read them to each other right before the ceremony, or even whisper them to each other during the ceremony.
There are lots of things to consider when you’re writing your own personal, non-traditional wedding vows. Whatever other beautiful traditions you weave into your wedding ceremony, your personal vows are, hands down, the best part!
Life and relationship coach, Deborah Roth, M.A., is a counseling astrologer and interfaith minister. She leads women’s new moon circles and full moon tele-meditations every month and loves designing creative, meaningful weddings and other rituals for individuals and couples to re-energize mind, body, and spirit, and enhance their relationships; visit her website or send her an email to schedule an introductory coaching session.