The Wedding Vow - - Jackson, MS

The Wedding Vow

10 Tips for Creating Your Own Commitment

So your gown and tux are one of a kind -- along with your disco ball-shaped cake and your clubbing-in-Ibiza honeymoon! Why not exchange unique wedding vows, too? More and more couples are waxing creative with this pivotal moment in their ceremonies, when they commit -- in front of family, friends, and officiant -- to a lifelong marriage. If you're going the self-expressive route, these ten tips will help you write powerful, poignant wedding vows that will make you want to shout, "I do!"

1. CHECK YOUR PULSES Discuss what marriage means to both of you. Talk about what you want to give to and take from your relationship, what you expect from a lifetime partner, and how you envision yourselves growing older (and better) together. Make sure you delve into difficult matters like why your parents' marriages bit the dust or what constitutes betrayal in your minds. Opening your eyes to each other's beliefs and expectations will deepen your marriage's significance and strengthen your union.

2. CONSULT TRADITION You may fancy yourselves nontraditional, unconventional hipsters, but remember that traditional vows have endured for a reason. These timeworn, polished words are not just moving, succinct reflections on the meaning of love and commitment -- they are emblems of the nuptial ceremony's public, communal nature and a way of linking married folk of past, present, and future. Get your hands on the standard vows for your religion(s) or faith(s) -- ask your officiant for assistance -- then see what strikes a chord and what rings hollow. "If nothing else, you'll have a place to kick off from," says Reverend Ema Drouillard, a non-denominational Bay Area minister.

3. BORROW FREELY Find your muse by reading poetry, love stories, and religious and spiritual texts -- even by watching romantic movies. Jot down words and phrases that capture your feelings, and use them as a springboard. There's no such thing as plagiarism when it comes to affairs of the heart.

4. TAKE A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE The best self-composed vows are highly personal, with a few vivid, heartfelt details. Make a dinner date with your honey and reminisce about your own private love story. When was the first time you used the word love? What are your most tender memories of one another? Has your sweetie helped you through a crisis? What challenges do you envision in your future? Incorporate some of these recollections in your vows.

5. POUR YOUR HEARTS OUT As with all writing, you must eventually put pen to paper. Gather all the threads you've collected -- memories, quotes, passages, reflections -- and get to work. Words that should enter your mind -- and appear in your vows -- include respect, cherish, love, support, commit, pledge, and promise. Personalized vows can be funny and warm, but they should still be serious about the marriage commitment. Decide if you each want to write your own vows. Most couples rehearse their vows together before the big day, but you could keep them a surprise -- as long as your officiant and a trusted loved one have given you the thumbs up. Alternatively, you two can write a shared vow that you will both speak.

6. INCLUDE YOUR AUDIENCE Don't make your vows so personal that only you and your darling will understand their meaning. Make sure the emotions and experiences you touch upon are identifiable and universal -- you've invited guests to witness your bond, not to endure a baffling performance art monologue. Here's an example of a personal yet public vow: "I promise to stand by you through the travails of med school and any other challenge, small or large, that comes our way, just as you have stood by me in my times of need. I first told you I loved you underneath a circus tent, but since that day my love has grown bigger than a clown pyramid, bigger than an elephant, bigger than anything I've known before. I promise to give you room to grow, to keep my heart and mind open to you, and to respect and cherish you as we grow old together."

7. KEEP 'EM SHORT AND SWEET Your wedding vows are the most important element of your ceremony, but that doesn't mean they should be long-winded. Your chosen words should pack a punch -- just like your love -- and should reflect your clarity of vision, sincerity of emotion, and certainty of will.

8. DISCUSS WITH YOUR OFFICIANT Once you've penned and edited your vows, it's imperative that you review them with your chosen officiant. Your officiant may raise faith-based objections to some statements, or may suggest interesting thoughts or quotes that you can consider adding to your text.

9. SPEAK THEM OUT LOUD Exchanging vows is like public speaking -- these words are meant for an audience. Practice speaking your vows out loud, alone or with a trusted friend. Now is the time to pay attention to structure: Long sentences are fine on paper, but short sentences are best in speech, so make necessary edits.

10. MAKE A CHEAT SHEET "When it comes to vows, memorization just doesn't work," says Drouillard. "You either need to read them off a printed copy or repeat after your officiant." The last thought you want to have on your mind is, "Do I remember my vows?"

source: - 2003

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