At the heart of your wedding celebration is your ceremony, and it’s the vows of love and commitment that you exchange on this very special day that set the stage for your happy and successful marriage. 

Many couples choose to repeat traditional wedding vows (“to have and to hold, from this day forward…”). There is something very meaningful and reassuring about repeating the words that thousands of couples before you have used. 

If you have the time and the desire, however, creating your own vows together can be a very emotional, enlightening and memorable experience. Your personalized vows can be a beautiful gift from the heart to one another.

But where to begin? Having a little writer’s block?  Don’t fret…here are some suggestions to get your creative (and romantic) juices flowing!

  1. First—and perhaps most important—start early! Don’t wait until the day before the wedding. Give each other the gift of your time, attention and caring in order to create vows that are meaningful. Plus, this allows you to enjoy the experience…and keep the frenzy to a minimum!
  2. Make a “vow-writing” date. Set aside some time together to talk about important days, events and turning points in your relationship. You might want to go to dinner or a favorite quiet spot—or order a pizza, turn off the TV, put on some romantic music, and start talking and writing.
  3. Discuss what you expect from each other and your relationship. How do you each define words like respect, cherish, love, honor, commitment and fidelity? How would you prioritize those concepts? Talk about what marriage means to each of you, and what your dreams are for your own successful marriage. 
  4. Decide what tone and level of intimacy you both feel comfortable with. Although your guests are there to witness your ceremony and be a part of your special day, your vows are really just between you and your beloved. 
  5. Examine traditional religious vows—your own, if you practice a certain faith, but those from other faiths as well—to see what strikes a chord with you. You may want to incorporate some of those words, or use them as inspiration.
  6. Borrow freely from poetry, love stories, religious and spiritual texts—even from romantic movies or songs. Jot down words and phrases that capture your feelings. Widely recognized works ring true for a reason.
  7. Let your heart guide you. Brainstorm—write down everything (and edit later). Speak in positive terms—inspire and uplift each other. 
  8. And finally, once you’ve written your vows, practice saying them aloud—in front of a mirror, making eye contact with yourself. This is a great way to alleviate nervousness. Remember to breathe, and don’t be afraid to let emotions show—tears are appropriate. After all, you’re making a solemn covenant with the one whom you love. 

Enjoy the process—this process is part of what being “engaged” is all about. If, after you’ve done these steps, you decide to use traditional vows, acknowledge that you have enhanced your communication with and commitment to each other, and probably had a lot of fun doing so!

—Rev. Jeri Murphy

About Rev. Jeri Murphy: Jeri is a non-denominational minister who has been performing weddings in the Sacramento area for more than a decade. She works with each couple to create a unique wedding ceremony that celebrates their love and sets the stage for their long and happy life together as a married couple.