Dearly beloved …
Many couples today want to make promises to each other that are more raw than rote, more personal than prescribed. They want to create vows that speak directly to who they are as a couple and what they hope to be.
As intense as your emotions may be for one another, putting them down into words can be a bit challenging. Unique wedding vows can add an extra-special touch, but the process of writing them is also loaded with landmines like clichés and the downright cringey. While you want your vows to be memorable, you want them to be memorable for all the right reasons.
If you’re considering writing your own wedding vows, we’ve rounded up some quick dos and don’ts to help you spark the romance and let the tears flow.
Do: think beyond clichés
It may have been “love at first sight,” and you may feel deeply in your soul that your spouse “completes you.” Even if you want to tell everyone how “you’ll never forget that feeling when your eyes first met” you probably don’t want your vows to sound like a romcom or a Hallmark card. Here are some other, more creative ways to express the same sentiments.
Sometimes, it’s a matter of paying extra special attention to your word choice. For example, everyone loves love, but you don’t want people to get sick of hearing the word love in your vows.
Fortunately, there are countless other words to express love that are a bit more unique and specific to the type of love you might have with your SO. Words like enamored, enchanted and entranced are great substitutes for starters.
Don’t: be afraid to break tradition
Even if you’re a traditional sort of couple, you can still pick and choose the parts of standard vows you like. For example, most traditional wedding vows have roots in the 16th century Book of Common Prayer, which includes the woman promising to obey her husband.
“WILT thou have this man to thy wedded housband, to lyve together after Goddes ordynaunce in the holy estate of matrimony? wilt thou obey hym and serve him, love, honour, and kepe him, in sycknes and in health? And forsakynge al other, kepe the onely to him so long as ye bothe shal live.”
For obvious reasons (including the definition of obey, which reads, “to comply with or follow the commands, restrictions, wishes, or instructions of”), this is one vow many women today aren’t willing to make. Take Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, for a royally good example. While their vows were ultra-traditional, promising to “have and to hold” and “to love and to cherish” each other, she did not promise to obey him. She wasn’t the first royal who didn’t promise to obey her spouse either; Princess Diana did the same when she married Prince Charles.
Some synonyms for obey that have a less archaic ring include accept and embrace. Another tip: don’t be afraid to add a fun inside joke into your vows. Maybe you’ll vow to always accept your partners love of reality TV or you’ll embrace your partner’s love of goat yoga—mehhh—you get the idea. This leads us to …
Do: use humor wisely
Love and laughter go hand in hand, so adding a little humor to your vows can be a fun way to lighten things up a bit. Just be careful not to take things too far. Avoid anything embarrassing (see examples in the next section) that will make guests cringe rather than chuckle.
Think sweet and silly anecdotes that speak to your relationship, things like promising to meet in the middle with the thermostat or dealing with sports team differences. In a roundup of real wedding vows on The Knot, one couple shared that he vowed to change his bride from “the lady friend” in his cell phone to “wifey,” while she vowed to “only purchase one more dog.”
Don’t: get too personal
Some things are better left unsaid, and what goes on in the bedroom is probably one of them.
In an article for Brides magazine that rounded up shocking things people have said in wedding vows, Henry P. shared the following example of TMI: “I rambled off a list of things I vowed I’d do more of, like the dishes, laundry, filling up the gas tank on our cars with gas, and oh yeah, I mentioned oral sex, because I thought people would laugh. Well, they didn’t. They were mortified and so was my bride. She forgave me, after five shots of vodka at the open bar after.”
Don’t: stress too much
In the end, it’s hard to go too terribly wrong with vows as long as your sentiments are heartfelt. Even if the prose you pick isn’t perfect, what really matters is that the promises you make to each other are clear and realistic, and you’re both committed to keeping them.
And, if you don’t want the judgment from your crowd, you could always do like Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves and whisper your vows into each other’s ear, making promises only the two of you can hear.