I love watching sappy romance movies once in a while, and there’s always a wedding scene with beautiful, personal vows that make everyone in the audience cry, from the guests at the wedding to those of us sitting on our couches with a box of tissues. We become so used to personal vows from media that it seems like an easy decision to write your own vows once you get engaged, but that’s typically where the easy part ends.

By the time you get to this blog post, you’ve probably already tried writing your vows once or twice, possibly pulled out that box of tissues in frustration, and filled your trash can with balled up pieces of notebook paper. So how do you write the perfect wedding vows? Well, we can’t write them for you, but these tricks should help get you in the right direction.

Step 1: Discuss the Vows with Your Partner

We know you want these vows to be incredibly special, and you also likely want them to be a secret from your partner until wedding day for maximum emotion at the altar, but if you don’t discuss vows in a big-picture way before the wedding, you’re setting yourself up for trouble.

Imagine you’re a wedding guest and the couple is getting ready to say their vows. The groom pulls a folded, wrinkled piece of lined paper out of his pocket and begins reading – and his vows are full of funny anecdotes, sweet details about the ways he loves his bride, and romantic promises to love, cherish and protect her for the rest of his life. And then the bride, tears in her eyes, pulls out a beautiful vow book and starts promising to always watch football with him on Sundays, never get mad if he leaves his clothes on the floor, and to always love him, even when she hates him (Grey’s Anatomy, anyone?).

Can you spot all the differences between their vows? While each partner’s vows should be unique and special to them, there are a few details that should be discussed beforehand so that the vows aren’t drastically different at the altar. First, make sure your partner is just as committed to writing vows as you are. If they don’t love the idea, consider writing vows together, or taking traditional vows from your religious or secular beliefs and tweaking them to make them more personal. If your partner is on board with personalized vows, try to agree on:

 

  • Length – typically, it’s best to try and keep the vows to about 2 minutes per partner, but this is up to your discretion. Just make sure one person isn’t writing three pages while the other writes three lines.

  • Tone – decide together if you want to keep the tone fun and playful, serious and romantic, or a mix between the two! Do what feels right for your relationship and how you regularly speak with each other.

  • Promises – don’t forget that the word “vow” literally means “a solemn promise,” so be sure to add some promises to your personalized vows. Often, couples choose to share some fun stories and their favorite things about each other first, and end their vows with the promises section. Again, consider the tone and number of promises included to keep the vows balanced. Decide if there are a few promises you both want to make to each other, such as both including “I swear to love you and stand beside you until my last breath.”

  • Presentation – while the presentation doesn’t change the beauty of the words, your vows are a special moment that will be photographed and recorded. We recommend a vow book of some kind; consider purchasing a set of matching books to keep the presentation uniform – even if one of you prefers to type out the vows and hide the paper inside the vow book, and the other writes them out.

Step 2: Do Your Research

Did you know that the first recorded wedding vows were written in 1549? While that fun fact might not seem super useful at the moment, that means that couples have been saying (and writing) wedding vows for over 450 years! There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here. Start out by deciding if you want to use parts of any traditional vows (you know, like in sickness and in health) from religious or secular traditions. Look through plenty of vow examples for tone, structure, and organization. Dive into romantic poems, books, songs, and movies that have a special meaning to you! Using cliches might not be the best call – unless it actually has a special meaning to you – but if you want to find a different way to say that you love your partner more every day, I can promise there are dozens of poems and songs that will do the trick.

The Knot has collected an extensive list of wedding vows from various religions and cultures, which can be viewed here. If you’re not a big reader who can pull romantic quotes out of thin air, a basic Google search will get you well on your way. And remember to pull from media that has influenced your relationship, your view on love, and will still have meaning to you in 20 years. 

Step 3: Start Writing!

Now that you’ve collected all these beautiful lines about love, commitment and marriage, you have a ton of material to work with. But the thing that makes your vows personal is, well, writing them about and for your forever person. Sit down with a notebook and totally forget about writing vows. Instead, just write about your person! Jot down some of your favorite memories together, moments that helped you grow together and fall in love, highs and lows that stand out on your timeline. If you’re drawing a blank, scroll through some of your favorite photos together and think about how you felt during those moments. Write down all the things you love about your partner, the ways that they love you, and the things you appreciate about them. Write down promises you want to make, how you envision your future, and what you believe marriage means. Write as much as you can, whether you’re writing full paragraphs or jotting bullet point notes, until you’re happy with what you have.

Once you’re done writing, you want to look through your notes and think about which particular stories you want to share and promises you want to make. First you want to consider the tone and promises you discussed with your partner; then, you want to cross out anything you wouldn’t want your grandma to hear. Inside jokes and stories that are deeply personal are great – they’re a huge foundation of any relationship – but they may not be the best story to share in front of 150 of your closest friends and family, so consider which stories are personal but good to share with an audience. Make sure you don’t embarrass your partner, even if you think the story is cute/funny/special, and instead share things that you’ll be happy to remember when you think back on your day. If you still want to share the extra stories or details that don’t make the cut for vows, write a sweet love letter to share with your partner the morning of the wedding.

After you’ve picked out your favorite anecdote or two, it’s time to combine those stories with the things you love about your partner, your thoughts on marriage, and your promises. Use the vow structure you preferred after reading through examples and fill in the gaps with the quotes you picked from songs, books, etc. And that’s it! You’ve made a game plan with your partner, found examples and quotes you love, and wrote things about your partner that make you smile. And all of a sudden, you’ve written your vows.