My fiance and I have decided we would like to write our own vows but are not quite sure where to start, any suggestions?

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Writing your own vows may seem daunting but it is an incredible way to say what you really mean to your soon-to-be-betrothed on such an important day.

First, make sure your officiant will accept personalized vows. Catholic and Episcopal congregations, for instance, may require you to recite all or part of the traditional vows, though in most cases that's left to the officiant's discretion. Remember: Even the most accommodating officiant will want to review your words in advance.

Then begin writing by scheduling some alone time to write your vows before sharing them with your partner. Doing this will help each of you say what you feel without being influenced by the other, making the result more interesting and personal. Focus on what marriage means to you and what promises you are making to each other. You can certainly turn to book, poems, and other people’s wedding vows for inspiration.

Here is my most helpful tip: Avoid the trap of trying to create perfection right away. The greatest speakers focus on key words and messages first, then construct around them. Ask yourself questions like “Why have I chosen this person to be my partner?”, “What do I love most about him/her?”, “What first attracted me to him/her?”, “What kind of future does she/he make me dream of?” Jot down words that come to mind, don’t try to construct sentences. For example, when answering “What do I love most about him/her?”, you might write ‘funny’, ‘kind and generous’, and ‘reliable and supportive’. When you look back at those words alone it is easy to think of how you want to describe the person—easier than trying to write it out in a sentence the first time. The end result will be something that sounds genuine and heartfelt, plus less rehearsed when you say them at the ceremony.

After you have done your own work and written your part of the vows, make a date to sit down together and share each other’s thoughts. You always want to keep the vows short and as simple as possible, a paragraph or two at most will suffice. So after hearing all the wonderful things each other has written you can decide together what stays between just the two of you and what will be read during the ceremony. Submit a final version to your officiant, if necessary.

Prepping yourself to say them is easy. Write the agreed text on flash cards and practice them, but don’t feel as though you have to memorize them. Consider highlighting the key words you first wrote, as they will help most if you have to take a peek. As long as you are comfortable saying them out loud, and know the order you intend, it will come across as personal and genuine, which is what it is all about. The most important thing is that your vows ring true and sound like they're from your heart.

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