Ten Steps to The Wedding Vows You've Always Wanted
by: Michael Kabel
As someone once said, "talking about love is like dancing about architecture" - the two really don't lend themselves to describing one another. If you and your fiancé are planning your own vows, finding the right words is the goal of a lifetime - yet you've only got a few weeks or months.
Well, you're in luck. The writing process is tricky, but it's not completely magic. Presented below are strategies for writing your vows without driving yourself speechless in the process.
You can't know what you want to say until you've thought of everything you'd say if given the time. Before you try to write the vows, write down everything you wish you could say if time and stage fright weren't already issues. Some ideas will seem better than others, but that's okay - you'll come back to them later.
2. Narrow down your list.
Once you've got everything down, it's time to narrow your selection. Think of this process as similar to a talent show, where you're the judge auditioning ideas to see what makes the next round.
Pick the five or six best things you think you can say about your true love - how they make you feel, how you can't wait for the future, how lucky you feel on your wedding day.
3. Set your tone.
The tone of your vows is the mood you want to create with your words. Do you want the vows to be funny and sentimental? How about romantic and dignified? You should speak honestly, but remember too that your vows will also have an effect on your beloved, so choose them carefully.
4. Use imagery to paint a picture.
Think about how you see yourself and your fiancé. Are you reminded of a favorite story or movie? Is there a clear picture of the future that comes to your mind?
It's a basic tenet of all writing that the mind loves to create pictures for itself. The more you can summon an image with your words, the more vivid your vows will become.
5. Organize your thoughts into a basic structure.
The structure of your vows is the order your words take. Do you want to tell a story in chronological order? Do you want to talk about how sincerely you mean your promise to love your new spouse? If you tell a story, it’s best to do that first and move into the vows from there.
6. Write everything down all at once, without stopping.
Once you're ready, write down your vows in a single burst of writing. You'll find one thought leads to another, and you'll see the work as a whole come into your mind. Don't stop and then come back to them later: that interrupts the creative process, and you'll likely feel embarrassed and want to start over again. Don't second-guess yourself!
7. Read them out loud.
This is rehearsal for the Big Event but it also lets you hear where the wording might be a little off or an image not quite as sharp as you'd like.
To revise a work is to take a fresh look at it and see where you can improve it. If you've got the time, put your draft down for a week or so and come back to it. Look for what doesn't work, what works best, and what parts seem to stand out more than the others.
Trust your instincts. If something sounds like it doesn't belong, it should probably come out.
9. Revise again.
Revision is the true hard work of writing. Repeat step number 8 again, and continue doing so until you honestly think you can do no better.
Practice saying your vows out loud until you feel comfortable saying them. This will make the real delivery at the ceremony seem less like a speech and more like a conversation or proclamation (which of course it is.)
Don't be afraid to tinker with the wording as you rehearse, either. You might have a great idea while you're practicing that can make the whole vow presentation that much stronger. Good luck!