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December 19, 2007 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Did you write your own vows when you got married? Should we? If you did, what part of your customized vows were you most happy with?

I_love_the_rain and I are getting married on December 29! We've been making all the necessary wedding preparations and have been lucky enough to find a family friend, a pastor, who will officiate. He's been doing pre-marriage counseling with us and suggested we write our own vows. Problem is, we both really like the boilerplate "forsaking all others ... til death do us part" phrasing of a standard vow.

We thought maybe we could take the standard vows then tack a few phrases of our own onto the end. This is a Christian ceremony, if it matters, and both of us are the stay-together-no-matter-what variety. So, for the married and non-married mefites alike, what sort of custom vows would you have, if this was your wedding?
posted by Happydaz to Human Relations (31 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

Do you want to write your own vows? If you're happy with the standard ones, you are perfectly entitled to stick with them, no matter what the pastor says. Maybe write a few sentences about how you feel about each other and what you picture your lives together to be, if you want to add something.

We wrote our own from scratch, and I think they were beautiful and reflected us perfectly, but our ceremony was secular and by no means conventional.
posted by streetdreams at 1:38 PM on December 19, 2007

The words of my wife's heart that she spoke when she pledged her life to me were the most meaningful, powerful, and personal words anyone has ever said to me. The words I spoke to her when I pledged mine to hers were said with the force of conviction that I couldn't have expressed any other way. Looking back, it couldn't have happened any other way. We both spoke our feelings for each other, and it expressed more and meant more to me than any traditional vows could.

We did make one concession to tradition- at the end of mine I asked her if she would be my wife, and vice versa. Perhaps you can work something traditional in, but somebody else's words shouldn't stand for your own when you're making such an important pledge.
posted by baphomet at 2:08 PM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Its really up to you BOTH. I have known some grooms (I am sure it happens to brides as well) who feel overwhelmed, intimidated, and put upon to write their own vows. Some people just aren't as gifted in words as others. Some people feel exceedingly akward expressing something so personal in front of others and would prefer the traditional vows. Its ya'lls party, do what makes your heart sing.
posted by stormygrey at 2:11 PM on December 19, 2007

My wife of five months and I were determined to write our own vows.

However, we had other wedding priorities (our reception was a major production and we had a ton of stuff to coordinate and plan). Thus, two nights before the wedding, we looked at some more generic wedding vows that the judge that was going to perform our wedding had shown us.

We made some small decisions and she made some notes.

On the day of the wedding, I met the judge before the ceremony and realized that my wife-to-be still had all of the vow information. So, ten minutes before the wedding, she and the judge met (I still couldn't see her, as per tradition) and hammered something out.

I can't recall what he said, or what she said, or even what I said. I know she was beautiful and the day was perfect and the time we spent worrying about things other than our vows was time well spent.

That all said, it was valuable for she and I to discuss what we might want our vows to be and find a set that we both liked. The conversation was ultimately more valuable than the actual speaking of the vows as it led us to explore what we expected out of our marriage.

So, talk about it with your spouse to be, but don't stress it too much. In the end, the day happens so fast that you'll be hard pressed to remember much more than how excited you were.

My main piece of wedding advice is do everything you can to enjoy the day. We had a blast.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:22 PM on December 19, 2007

My wife and I both love the classic Common Prayer vows, and that's what we used (minus the "obey" part, of course). If you like it, say it; it would be ridiculous to feel pressure to write your own. Frankly, most people's self-written vows sound terrible to everyone else, even though afterwards everyone says "Gosh, we loved your vows." Most people can't write.
posted by languagehat at 2:23 PM on December 19, 2007

My husband and I, married last month, declined to write our own vows in a Christian ceremony. The words he spoke, the conviction and love with which he spoke them, and the grip of his hands on mine while looking deep int my eyes will stay with me for the rest of my life. We had a civil ceremony earlier this year as well, where we also used the standard vows, and felt the same.

I'm all for people writing their own vows if they'd like to, but sheesh, don't be pressured into it. Using others words doesn't make the vows any less powerful if they are deeply, truly, honestly felt and heartfully said.
posted by bunnycup at 2:26 PM on December 19, 2007

We wrote ours --all original except the last bit, a quote from our favorite movie
My dearest friend, if you don't mind
I'd like to join you by your side
Where we can gaze into the stars

And sit together, now and forever
For it is plain as anyone can see
We're simply meant to be

The words we wrote and this last little bit that exemplifies so much about how we are (spooky and sweet) is one of our best memories (yes his too).
Ours was a pagan ceremony in a 'haunted' Victorian in SF on Halloween, so ymmv.

It's YOUR wedding, do what YOU want to do. That's what we're happiest about, 7 years later,we did it the way we wanted to do it.
posted by pywacket at 2:27 PM on December 19, 2007

We used traditional vows. They were powerful.

We also wrote each other letters (I seem to suggest letters in an absurd number of threads lately) that really amounted to private vows. They were also powerful. And too long to read at a ceremony. And too private, really.

So you can do both :)
posted by dpx.mfx at 2:36 PM on December 19, 2007

I, [name], take you, [spouse], to be my [wife/husband], to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for better, for worse, all the days of our life.

Catholic ceremony, written in my maid of honour's hotel room the night before around 11pm.

We stuck largely with the traditional phrasing, but tweaked it to more accurately reflect the people we were, and hoped to be.

6 years and counting.
posted by ysabet at 2:44 PM on December 19, 2007

Most people can't write.

But of course we're talking about 2 MeFites here :)
posted by baphomet at 2:55 PM on December 19, 2007

Our wedding was not Christian. We wrote our own vows, after I did crap loads of research into non-traditional vows. We then asked a writer friend of ours for her help in polishing them, as a way of including her in the wedding which did not have any bridesmaids/groomsmen.

I was very happy with them overall, and someone who attended the wedding asked later for a copy to give to a friend for inspiration for her wedding, which was a nice compliment.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:16 PM on December 19, 2007

We cobbled together our ceremony from a bunch of examples given to us by the judge officiating, and it was all fairly standard (secular) stuff. The part I liked best about was a little unusual, talking about how it is our relationship itself and not the ceremony that validates our union (or something to that effect), but that idea may not be as important to everyone as it was to us.

Another way we got the personal touch in there was by having his sister read this awesome children's book, which expressed our feelings way more charmingly than we could, at the beginning of the ceremony. So there are other creative ways you can customize the whole business while keeping the standard vows if you love them.
posted by doift at 3:31 PM on December 19, 2007

When my husband and I got married we just used the generic, traditional vows. There was something sort of powerful about saying those words that our parents and grandparents had said before. Also, the priest fed the vows to us line by line, which was excellent since I was so overwhelmed at that point that I never would have been able to remember, or even read, my own original vows.

I think either way is fine. If you like the boilerplate vows, use them! If not, write your own! It's entirely your choice.
posted by christinetheslp at 3:36 PM on December 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

if you are cool with the traditional vows, by all means keep them. if your minister wants you to personalize the experience, maybe you can just write letters to each other that you will read on your wedding night. that way you don't have to edit them for public consumption (i.e. you can be as sexy, or inside-jokey as you want).
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:47 PM on December 19, 2007

Several friends have used 1 Corinthians 13 as a basis for their vows: I will be patient, I will be kind, etc. (I totally would have done it had I heard that idea before I got married.) It's a promise to have the kind of love that will keep you guys together to the end.
posted by wallaby at 4:05 PM on December 19, 2007


Weddings can be so complicated, and I found that having a very simplified idea of what you want to achieve on the day can keep you (relatively) calm and sane. Anything you achieve over and above the bare basics is jam! Most things that go "wrong" are window dressing. You can apply this to everything, including vows.

I agree with posters above who have said that the idea of writing your own vows can be overwhelming - what we found most helpful was to look at the standard marriage service, section by section, and consider what each section was saying about marriage, and what that meant to us. So, for example, we shocked even the Minister by re-inserting "Obey" (I have my reasons), but didn't ask anyone to give me away.

We could have written our own vows entirely, we ended up with what was basically the Book of Common Prayer wording with a few minor (mostly style) differences. (For us) there's a sort of practicality to them and comfort in the tradition, in thinking about all the marriages (happy ones, of course) that went before us. Um.

We had some very personal readings, by a fantastic friend and a fantastic sister, and convinced the organist to play "El Paso" as we walked out (Which no-one recognised, except as "that nice waltz music").

Our wedding ended up having unintentional novelty value (this is in secular NZ, however) - married in an actual Church?? Not writing your own vows?? You quirky kids!

I don't remember much about saying our vows except being so shaky and lightheaded, (with happy!) and how good it was to be able to hold his hands really tightly right then. (I guess that answers the 'what was I most happy with?' question). I doubt that would be any different if we'd written our own.

I hope you both have as perfect a day as we did! Best of luck!
posted by Catch at 5:12 PM on December 19, 2007

I am not married, but I have married several dozen couples.

If you love to write and you have something important to say, then have at it. Really thinking about what you are promising is a valuable exercise, and I have witnessed self-written vows that were moving and beautiful. But writing the vows is invariably stressful, and if you're not gifted writers, the results can be... banal.

Sometimes I wonder why couples put themselves through it. It seems to have become an expectation, part of the mandate that every single aspect of your wedding must be a Unique Expression of Who You Are.

Personally, I think you'd have to try for a long time before you came up with something better than "With this ring I thee wed / With my body I thee worship / With all my worldly goods I thee endow."
posted by ottereroticist at 6:04 PM on December 19, 2007

When my cousins got married, they used a tweaked version of traditional vows.

By far the most memorable change: after asking them each individually to say "I do," the facilitator addressed the friends and family watching the ceremony, asking if we would help them to uphold their vows. We responded with "I do" in unison. There were two rounds of "I do"s so after the first time, everyone caught on and chimed in the second time. Very touching.
posted by samthemander at 8:45 PM on December 19, 2007

Over on there's an entire thread about writing your own vows, with people posting what they used. It's become a pretty big repository of wedding vows.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 9:41 PM on December 19, 2007

You guys are awesome! Thank you for the contributions so far. I really like the idea of our friends and family taking part in the vows, as it seems like weddings are as much for the witnesses as they are the bride and groom. Baphomet, you're right, we're OK at teh writing skills. I just don't know if I can write something that surpasses the tradition and forethought of traditional vows.

Writing letters to each other is an excellent idea. I think the future Mrs. Happydaz and I might start there, and then use some of the audience-friendly content in our actual vows.
posted by Happydaz at 10:24 PM on December 19, 2007

As the future Mrs. Happydaz, I just wanted to say that I love the ideas!! You all provided a great springboard of ideas for us. As a matter of fact, we're going to start writing letters to each other in the next day or so, and go from there. Samthemander: such a neat idea, to have the audience included in the exchange of vows. :-) Thanks so much everyone! You're all fantastic. :-)
posted by I_love_the_rain at 10:38 PM on December 19, 2007

My buddy promised to look into his wife's blue eyes over her coffee cup every morning and remember how much he loved her. They wrote their own vows (obviously), and surprised each other with them. I assume they hammered out the most important joint details beforehand, but the vows themselves were quirky and individual and full of detail- as I recall, she mentioned alarm clocks in hers. They said them with the most adoration and conviction you could ever imagine, it was awesome.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:40 PM on December 19, 2007

(PS, Congrats!)
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:41 PM on December 19, 2007

We've been making all the necessary wedding preparations and have been lucky enough to find a family friend, a pastor, who will officiate.He's been doing pre-marriage counseling with us and suggested we write our own vows. Problem is, we both really like the boilerplate "forsaking all others ... til death do us part" phrasing of a standard vow.

I know I'm late, but this is the part that worries me a teensy bit. It's biggest pitfall of wedding planning: incorporating the wishes of all your well-meaning family and friends, even when it's not really what you both want to do. Each wish seems so small and harmless on its own, but they really add up after awhile, and you'll collapse under the weight of it all if you're not careful.

So especially for something as important as your vows, make sure that you're both doing this because you really want to, and not just because you feel obligated to your friend the pastor. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using traditional vows (or "tweaked" traditional vows, as my husband and I did, because we do not obey), if that's what you prefer. Besides, if your wedding day is anything like mine, you might not even remember what you say to each other (but that's what the wedding video is for). ;-)

Sorry to babble on. And CONGRATS to you both!!

posted by somanyamys at 5:44 AM on December 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

We did a modified version of a Jewish ceremony and wrote our own small vows afterwards. I had a scrap of paper with me in case I blanked. My wife was so overcome with emotion that she choked up and had to pause to finish.

Do what suits you - not your friends, not your parents. Just the two of you.

Congratulations - and let us know how it all went.
posted by canine epigram at 7:54 AM on December 20, 2007

Congrats on your pending nuptials!

My wife and I elected not to write ours, and it's one of the things I definitely do not regret about our wedding day. You're going to have a lot to worry about; you're going to be hungry and tired all day and there's probably a million other things you need to memorize (like the names of all the relatives on her side you haven't met yet, or the location of the bathroom). Writing your own vows means either adding another thing to that list of stuff to remember, or standing in front of all your friends and relatives reading stuff off of an index card like a schlub.

My advice is to make some substantive changes to the standard vows—to "drastically lower the god content", as my wife and I said. That made us very happy, and gave our ceremony some added feeling of momentousness or pageantry that we were looking for. Even with all the reduction in dogma, we too had a favorite piece of "boilerplate" we wanted to use—the bit about love not being selfish, etc.

And as someone said above—not to be a douche bag here, or assume to know anything about your talent with the language—most people are indeed bad writers. There's a very good chance that if you write your own vows you'll find yourself wincing at your own doggerel when you remember an otherwise beautiful day, wishing you had just left well enough alone. But I say this as a ten year veteran of print design who still used a quote by the Postal Service (the band, not the letter carriers) on the wedding invitation he designed. So your mileage may vary.

Good luck and best wishes!
posted by littlerobothead at 8:05 AM on December 20, 2007

My wife and I wrote our own vows based roughly on the "official" christian ones. We decided that we would write our own vows pretty early on and so we had plenty of time for creativity. We kept them secret so that the other person didn't know what they were going to hear on the wedding day. We had a 3rd party look at them both to make sure they were close enough in nature so that they wouldn't sound weird (one being super serious, the other super funny). In the end we were both very happy.

Here was mine:
[Wife's Name], you are the most generous, the most loving, and the most unselfish person I know, and to boot you’re incredibly beautiful.

We’ve had a lot of fun together and had some awesome times together. We’ve also had some real hardships. But when I was down, you were there to support me – and when you were down I was there for you. Like we always say, “We’re partners”.

And there are so many things we have in common… like being extremely cheap =) See - you’re a natural fit with the [Our last name] family!

But more importantly than just having things in common, we complement and complete each other. I would be lost without you.

I promise to love you, honor you, care for you, and be faithful to you, from this day forward and for the rest of our lives.
posted by escher at 8:26 AM on December 20, 2007

We did not write ours. However, I wish we had. I'm not much of a writer, and I was afraid of the idea. Now, in retrospect, I think we might have treated our marriage completely differently had we had a this kind connection to what we were saying.
posted by tomplus2 at 11:26 AM on December 20, 2007

It's not for everyone, but my friends had a very non-traditional and fun wedding about a month ago where they did Mad Lib style vows. Everyone got a card with a part of speech on it when they came in and signed the register. The offcient then selected some good and not terribly dirty ones to fill in the holes in the traditional "to have and to hold" vows. It was quite amusing, and actually turned out to be quite charming and not terribly nonsensical.
posted by Jeffy at 12:08 PM on December 20, 2007

My wife wrote ours, focused around a passage from The Velveteen Rabbit -- and in the process endeared herself to my mother, who previously had been a bit skeptical about the relationship as a whole. Certainly, then, self-written vows can have a very substantial, positive impact.
posted by CharlesDuffy at 7:56 PM on December 21, 2007

I don't know if any of you will come back to this thread, but my wife and I really appreciated all the feedback you guys gave us. We decided to write our own vows, using the classic structure as a framework and then expanding it a bit from there. The wrinkled notecard with my vows scribbled on it is now saved in our wedding scrapbook. (I told her I had memorized my vows but she made me carry the notecard because she didn't want to be the only one looking at a reference sheet; as it turns out I got totally nervous and blanked on everything I was supposed to say. Thank goodness for the notecard!)
posted by Happydaz at 7:12 PM on April 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

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