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How to Write Wedding Vows
Miryana Slivenska / EyeEm/Getty Images

You’ve been to a million weddings, but now that it’s your turn to walk down the aisle you’re scratching your head wondering: “How did they write those romantic, emotional vows that weren’t even corny?” If we’re being honest, writing wedding vows will come naturally to some people and will be a major hurdle for others. But if you’re dead-set on customizing every detail of your ceremony and need a little help in this area, here’s how to write a few lines that you and your spouse will remember forever.

Things to Consider When Writing Your Vows  

1. Do you really want to write your own vows?
The first, most obvious thing to consider is whether you really want to write original wedding vows. And guess what? It’s totally OK if you don’t want to! Your officiant can do all the work for you (that’s why you’re paying them the big bucks, right?). Your nuptial pledge should be an expression of what your partnership means to you both; so, if this task is making you bummed you didn’t major in creative writing, maybe original vows aren’t the best idea for you. Whatever your inclination is, discuss it with your partner to make sure you’re both on the same page.

2. Do you want to recite your vows out loud?
Displaying your emotions and commitment to your partner in front of a live audience might not be your thing, and—again—that’s totally OK. The whole all-eyes-on-you thing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that doesn’t mean you love your future spouse any less. If you do want to write original vows but want to share them privately, you can do so before the ceremony, after or even during! We’ve seen ceremonies where the couple leaves to privately share this moment while the officiant keeps friends and family engaged in a sermon.

3. Are your vows religious?
If you’re getting married within a religious institution or with a clergy member (i.e., rabbi, priest), chances are your vows will be provided for you (boom). But what if you’re planning a destination wedding on a Mexican beach and having a friend officiate—do you want to include traditional religious elements? Once again: that’s up to you and your partner. If religion is a key foundation for your relationship, then it probably belongs in your declaration of commitment. If neither of you is religious, but all of sudden you’re quoting the New Testament, that might feel a bit off-brand.

How to Actually Write Your Wedding Vows 

1. Do a free-write

A free-write is exactly what it sounds like: an exercise where you write without thinking too hard or editing yourself. There’s no better way to get the creative juices flowing than just jumping into it without second-guessing yourself. So, grab a pen and paper (or computer and keyboard) and start writing about your relationship for ten minutes. Don’t stop until your timer goes off. If you need a couple prompts, ask yourself questions like “why do you love this person/how do they make you feel/what does marriage mean to you?” to get you thinking, and more importantly, writing. Will this be the final thing you read at your wedding? Probably not. But it’s a great foundation to build from.

2. Make a list

Compiling complex ideas about marriage and love can be too difficult for words—literally. If that’s the case, boil down your thoughts to a simple list. Write down any word that comes to mind when thinking about your partner and what it means to get married. This is another brainstorming exercise that can generate ideas, feelings and more. 

3. Pick one specific memory

When it comes to writing something to keep a captive audience, specificity is key. Take a walk down memory lane and choose one of the more meaningful moments that will highlight your unique relationship. Maybe it’s the time you and your partner drove three hours to go apple picking only to learn that the orchard was closed that day, so instead you had an impromptu picnic in a beautiful field. Or maybe it’s the time you tried to Annie Hall dinner by making lobster but didn’t have the heart to put the lobsters in the boiling water, so you wound up having anniversary dinner grilled cheeses. Whatever it is, using these specific anecdotes to power your vows will make your words so much more personal and unique to you. 

4. Incorporate a quote that has meaning to you

Oftentimes, there are already published words that express what you’re trying to say, but way better. Make life easy on yourself by cherry-picking quotes or readings that have particular meaning to you. If you and your partner are both Harry Potter fanatics, why not include a memorable J.K. Rowling quote? If you both love musicals, who said a Hamilton reading was off the table? A great quote or powerful reading can bulk up your vows and communicate a complicated idea.

5. Organize your thoughts into a beginning, middle and end

You’ve done most of the work. Now you have to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Like most good stories, you’re going to want some semblance of a beginning, middle and end. Here’s a rudimentary outline to organize your thoughts:

  • Beginning: Focus on whom you’re getting married to and what you love about them.
  • Middle: Explain why you want to get married [don’t forget to insert your specific memory].
  • End: Share how you’ll continue to grow and support each other in the future.

If you have a quote or reading that truly speaks to you and your relationship, try opening with it and then using it throughout your vows to explain why you to get married. You can circle back to the quote (or one part of it) for a mic-drop kind of ending.

6. Ask your officiant for some guidelines

Still feeling stuck? Talk to your officiant. Chances are they’ve done this before and can be great sounding boards. In fact, they can probably even give you some exercises to help put your thoughts into a coherent, presentable vow.

7. Read it out loud to yourself

Once you have something to work with, read it aloud. This will help you feel out the rhythm and timing of your vows, which—trust us—is way different from reading them on the page. If something is not rolling off your tongue the right way, you’ll want to hear that before you read your vows on your wedding day.

8. Edit, edit, edit

Let your wedding vows evolve as you write them. If you read them aloud and they sound off, don’t be afraid to tweak some words. Move some sentences around. Cut a whole section! Play around with the order.  

9. Remove anything you’re unsure about

You threw in that wild memory about your future husband getting arrested in college because it’s the most hysterical story of all time. But does his grandmother really need to hear it? And the more you think on it, you’re not actually sure he ever told his parents or siblings. Hmm. If you’re on the fence about sharing an anecdote that’s a little too personal, cut it. It could wind up overshadowing the entire wedding and making your new spouse uncomfortable. That’s totally not worth the laugh.

10. Don’t overshare

On that note, avoid TMI in your vows if you’re reciting them out loud. Your friends and family absolutely do not need to hear about your favorite sex position.

11. Don’t put your partner on the spot

Your fiancé has an incredible singing voice. But surprising them with a, “and that’s why I’m passing the mic to Monica to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ right now!” would make most people vomit in their mouths. Surprises are great, but not when it means making your fiancé turn beet red in front of a crowd. 

12. Time yourself

You’ve edited, revised and rewritten your vows. A lot. Now it’s time to read them out loud and time them. How long should your vows be? That totally depends on the two of you. Rule of thumb, we’d say one minute is on the short and sweet side and seven minutes or is on the long-winded side. The golden time would probably be somewhere around three minutes per person. Again, though, the length is totally up to your preference.

13. Don’t wait until the last moment

If you decide to write your own vows, spend some time doing it in the weeks leading up to your wedding. Waiting until two days before will probably make you more anxious than you already are. And what if a wedding “emergency” happens, like the caterer cancels? You won’t have time to write your vows while you’re on the phone with a taco food truck. Trust. 

Wedding Vow Quotes and Readings 

Readings and quotes are fabulous ways to express yourself. Whether through a religious reading or your favorite Broadway musical, so many talented people have written on love and marriage, and there’s nothing wrong with borrowing their words for your special day. Here are some of our favorites.

Biblical Readings

Song of Solomon 6:3
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. My beloved speaks and says to me: Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

Ecclesiastes 4:9
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?

Corinthians 13:4-12
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Poetic Readings

"Love Sonnet 17" by Pablo Neruda
I don’t love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
Secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don’t know any other way of loving

but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.

“Love Poem without a Drop of Hyperbole” by Traci Brimhall
I love you like ladybugs love windowsills, love you
like sperm whales love squid. There’s no depth
I wouldn’t follow you through. I love you like
the pawns in chess love aristocratic horses.
I’ll throw myself in front of a bishop or a queen
for you. Even a sentient castle. My love is crazy
like that. I like that sweet little hothouse mouth
you have. I like to kiss you with tongue, with gusto,
with socks still on. I love you like a vulture loves
the careless deer at the roadside. I want to get
all up in you. I love you like Isis loved Osiris,
but her devotion came up a few inches short.
I’d train my breath and learn to read sonar until
I retrieved every lost blood vessel of you. I swear
this love is ungodly, not an ounce of suffering in it.
Like salmon and its upstream itch, I’ll dodge grizzlies
for you. Like hawks and skyscraper rooftops,
I’ll keep coming back. Maddened. A little hopeless.
Embarrassingly in love. And that’s why I’m on
the couch kissing pictures on my phone instead of
calling you in from the kitchen where you are
undoubtedly making dinner too spicy, but when
you hold the spoon to my lips and ask if it’s ready
I’ll say it is, always, but never, there is never enough.

“Variations on the Word Love” by Margaret Atwood
This is a word we use to plug
holes with. It’s the right size for those warm
blanks in speech, for those red heart-
shaped vacancies on the page that look nothing
like real hearts. Add lace
and you can sell
it. We insert it also in the one empty
space on the printed form
that comes with no instructions. There are whole
magazines with not much in them
but the word love, you can
rub it all over your body and you
can cook with it too. How do we know
it isn’t what goes on at the cool
debaucheries of slugs under damp
pieces of cardboard? As for the weed-
seedlings nosing their tough snouts up
among the lettuces, they shout it.
Love! Love! sing the soldiers, raising
their glittering knives in salute.
Then there’s the two
of us. This word
is far too short for us, it has only
four letters, too sparse
to fill those deep bare
vacuums between the stars
that press on us with their deafness.
It’s not love we don’t wish
to fall into, but that fear.
This word is not enough but it will
have to do. It’s a single
vowel in this metallic
silence, a mouth that says
O again and again in wonder
and pain, a breath, a finger
grip on a cliffside. You can
hold on or let go.

Song Readings

“I Will” by The Beatles
Who knows how long I've loved you
You know I love you still
Will I wait a lonely lifetime
If you want me to, I will
For if I ever saw you
I didn't catch your name
But it never really mattered
I will always feel the same
Love you forever and forever
Love you with all my heart
Love you whenever we're together
Love you when we're apart
And when at last I find you
Your song will fill the air
Sing it loud so I can hear you
Make it easy to be near you
For the things you do endear you to me
You know I will
I will

"I Choose You," by Sara Bareilles
Let the bough break,
let it come down crashing
Let the sun fade out to a dark sky
I can’t say I’d even notice it was absent
‘Cause I could live by the light in your eyes
I’ll unfold before you

What I have strung together
The very first words of a lifelong love letter

“You Make Loving Fun” by Fleetwood Mac
Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you
I will become yours
and you will become mine...

Sweet wonderful you,
You make me happy with the things you do,
Oh, can it be so,
This feeling follows me wherever I go.

I never did believe in miracles,
But I’ve a feeling it’s time to try.
I never did believe in the ways of magic,
But I’m beginning to wonder why.

Don’t, don’t break the spell,
It would be different and you know it will,
You, you make loving fun,
And I don’t have to tell you you’re the only one.

You make loving fun.
You make loving fun.

“I’ll Cover You” from RENT
Live in my house, I'll be your shelter
Just pay me back
With one thousand kisses
Be my lover, I'll cover you

Open your door, I'll be your tenant
Don't got much baggage, to lay at your feet
But sweet kisses, I've got to spare
I'll be there and I'll cover you

I think they meant it
When they said you can't buy love
Now I know you can rent it
A new lease you are my love
On life, be my life

Just slip me on, I'll be your blanket
Wherever, whatever I'll be your coat
You'll be my king, and I'll be your castle
No, you be my queen, and I'll be your moat

I think they meant it
When they said you can't buy love
Now I know you can rent it
A new lease you are my love

On life, oh my life
I've longed to discover
Something as true as this is
So with a thousand sweet kisses, I'll cover you
If you're cold and you're lonely
With a thousand sweet kisses, I'll cover you
You've got one nickel only
With a thousand sweet kisses, I'll cover you
When you're worn out and tired
With a thousand sweet kisses, I'll cover you
When your heart has expired
Oh lover, I'll cover you
Oh lover, I'll cover you

“Sun and Moon” from Miss Saigon
You are sunlight and I'm moon
Joined by the gods of fortune
Midnight and high noon
Sharing the sky
We have been blessed
You and I

You are here like a mystery
I'm from a world that's so different
From all that you are
How in the light of one night
Did we come
So far

Outside day starts to dawn
Your moon still floats on high

The birds awake
The stars shine too
My hands still shake
I reach for you

And we meet in the sky
You are sunlight and I'm moon
Joined here brightening the sky
With the flame of love
Made of
Sunlight... Moonlight

Literary Readings

From Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
"I have for the first time found what I can truly love—I have found you. You are my sympathy—my better self—my good angel—I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wraps my existence about you—and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one."

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
“I love you also means I love you more than anyone loves you, or has loved you, or will love you, and also, I love you in a way that no one loves you, or has loved you, or will love you, and also, I love you in a way that I love no one else, and never have loved anyone else, and never will love anyone else.”

From Mark Twain’s Letters
A marriage makes of two fractional lives a whole;
It gives two purposeless lives a work,
And doubles the strength of each to perform it.
It gives to two questioning natures a reason for living
And something to live for.
It will give new gladness to the sunshine,
A new fragrance to the flowers, a new beauty to the earth
And a new mystery to life.

Movie and TV Readings

Sex and the City
“His hello was the end of her endings. Her laugh was their first step down the aisle. His hand would be hers to hold forever. His forever was as simple as her smile. He said she was what was missing. She said instantly she knew. She was a question to be answered. And his answer was ‘I do.'”

When Harry Met Sally
“I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

The Wedding Singer
I want to make you smile whenever you're sad.
Carry you around when your arthritis is bad.
All I want to do is grow old with you…

Humorous Readings

From The Office
"Webster's dictionary defines wedding as ‘the fusing of two metals with a hot torch.”"

From The Princess Bride
"I love you. Okay? Want it louder? I love you. Spell it out, should I? I ell-oh-vee-ee why-oh-you. Want it backward? You love I."

But most importantly, however you choose to write your vows, make sure you have a tissue on hand.

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