Do you go with traditional vows, modern ones, write your own, or (whisper) get a professional to write them for you? If you write your own, where do you start? What do you say? And how can you be sure your other half won’t fudge it up? Grab yourself a cuppa and find somewhere comfy to read our guide to writing successful wedding vows.
If you are planning on writing your own then rule number one is give yourself plenty of time, ideally away from everyone else. Head to a park with your tablet, take a pen and paper to the beach, or just curl up on the sofa when the house is empty. You may well find it easier to write your vows in stages. Blank pieces of paper can feel pretty intimidating, so just make notes to start with. Here’s a few questions you can think about to get you started and give you ideas on what to say.
- When did you first meet?
- How did you get together?
- When did you realise she/he was the one?
- What little details make you smile when you think of him/her?
- How do you balance each other out? Is he super-organised, whereas you’re more of the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type?
- Why are you getting married? What does it mean to you?
- What promises do you want to make for a happy marriage?
Don’t worry about constructing perfect sentences or how things sound to start with, just get your ideas down. You may well end up with pages and pages. Great! Once you have plenty of notes, you can choose the bits that really stand out to you, and then start polishing them up.
To tell or not to tell?
It’s really up to the two of you whether you want to wait until your wedding day to hear each other’s vows. Many people love the anticipation of not knowing what their partner is going to say, while for others, it would just be another thing to worry about. If you do decide to wait, you might want to agree beforehand on the tone, length and structure. If one person’s vows are very serious and deeply romantic, and the others are more light-hearted and funny, that’s not something you want to find out on the day. It can be an idea to ask a close friend to read both sets of vows, so that they can let you know if they complement each other.
Some partners write joint vows, which can be a lovely way to start your life together. It also means you can alternate lines, which can really help if you’re feeling nervous about speaking in front of everyone.
More than just the two of you?
If you have children, either together, or from before you met, you’ll likely want them to be a big part of your wedding, so it can be a lovely idea to include them in your vows. For example “I promise to love and care for you and Jacob.”
Consider who you’re reading them in front of…
You can always leave some of the more personal things you want to say for a letter that you present to your other half on your wedding night.
Believe in what you’re saying
There’s nothing wrong with making some of your vows humorous, but do keep in mind that these are your wedding vows. You should mean everything you say, so it might not be the best time for flippant promises that you can’t stick to. Consider how you both might feel if you end up breaking one of your vows because it was impossible to keep; how would it make you feel about the rest of your commitments?
Make it personal
If you’re going to the effort of writing your own vows, you’ll want them to be personal to you. You could mention where you first met, or include a line from the song that you’re having for your first dance.
But don’t be afraid to borrow
Why not encompass favourite poems or famous quotes? It’s a good idea to start jotting down ideas several weeks (or even months) before you get married, so keep your phone or a notebook to hand. Inspiration can hit in the most unlikely of places – a song playing while you’re doing the shopping, or a poem read out over the radio while you’re in work. Here are a few of our favourites to get you started:
Eskimo Love Song
You are my husband/wife
My feet shall run because of you
My feet dance because of you
My heart shall beat because of you
My eyes see because of you
My mind thinks because of you
And I shall love because of you.
Lover's Knot for Chloe and Malcolm
From this day forwards
we'll push the boat out, let it body us,
take us to a place as much mine as yours,
past the double oxbow
where the blossoms fall, and together
we'll learn the ropes: how to pull you in,
how to let you go; let you be as you are,
and break the wave of my known world.
In a covenant of above and below,
may we be confluent with each changing tide;
our partnership both the anchor and the flow
for all the days of our lives.
Vow: The Simplest, Hardest and the Truest Thing
One: We live in love, so finally are come today
(beyond the gladrags and the sweet bouquet
beyond cake or ring or all this fuss)
to this, the simplest and the truest thing for us.
Other: If you can say, my love – and hand on heart –
I will love you until death do us part –
One: – Hand on heart,
I will love you till death do us part.
Other: Then look me in my eyes – and now!
and here! – this kiss we kiss shall be our vow.
I vow to honour the commitment made this day
Which, unlike the flowers and the cake,
Will not wither or decay. A promise, not to obey
But to respond joyfully, to forgive and to console,
For once incomplete, we now are whole.
I vow to bear in mind that if, at times
Things seem to go from bad to worse,
They also go from bad to better.
The lost purse is handed in, the letter
Contains wonderful news. Trains run on time,
Hurricanes run out of breath, floods subside,
And toast lands jam-side up.
And with this ring, my final vow:
To recall, whatever the future may bring,
The love I feel for you now.
I cannot promise never to be angry;
I cannot promise always to be kind.
You know what you are taking on, my darling –
It's only at the start that love is blind.
And yet I'm still the one you want to be with
And you're the one for me – of that I'm sure.
You are my closest friend, my favourite person,
The lover and the home I've waited for.
I cannot promise that I will deserve you
From this day on. I hope to pass that test.
I love you and I want to make you happy.
I promise I will do my very best.
The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved, loved for ourselves, or rather loved in spite of ourselves.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13.4-7
A few practicalities
When writing your vows, it’s a good idea to keep sentences fairly short, and avoid any words that could trip you up. You’ll also want to keep your vows succinct enough for you to memorise them (though do have them printed out, just in case stage fright hits). Practise saying them aloud in front of a mirror, or to a friend, and keep editing until you’re happy.
Keep your officiant on side
For some ceremonies, particularly religious ones, you may not have the option of writing your own vows. Civil ceremonies are usually a bit more fluid, but you will still need to let your officiant know that you’re writing your own vows a few weeks beforehand, and discuss any practicalities, such as timing, with them.
“By law we have to keep to set wording. However, I personally wouldn’t be adverse to a couple saying additional vows, once the legal vows had been said. This could be along the lines of accepting their commitment together and asking God to bless their life together.” Reverend Cate Edmonds (married for 44 years)
The legal bit
For your marriage to be legal when you’re getting married in the UK, you will need to both state certain phrases. For most services, these will include:
Traditional: “I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I [Name] may not be joined in matrimony to [Name].”
Modern: I declare that I know of no legal reason why I [Name] may not be joined in marriage to [Name]
It’s likely that your officiant will split this sentence up for you to repeat after them, so don’t worry about memorising it. They may even simply ask you, "Are you [Name] free, lawfully, to marry [Name]?" for you to reply “I am”.
See tried and tested vows below for other statements you may need to say in different settings.
Top tips from the professionals
We asked some professional vow writers for their top tips.
Eric Shapiro of Ghostwriters Central recommends not going too formal, “It's natural to make your vows elegant and classy, but it's better to speak in your own voice than to try for a Shakespearean approach.
“Remember that you're addressing your partner and guests at the same time. It's a public and private moment in one. So don't go too intimate, and avoid using too many inside jokes. At the same time, don't make it a performance for the audience. Speak mainly to your partner, but let the onlookers know that your vows are for real.”
Angie and Alicia from vowmuse.com advise getting lots of ideas down to choose from, “Write down, in no particular order, reasons why she is great, the moment you knew he was the one, your first date on that Ferris wheel, that goofy story that she always tells about you, and that amazing casserole that he makes. Just write down things you love about your partner, which, summed up, are a good chunk of the reasons why you're getting married. After you have a whole list of stuff, start to organise it and flag things that are more important than others. Remember to also write down a variety of things you actually want to promise to your beloved – a few statements of heartfelt, loving promises is often what makes a set of wedding vows unique and special.
“If you can, try to coordinate with your beloved to ensure that you guys are creating vows of approximately the same length. Make sure to read the words out loud to yourself to see if there are any phrases you're stumbling over, or if there are any parts that could read better. Once you're reasonably happy with the draft, find a trusted friend to read the vows out loud to. This will help you practice the words, but also allow some relatively objective feedback that could help you further improve the text.”
Need some inspiration?
While we all want to be original, if you stumble across the perfect phrase, that really encompasses what your partner means to you, why not use it? Here are extracts from a few real wedding vows that could prove a great starting point for writing your own.
James and Kathryn Lusby:
James, to be honest, I feel like the most blessed girl in the world. I have not only found my life-long companion, the lover of my heart, but my soul mate. Thank you for standing by me and sticking with me through thick and thin; for seeing the person that’s before you now! James, you believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself and for that I love you so much.
As your wife, I promise you this,
To love and fall more in love with you each day.
To cherish every moment we have together.
To respect and honour you for the rest of my life.
To be open and honest with you.
To support you in all your heart’s desires.
To follow you wherever you may go.
To make God the centre of our marriage and to push us into the things he has for us.
To be faithful to you for the rest of my days.
I promise you I will look after you and cherish you. I promise to do these things because I have been given you, James, the most amazing gift I could ever have. Know that I love you with all my heart. So I’m so happy and chuffed to call myself Mrs. Kathryn Lusby!
Kathryn, sweet pea, I am so proud to be standing here, making these vows to you. When you look at me the way you do, the way you’re looking at me now, knowing that look belongs to me and me only, my heart melts. I’m captivated; you’re all mine and I’m blessed beyond all comprehension.
When I’m with you I’m complete; I’m happy; I’m at home. Kathryn, as we start our married life together today, I make these promises before our families and friends,
I will continually challenge myself to become the best husband I can be; always looking to put you before myself and making your dreams our dreams.
I will love you; I will adore you; I will cherish you; I will be faithful to you.
I will be thoughtful and mindful in the way I act around other people, whether we are together or apart. I will always seek to give you no reason to be jealous over another person.
As much as music will always play an important part of my life, you come before my guitars! You will be the greatest song I could and would ever sing.
I will trust you in all things, never doubting you, or looking for reassurance of things you have already promised me.
I will help you discover your full potential, pushing you to become the best you can be, to support and ensure your hopes and dreams come to fruition.
I will stand by your side in all things, the highs and the lows, always finding agreement in everything that we do as husband and wife.
I will keep God at the centre of our relationship and love you as Christ loves the Church.
You are my special friend, my girlfriend, my fiancé; you’re my best friend, and at last you are my wife! I promise as our everyday life begins we will continue to be best friends, we will still be girl and boyfriend. I will never let our honeymoon period end. Kathryn, loving you is the easiest, most obvious thing I’ve ever done, and I will love you for an eternity.
Remember, this isn’t about impressing the congregation. It’s about telling the person you love how you feel, truthfully, and promising that you’ll stand with them, whatever life throws at you.
Want to stick to the tried and tested vows?
There’s nothing wrong with choosing ‘off-the-hanger’ vows. After all, they’ve stood the test of time for a reason. There are plenty of other ways to personalise your wedding. So, here are some of the vows you can expect to be offered.
Church of England ceremony
I [Name] take you [Name] to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy law. In the presence of God I make this vow.
Exchange of rings: [Name] I give you this ring as a sign of our marriage. With my body I honour you, all that I am I give to you, and all that I have I share with you, within the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I [Name] take you [Name] to be my wife/husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honour you all the days of my life.
Alternative: I [Name] take you [Name] for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
Exchange of rings: In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, take and wear this ring as a sign of my love and faithfulness.
Traditional: I call upon these persons here present, to witness that I [Name] do take thee [Name] to be my lawful wedded wife/husband.
Modern: I [Name] take you [Name] to be my wedded wife/husband.
These may be slightly extended, eg: I call upon these persons here present, to witness that I [Name] do take thee [Name] to be my lawful wedded wife/husband, to be loving, faithful and loyal to thee in living our married life together.
Traditional vows for exchange of rings: I give you this ring as a symbol of our love. All that I am I give to you. All that I have I share with you. I promise to love you, to be faithful and loyal, in good times and bad. May this ring remind you always of the words we have spoken today.
Modern: I give you this ring as a sign of our love, trust and marriage. I promise to care for you above all others, to give you my love, friendship and support, and to respect and cherish you throughout our life together.
Some registrars will also have alternatives for you to choose from, such as these from Oxfordshire County Council:
I promise that I will respect you as an individual, support you through difficult times, rejoice with you through happy times, be loyal to you always and, above all, love you as my wife/husband and friend.
I promise to love and respect you, helping our love grow, always being there to listen, comfort and support you, whatever our lives may bring.
I give you this ring as a sign of our love, trust and marriage. I promise to care for you above all others, to give you my love, friendship and support, and to respect and cherish you throughout our life together.
Want to run your own vows past a friendly audience? Why not post them in our forum and ask for people’s opinions?
If your vows are for a renewal then take a look at some advice for renewing your wedding vows.