'Are we able to write our own vows??'... it's definitely one of the most common questions people people ask when planning their ceremony. Why? Because people don't want the most sentimental part of their ceremony to lack authenticity. I'd say that up to 40% of the couples I've married over the last year have written their own vows. If you'd like to join them I hope you find the following tips helpful!
1. Paralysation from Memorisation... Some couples put so much pressure on themselves to memorise their vows that they lose the capacity to speak, think, smile or breathe on the day! People seem to think that by memorising their vows they are powerfully demonstrating their unending devotion to their son-to-be-spouse! It screams: 'Look how much I care'. That makes sense...
What actually happens is that the guests see that you've memorised your vows and immediately freak-out on your behalf! Desperately hoping that you don't stuff it up they are relieved but exhausted when you finally finish, thus putting them out of their misery! They don't remember a word and they're emotionally ready to go home to bed. However, if you've got your vows printed on a nice piece of paper, people won't stress out, they'll think, 'oh, this is nice, they wrote their own vows'. They will actually listen and be a lot more engaged.
2. Maximise commitment, minimise reflection. Your fiancé is AWESOME, I get it. I also get that as a result you may want to mention their awesomeness in your vows, absolutely, no problem. What does feel a bit weird though is when you spend 5 sentences about how great THEY HAVE BEEN and then only 2 sentences about how great YOU WILL BE. Vows are essentially about what you are committing to do. Some reflection is OK but make sure that you emphasise your personal future commitment, rather than just gushing about how great they have been because on the day, that just feels weird!
3. Write them together. If you're both really passionate about writing then feel free to skip this tip, you're a rare couple indeed! Most couples who write their own vows have one party that is super keen while the other is more, lets say, supportive. Writing about love and commitment is fun, super easy and very fulfilling for one party (usually... cough.. the girl) and torture for the other! If you really want to keep your vows a secret, I've found that a good compromise is to write the first few and last lines together and then agree that each of you will write a few 'middle lines' that will be unique. Starting and finishing your vows identically adds a lovely element of uniformity to your vows and helps them feel balanced.
4. Use real language. Sincerity and conviviality are ubiquitously achieved by sesquipedalians... I don't know what that meant either, which is my point, don't try to be fancy. People try to use very formal language in their vows because its such a meaningful moment. It will however be much more meaningful if people know what you mean. Speak from the heart, be authentic. Think about what you are actually trying to communicate and say that as simply as you can. No extra points for grandiloquence (big words)! (Special thanks to google and the result of my 'big words' search for this tip)
5. Levity is great, just be careful with it. Humour is fantastic in ceremony because it's not expected and it challenges peoples perception that ceremony can be dull. For the same reason we need to be careful with humour so that it doesn't seem classless, tacky or try-hard.
Humour that works - your unique quirks and stories brought to light.
Humour that never works - a celebrant trying really hard to be funny and a spouse making fun of their partner.
If you include any lighthearted humour make sure that it's more at your expense than your spouse. I'd also recommend placing any humour somewhere in the middle of your vows and always conclude with something more sentimental/meaningful.
Hope that helps!