So delighted to be sharing my first guest post! Several years ago, Rachel and I met at another wedding I was photographing and since then, Mitchell and Rachel have asked me to document their engagement, wedding, and anniversary. They has given me the gift of full artistic freedom and we've created some of my all-time favorite photos together. (I don't play favorites but they're dream clients, guys! The photos you see are the kinds you get when you give me free-reign)
Rachel is also an English teacher with a gift for prose so she was the perfect candidate to cover the topic of wedding vows. If you're not even sure where to start on this vital part of your wedding, keep reading!
My friend Danae’s wedding shaped mine in two key ways. First, it introduced me to Morgan, aka the world’s most wonderful photographer, and second, it convinced me I wanted to write my own vows when I got married. Although I love the timelessness of the traditional vows, I wanted to make promises unique to my personality and relationship with my now-husband.
There was just one problem: Mitchell didn’t want to. His wouldn’t be as good as mine, he argued, and there was no need to write his own when there were perfectly good traditional vows out there. But as with registering for soap dispensers, he eventually agreed to do what I wanted. He still likes the traditional vows, but, as he put it, he likes me more.
So we wrote our own vows, and while I did not weep the buckets of tears I anticipated, I do remember the reading of our original vows as the most meaningful part of our wedding ceremony. If you are considering whether to add a touch of personality to your wedding by writing your own vows, a few key principles can help you in composing the words that will guide your marriage.
Vows are Promises
Hollywood weddings and planning resources often present a script for wedding vows that goes something like this: “All my life, I’ve been searching for you. You complete me/make me happy/have pretty eyes, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you. I love you.” And while those may be nice sentiments, they aren’t vows. When you make vows, you are making promises about how you are going to fill the role of husband or wife. You are declaring before God and your witnesses that you are going to do specific things in order for your marriage to flourish, and you are accountable to your spouse to do what you’ve promised. Take your vows seriously, both as you write them and as you live them out.
Discuss Your Vows Together
You don’t have to present your completed vows so your soon-to-be spouse can sign off on them, but you should at least talk together about the expectations you each have for your vows. What should a husband be? How should a wife act? Once you’ve answered these questions together, your deepened understanding of each other’s values can help you formulate vows that will be meaningful to both of you.
Determine a Structure for Your Vows
As the two of you discuss what your vows should include, talk through how you’d like to structure them. The best original vows follow a similar pattern: they begin with an introduction of sorts (this is the perfect opportunity to talk about how pretty their eyes are or how excited you are to marry them) and then transition into the actual vows. To keep this part of the ceremony balanced, agree on a rough number of promises you want to include (between five to ten) so your vows don’t feel like a competition. Even though the two of you are likely to say different things, you want those things to feel like they fit together as well as you yourselves do.
I began drafting my vows months in advance, going through at least two revisions before settling on a final draft, which I practiced regularly. The night before our wedding, I dropped by our new apartment to find Mitchell sprawled across our bed with a pen in one hand and a mostly blank sheet of paper in the other while our groomsmen watched Jim and Pam’s wedding from The Office. He completed the actual writing fifteen minutes before our ceremony. And while the writing of our vows was true to both of our respective personalities, it was much less stressful to have them completed ahead of time. Even if you don’t actually put pen to paper until the night before, make sure you’re at least brainstorming months in advance. Thinking, as both Mitchell and my mother like to remind me, is part of the writing process.
Make it Personal
This, after all, is the whole point of writing your own vows: tailoring them to the unique people you are and the relationship you enjoy together. Your vows are so much more meaningful when they reference activities you enjoy, interests you share, chores you’ll take on so the other person doesn’t have to, songs that are special to you, or other details of your relationship. While you don’t want to leave your friends and family confused by an obscure inside joke only you two would understand, you do want the promises you’re making to illuminate your extraordinary love story.
The Allens' Vows
As you know, I’m pretty trash at writing, so when you asked me to write my vows, I kind of panicked. Yes, I love you, but I have a hard time putting that into words then reading them in front of people? . . . Whew. Terrifying to say the least. But, while I am bad at writing, I know you always need an intro paragraph and a clearly stated thesis. Now, I’m not sure if this is clear enough, but these are my vows . . . to you. I love you and the following are a few promises I am making to you as evidence of my love.
I promise to love you unconditionally from this day on. Forever, some might say. Furthermore, I will love only you, and you alone. No one else.
I promise to have the patience love demands. To speak words when words are needed, and to share in the silence when they are not.
I promise to protect you from harm whether it be physical, mental, or emotional.
I promise to provide for you in all areas of life. To anticipate your needs before they arise and meet them to the fullest.
I promise to put you before me except after “C.” Your needs before mine. Your wants before mine. You before me.
I promise to encourage you to do good. Do well. Do your best. To grow. To learn. To love.
Finally, I promise to grow in Christ together—to learn about Him and model His behavior and love in our marriage.
Rachel, you and I both know I need a concluding paragraph. A call to action as it were. I think, though, I will call myself to action. To continue to love you. To keep these promises. To love only you no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. I love and cherish you!”
“My favorite Mitchell—
Coming up with an introduction to my vows has been more challenging by far than any paper introduction I’ve had to write. I could begin with some deep quotation about love or an anecdote about when I first knew you were the one or maybe a statistic about the likelihood of marrying the first person you go out with in college, but in this case, I think the best approach would be a direct one.
I love you, Mitchell Allen. You are the best person that has ever happened to me, and by God’s grace, I hope to be the best wife possible for you.
As your wife, I promise to honor you as the head of our home. As you follow Christ, I will follow you.
I promise to expect of you only what God expects. Rather than endeavoring to mold you into my own image, I will challenge and encourage you to look more like Christ.
I promise to practice contentment in every circumstance we face together. Whether we are sick or well, rich or poor, grieving or celebrating, I will rest in God’s gracious provision for us.
I promise to give of myself to meet your needs. If you need to talk, I’ll listen; if you need support, I’ll cheer you on; if you just need something to eat after a long day of work, I’ll serve you.
I promise to be vulnerable with you. Even when all I want to do is hide, I will trust you with my dreams, emotions, fears, and struggles.
I promise to treat your failures not as weapons to turn against you, but as opportunities to extend grace to you, even as I trust you will do for me in the inevitable moments when I fail to live out these vows in their entirety. Despite our individual shortcomings, I am confident that our marriage, given enough prayer and effort, will be wonderful.
And so I promise to love you: deeply, unconditionally, steadfastly, to love you when I don’t feel particularly in love with you or even like you all that much, to love you about myself and above all others, to love you from this day forward with every single thing I have.”