This public declaration of intimate promises can seem intimidating, so this guide is here to help you through the process of writing your own vows.
In New Zealand, your vows must contain “I, (….), take you, (…) to be my husband/wife” to recognise that you are willingly entering into the marriage. As long as you meet this requirement, you can personalise your vows as much as you like.
Some couples choose to simply say the legal statement for their exchange of vows, while others decide to write personal vows. If you are writing your own vows, you can include the legal statement in your personal vows, or you can have these as two distinct parts of the ceremony.
Before you write your vows, consider the following questions with your partner:
- Do you want to exchange the same vows?
- If you choose to exchange different vows, do you want to share them with each other before your wedding day?
- How do you want to include the legal statement?
Once you have these things decided, think about how you want to structure your vows. This can be particularly helpful if you and your partner have decided not to share your vows with each other before your wedding as it helps to ensure that there is a sense of balance between them.
Your structure could be as simple as deciding what tone you will choose (eg. playful, solemn, humorous) or how many lines your vows will have. Or, you might decide to start and finish with the same lines and write the middle lines individually.
Another way to structure your vows is to agree on the first words of each line and then complete them independently. Here are some starting lines you may like to consider:
- I promise to…
- I will…
- We will…
- When I’m with you I am…
- I love you because…
Setting aside time to do these together
Your vows do not have to be long, but make sure you allow yourself sufficient time to write them. In the lead up to your wedding there will probably be a number of things to organise, and it’s easy to keep on putting these off for a ‘quiet moment’ that often never arrives.
One way to relieve some of the pressure can be to make a date of it. Even if you and your partner are planning to write your vows individually, it can be nice to set aside time to start them together. Cook yourselves a nice meal and decide on a structure that works for you. After your meal, give yourselves a set amount of time to work on your vows. Even if you don’t complete them in that time, it’s a good way to begin what can seem like a daunting task.
What to say
Even though the definition of a vow is ‘a solemn promise’, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with them. Your vows can reflect the character of your relationship and what you most enjoy about your partner.
There is no singular right way to write your vows and each couple will have vows that are perfect for their relationship. As you are writing your vows, you might like to consider the following questions:
- What are the qualities you value the most in your partner?
- What does your partner bring out in you?
- What are your hopes together?
- What are the important things that you share?
- How do you feel when you are with your partner?
- What do you know your partner loves in you? What are you offering to share/give to your partner?
It’s important to make sure the words are meaningful for you because that’s what will make them special for your partner. This will also help you be more comfortable and relaxed saying them on your wedding day.
Once you have written your vows
As a celebrant, I always offer to look over a couple’s vows once they have written them. This can be reassuring to know that what you intend to say is balanced, especially if you and your partner have chosen to write your vows independently. It also means that I can bring a spare copy of the vows to the wedding, just in case it is needed on the day!
If you have any questions or comments about this piece or have a question you’d like me to answer, you are welcome to contact me.