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How to write wedding vows from the heart

Becoming engaged is a life-changing moment, and once the initial excitement and starry-eyed romance dims down, there is the planning of the wedding to consider. A major part of this preparation is spending time and energy writing your wedding vows. With all the How-To’s out there as well as tools to help with this daunting task, it is fair to say that many couples find this part of getting married a bit nerve-wracking.   Do you keep it light and humorous, or stick to a solemn oath? And how do you even begin to write down such words, words which can never be unsaid once uttered and ones which you absolutely want to put time and effort into. No pressure or anything!

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Having photographed a multitude of New Zealand weddings, from elopement packages with mountain top ceremonies to the more traditional venue weddings with large guest lists, I have pulled together some pointers that will have you writing your wedding vows with confidence and ease.

Let’s get to it! 

Where did Wedding Vows come from


Wedding vows were, of course, once tied to religious convention and were populated by a fellow called Thomas Cranmer. An eighteenth century book of prayers first contained a collection of wedding vows that were appropriate for couples at the time. Modern marriage may have departed from being strictly religious in ceremony, yet old-age conventions which hold a certain charm such as wedding vows are still very much alive. Vows can now be thought of as a way to impart an intention for the marriage and the journey ahead together. Saying out loud what the other means to the bride or groom is a way of making a commitment to the marriage itself, to bring out into the open the creation of a life together. Some say that the vows themselves can be seen to be legally binding…which is why you would want to put a lot of thought into them! Interestingly, it was not until 1922 that the words ‘to Obey’ were removed from the traditional vows that a Bride would utter. 

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Modern Wedding Vows

Thankfully these days, wedding vows are really open to be as creative and unique as the individuals making up the couple. Inside jokes, twists on tradition, and being able to speak from the heart in front of friends and family who truly celebrate the marriage, are much more common than the vows of yesteryear. 

As a New Zealand Wedding photographer who specializes in destination weddings, I have had the privilege to hear so many unique and memorable wedding vows and having heard how some of these vows were written, a common theme opens up – those vows which have truly stood out are those that are spoken from the heart, with no other agenda other than saying what they mean. At the end of the day, the only person you have written your vows for is standing in front of you and it seems as though nothing else truly matters in that magic moment I have witnessed, where a vow is uttered, simply and powerfully, that has all in attendance aware of the sacredness of the moment. 

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How to say I Do? Tips and Tricks: 

To get there, it is important to give yourself space and time to write your vows – well before the wedding date and any frantic energy can get in the way. 

You do not have to write your vows in one sitting, but if inspiration hits, go for it! Chances are, you will be mulling over what your partner and marriage mean to you in the lead-up to the big day. This can all sit in your head until you feel ready to spill or try getting into a habit of having a small notebook handy to jot down anything that comes to mind. 

Look out for inspiration. This can be in the form of a beautiful sunset you see, a poem you come across, or a photo that inspires a memory. Take photos of such scenes or take note of moments of inspiration. Objects may also be a good way to open up your heart and get the words flowing. You could try sitting with something special your loved one has gifted you and perhaps writing a sentence or two about that object or memory will lead to something you can use in your vows. 

Write down special trips you have taken, or how you spend your time together. If you have children, you may want to include them in your vows or reference the appreciation you have of your partner’s co-parenting. This, of course, applies to fur babies too! 

Spend time writing to your heart’s content, or if writing is not your thing, record your voice on your phone – just waffle away about the suggested topics and see where it leads you. Try not to get too hung up on how you sound if you go down this route! Length of material does not matter at this stage, but once you feel you have the most important points down, then it’s time to go over your vows. You may find it most helpful to do this with a trusted friend or family member, but at the end of the day they are there as a sounding board and for you to figure out what is most important to include out of the material you have, so make it clear this is not about advice! 

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The writing of The Vows:

Start with your loved one’s name, this anchors your vow into the moment between you, and do try to make eye contact – vows can be memorized or read, there is no pressure to get this perfect as it is clear, the most beautiful vows are raw and not construed, so your ease is important – so many people are not comfortable speaking in front of others, so there is no shame in reading your vows at all – but do make the effort to look into your beloved’s eyes and be brave! 

Mention how the two of you met, your own experience of the moment, and how you knew at one stage or another that you were vibing marriage with this beautiful human. Feel free to use humor but don’t go too far if you’re a bit of a joker and your partner is not. Have respect for the sacredness of the moment and sensitivity to what your partner can handle! 

Talk about what your partner means to you, what you especially appreciate about them – their hidden talents and anything (above-board) that may have surprised you about them, or what they are really great at. 

You may take a page out of more traditional vows and promise something that is unique to your relationship, such as “I promise to always support you in your obsession with Star Wars,’ or “I promise to continue to make you the best omelet you have ever eaten every Friday of our marriage,’ you can get really specific and memorable! 

Finally, you can talk about what marriage means to you, and how you envision stepping forward in your next journey together. Some vows include a reference to hard or challenging times that you may have experienced, if you feel it is important to be real and to honor all parts of your relationship, then include these. 

There are some beautiful poems that are classic when it comes to wedding vows and will forever resonate with romantic hearts – you can use some or all of such poems or verses. 

A twist on wedding vows can be where you both recite the same wedding vow, or verse – this can unite you as a couple before loved ones and is a different way to do wedding vows from surprising one another with your own sentiments. 


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What to avoid


Speaking for too long, which is why it is so important to give yourself time to write your vows – and edit them. 

Speaking to the audience instead of your loved one – keep it in mind at all times, your words are for your beau and for your marriage.

Too much humor – know your partner! Are they into it? Also, it is good to pair a light-hearted line or mention alongside a more serious sentiment, you want your words to ebb and flow. A little laughter, a little reflection, a memory, another bit of humor…

Not giving yourself enough time. Do not bring the stress of the final days of preparing for a wedding, into your vows! 

Do take a look into ways of turning your wedding vows into a keepsake or at least make a plan to hold onto them. Many couples include them in their wedding album whether that is digital or not.

In Summary - The Ceremony:  

Finally, there is so much out there now to help you with the writing of your vows, but do not get too bogged down and make it complicated for yourself, to get your writing and creativity flowing you could watch a few good movies with wedding scenes, read some poetry, talk with loved ones and keep a notebook handy – but once is all said and done, it’s your heart that holds your wedding vows, all you need to do is find a way to put pen to paper and let what is there, come out  – hopefully, the advice here helps you to do that. 

All the very best from this New Zealand wedding photographer. 

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