Mr. Whale and I wrote our own vows. And I’m so glad that we did. But, truthfully, it wasn’t the easiest thing on earth. When I set out to write my vows, I just stared at my computer screen thinking, “Is there a template for this thing? Should I have a plan? What am I doing??”
In case you’re lost like I was, here is a little suggested roadmap for how to get from, “Oh no!! The vows!” to a personal declaration of your love.
1. Decide whether you want to write your vows together or if you want them to be a surprise.
If you write them together, you can probably avoid some of the other issues I’ll mention. If you write them separately, you have the element of surprise. It’s up to you. I personally was a fan of our surprise vows. But then again, I knew Mr. Whale would write something beautiful, because that’s just the kind of person he is. He is definitely the more emotional one of us and is more willing to share his emotions, so I knew his vows would be great.
2. Tie the two vows together in some way.
There are a lot of different ways to tie the vows together. You could both start the vows with, “I promise…” Or you could use the same general structure (I think you’re great because… Then, I vow to do this… Then, I love your forever. Bam. Vows.) Or if you don’t want to be confined to a particular structure (Mr. Whale, I’m looking at you), maybe you at least want them to be similar lengths.
Mr. Whale refused to adhere to any kind of pre-imposed structure. (That’s kind of how he lives his life everyday.) But he did agree that we should try to have vows that were similar in length. But how could we check the lengths if the vows were going to be a surprise?? We did a word count. Mr. Whale’s vows were around 450 words, and mine were a little more than 300. (Like I said, he’s the sappy one.) Alternatively, you could time them and make sure they’re similar lengths.
3. Make promises you want to keep.
To write the meat of my vows, I sat down one evening and thought really hard about all the things Mr. Whale had asked me to work on. I have a bad habit of walking away when we’re in the middle of an argument, and it drives Mr. Whale crazy. So I promised in my vows to not do that. Mr. Whale really wants us to always be interested in finding out more about the other person. So in my vows I promised to continually try to know Mr. Whale better.
I highly recommend using the vows to challenge yourself to make yourself a better person.
4. Take the vows seriously.
It’s easy to get sucked into the idea of writing cutesy vows. I will be the peanut butter to your jelly. I will pick up your socks. I will let you steal the covers (sometimes! tee hee). And if that’s your thing, then by all means, don’t let me stop you.
BUT, as a silly person myself, I have to say that having heartfelt, thoughtful, sincere vows was the best thing in our wedding. Think about it. You’re about to make one of the most monumental decisions of your life. And what does it say about your relationship if you make the whole thing a joke?
That’s not to say you can’t have something cute. Mr. Whale and I threw in a few light-hearted bits. (And our vows were written on cards shaped like manatees…) But if your vows sound like a Dr. Seuss book and you’re not a children’s book writer, then it might sound insincere.
5. Practice saying the words.
“I will be a sanctuary of warmth and peace for you in your darkest hours” sounds all poetic and great on paper. But coming out of my mouth it sounds idiotic. Practice your vows out loud so you can be sure you’re comfortable with the words.
If all else fails… Borrow.
It’s okay to borrow from the internet. Did someone else’s words bring you to tears? Borrow them! Use someone else’s vows as a template and edit from there. It’s okay! There are only so many ways to promise to be a fabulous spouse. There’s a pretty good chance that a lot of us are working on the same issues.
Hopefully, these tips can help you avoid some of the issues I went through while writing my own vows. If you need a little inspiration, here’s the link to the Blue Whales’ vows. They still make me tear up.
*All photos by Brenda Upton Photography.