The vast majority of our couples come to us wanting to personalize their ceremonies. This is a hallmark of the millennial generation, and I, for one, love it. It allows each couple the opportunity to express, in their own words, what the covenant of marriage means to them. Because while love and marriage are universal, they are also each unique expressions of the particular people making up the covenant.
Part of our job is equipping our couples – not just in writing their own vows, but also in living into their particular covenant. So, when our couples tell us they want to write their own vows, we welcome it as a chance to unpack what vows are, and offer direction in that customizing.
Here are three tips for you as you consider customizing:
1. Vows are just that – vows. They are the promises on which you will build your marriage. We like our couples to think of vows in three ways: what you vow to do for yourself, your partner, and for the marriage. Most often, couples know vows to be the “for better/for worse; for richer/for poorer . . .” section of the ceremony. While these vows are old and traditional, they’ve also stood the test of time. These classic vows say “I will be there for you, and only you, through thick and thin.” We’ve also seen some really fun variations on this theme building on particular aspects of a couple’s relationship. We had a fashion stylist marry her longtime love, a musician. She promised to listen to all his songs at all hours, and he promised to indulge in her stylish shopping from time to time. Both concluded their customized vows by stating that all of these promises, in the end, pointed to loving each other now and forever. Those vows are still one of our favorite examples of customization.
2. Personal exchanges are often what couples mean when they say they want to personalize their vows. What they really want is space to speak to each other in meaningful ways at this beautiful moment in their lives. We like personal exchanges because they are not bound by a need to promise anything. So, they can be free flowing thoughts, poetry, song, or even rituals. You may remember the blog on my sister’s ritual “konking” (Konking and the Secret Language of Marriage). This ritual was their version of a personal exchange, and it was truly one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever witnessed in my many years of being involved in weddings.
3. No “winging it.” We don’t have a lot of rules at Central Ceremonies, but one we do have is not allowing free form to be free flowing. The vows and the personal exchanges are at the heart of a wedding ceremony. This is not a time to just let your mouth and mind wing it. We instruct our couples to put some time into these moments. These words and rituals are deeply meaningful, and instruct marriage and life. By allowing us to review them, we can ensure that these statements are balanced, appropriate, and accessible. Even if our couples have memorized them, we require that we have a copy. That way, if anyone freezes up in this moment, we can whip out our copy and help you along (this alone, is a metaphor the role of community in healthy marriages).
One of the best parts of our jobs is seeing what results from these three suggestions. We not only hope this helps you craft your thoughts and ideas, but we can’t wait to hear what you will say!
Sarah has been crafting custom weddings for couples of all kinds since 1999. Sarah is a Ravenclaw, and loves mythology, historical fiction, hot tea, and cycling of all sorts. She is an ordained minister who believes in coloring outside the lines. Sarah has been married to her best friend, Joe, since 1994. Together, their greatest treasures are their two children and the marriage they’ve worked hard to cultivate.