Ace Your Wedding Vows in 7 Easy Steps

It's always a nice touch when couples write their own vows. It's the best way to bring you and your fiance's personalities into your wedding ceremony, and a sure-fire way to engage the audience, whether they are left crying or laughing. Expressing your love on paper may seem daunting, but it's easier than you'd think. Let us count the ways...

Photo: Bryan GardnerPhoto: Bryan Gardner1. Begin Separately
Schedule some alone time to write your vows on your own before sharing them with each other. Doing this exercise individually will help each of you reflect without the other's influence, making the result more interesting and personal.
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2. Ask Yourself Questions
"The first step is to excavate your own heart," advises the Rev. Judith Johnson, author of "The Wedding Ceremony Planner". She recommends sitting quietly with a blank sheet of paper and asking yourself questions such as, "Why have I chosen this person to be my partner? What do I love most about him or her?" Take time to really think about the answers, and translate them into a vow.

3. Look for Inspiration
Once you have gathered your own thoughts, scour books, poems, and examples of other wedding vows to find the right words that succinctly express what you want to say. Feel free to mix old with new and classic with modern, and incorporate elements of traditional vows into your own.
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4. Make Promises
"Focus on what marriage means to you. What are you saying yes to, and what can you promise your partner?" says the Rev. Jeddah Vailakis, an interfaith minister in New York. Reflect on the good times, but consider all of the stumbling blocks in your relationship too. For example, if you're working too much and not making time for each other, you may want to think about what you can pledge to avoid falling into that trap again.

5. Exchange Letters
Make a date to sit down together to share your notes and read each other's thoughts. Afterward, rather than throwing these first-draft letters away, file them as keepsakes to read on anniversaries.

6. Play Editor
Decide which parts you would like to read aloud, and what aspects of traditional vows you plan on including. Remember to keep the vows as short and as simple as possible -- a paragraph or two at most.

7. Practice
Johnson recommends writing your vows -- on index cards or a scroll -- so you don't have to worry about memorizing them. Make sure to give a copy to your officiant as a backup, and rehearse them with flash cards prior to the wedding day. That way you'll know when to breathe, and you'll be prepared for the parts that may make you tear up.

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