Why do so many couples put off writing their wedding vows? No, seriously, the wedding vows are literally one of the most procrastinated about items on the entire wedding planning list, with the DJ playlist running a close second. But aren’t the wedding vows one of the most important elements of the big day? Aren’t those vows you’re exchanging really what the wedding is all about?

It’s easy to get bogged down in the minutia of wedding planning. Dress shopping, cake tasting, and choosing your flowers and décor are far more entertaining tasks than sitting down with paper and pen, and figuring out how you want to pledge your love to your future spouse. Ironically, vows are one of the first things you can actually finish the very first week that you begin wedding planning. But nobody does that.

Brides and grooms put off planning the wedding ceremony as long as they can get away with it. And even then, sometimes they leave a blank for the vows. The result is not good. Suddenly, before you know it, you’ve gotten so far behind that you’re telling the minister you’ll be bringing your own wedding vows to the ceremony (because neither of you had them written down in time to give them to the minister in advance), and scrambling to find time to craft them between your rehearsal dinner and the wedding the next day. It’s a bad idea because a happy bride is a well-rested bride. And black circles under your eyes (or his) aren’t ideal for the most expensive pictures that you’ll ever have taken.

wedding island

Sandy marrying Dwayne and Rodney Byrum on 12-12-12 on TLC’s Wedding Island

I’ve seen this too many times as a wedding planner. The all-time worst example happened, for real, on Episode 2 of my TLC show Wedding Island. They showed the bride working on her “vowels” in her wedding gown, already 10 minutes late to go down the aisle. It was a hot mess. And it was all her fault. She went down the aisle so late that the sun had already set by the time they started formal pictures.

Why would anybody wait until the last minute for the most important part of the wedding planning? Maybe because the words that you choose to exchange for your vows are very, very personal. And very real. These are promises you are making to love, honor and cherish, through good times and bad, through sickness and health, yada yada yada. Everybody chooses different phraseology, unless they’re using the standard service for a particular religion. And even then, the wording is still pretty similar. But however you choose to say it, the words are a lifetime commitment to another person. The wedding vows establish a bond that isn’t supposed to be broken.

Wedding vows are supposed to be taken seriously. It’s not something you’re supposed to scribble on the back of a program while you’re waiting to walk down the aisle. Brides and grooms need to think about what they’re promising each other with these words. The Dictionary defines a vow as “a solemn promise, pledge, or personal commitment.” For those of you who are more religious, it’s “a solemn promise made to a deity or saint committing oneself an act, service, or condition.” Keeping that in mind, don’t your vows deserve more thought than they’re probably getting?

How to write your own wedding vows

It’s very popular to write your own vows from scratch. I suggest that you look at some more traditional vow formats for some ideas about general subject matter to consider, but really, those words are entirely up to you. The only thing the state requires is that you agree to marry each other in front of a legal officiant.

Start here:

  • Figure out the format you want to use. Will you be memorizing your vows? Or do you prefer to have the minister lead you through them in the traditional manner. It’s also okay to have the groom keep them in his pocket until the appropriate moment, and then you both read them from those pages. Be sure to print them out several days ahead of the wedding. I’ve heard too many horror stories of brides trying desperately to get the vows from their phones to a printer at their venue at the very last minute.
  • Figure out the tone of your vows. Will you be serious, or funny? Or a little bit of both? It’s not a bad idea to share your vows with your fiancé when you’re writing them, but some couples like to keep those words a secret until the ceremony. Be sure to communicate with each other about the tone of your vows so that they aren’t uncomfortably different when read one after the other.
  • Agree to a length for the wedding vows. Again, it’s so awkward when couples read their own vows, and one person only has four lines, while the other half of the couple goes on for several minutes. Keep in mind that these are vows, not speeches. If you want to sing the praises of your new life partner, you can toast him or her at the wedding reception. The vows are promises that you’re making to each other. It’s not a performance for the wedding guests.
  • Discuss the topics in your vows before you start writing. We’ve all heard vows that include things like promising to pick up his socks up off the bathroom floor, or the bride promising to love him even though he never puts his dirty clothes in the hamper. Yeah, they’re funny. But unless they’re actually metaphors for something much, much deeper (she’ll love him with his flaws, perhaps?), I’d like to think vows are supposed to be about something more important. You don’t have to use traditional vows, but you might consider them a jumping off point. Every couple can identify with some aspect of those common promises.

The most important wedding vow tip

What’s the most important piece of advice I could possibly give you about writing your wedding vows? DON’T PUT IT OFF. Pick a weekend and commit to starting AND FINISHING the vows completely. Either print out a bunch of stuff to work off of, or buy some kind of guide. Consider picking up fresh pads of paper and fun pens – or use your laptops if you’re both better on the computer.

Treat yourselves to some fancy wine and an excellent dinner at home. Turn on some music but leave the television and social media off. Discuss all of the points I suggested above with your fiancé, and then take a whack at writing some vows. Sleep on your first attempt, and see how you like it the next day. If you or your fiancé are struggling with it or having doubts, share it with one another. It doesn’t make it less romantic on the wedding day, it makes it MORE romantic because you created your vows for your married life together.

Until next time, happy wedding planning!

Sandy