by Larry James
Consider writing something very special to read to each other during your wedding ceremony. In my “romantic” ceremony there is a place for you to say something that you would like to express to your partner; they are called, “personal promises.” Some couples I marry say they want to write some of their own vows. What they write to each other are called, “personal promises.” I have written the wedding vows – which couples seldom change – and which are quite different than any others.
This can be a very special part of your wedding ceremony and can have a magical effect on your guests. Your wedding is one of the few times in your life when you can be completely and unashamedly emotional and candid in public. And your guests will love it.
This idea may seem overwhelming. It’s not that tough. It doesn’t take creative brilliance. Start writing early. The only way it may seem that way is if you wait until the last minute to put together the words you would like to say. The minute you lighten up about the process, it will begin to transform from a difficult task on your to-do list to an exciting journey in love and romance.
Sit in silence by yourself and write down all the keywords of your feelings towards your partner. No distractions. Seek a nice, quiet place to reflect and write. Write some romantic phrases that come to mind and perhaps add bits of poetry to highlight love, care, and understanding in your relationship. What special things does your partner need from you? Use your imagination!
Go through and pick out the 4 or 5 points that are most important for you to say. Usually 4 or 5 sentences will work. Short and sweet is good. Don’t overdo it and for the sake of your relationship, don’t make promises you know you cannot keep.
Consider using a line or two from the lyrics of your favorite love song.
Take some time to read through a variety of wedding readings, as well as passages of poetry and famous writings about love. There you may find some special lines that speak to you that you can use when you write your own. Humorous and touching? Poetic and mushy? It’s your call. If you have a world of emotions and feelings that you want to portray in your personal promises but just can’t seem to make it all come together on paper, then share what you are feeling with a friend and ask for their assistance. Your minister has heard hundreds of ways that love has been expressed at weddings so he or she would be a good place to begin.
Another idea is to visit a Hallmark card store. You know the cards I’m talking about; the tall, slim, romantic cards. Find one that says what you would like to say to your partner, buy the card and mix up some of your own words with those in the card and you’re on your way.
Take your time. Don’t rush. This doesn’t need to be done in one setting. Dedicate quality time to preparing what you will say. In the months and weeks before the wedding, jot down your thoughts about the relationship, hopes for the future and the promises you would like to make.
Here is a great tip from the Wedding Channel: “You might be surprised how effectively you can write. It’s the “getting it down on paper” that jams some people up. So don’t sit down to write. Instead, get a tape recorder. Find a private place. Maybe put on some music, but softly, so you don’t obscure your voice on the tape. Then, just speak. Say what you really want to say. Be honest. Don’t worry about the words.
Take your time, talk more than you need to, if that will help. Then replay the tape. Find the phrases or sentences that really work, that communicate your true intent. If something on the tape makes you laugh, cry, smile, it’s a winner. Copy it all down, without worrying about grammar, completeness, or the order of the ideas. You might want to write each phrase on a separate index card. Then begin to determine an order for the cards. You can arrange and rearrange them until you get it just right. Fill in any gaps if needed. Then transcribe it all onto complete pages. Guess what? That’s writing.”
Leave your outline be for awhile. Continue about your day-to-day life, thinking about what you’ve written and elaborating within your own head any new ideas you might like to add. Come back to them when you feel ready. Look at your vows with a fresh pair of eyes and decide where to make edits.
Practice several times by reading what you’ve written “out loud” in front of a mirror. When you feel comfortable with what you have written, re-write the words on an index card and read them to your partner during the ceremony. You’re way less likely to be nervous about remembering them if you know you have an index card backup. Be comfortable enough with the words that you can say them in the most loving way possible.
Your nerves may kick in when the big moment arrives. That’s a good reason to NEVER try to memorize your personal promises. That would be a big mistake. If you are a little nervous, you might forget something or get stuck. Not good. Always read them to your partner.
I repeat. . . always write what you are going to say on an index card. It is a good idea not to tell your partner what you will be saying. Let it be a nice surprise during the ceremony. This is a good place to add a little humor to the ceremony. Your words can be humorous or humorous mixed with some serious promises. Suggestion: Begin with something romantic, then something humorous, and always close with something romantic. It works best if the guests are in on the humor.
You may want to consider writing something together and have the minister either read them for you or read a few words at a time as you repeat a few words at a time to each other.
Make sure your officiant will allow you to write some of your own personal promises. There are certain religions which do not allow tampering with vows and rituals. Catholic and Episcopal congregations, for instance, may require you to recite all or part of the traditional vows.
Here is an example to get your juices flowing: “On this day our two lives become one. The love we have dreamed of and prayed for is ours forever at last. Your sweet love blesses me beyond measure. You are my best friend, you understand me, and you know me like no other knows me. I entrust to you my heart, so filled with love for you. I promise to forever love and care for your heart, never to intentionally break it, never seeking to hurt it, always seeking to love it, for it is precious to me. Today as I give you my life, I want nothing more than to journey down this road together, following whatever path it might lead us on, to be there always for you and with you.”
Some couples I talk with become quite self-conscious when even thinking about writing their own personal promises. Remember, you don’t have to be a creative writer to write what you feel in your heart. Think about your feelings for your partner and your love for each other. Compile your notes, memories and reflections into short and romantic sentences. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to express your love for your partner. Just remember to sneak the words, “I love you” in there someplace. Avoid over-analyzing or second-guessing yourself excessively.
Say what’s in your heart!
Copyright © 2014 – Larry James. Reprinted with permission. This article is adapted from Larry’s book, "How to Really Love the One You're With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship," his Wedding Website and Wedding Blog. Larry James is a non-denominational minister and performs the most “Romantic” wedding ceremony you will find anywhere! You will find more than 475 pages of Wedding articles, ideas, tips (90 tips and growing), ceremonies, and more at: http://www.CelebrateIntimateWeddings.com. Wedding Blog: http://CelebrateIntimateWeddings.wordpress.com.