You don’t have to be a great writer to write great wedding vows. Maybe you’re like a Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation) when it comes to writing your wedding vows — “The first draft of my vows, which I wrote the day after we got engaged, clocked in at around 70 pages.” Or you might be more of a Bella Swan (Twilight) — “When I first learned I was going to write my own vows, I panicked. I looked at the paper for hours, no words coming to mind.” Either way, we have a fail-proof guide that will help you write romantic and authentic wedding vows.
We’re going to start with the origin of vows, give you tips, inspiration — and a step-by-step guide to get started!
Photo // Catie Ann Photography
The Origin of Wedding Vows
The origin of wedding vows goes back to ancient times. During the Roman Empire, when a bride’s father would “deliver” her to the groom, the couple would agree that they were wed and kept the vow of marriage by mutual agreement.
The traditional vows we know today that vow “to have and hold from this day forward…” are one of the oldest wedding traditions going back to the medieval times when the Book of Common Prayer was published in 1549.
There are variations, but they started out like this —
“I (name) take thee (name) to my wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.”
Flash forward to today and couples are blending tradition and culture together with their own unique love story and personality by writing their own vows.
Myths About Writing Your Wedding Vows
Don’t let the task of writing your wedding vows intimidate you because of outdated myths about it. Here are some myths that may be stopping you from writing your vows.
1. You have to be a great writer.
Not true. Feel free to quote famous writers, but you don’t have to be one to create beautiful vows. Your wedding vows are about writing what’s in your heart and making promises to someone you are building a life with. It doesn’t need to be perfect — it only needs to be meaningful. Don’t worry about if it’s the greatest thing ever written.
2. You have to memorize them.
Don’t let the movies or books you’ve seen (while wonderful) make you think you have to know your vows by heart in order for them to be authentic. That’s putting undue pressure on yourself. Reading your own vows during the ceremony is a great way to be in the moment and not worried about remembering your speech in front of a large crowd on one of the biggest days in your life. Plus, that piece of paper or beautiful notebook becomes a keepsake for your family in generations to come.
3. You have to do them by yourself — or it’s not authentic or romantic.
This is a sneaky one because it is important that the vows come from your heart and your perspective, but there’s no shame in getting help making sure you clearly communicate what you’re feeling. This help could come from friends or family — or it could come from a professional wedding vow writer. That’s right. There are wedding vow writers that help you take what you’re feeling and craft something epic, if that’s important to you.
4. You can’t have traditional vows and write your own.
Traditional vows, especially ones that are intrinsic to the ceremony, can be beautiful and even necessary in some cultures or venues. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own personal messages with promises to each other during the ceremony. This can come at the beginning of the ceremony or even after the traditional vows just before the pronouncement.
Wedding Vow Inspiration
Even the most skilled poet needs inspiration and the same is true for you when writing your own vows. Before you can start writing your wedding vows you’ll want to look for inspiration.
Here’s a great example of what writing your wedding vows can look like.
Videographer: Transform Visuals
(Click here to watch more examples of couples sharing their vows on our Youtube channel.)
On-Screen Wedding Vows
We’ve talked about how you don’t have to be a good writer to write good vows, but there’s no harm in pulling from your favorite on-screen (or page) couples for inspiration — or even to directly quote.
Here are some sample wedding vows from on-screen (or page) weddings and what inspiration you can take from them.
Paige and Leo (The Vow)
Inspiration: Make real promises both serious and silly that reflect your love and relationship.
Paige — I vow to help you love life, to always hold you with tenderness and to have the patience that love demands, to speak when words are needed and to share the silence when they are not, to agree to disagree on red velvet cake, and to live within the warmth of your heart and always call it home.
Leo — I vow to fiercely love you in all your forms, now and forever. I promise to never forget that this is a once-in-a-lifetime love. And to always know in the deepest part of my soul that no matter what challenges might carry us apart, we will always find our way back to each other.
Julian and Brooke (One Tree Hill)
Inspiration: Tell them how they have changed your life and why you love them.
Julian — Brooke, before I met you I thought my world had everything I needed to be happy. I had nothing else to compare it to, then you walked into my life and everything changed. I realized how empty my world was without you in it, and my old life was no longer capable of making me happy … not without you. I love everything about you, Brooke. I love the way you challenged me like no one ever has. I love the way you look at me like no one ever has, and I love the way you love me like no one ever has. I can’t imagine spending my life without you, and if you say “yes” to me in a few minutes, I won’t have to. You look beautiful by the way.
Brooke — Julian, before I met you my world revolved around one thing … me. And I like it that way — on my own, but then I met you and you saw through the facade. You saw me. You’ve taught me to trust, how to let someone in, and what it truly means to fall in love. I can’t possibly describe how much I love you, so I’ll tell you why I love you. You see the world in a way that no one else does and you appreciate everything, including me. There’s no one in the world like you, and if you say “yes” in a few minutes, I’ll get to spend the rest of my life trying to see the world through your eyes, appreciating everything, including you … the most unique, wonderful, and terribly handsome man I have ever met.
Leslie and Ben (Parks and Recreation)
Inspiration: Allow each other to create vows that reflect your unique personalities and perspectives. They don’t have to match.
Ben — In my time working for the state government, my job sent me to 46 cities in 11 years. I lived in villages with eight people, rural farming communities, college towns. I was sent to every corner of Indiana. And then I came here, and I realized that this whole time I was just wandering around everywhere, just looking for you.
Leslie — The things that you have done for me, to help me, support me, surprise me, to make me happy, go above and beyond what any person deserves. You’re all I need. I love you and I like you.
Ben — I love you and I like you.
Phoebe and Mike (Friends)
Inspiration: Let your quirkiness shine through and don’t try to fit a fancy mold — just be your authentic self.
Phoebe — When I was growing up, I didn’t have a normal mom and dad, or a regular family like everybody else, and I always knew that something was missing. But now I’m standing here today, knowing that I have everything I’m ever gonna need. You are my family.
Mike — Phoebe, you are so beautiful. You’re so kind, you’re so generous, you’re so wonderfully weird. Every day with you is an adventure. I can’t believe how lucky I am, and I can’t wait to share my life with you forever.
Phoebe — Oh wait, I forgot! And, um…I love you. And you have nice eyes.
Mike — I love you too.
Topanga and Cory (Boy Meets World)
Inspiration: Recount your love story, reflect on the obstacles you’ve overcome, and share your hopes for the future.
Topanga — I wasn’t sure this day would ever come, but you were. I wasn’t sure love could survive everything we put it through, but you were. You were always strong and always sure. And now I know I want you to stand beside me for the rest of my life. That’s what I’m sure of.
Cory — Ever since I was young I never understood anything about the world, and I never understood anything that happened in my life. The only thing that ever made sense to me was you, and how I felt about you. That’s all I’ve ever known, and that’s enough, that’s enough for me, for the rest of my life.
(This list wouldn’t be complete without some of the most romantic confessions in literature. While they are technically proposals, it’s great vow inspiration!)
Pride and Prejudice (Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet)
Inspiration: Let the great writers of history be your partner. If a quote or passage from a story reflects how you feel, quote it and let it help you speak from your heart.
Mr. Darcy on when he first fell in love with Elizabeth (Book) — I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.
Mr. Darcy (Screenplay) — You have bewitched me body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. And wish from this day forth never to be parted from you.
Anne of Green Gables (Anne to Gilbert)
Inspiration: Use your previous conversations or shared history to add extra meaning to your vows.
Anne quoting herself from a previous conversation— I don’t want diamond sunbursts or marble halls. I just want you.
A Guide for Writing Your Wedding Vows
Now that you’ve been inspired, it’s time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to start writing!
While each person’s vows are unique to them and their story, here is a guide to get you started. The result from this simple prompt will be authentic, meaningful content to create your own beautiful wedding vows.
Remember, this doesn’t have to be long or fancy, just write what comes to mind.
- Write down your love story.
- Write down what the moment was that you first knew you loved them.
- Write down the greatest blessing(s) having them in your life has brought you.
- Write down three things that you love most about them.
- Write down one reason you want to marry them.
- Write down why you want to go through life together with them.
- Write down what you hope to bring to their life.
- Describe how you feel about building a life with them.
- Describe how you see going through life together.
- Look back at what you’ve written and write three promises (or vows) that show your commitment to making that a reality.
This will help you get a general structure to your vows. You’ll start to see a theme and be able to pick the most important elements out. Even if you would love to get professional help, this will be invaluable information to do that as well.
Pro Tips to Keep You On Track
- Consider your venue restrictions before writing your vows. Some places require certain traditional vows, but may allow a personalization before or after the official vows. Talk to your venue or wedding planner for confirmation.
- It’s not recommended to write your wedding vows together with your significant other, but do talk about expectations. You don’t want to have a five-minute monologue on one side and a single sentence on another.
- If you want professional help writing, your wedding planner is a great source of help to either find a professional writer or to give you feedback directly.
- Read your vows aloud to see how long they are, and be sure to practice before the big day.
- Don’t leave this task until the last minute. Tweaks and changes are fine, but it’s best to have this ready in advance. A month to two weeks before the big day is a great timeline for having the finished product.
- Start gathering inspiration now, do the writing prompt, and let that simmer for a while before you start writing.
For more inspiration on wedding vows, check out our real couples’ wedding videos on our YouTube Channel to see how different couples tackled this task. Happy writing!