There are no wedding vows in the Bible, although the vow made to her mother-in-law by Ruth perhaps sums up what should be the vow made by any couple to each other: “I mean to go where you go, and live where you live. Your people will be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I shall die…nothing but death will part us”. More light-heartedly, until the end of the Middle Ages, the bride used to promise the groom “to be bonny and buxom at bed and at board”. Perhaps one of the hardest things about writing your own vows is to strike a happy medium between these two examples! Before putting pen to paper, however, one of the most difficult questions to answer, although seemingly one of the easiest, is “What does marriage mean to me?” “Why do I want to be married?” To answer this you need to have a full and frank discussion with your partner. You may find, for example, that you both seek to grow in strength and understanding together, to share your joys and sorrows, to nurture your children, and perhaps above all to be the greatest of friends. Then you are ready to retire to a quiet place, free of distractions, reflect on your feelings, and write from the heart .
Be careful! Remember when you start that this is not the finished product. You may up with a mere list of ideas. Take heart! Not everybody can write deathless prose. There is plenty of time for editing, and it is a good idea to take a trusted friend into your confidence to bounce ideas off them. But whilst your friend may be able to give you fresh ideas, do not permit them to influence your own style. It is YOU who will be saying your vows, so try to avoid the stilted prose of a school essay written to be marked by somebody else. And whilst we are on the subject, practise! Practise until you sound as genuine as you feel! This is not as simple as it sounds, as any good actor will testify. If you want to be humorous, remember that it is not that easy to walk the line between gentle chuckling humour and slapstick comedy. Conversely, you should avoid the temptation to be so romantic that you descend into schmaltz. Your wedding day is special and personal and your vows should reflect this. In this regard it may be that you want to include brief references to experiences that you have enjoyed together in the past, but if this is the case try to avoid being obscure. A classic example of this occurred at one wedding when the bride looked adoringly at her groom and murmured “I am the gravy stain on your tie”! Much of the remaining ceremony was taken up with guests wondering what this was in aid of! If, however, you come up with something like “I will return your serves and do my best not to foot fault”, everybody will know what you are talking about.
Perhaps mention should be made as to how you will deliver your vows. Will you learn them off by heart? Will you read them? Will you repeat them after the celebrant? The first two options permit you to be the most natural, but nerves might dictate that the third option is the most preferable. If you decide to learn them, make sure that the celebrant has a copy so that he/she can prompt if necessary. The last thing that you want to do is dry up!