How to Plan a Custom Wedding Ceremony – Tips from a Michigan Wedding Planner

Are you overwhelmed with planning your wedding ceremony? Nicole Marsh is a wedding planner and owner of Compose Events. Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Nicole caters to brides all over my home state and is here to help you. 

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If you want to plan a custom wedding ceremony but don't know where to begin, dive into our interview with Nicole to kickoff your planning process. 

What's your background as a wedding planner? Tell us a bit about your business.

Working in the wedding industry is a dream! After spending six years producing and designing both corporate and social events nationally, it was a natural transition for myself into weddings. I was missing the intimate client connections and creative design aspects of corporate events.

Being able to work with gorgeous venues, florals and gracious couples has made the transition from corporate event planning to wedding planning so seamless and truly enjoyable. 

We specialize in servicing brides from the metro Detroit area who are getting married in northern Michigan.

We have a second home studio based in northern Michigan, so we are able to service our couples both locally and on-site without charging overnights and limiting travel fees.

We have been able to spend a lot of time in both markets, researching venues and curating relationships with vendors alike, not to mention fully immersing ourselves in the northern Michigan culture to truly understand how remarkable their wedding experience will be there. 

When it comes to planning a custom wedding ceremony, what advice would you give couples?

Make it personal to you and each other. It can be hard but try to not let parents or society pressures affect your decisions.

Ultimately, it is the two of you making the declaration of marriage and the wedding ceremony should represent your relationship. Have fun with it and don’t be afraid to step outside the box.

What are the biggest challenges couples face while planning their wedding ceremony and how can they overcome them? 

So many couples are torn between a religious ceremony to please parents and grandparents and doing a more personal ceremony that they want to have.

I have so many brides dreading their ceremonies because they don’t want a long mass but want to honor their parent’s wishes, which I completely understand.

Recently, we have been coming up with alternatives such as private vows during a first look or intimate photo session.

Many couples are opting to write their own vows instead of using traditional wedding vows. From a wedding planner's perspective, what should couples keep in mind when writing their own vows?

I don’t like when people vow to clean the toilet every week or cook dinner. I don’t like to think about household chores during a ceremony.

Your wedding vows should dig deeper to the core of your love and your relationship. I love when a bit of humor and personality shows through such as an inside joke.

There really is no format and it's important to just speak from the heart.

Also, if you choose not to memorize your vows, be mindful of what you are reading from. I remember, I had a tattered piece of paper in my hand while my husband had this beautiful leather bound book to read from.

For couples who are having a friend or family member officiate their ceremony, what tips do you have for them? 

Provide a general outline for what you would like to follow. This should include some elements you absolutely want to include and elements you do not want to include within the wedding ceremony such as the ring exchange, prayers and readings. 

Let your wedding officiant surprise you and try not to micromanage, as you have entrusted them with your wedding ceremony.

Make sure this is a person that isn’t fleeting in your life but will be a constant presence in the future and is connected to the two of you.

What should couples prepare for when planning to write their own ceremony?

It can be overwhelming at first but searching the internet for some samples is a great way to start.

Develop an outline of pieces you want to include in your ceremony such as a unity prayer, readings and custom vows. This is a great second step.

Provide your wedding officiant with some pieces that are important to you or provide samples of wedding ceremonies you love. Remember to let the officiant take the lead. 

Be clear about the length of time as well. Many couples tell me their ceremony will 20 to 30 minutes then ten minutes later the bride is walking back down the aisle and the food isn’t ready for guests yet.

And of course, don’t be afraid to let your personality and love story shine through!

Thanks, Nicole! 

Still need help planning your custom wedding ceremony? At Wedding Words, we not only help couples write customized wedding vows, we also design wedding ceremonies

Let's chat


(Photo Cover Credit: Light Garden Photography)

The Prettiest Vow Booklets for Your Personalized Wedding Vows

Have you finished writing your wedding vows? Then you're probably trying to decide how to present them at your wedding ceremony. 

We must warn you now. Do not read your wedding vows off of your phone! Trust us. Your wedding photographer and videographer will not be happy. Neither will you when you see how your coloring is washed out and distorted due to the glare from your phone. Plus, years from now, it will look pretty dated. 

Many couples print off their unique wedding vows or handwrite them and hold the piece of paper. This is a fine approach but why not kick it up a notch?

Wedding vow booklets are a pretty and polished way to present your own wedding vows. Not to mention, these adorable vow holders will be an additional accessory for your wedding photographs. 

Here are some of our favorite wedding vow booklets for the big day. Check out more on our wedding vow booklet Pinterest board too. 

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These are ideal vow holders for the couple who wants their booklets to match their wedding colors. Through this Etsy shop owner, you can choose from a large selection of colors for the booklet and various metallic inks for the wording. 

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For a The Proclaimers fan or for any couple with a cute sense of humor—these are the vow booklets for you. (Personally, I can't help but picture Ted and Marshall on their road trips...) Check out this Etsy shop to create your own wedding vow booklet. 

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Talk about romance! These elegant wedding vow holders are perfect for a wedding full of intimate details. The calligraphy and linen ribbon are a sweet look for your unique wedding vows. These vow booklets can be found at this Etsy shop

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These rustic wedding vow booklets are for the couple who wants to handwrite their own wedding vows. Each vow holder is actually a tiny notebook, full of pages for you to write personalized vows. Check out this Etsy shop to pick out your own colors for each booklet too. 

Not quite ready to pick out your vow booklet because you still need to actually write your own wedding vows? We got you. At Wedding Words, we work with couples as unique as your love story to collaborate and create custom written wedding vowsGet in touch today to learn how we can work together. 

10 Ways to Get Inspired While Writing Your Own Wedding Vows

You’ve decided to write your own wedding vows but where do you begin? It’s as if writers block set in the moment you decided to write custom wedding vows. As a professional vow writer at Wedding Words, I’ve found that the key to overcoming challenges associated with writing personalized vows is for couples to get inspired!

What will motivate you to write what’s in your heart? If you want to write your own vows but are feeling stuck—this guide is for you. Here are ten ways to get inspired while writing your own wedding vows.

#1: Play Your Song: Have you ever played a song on repeat because the vibe was the exact energy and inspiration you needed in that moment? Try doing this with your song. You know—the one that tells the love story of your fiancé and you.

Maybe you even have a playlist of songs that stir up memories from over the course of your relationship. Press play and put pen to paper.

#2: Revisit Your First Date: Where was your first date? Can you cuddle up in the corner booth of that coffee shop or sit and have a drink at that bar? Bring a notepad and scribble down thoughts as you relive the memory of that first date and the journey you’ve taken from then until now.

Try to order the same meal you two shared. Tap into all your senses to relive that moment. Each experience will awaken nostalgic inspiration.

#3: Stroll Down Memory Lane: Flip through photo albums on Facebook or the hundreds of pictures you have stored on your phone. You’ll likely come across pictures that remind you of memories you hadn’t thought about in a while. You never know which picture could be the one to trigger an idea for your personalized wedding vows.

#4: Remember that First I Love You: While you’re walking down memory lane, turn left at the corner where you both said I love you for the first time. Where were you? How were you feeling? How did you react?

Mentally relive the moment. Take notes as you recollect the experience. This could serve as valuable and vulnerable material for your own unique wedding vows.

#5: Get Creative: What’s your creative outlet? Grab your paintbrush, camera, or journal—whatever it is—and stretch your creative muscle.

Once you tap into your creativity, your subconscious will take over. You’ll have a new, invigorated sense of how you want to tackle your vow writing. The artwork you create could easily transform into words for your own vows too.

#6: Go on a Date: Get dressed up and grab your fiancé for a date night. Going out together for a fun night will ignite that spark in you that could spark inspiration for vow writing.

Try a date that gets you both interacting like mini-golf or a painting class. Avoid dates that don’t allow you to to really connect like seeing a movie. The idea is to reconnect so you can use that loving feeling as inspiration for your wedding vows.

#7: Talk with Your Friends and Family: Sometimes we’re so close to our relationships, it’s hard to see what makes it truly unique and special. Gain another perspective.

Ask your friends and family members about your relationship. What did they think when you first brought him home for dinner? How do they view your compatibility?

Seeing your relationship through their eyes could provide some new encouragement for your personalized wedding vows.

#8: Reflect on the Hard Times: Often, it’s having endured the hardest parts of our relationship that make us strong.

What were some of the more challenging moments during your relationship? How did your fiancé support you during those times? Consider what you can learn about your love from how you two experienced the not-so-shiny times together.  

#9: Forget Wedding Planning: From the moment that ring entered your relationship, most of your waking thoughts and conversations have become centered around floral arrangements, seating charts, and cake toppers. Ditch the wedding planning talk for a bit. Allow space for your relationship to flourish like it did pre-wedding planning.

As much as you might enjoy debating the benefits of a chocolate fountain over a decorate-your-own-doughnut-bar—it’s not where your focus needs to be for writing personalized wedding vows.

When you let go of fixating over every wedding detail for a few days, you’ll gain clarity on your relationship outside of the wedding. And that’s just what you need to write unique wedding vows.

#10: Work with a Coach: Most of us are not writers. Turn to a wedding vow writer to help coach you through the process. At Wedding Words, I work with couples to write custom wedding vows and coach them through how to deliver their vows with confidence.

6 Ideas for How to Write Your Own Vows When Your Church Won't Allow It

You’ve chosen to write your own wedding vows but there’s one hiccup—your church won’t allow it. Many religious ceremonies do not authorize couples to read their own vows.

In these cases, couples become stuck between a rock and a religious hard place—you want to get married in your church but you also really want to read your own wedding vows.

What can you do? As a professional wedding vow writer at Wedding Words, here are my six ideas for how to honor your religion and your creative expression during your wedding day.

Idea #1: Do Traditional Wedding Vows and Custom Wedding Vows: Talk with your church leader to see if in addition to reading the traditional wedding vows, you can also share personalized wedding vows.

For extremely traditional churches, this may still be frowned upon but it’s worth asking. My mom has always said, “don’t ask…don’t get.”

Make the suggestion and see what they say. The worst that can happen is they say no and in that case, try some of the other tips below.

Idea #2: Write a Love Letter: Before the wedding ceremony have your maid of honor deliver a personal love letter to your fiancé. He can have one ready for you too. Write down your wishes for your marriage. Detail the reasons you love him. Share the promises you are making for your marriage.

You may not be able to read your own vows in front of your guests during the ceremony—but this love letter will honor the spirit of wedding vows. Plus, you’ll have a written keepsake to cherish throughout your marriage.

Idea #3: Share Your Vows During Your First Look: Maybe you were already planning to do a first look. If you weren’t, you may want to consider it now.

The first look is an ideal time on your wedding day to share your own wedding vows.

Once the photographer has finished capturing your first look, have them give you ten minutes to be alone. It’s quiet and intimate—before you’ll spend the rest of your day with guests. This is a special moment when you can read your own vows and soak up the experience together.

Idea #4: Don’t Read Vows—Read a Poem: Many churches prohibit unique wedding vows but they will allow other forms of expression such as readings or poetry. This becomes a logistical change but it still gives you the opportunity to express how you feel.

Write how you feel about your fiancé and ask the church if you can have time within the ceremony dedicated to a special reading. They won’t technically be called custom wedding vows—but you’ll both know these words are intended to be a unique expression of your love.  

Idea #5: Sneak Them into the Ceremony: Who says your wedding vows need to be long enough for anyone to even recognize them as your vows? There’s always those few seconds when the bride first approaches her groom. He often whispers something to her—you look beautiful, I love you.

Discuss the concept of coming up with one-line vows to share when you first see each other at the altar. Look at it as a fun challenge for how to convey your love for each other in just a few words.

Idea #6: Gift Your Vows During Your First Day of Marriage: If you don’t have time to read your own unique wedding vows during the ceremony but you still want to express your own words to frame your marriage—then frame them—literally.

Agree to write custom wedding vows before your wedding and get them framed before the ceremony. When you arrive home for the first time as a married couple, gift each other your personalized vows.

It will be heartwarming to hear unique vows that describe what you promise each other and what you adore about the other person. Especially, after the noise of the big day is gone and it’s just the two of you.

Hang your vows as a sentimental keepsake. They can also act as a reminder throughout your marriage of what you’ve promised each other.

When your religious institution says no to personalized wedding vows, these ideas should help you determine how best to still weave in your personal love story.

Struggling to write your own vows? I’m Katelyn—professional wedding vow writer. I collaborate with couples to put their heart into words and I’d love to work with you. Come visit me at Wedding Words and get in touch so we can start collaborating together.

6 Tips for How to Convince Your Fiancé to Write His Vows

Do you adore the idea of writing your own wedding vows but your fiancé is not on board? With wedding planning comes compromises. Band or DJ? Roses or peonies? If you’re set on wanting to write your own vows but am struggling to convince your fiancé, these six tips will get him excited to write his own wedding vows. 

Tip #1: Show Him Examples: We often fear what we don’t know. Share wedding videos with your fiancé that show couples reading their own vows. I collaborate with videographers and they all say the same thing—personalized wedding vows make the wedding video more special and unique.

Search YouTube or your favorite wedding videographer’s websites for examples to show your fiancé. Once he views custom vows in action, he may warm up to the concept.  

Tip #2: Talk with Married Couples: Discuss custom wedding vows with your married couple friends. What did they do for their wedding? Ask your friends why they chose to write their own wedding vows? How did they end up feeling about that decision?

For your friends who went with traditional wedding vows, find out how they felt. Did they regret not having something more personal?

We’re always more likely to buy in to an idea, product, or service when a friend recommends it.

Tip #3: Explain Why It Matters to You: The why that motivates what we want is so important. It provides context and meaning to our desires. Why is writing your own vows important to you? Share this truthfully with your fiancé.

For most couples I work with, they choose to write their own vows because it feels more personal to their relationship. Reading unique wedding vows allows you to express your love story in a way that traditional vows simply can’t.

Be honest with your fiancé about the why. It may help him further understand. Plus, he may even discover he shares the same desires that are driving you to want to write your own vows.

Tip #4: Get Him Help: Many people are not comfortable trying to articulate their feelings. If your fiancé is avoiding vow writing because he feels it’s overwhelming and out of his wheelhouse, hire him help.

At Wedding Words, I collaborate with brides and grooms to put their heart into words. The process is completely custom.

Through a video call, I voice record him sharing stories about your relationship, what he adores about you, and why he wants to spend the rest of his life with you. As the vow writer, I take his words and create custom wedding vows. It’s all his heart. I just do the framing, editing, and take the fear and stress out of the entire process.

Tip #5: Imagine the Memory of Your Wedding 30 Years from Now: How do you want to remember your wedding day? What aspects will be important to you after the cake is gone and the last song has played?

The promises you make during your wedding ceremony is your send-off into marriage. You can say traditional wedding vows but will this capture the unique promises you have for your future marriage and spouse?

Along with your wedding photographs and video, your wedding vows can be one of the most sentimental and meaningful keepsakes from your wedding.

If you choose to write your own vows, honor their meaning and remember the words by framing your vows. You can hang the frame above your bed, or any personal area in your home you’ll frequently see. These words can serve as a loving reminder of what your relationship represents from your first day of marriage and throughout the years to come. 

When your fiancé imagines how personalized wedding vows can play a role in your marriage like this, it may convince him to embrace the words that will frame your future.

Tip #6: Compromise: If your fiancé still adamantly opposes personalized wedding vows, find a compromise.

Instead of reading your own vows during the wedding ceremony in front of 200 guests, carve out time during the wedding day to read your own vows when it’s just the two of you. The first look is a nice and intimate time to share your unique wedding vows.

Another option is to write your own vows in a love letter format. Have your maid of honor deliver the note to him. You can read each other’s love letter before the ceremony. This is also an opportunity to read something personal outload so your videographer can use something custom to weave throughout your video.