I love to focus on the positive so creating a “what not to do guide” for writing your wedding vows felt a little off-putting, at first. But this isn’t a pessimistic perspective to vow writing. This is a roadmap to rescue you from making unintentional accidents while at the altar.
Like Andie Anderson said about her dating column idea in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, “…it will be a sort of dating “How To” in reverse.”
So here’s my vow writing how to guide…in reverse. What not to do when it comes to writing and presenting your wedding vows.
#10. Read your wedding vows off of your phone: Despite us living in a time where our phones have become a necessary accessory, ditch your iPhone for the wedding ceremony. It looks tacky and will eventually appear dated in your photographs. But more than that, the glow from your phone will actually alter the coloring on your face in video and photographs. Write your wedding vows on paper. You can even pretty up the presentation by using his and her vow holders which can be found on stores like Etsy.
#9. Avoid eye contact: When we’re nervous, we avoid making eye contact. It can feel safer to keep your eyes glued to your wedding vows rather than look up and see 150 guests staring at you. Fear not. There’s really only one person you need to connect with—your fiancé. Look up. You’re not going to want to forget this moment or the look on his face as you become husband and wife.
#8. Speak very quietly and quickly: You may be soft-spoken by nature but when it comes to public speaking, this is something for you to work on. Practice reading your vows at a higher volume than you think you should. The speed by which you speak is also important. Error on the side of slower. Your mind is racing but trust me, you’re speaking way too fast for anyone, including your love, to keep up with you. Take a deep breath and take it slowly
#7. Don’t use a microphone: Everyone involved in the wedding ceremony should be using a microphone. This is especially important if your venue is outside with distracting and competing sounds like ocean waves. Don’t use a microphone and it’s very likely your guests won’t be able to hear your vows or the rest of the ceremony.
#6. Speak for longer than 5 minutes: You know the saying, “short and sweet?” This is how your wedding vows should be. Pack all of your sentimental wishes, thoughts, and hopes into two to four minute vows. Otherwise, your guests will begin to fade in and out of your reading. If you focus on telling the most important aspects of your relationship and know how to edit your vows correctly, you can say everything your heart desires in this amount of time. Five minutes is the maximum amount of time each person should spend reading their vows. This is about 650 words. Practice reading your vows while timing yourself to ensure you’re not going on for too long.
#5. Don’t Practice: When it comes to publically performing anything, people practice. While your wedding ceremony is not a Broadway show, you will be speaking in front of a crowd. To feel more confident and sound polished, you must practice. You can practice reading your vows in front of a trusted friend who is sure to give you constructive feedback. Or, simply video record yourself. It may be hard to watch yourself at first but it’s better to notice those nervous ticks now than to discover them while watching your wedding video.
#4. Wing it: Some couples skip writing their vows in advance of the ceremony to spontaneously speak from the heart instead. While this might sound romantic in theory, the results can be cringe worthy. Avoid stumbling to find the right words and experiencing long pauses that are mixed in with nervous “um’s.” Schedule some time during the wedding planning to write your vows in advance.
#3. Choose clichés: You don’t need to be a Pulitzer Prize winning writer to create beautifully written wedding vows. However, there are some prose traps to avoid. The biggest is to not include clichés. You know, those sayings that are used so often they become trite, empty sounding, and meaningless. Skip the saying, “It was love at first sight,” to describe your relationship. It’s cliché! Instead, really think about it was like the first moment you met. Use all your senses. What did it sound, taste, feel like? When you use this method, it will not only force you to avoid clichés but you’ll come up with a sentence that will describe in a much more personal way what it was really like when you first met.
#2. Write using a wedding vow writing template: There are plenty of “wedding vow writing templates” you can find online to aid in this wedding task. But what’s the point in writing custom wedding vows if you’re going to use a standardized template? If you’re not sure where or how to get started, I suggest a brainstorm. Put on some music that inspires thoughts of your relationship and start scribbling down words, pictures, and quotes about your love. This exercise gets your creativity jolted and will kick start your vow writing. Still stuck? Consider hiring help. As a professional vow writer, I collaborate with brides and grooms to write personalized wedding vows.
#1. Mention your ex: Just don’t do it.
Those are my 10 things to never include with your wedding vows. And just as Andie Anderson said to Benjamin Barry in the final scene of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, ”I meant every word.”