Vows from the Heart
A Guide for finding the right words on your big day
By: Dr. Spencer L. Gaines
As a person who has had the honor and happiness of joining hundreds of couples, I have always been surprised how few couples take the opportunity to communicate to his or her beloved, how he or she feels. In many instances, it is a matter of nerves. There is no doubt that with so many people celebrating the big day, that the last thing anyone wants to do is get stage freight. In other instance, the couple are private people who only share their deepest emotions and feelings with each other. However, in most instances, it comes down to simply not being able to gather those thoughts, feelings, and emotions to a single writing. This article examines writing and delivering those special words for your big day. By the way, you do not have to be William Shakespeare to write and deliver something so beautiful that your fiancé will think that you paid a professional writer to craft your vows.
Begin with the end in mind…
Vows are no different than any other type of creative writing. You need to ask yourself, “What is the ultimate goal of what I am trying to convey to him or her?” It all begins with an outline then, transitioning the outline into the writing. Here is an example:
- What do you mean to me?
- Without you I would not have happiness.
- I would give my life for yours.
- You complete me
- You motivate me to be a better person.
- You support me.
- This is what I promise:
- I promise to always be there for you
- I vow to support your growth and development
- I promise to be a great parent
- I vow to be the first person you see every morning and the last one you see before you close your eyes.
- I promise not to drink out of the milk container, leaves my dirty laundry on the floor, and put the toilet seat back down.
- I vow to stand up for you and protect you.
- I promise to love your children as if they were my own.
- Words of endearment:
- We are about to set off on an amazing journey and wherever we go, we go together
- I love you with all of my heart
- No one could be any prouder than I am of you.
- When my heart thinks of you-it smiles
- I want to grow old with you
These are just a few examples of the words and sentiments that will yield a wonder set of vows. In the end, the words must be yours and custom tailored to the person you will marry. At the end of this essay, I will give you an idea of what this outline could become when I transfer the about outline into a finished set of vows. Let’s now look at other aspects of the vows and the ceremony to help you prepare for vow success.
The role of the officiant…
One of the main questions that I am always asked is, “What is the difference between the average officiant and one that is considered a Premier Officiant?” To begin with, the average run of the mill officiant (Usually one that books his or herself at a budget rate), will simply quote the ceremony, take basic demographics on the, arrive at the venue 10 minutes early, and deliver the same old boring ceremony that by this point has been memorized. There is very little thought put into the words and in most instances, knows nothing of the couple.
In contrast, is the premium or premier officiant? This is the professional who is highly reviewed, posts pictures, slideshows, and videos of his or her work. The officiant has a professional website with all of the businesses’ information, and the case of my officiant practice, live one-on-one online chat service. It is all about going the extra mile. My couples will complete a premarital questionnaire before we meet. I use technology such as Zoom Pro and FaceTime we can see each other during our initial free consult. Being a premier officiant is having reliable and trusted vendor partners that the couple can connect with, if need be, communicating early on with the event planner, and fully understands the couple’s wants, needs, and vision for their big day.
Ultimately, the officiant is the MC (master of Ceremonies), wedding traffic cop, and for lack of better words –ring master. Also critical, is that the officiant is charged with ensuring that anything and everything pertaining to the ceremony unfolds seamlessly. Part of the process is the vows. When the couple elects to share their own vows, the writings must be in the officiant’s hands no later than a week out from the ceremony. For my business, I do this so I can read through what the couple wrote, make corrections (Grammar, spelling, and so forth), and to print the vows in separate holders…It is not the job of the bride or groom to have to think, go out of their way, or most importantly memorize the vows – when this happens, the vows often becomes a train wreck.
Production of the vows…
Here are a few helpful hints when preparing your vows for the ceremony:
- The final writing should be no more than a heart paragraph.
- When your vows are completed, it is a great idea to first read them aloud to see if you like the way it flows and it is communicating everything you want to say.
- If you are happy with your work then, read the vows to a person whose opinion you trust.
- Type the final version in Microsoft Word using New Times or Calibri font, it is recommended that you use at minimum 16 cap, and bold everything. Whether outdoors or inside for the ceremony, you want to make sure the vows are easy to read.
- DO NOT TRY TO MEMORIZE THE VOWS! I can almost guarantee you will get tripped up when reciting the vows to your future spouse.
- Most importantly, give both sets of vows to the officiant prior to the ceremony. This will reduce any chance of forgetting the vows or them getting mashed up in the groom’s pocket.
Sample set of wedding vows…
Susan, I have been waiting for this day my whole life. Without you I would not have happiness, because you complete me. These last 3 years has made be a better person and I am motivated to do even better. Thank you for all of the support that you continue to give me. For these reasons, I vow and promise to do the following:
I promise to always be there for you
I vow to support your growth and development
I promise to be a great parent
I vow to be the first person you see every morning and the last one you see before you close your eyes.
I promise not to drink out of the milk container, leaves my dirty laundry on the floor, and put the toilet seat back down.
I vow to stand up for you and protect you.
I promise to love your children as if they were my own.
My dearest wife, we are about to set off on an amazing journey and wherever we go, we go together. Although we are two separate individuals our journey will be as one. We will celebrate what makes each of us unique and celebrate each and every day how both our differences and similarities make our marriage so unique and special. I truly love you with all of my heart and speaking of my heart, it smiles every time I think of you. I want to grow old with you and I want you to know, that there is no one in this world that I am more proud or admire. I love you with all of my heart.
By using the outline created earlier, the actual writing is so much easier. You will also note, that the outline was not exactly, it simply served as first, a place to gather my thoughts, put order to what I wanted to say, and set the path. As I was writing the final set of vows, I moved some things around, changed some words, and in the end created a reasonable size writing that should take no longer than about 2 minutes to recite. Although the ceremony is all about the two of you, by the time the vows are to be recited, the guests are looking for things to finish up so you have to be respectful of them as well. In total, a complete ceremony should last no more than 30 minutes. A good officiant will be mindful of this and also deliver the ceremony in a way that is upbeat and entertaining.
Dr. Spencer L. Gaines
PremierOfficiant.com & ExpressVows.com: (Full service officiant services – southern Georgia to St. Augustine, Florida)
FloridaCountyClerk.com: Clerk authorized Florida Marriage License by Mail providers
Phone: (954) 822-0359