If I had a dollar for every time couples asked me this question, let’s just say I would be lying on a beach in the Bahamas sipping a cocktail.
There is really no right or wrong answer to this question and it is honestly nothing more than a consideration of what kind of person you are and if you feel confident with words and your ability to deliver them in front of a live audience. One thing that I have definitely noticed is that the ladies are always far more eager to take on this task than the gentlemen. Why? I really have no idea but for some reason it almost always seems to be the case all but for a few exceptions.
When I sit down to put together a ceremony with a couple, the vows is always the section that takes us the longest to work through. There are lots of options and different methods of delivery and it’s often hard to decide in advance what your level of confidence will be like on the day.
The easiest way to do this is to break it down into 2 sections and they are Delivery and Content:
Firstly, Delivery: Do you want to repeat them after the celebrant or priest?
Read them from a card or
Recite them from memory
Making a decision about which method of delivery you will use greatly affects your content but we will look at that in a moment.
Secondly, Content: Do you want to write something personal from the heart
Choose a standard vow (modern or traditional)
Adapt/reword a standard vow or one personally written
by someone else
by someone else
Choosing a particular mode of delivery directly affects your choice of content due to the fact that if you really want to repeat the words after the Celebrant/Priest then 2-3 lines is about the maximum length you can use. Something personally written is usually not a good choice in this instance because it tends to be longer than 2-3 lines and does not come across well to guests. Vows longer than 2-3 lines are not pleasant when repeated because as you can imagine the guests feel like they are watching a tennis match, celebrant says a couple words, bride repeats the words, celebrant says a couple more words, Bride repeats and so on and on and on and then it’s the grooms turn to do it all over again!
Repeat:If you choose the option repeating after the Celebrant/Priest, by far the best idea is to choose either a short standard Vow or a personal Vow that is no longer than about 3 lines in length (including the legal wording).
Read:If you are happy to read your Vows from a card then you are free to write anything you want as long as you ensure that the approx 2 lines that the Commonwealth stipulate must be said in order for your marriage to be valid (your celebrant or priest will discuss this with you).
Handy Hint: If you decide to write your own vows then a great thing to bring it all to life is to write your vows to each other secretly and submitted them to the Celebrant/Priest separately so that the other does not know what will be said on the day. This is wonderful and adds an element of excitement for you as the couple on the day. I have seen this leave couples sobbing when the words are spoken.
Recite: The final option is to recite your vows from memory. When I got married years nearly 13 years ago I remember the Deacon who married us saying that we MUST learn our vows because it is the one thing that we have to do for ourselves on the day. I understand his point about the fact that each person should make the effort to at least remember what they want to say to the other, but in all honesty it ruined my experience of my ceremony because I was so petrified of forgetting the vows that it was all I could think about or concentrate on rather than really enjoying my wedding day and having all of my family and friends together.
Since then I have only ever had two couples who were absolutely sure that they wanted to recite their vows from memory and they were practising right up until the last moment and ………. in both cases I ended up having to prompt them through it. It is not because they just suddenly forgot, it is because it is very difficult to anticipate how powerful it is standing up there and the rollercoaster of emotions that is consuming you as you look at each other with all of your loved ones looking on.
My final bit of info on this topic is just a small caution. If you are going to write your own vows and especially if you are going to keep them secret, MAKE SURE that you are on the same page in terms of the tone. For example I had a couple who submitted their vows separately and while his was a full page of gushing about how divine his beautiful bride to be was and how he had fallen in love with her from the instant he saw her, when I read her vows my heart almost skipped a beat. Her vows were a hilarious account of their life together and all of his bad habits that disgusted her and drove her crazy and how she loved him for it. Both were great stories, but it would have been a disaster for him to give his loving speech only for her to follow with her comedy routine.
When deciding on what to choose for your vows, talk to each other about it and try to find an option that you are both comfortable with. A good Celebrant or Priest will always have a stack of options and ideas so rely on their expertise to guide you in the right direction.
If you have any problems or questions at all, feel free to comment and I am more than happy to help.