How to Put the WOWS into Your Personal Vows

Newsflash!  One-of-a-kind weddings are seriously hot right now!  As a team of Celebrants, we’ve noticed that more and more couples are on the hunt for fresh ways to inject a huge dose of personality into their wedding.  So, while the traditional wedding day staples of churches, champagne toasts and matchy-matchy maids are seemingly out; unique venues, personalised cocktails and bespoke bride tribes are in!  What’s more, the trend for wedding personalisation doesn’t just stop at aesthetics; wedding ceremonies are getting personal too!

Gone are the days where couples and guests would simply endure a boring wedding ceremony in order to reach the fun part.  Nowadays, the ceremony gets the party started and with the ethos of Humanist ceremonies being ALL about personality, is there any wonder that there’s been a MASSIVE 1372% increase in couples choosing Humanist ceremonies?  Humanist ceremonies set the tone for a personality-packed big day!

While there are oodles of ways to inject a healthy dose of personality into your ceremony, one of our absolute favourites is when couples get creative and pen their own personal vows.

The trouble is that while writing and delivering personal vows seems a great idea in theory, the reality is that it’s a fairly daunting task, especially for those who aren’t natural “writers”.  With this in mind, we thought we would shine the spotlight on personal vows to help get those creative juices flowing. To kick off, we’ve answered some of your most frequently asked questions:

What exactly are personal vows?

Personal vows allow couples a moment within the ceremony to acknowledge and express their feelings to one another before making pledges & promises for the future.  The content of personal vows varies massively from couple to couple, but the general theme is one of emotion, humour, meaning and romance.  We like to think of personal vows as modern-day love letters.  Overwhelming as writing and reciting your vows might be, we reckon it’s well worth it.  Not only are you sharing your story, you’re giving your guests a peek into what makes your relationship special, and most importantly you’re sharing meaningful & significant words with the person you love.

Are personal vows legally binding?

Thankfully Humanist ceremonies are legally binding here in Scotland.  Therefore, in Scottish Humanist ceremonies there are effectively TWO vow sections within a ceremony; legal vows and personal vows.  While legal vows are an essential part of the ceremony where couples “repeat after me” and exchange rings, personal vows are entirely optional, but something we wholeheartedly think all couples should get stuck into!

Do we have to read our personal vows out aloud?

While most couples like to read their personal vows to each other, this is definitely not compulsory and if you’re anxious about this then your Celebrant will happily recite your vows for you.

At what point in the ceremony are personal vows taken?

We encourage our couples to read their personal vows before moving onto the formality of the exchange of rings.  In doing so, it makes for the perfect build up to the legally binding section of the ceremony.

Can we incorporate a symbolic gesture into the personal vows?

Absolutely!  Incorporating a symbolic gesture such as handfasting or the oathing stone ceremony into your personal vows serves as the perfect way to confirm your promises and pledges.

We really don’t want to write our own, is there an alternative?

Of course!  The prospect of writing and then reading something so intimate and personal to your partner in front of everybody you know can bring lots of couples out in cold sweat, but fear not!  There’s lots of “repeat after me” personal vow options, not to mention poetry and readings which can be recited by the Celebrant during a handfasting or symbolic gesture. Many couples choose to write a set of ‘promises’ which your Celebrant will read out on your behalf.  Alternatively, how about writing your vows in the form of a sealed love letter and exchanging them during the ceremony?  Your Celebrant will work this into the ceremony by explaining what is happening and how you will read them privately when you’re alone.

So, you’re inspired to write your own personal vows, but you don’t quite know where to start?  Check out our top tips below to give your personal vows some serious WOWS:

Top secret information!

We ALWAYS suggest that personal vows should be kept top secret from your other half until the big day, so no sharing thank you!  Your personal vows will be all the more meaningful, impactful and emotional if you’re hearing them for the very first time on your special day.  Think of your vows as the ultimate ‘money can’t buy’ wedding gift to each other.

Get on the same page

While we recommend keeping tight lipped about the content of your personal vows, it’s a very good idea to agree on the following:

  • Word count – you don’t want to get into the embarrassing situation where one of you reads a 2000 word love-a-thon while the other coughs out two sentences! For balance, agree on an approximate word count.
  • Tone – it’s also helpful to agree on the tone of your personal vows. If one set of vows reads like something out of a Michael Macintyre comedy sketch and the other wouldn’t look out of place on the pages of a Jane Austin novel, things might feel a bit unbalanced.

Don’t leave it until last minute

Leaving personal vows until the last minute is not a great idea for a number of reasons and we would recommend having them finished at least four weeks prior to the big day.  Here’s why:

  • Writing your personal vows will confirm exactly why you’re marrying the love of your life. Sometimes all the organising and stress that comes along with wedding planning leaves no time to reflect.  Finishing your personal vows early will leave you with a lovely warm and fuzzy feeling.
  • Having your personal vows completed with four weeks to spare will give you the luxury of time to rehearse.
  • By receiving your personal vows early, your Celebrant will be able to glean a deeper understanding of your relationship and journey, allowing her/him to create an even more personal script.

Past, present & future

A great way to tackle personal vows is to split them into three bitesize chunks; past, present & future.  How did you feel before you met your other half? How did life change when you met? What are your hopes & dreams for the future?  By answering these questions, you will piece together a great first draft that you can build into something wondrous.

Don’t hold back

If you’re not normally an expressive person, don’t worry that your partner, friends and family will think you’ve completely lost it!  Trust us, if your words are honest and heartfelt, they will NEVER sound corny or cheesy and your guests and partner will be in awe of what you say!  Remember this isn’t about wowing your guests it’s about speaking the truth to each other, so definitely don’t hold back.

Laughter for happy ever after

Although we fully endorse a good dollop of sentiment and romance, the ability to make your significant other laugh their head off on what is often considered one of the most nerve-racking moments of a person’s life is utterly priceless and will stand you in good stead for a happy ever after future!

Don’t make false promises

Be yourself and try to be realistic.  There’s absolutely no point promising what you can’t deliver.  Instead, speak from the heart and think of what you can bring to your marriage. There really is no right or wrong way of writing wedding vows, so long as they’re honest, heartfelt and that the pledges you make are doable and deliverable.

Practice makes perfect

You’ve written some spectacular personal vows that read beautifully on paper, but the only way to make sure everything truly sounds perfect is to read your masterpiece aloud. You wouldn’t believe how different a script sounds when you read it out; huge grammatical errors leap out and missing words identify themselves left, right and centre!

So there you have it!  Personal vows ROCK and we hope that this blog has inspired you to give writing your own vows a bash! Always reach out to your Celebrant for advice and don’t panic, once they’re over and done with, all couples say hearing their partners personal vows was their ceremony highlight.