|Erik & Tiffany Kallhovd said perfect vows (credit: Jennifer Sieveking)|
Your wedding vows are what the entire day is about! You’re promising to love, honor, cherish, support and be faithful to each other, joining your lives together for all time. At that wonderful, emotional part of the ceremony, the two of you say the most meaningful words possible in any relationship. So they have to be good.
For a long time, brides and grooms just recited the traditional wedding vows, the love, honor, cherish, forsaking all others script that everyone knows so well. Recently, obey was kicked to the curb. And that opened a door for personalizing wedding vows. Couples started to write their own promises, insert their own emotional sentiments and even make everyone laugh.
At my April 2008 wedding (wow, has it been that long? Feels like yesterday!), my husband added a line to his vows that cracked everyone up. After the emotional part of his vows, in which he said it was his honor that I hold him in such high esteem (sigh), he added a reference to VH1s "Rock of Love" with the signature line of “Will you stay with me and rock my world?” that Bret Michaels uttered on his racy dating show. Our guests laughed, I laughed through my tears and it was a priceless moment. Dated, yes, but it was perfect in the moment.
So if Bret Michaels can be quoted at my wedding, that’s a definite sign that vows are getting really creative. So I wrote a book about it. "Your Special Wedding Vows" is my guide to personalizing your wedding vows using classic quotes, humor, song lyrics and many other inspirations that reflect your relationship.
And that’s the whole key. Your vows will be more meaningful and more memorable if they reflect your relationship. Sounds like a monumental task, right? Your love for your partner is probably so deep and so multi-faceted that you could never put it into words. Or you feel like you could talk forever about how happy you are together.
I’m going to help you mine the gems of your relationship to write the perfect, personal wedding vows right here. Jot down the answers to the following questions:
1. How did you know, for the first time, that your partner was "the one"? What was the event, the look, the words, the location, when he won your heart and changed your life forever? For me, it was on our first date. Seriously. I was awaiting his arrival at a jazz club, and he walked into the place and stopped. He was listening to the music for a moment instead of scanning the restaurant for me. The music captivated him, which meant that he was a man who appreciated the finer things. See how I did that? I described the scene and said what it meant.
So your vows might start off like this: “I knew you were 'the one' when you passed up a chance to see your favorite sports team, in VIP seats, because your brother needed help moving to his new apartment. I’d never known any man who valued his family so much, who would pass up such a golden opportunity, to be there for his brother. That’s when I knew you were a man to admire.”
2. What would you like your partner to promise you? Marriages are give-and-take, and your relationship has been a marriage already. How does your fiancé show his love and loyalty to you, and how do you show to him? Honor, cherish, love… those are wonderful things, but do they really talk about what your partnership will be like from now on?
I promise to hold your hand when we walk down the beach. I promise to keep your confidences. I promise to cheer for your successes and lift you up when life disappoints you. I promise to make you proud every day. I promise to bring laughter into our home. I promise to be the person you can be safe with, never having to measure words or walk on eggshells. These descriptions are the true promises of a marriage, and you should get right into them, making them the biggest percentage of your vows.
3. What’s going to provide a light moment as well as a sentimental one? If you go on and on about your fiance’s sterling character and all of the experiences you’ve shared up to this point, your vows get bogged down. Balance the deep emotional stuff with some smile-inducing material, such as the silly thing you said on your first date and how grateful you are that he gave you a second date. He’ll nod or shrug or say “But you begged me," and everyone will laugh.
4. What is the song that always makes you smile? I’m a big fan of putting song lyrics in your vows, since the memory of your ceremony will always refresh in your mind whenever you hear that song on the radio or at other people’s weddings. My husband made me a music mix CD when we first started dating, and there’s a Vinx song on there that filled me with emotion then, and still does. So those words went into my own vows.
5. What else comes to mind? Brainstorm. Write it all out, and highlight the parts that will make it into your vows for public recitation… and then use the rest in a love letter you’ll have delivered to your groom on the morning of the wedding. All of those wonderful thoughts you have become a precious keepsake, just between the two of you.
Here are the (slightly edited) real-life vows of a recent bride and groom, as a fabulous example of how to do it right:
1. Erik's vows to Tiffany:
What can a man say when words seem inadequate to convey how he truly feels. I know that vows are supposed to be a set of promises -- "I promise to love you forever and ever or till death do us part." And I will love you forever and ever and until death do us part. I also promise to love you when you’re angry, to hold you when you're sad, and to laugh with you when you're happy, but it's not every day that a man can stand in the presence of friends and family and tell the world exactly why he loves his bride to be and why he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. So, instead, I would like to tell you, Tiffany, with so many people whom we love and admire as witnesses, why I can't wait to be your husband.
First, when I think of marriage, I think of a team, a single unit working together. Now, there are times when the team goes on winning streaks... and there are times when they go on losing streaks. But what is important is that the team stays together -- celebrating its successes and supporting each other when times are tough.
Above all else, marriage is about unconditional love and support. And Tiffany, you have taught me more about unconditional love and support. Whether helping me defeat my greatest nemesis, the LSAT, or on our travels to Minnesota and back, you have been my rock and my teammate, celebrating my successes -- our successes -- and helping me lick my wounds when I am knocked down. I promise to be your teammate in life -- to help celebrate your successes -- our successes -- and help lick your wounds when you get knocked down.
Tiffany, I love you more than words could possibly say. You are truly beautiful, inside and out. I can't wait to be your rock in life. P.S. Thank you for saving me from lonely nights in a pizzeria all by myself!
2. Tiffany's vows to Erik:
Sitting down to write my vows has really made me stop and think about the past four years that we have known each other; all of our accomplishments, experiences, and dreams as individuals, and as partners. For myself, running the New York City marathon, graduating with my Masters in Social Work are goals that I have been able to achieve.
You, as an individual, have run two marathons, conquered the LSAT and are on your way to becoming a lawyer, started the first Australian rules team in New York. As individuals we are strong and determined, but as a team, we are even stronger. Together, we have raised a most fabulous dog, survived the first year of law school, moved to Minnesota knowing one person and lived through the coldest winter they have had in the past 40 years, and planned three weddings!
Together, we have learned how to support each other in difficult times and what is really important in life. We have learned to love each other already in good times and in bad. And we have learned how to keep our individuality as well as be in a partnership.
And so for today and for the rest of my life, I promise to love you unconditionally, to encourage you when you are doubtful, to laugh with you in good times, and cry with you in bad. I promise to always put us first and to think of how each choice I make will affect us as a couple. I promise to stand by you when we have it all and when we have nothing. I promise to be your best friend, your biggest cheerleader, your lover, and to be the most caring and loving wife to you for the rest of my life. I love you.
Sharon Naylor is the author of "Your Special Wedding Vows," as well as over 35 additional wedding planning books for brides, bridesmaids and the moms. Check out her site at www.sharonnaylor.net for more information.