While speaking from the heart can be daunting, there’s something special about reciting vows you’ve inimitably transcribed. Jacqueline Maya speaks with Geoff Conrau and Ron Gallagher of Celebrants Victoria about why modern-day couples are choosing to write their own wedding vows.
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To ensure you won’t be tongue-tied on your special day, Melbourne Wedding & Bride provides some handy tips so your declarations of love are as unique as the relationship between you and your partner.
A Write Of Passage
Originating in medieval times, wedding vows are one of the oldest traditions to date. More recently, couples are revamping this age-old custom by including their own vows to add a more personal touch.
“Many couples are choosing to write their own vows as it is one of the few times, and possibly for some, the only time that they will declare their love openly and honestly in such a public manner,” Conrau says.
“There is something wonderful about speaking the words you have personally written to your partner in front of your friends and family,” Gallagher says.
While personalising your vows allows you to express your adoration for the person you love, the marriage vow is also a legal requirement. “The Marriage Act 1961 requires the couple to say certain words as part of their legal vows. Your personal vows are in addition to this legally required proclamation,” Conrau says.
Further, “In Australia, your marriage vows cannot be phrased as a question with a simple yes or no answer,” Gallagher says. “It is in the component of the ceremony that celebrants refer to as ‘the asking’ that serves as a means to outlining the promises to be made and allows the couple the opportunity to say ‘I do’.”
It’s easy to leave things to the last minute in the lead up to your wedding, however your vows shouldn’t be one of them. “When planning your wedding ceremony, you may want to consider starting with your vows and working from the inside outwards, rather than … leaving your vows until last,” Conrau says. “When you start with your vows you have the opportunity of creating something from the core and then wrapping the rest of the ceremony around that,” Gallagher says.
Whether you decide to write your vows separately or together, never underestimate the power of a professional. “The prospect of writing your own vows can sometimes lead to anxiety, stress and procrastination,” Conrau says.
“One way of alleviating these issues is to engage the services of a professional marriage celebrant, a person of ability and experience to act as a collaborator; someone who … conveys the personalities, the beliefs and the story of each couple,” Gallagher says. “A good celebrant will assist you and make suggestions with editing … so as to produce vows that are heartfelt and genuine.”
Your vows should be inspired by your feelings towards your partner. However, sometimes this can be hard to put into words. “Even the most fluent, literate and professional writers have their moments of writer’s block,” Conrau says. “[When] writing your vows, be true to yourself. Write them from the heart and not what you think is expected of you. You [also] need to write in a style that is in line with your personality and in words that are consistent with your everyday speech.”
While retelling personal anecdotes may seem like a good idea, tread with caution. “Avoid in-jokes and stories that your guests may not be privy to,” Gallagher says. “It is a public event and your friends and family should be able to relate to what is being said.”
Gallagher also advises that asking yourself questions such as what marriage means to you, what promises are important to you, and finally, if you want the same vows or complementary ones, are extremely helpful starting points.
“You can also explore the concept of love, trust, honesty, compassion, friendship, forgiveness, faithfulness, honour and respect,” Gallagher says. “You may [even] wish to elaborate on phrases such as ‘I look forward to’, ‘You give me’, ‘I realised I loved you when’, and ‘I vow to’.”
“The celebrant should have a variety of options to act as a foundation on which to build,” Conrau adds. “This allows the couple to mix and match and add their own words to create unique and personal vows.”
Short Stories Or Long Tales
When it comes to determining the length of your vows, there aren’t any hard and fast rules. “Personal vows do not have to be long; six or seven sentences may be enough,” Conrau says. “Then again, two or three sentences may suffice.”
“Try not to be overly concerned about the length of your vows,” Gallagher adds. “Having said that, it’s not an essay on love, and you won’t be tested on it.”
Talking It Out
When finalising your vows, consider rehearsing them out loud. “Although you write your vows, be mindful that they are going to be spoken. The spoken word has a different dynamic, phrasing and flow. It would be beneficial to practice out loud,” Conrau says. “This will help with fluency and lessen the likelihood of nerves getting the better of you.”
“You may [also] want to discuss with your celebrant the way you wish to present your vows,” Gallagher says. There are several ways in which you can deliver your vows. You can choose to repeat them after the celebrant, read them from a printed card or simply memorise them, though Gallagher advises this choice is fraught with danger. “Even the most determined couples struggle with emotions on the day and find they have difficulty remembering their [own] names, let alone their vows.”
The Final Say
For those still weary of picking up the pen, Conrau and Gallagher offer some final words of wisdom. “Those key words, your vows, are the very essence of your commitment to each other.” Conrau says. “They are the words of love and legality that define you as [a couple].”
“You should be able to read [your vows] in five, 10 or twenty years and for them to be as fresh, unique, loving and appropriate as the day they were first made,” Gallagher says.
By taking the above advice on board, your wedding vows will not only be remembered for the right reasons, but with any luck, these heartfelt sentiments will also take your partner’s breath away, leaving them lost for words.