As a wedding officiant, I encourage my couples to write their own wedding vows, with some guidance. If you decide to write your own vows, bear in mind that the vows need to satisfy basic legal requirements so that the validity of the marriage ceremony will not fall into question. Sometimes couples are so excited to share how they feel while writing their vows, they forget to acknowledge that they are entering into a marital union. For this reason, always run your vows past your officiant well before the wedding day. If the officiant suggests you edit some of the wording, do not think it’s because they are being mean, critical, or want to ruin your prose. It’s because they want you to be legally married.
The vows are pretty much the crux of the wedding event. They are not just a statement of love, the vows are a legal promise in front of witnesses to enter into a shared legal life to weather the storms that life can’t avoid, and to celebrate the joys that come with such a union.
Marriage has always been a legal arrangement. And to be a legal arrangement requires a few features; witnesses and a ‘vow’ that acknowledges that what you are entering into is a marital commitment of your own doing. You aren’t just promising to love each other forever. You are promising to do so as a legal entity. It’s a subtle distinction, but it’s a non-negotiable one.
The state of NJ has no sentiment. A legal ceremony here requires five sentences and two witnesses. Not even one of the five sentences mentions love.
Obviously, this is one of the reasons why a couple might choose the services of a professional wedding officiant such as myself. Couples are eager to have their story shared, shout from the rooftops that they are in love and intend to remain that way. They want their ceremony to be a celebration of love and not the emotional void left by five sentences in the basement of a county courthouse, especially if they decide not to be married in a traditional house of worship.
Not every officiant will create a custom ceremony for their couples, some will offer couples a variety of ceremony template options to choose from. Other officiants such as myself, are also accomplished writers, and will create a custom ceremony for each individual couple, offering vow options based on the information the couple gives us.
But if a couple is inclined to write their own vows, I encourage them to give it a shot. It is a fun process and in so doing, it might help you think of other important things you’d like your officiant to write into your ceremony that might not be part of the vow portion.
Once a couple books my services, I offer them my vow workbook, free of charge. Even if you don’t book my services, the book is still available to you through Kindle for a nominal fee. It does not offer canned ceremony options, instead, it guides the couple in writing their own (legal) vows that reflect their true personalities while showcasing their loving relationship.
Saying I Do is an instructional activity type of guidance book that will give you step-by-step instructions to make it possible for even the most challenged writers find their voice. The book provides fun activities that the couple can work on together or independently to create the most meaningful words they will ever speak to each other.