There is more than one way to say ‘I do’Written by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
For couples who wish to write their own wedding vows, local officiants and wedding experts recommend brevity along with openness.
“[Vows are] kind of a public intimacy. It’s those private intimate things that you share, but you’re doing it in a public way,” said officiant Mark Simon.
Simon categorizes vows into two types: concurrence vows, typically ending in the traditional “I do,” or expressive vows, giving the couple a chance to express promises to each other.
Either way, more couples are opting out of religious vows and emphasizing more personal messages, he said.
Still, that doesn’t mean most brides and grooms are writing their full vows on their own.
“They usually follow a recommendation that I give them and they plug in some variables, so it’s half and half,” Simon said.
April Gladieux, owner of Your Perfect Day, a wedding planning business, said just two couples out of the 90 she’s booked this year wrote their own vows. Still, she encouraged couples who want to try it not to be scared. She also recommended practicing your vows and starting ahead of time.
“It’s good to do vows about three months before, because closer to the wedding, [couples’] brains get frazzled and they get writer’s block,” Simon said.
‘A very personal thing’
Gladieux said she gives couples tips on their vows, but doesn’t like to weigh in too much.
“Vows are a very personal thing,” Gladieux said. “I will let them come to me with ideas.”
Heather Zeller, owner of La Boutique Nostalgie wedding planning and a Divinitist Order minister, said she prefers clients to come to her or a fellow minister for help with vows. This way, they can tie other elements of the ceremony together.
Zeller said there seems to be an uptick in more personalized vows. Her favorites have been the more spontaneous ones, she said.
“I really encourage them when it’s time for the vows, just to stand up and speak to one another from the heart,” she said, adding that may make more anxious couples nervous.
Nerves are what stop many from writing and reading their own vows, Gladieux said. She recommended having something written down for vows and placing it in a book or bouquet. A flimsy piece of paper may let guests know if you’re shaking, she noted.
“The best you can mask it, the better you’ll feel and I think the more prepared you’ll be because you’re reading it instead of trying to memorize it,” she said.
‘A good little start’
Gladieux has her own experience with this idea. During her 2009 beach wedding, her husband tucked his customized vows in a Sports Illustrated magazine.
“When he pulled it out, everybody laughed and that helped us to relax and then he read it. It was a good little start,” she said.
Gladieux read a poem she had found about the correlation between love and the beach.
“I would say his came from the heart and mine came from a poem. So they don’t have to be the exact same either. [Couples] can do what’s appropriate for the wedding because everybody’s different,” she said.
Simon said he prefers couples to write their vows down and give them to him for safekeeping until it’s time. He also recommended using large, bold type in case of smearing caused by tears.
Zeller said if brides or grooms get nervous during the ceremony, she tries to relax them with a look or even a prompt if they forget the right line.
“I try to remind them that these are your friends and family. This is not a performance; this is a celebration of your love. We’re all human. We all get nervous. If you stutter over a word or two, that doesn’t ruin the day,” she said.
No requirement for vows
However, not all surveyed officiants were a fan of couples writing their own vows.
“Actually, I discourage them from writing their own vows,” said officiant Susan Spackey. “Generally, it’s easier for a couple [to not read their own vows] especially when they’re standing in front of a crowd of people; they’re nervous and excited.”
Technically, vows aren’t even necessary, Spackey added.
“There really is no requirement to have vows at all,” Spackey said, adding that couples are certainly welcome to include vows and most do.
Most agreed vows are best kept short. Gladieux said vows should be about two paragraphs, or eight to 10 sentences.
Zeller recommended that couples who do wish to write their own vows think about one question: What is the most amazing thing about your spouse?
“One of the best things I ever heard a groom say to a bride is, ‘You have given me the strength to become myself,’” she said.
Gladieux recommended focusing on future plans and goals or promises during the vows.
“Touch on the future to let our audience know, we’re not just in it for a little bit; we’re in it for the long run,” she said.