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Friday, October 13, 2017

Writing Your Own Vows

Written by  David Egan

"I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith [or] pledge myself to you.”

One single sentence pledging a lifetime of of love and devotion. What could be simpler!

Your wedding vows are your promises to each other of how you will comport yourself as a marital partner. The vows are generally composed of two or three parts: an expression of your unconditional love, your intention to honor these promises as long you both are alive, and an invocation of your spiritual source to support you in your promises.

The wedding vows used by most of the world’s organized religions contain these core elements. Their origin is in the 16th century, about the same time that the church decreed that weddings be performed in public and by a priest and before witnesses. Prior to that, a marriage ceremony was simply a contract between families. Romantic marriage didn’t take off for another hundred years or so, and marriages upholding equal rights for both partners is a 20th century innovation. Interestingly, male bonding ceremonies were performed in churches all over the Mediterranean up into the 1200s, sanctified by priests with many of the same prayers and rituals used to join men and women in marriage.

But I digress.

What we’re about here and now is to personalize your promises to your beloved.

Contrary to some of the advice you’ll see on the web, I encourage you to be forward-looking, focusing on the love and devotion you will bring to your partner in your marriage. It stands to reason that the core elements that have been used for over 500 years are worth your consideration. Traditional vows include a list of conditions under which you will continue to love and support your partner. In essence, they say, “no matter what happens, I will be there.” This is your opportunity to say the same, in ways that are specific to your relationship with your sweetheart.

Don’t get hung up on making it the best prose or poetry ever, or on entertaining your guests. What everyone wants to hear, and especially your beloved, is your authentic desire to be present, to care, and to be your best possible self. That will make it great.

Here are a few tips on how to create and present your vows:

• Give yourself some time to craft what could be the most important few sentences you’ll ever write. Plan to start three or four months ahead of your wedding, and to have it completely finished a month ahead.

• Write from the heart. It doesn’t have to be long or fancy. A few good sentences that express your love and intentions are all that you need. A writer’s tip: if you’re having trouble getting started, start in the middle. The beginning will reveal itself as you write.

• Read it to yourself as you edit, polishing it until it says what you want, in your own voice. Then practice saying it out loud. You want to be able to speak those words to your about-to-be spouse clearly and with ease, with every bit of the love you feel for them coming through in your voice.

• Write it all down, and make a pretty presentation copy to hold in your hand. Have it with you at your ceremony, even if you plan to memorize your vows. Your officiant will be happy to hold it for you to keep it safe and looking good – and to be sure it’s there when you need it.

Heartfelt vows, presented well, will be remembered and held dear– which is exactly the point.

Next time: tips for non-professional officiant.

David Egan is the proprietor and steward of Chase Court, a historic Baltimore wedding and event venue. Visit chasecourt.com, and follow ChaseCourtWeddingVenue on Instagram and Facebook! Send your comments and questions to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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