How to Write Your Wedding Vows
When you elope, you can throw out the traditional ceremony guidelines. You can do what you want, hike where you want, and for your vows—say what you want. Whether it’s short or long, serious or funny, it’s about writing something that’s incredibly meaningful, fits your day—and speaks deeply to your commitment to each other.
Your elopement will most likely be a pretty vulnerable experience. It’s a vivid, epic day with heightened emotional experiences. Taking the time in advance to really think through your thoughts and emotions are well worth it come your wedding day. There isn’t two hundred people listening to your vows—instead it’s a handful of the closest people in your life. People that will laugh at your inside jokes; people that will understand the hardships that you’ve been through; and most importantly, understand and love the both of you for who you are. If there was ever a context where your vulnerability should reach pen and paper—it should be your wedding day.
But I’m Not A Great Writer
Writing eloquent, Pulitzer Prize winning vows doesn’t require you to be a great writer. It requires you to feel strongly about something. In this case, you’re significant other. How you feel, and the way that you reflect on those emotions are far more significant than whether or not you use certain adjectives or have great composition. You need to get thoughts and reflections on paper—the grammatical/compositional details can happen later on. You need a raw draft to explore your emotions and what this commitment means. Focusing on that, instead of perfection, will often lead you into a better flow where your creativity and reflection can come to life.
Even if your vows end up a literary mess—your significant other will be overwhelmed with love for you. Your great effort and strong feelings are what carry the weight of your vows. This is one of the few pieces of writing in your life where you could have a compositional wreck—and still quite successfully bring your significant other to tears and heartfelt emotions.
Tip: Once you have the emotions, experiences, and overarching structure to your vows, you can ask for help! You might have friends or family that are eloquent writers who are willing to help. They might find grammatical errors or help you better arrange your rough draft. It doesn’t make your vows any less significant —and in a way, is you showing great care to what you say and how you say it.
Reflection is Key
Have you ever found an old photo, looked back on social media, or talked about a past trip together and realized, “Wow, we’ve been through so much together. I remember when…”?
Going through old photos, letters, or other nostalgic memorabilia of your relationship can help foster emotions and examples of why you love them SO much. Often we forget about the little details from years ago that helped cement your feelings. For example, Jaclyn took a polaroid photo of me at Glacier National Park when she started to have feelings for me--that photo, and many other memories helped shape our love and our experiences together. Revisiting “the archives” is a great way to find inspiration and also to explain how the two of you got to where you are now.
As a writer, I have my own “method” that helps me get into a flow and explore my thoughts. I often get easily distracted and really have to focus on what I’m doing. But if you’re not used to writing, you might be tempted to write at work, while watching Netflix, or some other distraction filled environment. I find the best exploration of thoughts comes from deliberately setting aside leisure time to actually focus on getting your thoughts down.
Helpful Tips for Getting into Your Writing Flow:
1. Find a quiet place like your home office, or a local coffee shop where you can write without getting distracted.
2. Jot down memories or bullet points that you thought of while reviewing your old photos, letter or memorabilia. That way, you can easily look at your list if you get stuck while writing.
3. Listen to soft music that might make you feel more reflective or heartfelt. We have a Spotify playlist that might help.
4. Give yourself time to be stuck. Writing isn’t instantaneous. If you give yourself a couple of minutes to stare out the window, you’ll probably figure out what you were trying to say and be able to keep going.
5. Don’t feel obligated to write perfectly, or to write it all in one setting. This is an exciting, creative thing that isn’t related to work. It should be peaceful and fun. If you put pressure on yourself, you won’t be able to enjoy the writing process or come up with your best words.
What Do I Write About?
There are a few different subjects that you’ll probably want to write about. How much you emphasize each subject depends on its significance to your relationship. For instance, you might have had a long distance relationship for 4 years—so talking about your journey to this moment is really important. While other couples might have spent 6 months trying to get family from all over the world out to Crater Lake National Park for their ceremony—so family and the context of the National Park play a huge role. Each relationship is unique, but you’ll probably want to touch on most of these subjects:
- Talk About Your Journey: What did it take for you to get here? Were there any hardships you went through as a couple that helped you grow closer? When did you first know you wanted to marry them? When did you first develop feelings for them? Were there any significant experiences you went through together?
- Talk About Your Why: What traits do you love about the other person? How has being with them changed your life for the better? What makes them unique? What qualities do you admire in them—have you seen those qualities again and again, or possibly have an example to bring up? Have you seen them grow significantly as a person in your relationship? Have they helped you grow significantly as a person? Do they bring out admirable qualities in yourself?
- Talk About What Matters: Do they share the same goals in life? How does having someone in your life that shares those goals make you feel? Do they support you in a way that nobody else does—if so, what does that support look like?
- Talk About This Moment: What did it take for you and your guests to get to this epic ceremony location? How meaningful is it to elope in this landscape together? How do you feel that your guests showed up to support your marriage? Why did you choose to elope in this landscape? How does eloping in this landscape reflect your relationship or your future lives together?
- Talk About Your Commitment: What kind of person do you promise to be for your significant other? What qualities or traits do you want to uphold in your marriage? Can you describe any experiences together that explains how strong your relationship is? What will you do to ensure that your love and marriage stays strong over the years? Do you have any funny inside jokes or serious experiences together to help support any of your answers from above?
- Talk About Something Funny: A well timed inside joke can give you and your guests a break from any serious tears or crying. When you’re vulnerable and saying your vows out loud, your body will probably tense up a lot. Having a funny, inside quip helps relieve that tension so that you can relax before continuing on with other serious parts of your vows. It’s natural to say something light to break that tension, and it sometimes helps if you can plan for it.
- Talk About What’s Next: Where do you go from here together (moving across the country together, new jobs, etc.) ? What will life look like now that you’re married? How do you feel about starting this journey together? Are there any experiences or moments you look forward to in the next few years—10 years? How do you see your relationship together growing? How do you feel with this person by your side for the rest of your life?
The thorough list of questions above should really help you write your vows with ease and avoid getting stuck. Answer the questions that have the most significant answers—and feel free to skip the ones that don’t speak to you. The structure above is fairly sound, as it chronologically walks through your relationship—but there are other compositional structures that might work better. But if you’re not a writer, and you really need help—you can stick to the questions and structure above and probably write some pretty profound vows.
The Importance of Meditative Thought
Often times, we’re not this meditative and our thoughts and emotions stay fairly surface level. Consciously delving into these thoughts and emotions will probably bring out really, really strong feelings that you haven’t felt in a while. This can be a really cathartic process, and if done deliberately, can really tap into a vulnerability and truthfulness that you haven’t put into words before. Embrace the vulnerability that this process might bring out.
In your decision to elope, you’re crafting an experience where you can truly be who you are—and get married exactly how you want to get married. It’s important that:
1. The environment you create for your wedding day feels comfortable and lets you be your 100% true self.
2. You give yourself permission to be vulnerable and emotional.
Sometimes we hesitate or try to hold back tears. But your wedding day is the perfect day to let your guard down and display your emotions. It isn’t embarrassing, and the closest people in your life are there to support you. You spent a lot of time, effort, and money to get to this moment—allow yourself to fully experience your wedding day. Try to be mindful and keep yourself from “hesitating.” It’s a grand display of love for your significant other, and can make your elopement photos that much more meaningful.
Choosing Your Notebook
After writing drafts, seeking help, and getting rid of your 9th cheesy quote—you have your final draft. Now where do you put it? We’ve seen everything from a memorized speech, to a spontaneous monologue, to a digital note on an iPad, to a handcrafted notebook. As elopement photographers, we’ve developed personal preferences and creative ideas that might help:
1. Write In The Rain Notebooks: Perfect little adventure notebooks that are waterproof. If you can read your vows in the pouring rain—what could be more romantic?
2. Field Notes: Purely an aesthetic preference, but these quaint little notebooks often fit our adventure elopements and weddings.
3. Moleskin: The classic notebook if there ever was one. With tons of color options, you might find something that goes well with a flower bouquet or match your vibrant floral tie. They also come with a paper file pocket on the inside back cover that you can store tickets, postcards, or any other tangible memorabilia for you to store your treasures for years to come.
4. Custom Etsy Notebooks: If you’re feeling fancy and want to really emphasize your own aesthetic, you might find a custom handmade notebook on Etsy that speaks to you.
5. A notebook from your elopement location: Flying into Reykjavík for your wedding? What about picking up a notebook from where you’re eloping? As frequent travelers, we love reflecting on the nostalgia of where we bought our own journals or other keepsakes. If you’re like me, you might even want to write your vows somewhere meaningful. Whether it’s a flight to Buenos Aires, or on a train ride up to Bar Harbor.
Want to download the list of questions to answer? Click photo below!