Do you think couples should write their own vows?
Yes! Now more than ever! We are in the age of a very pared down version of the typical celebration. Those elaborate flower displays, extravagant buffets, sweaty dance floors are just not here right now. The focus has become very much about the ceremony. The words are now truly the most important part of the day. Why not take this opportunity to pour your feelings into a few minutes of beautiful vows?
I’m also finding that many people who have postponed their weddings until next year are now far more dedicated to writing their own. They have found the extra time to make this a priority.
How do you advise that couples start the process of writing their wedding vows?
I often joke that ceremonies are left to the last minute, when in fact, they should be a priority. Here is the perfect place to show who you are as a couple, as individuals. It goes far beyond how gorgeous the dress is or how delicious that appetizer was. The ceremony is the ultimate way to illustrate who you are as people. Your personalities show through more than ever before. As guests, we are blown away by a well written, beautifully delivered ceremony. It is what everyone will remember the most.
Start with a massive brain dump of memories. Write it all down. Don’t leave anything out.
When I work with a couple, which is always individually (since vows should be kept top-secret), we start with lots of questions about their relationship, their history, funny moments, some of the hardships they have overcome, incredible experiences they have shared and this leads into many questions about why they love this person, why they want to marry she/he, and what they want to promise.
How long does it usually take to write wedding vows?
I highly recommend this not be a rushed process. Start 2 -3 months before. In that time period, it’s relaxed, hopefully, a fun process and stress is not a factor. Leaving it to the night before is a self-inflicted disaster.
The work we do is very collaborative. Once we have answered many of the questions, I begin to put structure to the brain dump and shape the words until they are happy and ready to move to the next step.
It’s important to note that I am not the writer. The words are the other person’s, not mine. My job is to get all of the material out, put structure to it, edit, re-write, if necessary, balance them out in tone and voice. The beauty of having someone like me to work with each one is that I can manage, or control, in a way, the sum of both parts. I get a kick out of vows that are so similar. For example, a question could be “what was the defining moment when you knew for sure?” can be identical for both.
Just as important, if not more, is the way you say the vows. Most people are terrified of speaking in public and it shows! Putting the time in to practice out loud over and over again, to make sure you enunciate properly, stand there without fidgeting or swaying and make eye contact is what is going to make you shine! When I rehearse with someone, we pretend I am the future spouse. We stand there and go through the vows as if it’s the real moment. I coach them to feel confident, calm, poised and with a lot of grace. I was a Juilliard trained actress many years ago and I’m basically imparting many of those acting skills to coach my couples.
All this is done, of course, virtually and I’m lucky to have couples all over the world. Very often, I am there to practice one last time before the ceremony. When the bride is in full hair and makeup, shoes on, earrings on…she’s totally ready and has a few moments alone, we’ll Facetime to go through the words one more time. Same for the groom or both brides or whatever combo it is. Essentially, I hold the hands of the couple throughout the process until the moment of, to alleviate any nerves and anxiety.
And the ultimate perfect situation is when I am also marrying the couple. Because the vow work is a pretty profound look and discovery into feelings, thoughts, emotions, I end up knowing my couples so well. They are not getting married by a stranger, for sure!
Is there a template or format that you recommend following?
A beginning, middle and end, so, start with why you love this person, how has this future spouse made you a better person, what does the future look like and what can you promise?
What are some examples of traditional wedding vows?
It’s funny, but I don’t think there are traditional vows anymore. The traditional ones are the ones that are said for you… that have been said for many years. To love and to hold, till death do us part, etc.
As an officiant, I have been asked to use those traditional words a few times, when there were no personal vows. Sometimes, it’s just easier to revert to what is tried and true.
Is there anything that couples should stay away from when writing their own wedding vows?
Yes, the use of the words “always” and “never.” You cannot possibly promise to never go to bed angry. That’s not life. Something else to avoid are embarrassing stories or ones that will make guests feel uncomfortable.
What were the best wedding vows you’ve ever heard?
There are way too many, but these are super cute in that they each described the same experience:
And then only a few weeks into dating, you flew with me to visit my dad while he was in ill health. You were so kind and sweet to him from the moment you met. Often when I’d visit him, I’d anxiously get distracted with work. But you were fully present in the moment and so caring—and it helped me to be the same. The way you were with him is the way I’ve now seen you with many others and how I know you’ll someday be with our family. It’s the way I’ve always aspired to be despite my failures, and I could see early on there were many things I could learn from you.
I fell in love with you fast — some might say too fast — when we visited your family for the first time. We had only been dating a few weeks, and we flew down here to Texas to visit your dad who was in the hospital. Witnessing the way you loved and cared for him showed me a depth in your heart that I’d never seen in anyone. I fell for you in that moment, knowing a life with you would be filled with tenderness, patience, and understanding.
If you were to leave us with something to think about, what would it be?
I was born in Brussels, Belgium, and came to the States to go to Juilliard as an actress. I had an incredible 10-year career starring on Broadway in Amadeus, followed by a few years on a soap, as well as other theater and film roles. I gave it all up to raise my babies and worked my way up the corporate ladder doing PR and Philanthropy.
I was extremely fortunate to be able to work on long term projects with Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Naomi Watts, Eva Mendez, and others. My philanthropic work continues in the wedding world, as I am involved with Vow for Girls to End Child Marriage and just did a Wish Upon a Wedding vow renewal.
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