Southern Weddings

Tag: Vows

Of all the things that go into creating a wedding day–the guest list, the invitations, the sparklers for a celebratory send-off–the vows are the only things that actually make a marriage. Your vows are your chance to declare to your world the things that you will honor in your marriage, and the things that you will abide by for the rest of your life. What an amazing opportunity, y’all!

If you’ve decided to write personal wedding vows, we’d love to share our step-by-step process with you today. And BONUS! Sign up for our newsletter here to be sent nine of our favorite romantic and meaningful vow examples–a perfect jumping off point as you’re looking for inspiration!

P.S. Does this advice resonate with you? You’ll LOVE the Southern Weddings Planner!

Our Vows Booklet Set: the perfect place to record your vows for posterity, and read from during your ceremony!

Get inspired. As early as you’d like, start a repository of inspiration for your vows–virtual (like Google Docs) or physical (like a notebook). And remember, inspiration can be everywhere: weddings you attend; wedding magazines, blogs, or films; books you read; songs you hear; lines of scripture. If a sentiment, line, or phrase resonates with you, jot it down–don’t worry about editing at this point.

Mine your past. If you are lucky enough to have love letters (or emails or texts–this is the twenty-first century!) you’ve written each other over the years, break them out! They can be a great source of inspiration, and a wonderful way to include parts of your past in your future.

Set parameters. Decide whether you’ll jointly write one set of vows that you’ll both recite, or if you’ll each write individual vows. If you’re writing individual vows, consider setting up basic guidelines so they aren’t wildly different: perhaps they’ll both last 30 seconds or a minute, or they’ll both take the form of promises, or they’ll both include an anecdote from your past.

Start early. These are lifelong promises, not something to be jotted down the night before the wedding (or, God forbid, the morning of). About a month before the big day is a good time to sort your inspiration and begin a draft. Your groom might need a little prodding to get going–be gentle.

Write a draft. Block out a space of time when you don’t have other commitments or things weighing on your mind, and begin sifting through your inspiration. Pull out the best pieces, and begin forming them into a coherent whole. Add and subtract, write and rewrite until you’re happy with what you have.

Revisit your draft. Set your draft aside for a few days, then come back to it with fresh eyes. Make sure your words sound like YOU, not like what you think vows should sound like.

Try it out loud. Make sure the words and sentences flow well and that there aren’t any tongue twisters. Adjust awkward lines. Be sure to time yourself to make sure you’re not running too long. And when in doubt, cut it out: short and sweet is almost always preferable to directionless rambling. Pick the most important points and make them well.

Take it seriously. Personal vows can be funny and sweet and touching and, well, personal. But they’re also made up of the things you are vowing to abide by for the rest of your marriage. That is no small thing, and it deserves your time, attention, and seriousness.

Ensure a smooth delivery. Whether or not you plan to memorize your vows, make sure you write out at least two copies for your big day. Put one in our vows booklet set for posterity and for reading from during your ceremony, and give a back-up copy on an index card to your officiant or maid of honor.

Don’t forget to download our library of vow inspiration by signing up here!

emily Written with love by Emily
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Hearing from readers is one of the best parts of our job, bar none! And hearing that something we wrote or shared inspired you in your wedding planning is even sweeter. One nugget that seems to have really struck a chord with y’all? The vows library in the Southern Weddings Planner! I’ve read countless real wedding interviews right here on the blog where the couple mentioned finding their vows on those pages. Today, we’re sharing an excerpt from that section – nine of the most romantic wedding vows to inspire you as you plan your ceremony.

For more, pick up your copy of the Southern Weddings Planner in our shop!

Did you write your own vows, or use the traditional ones? My husband and I did both! :)

emily Written with love by Emily
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It’s no secret that deciding whether or not to write personal vows often tops the list of brides’ planning nightmares. In fact, second only to picking a dress, the decision of whether or not Kyle + I would recite traditional vows or write our own was of the most difficult choices I (we) faced. Working for Southern Weddings, I felt sure I’d seen it all: couples who said “I do,” those who shared handwritten vows, others that recited lines from their favorite poem (a la Chelsea Clinton and her beau), and the bravest of the brave who did some hybrid of the two. But we were hopelessly deadlocked when it came to our own wedding.

Rounding out our list of concerns was what we would actually say in the event we went the personal route. I was deathly afraid any attempt we made at writing personal vows would turn into a big cheesy mess that would leave our guests rolling their eyes or shifting uncomfortably in their seats. Perhaps even worse, however, was the almost-paralyzing fear that I simply wouldn’t know where to begin when it came time to put pen to paper. Crafting the words you are going to share with your future husband is, after all, a pretty big deal, but there’s something hopelessly romantic about starting your marriage with words from the heart rather than the program.


I imagine this was the same face I made whenever I thought about writing my vows. Apparently I was terrified.

Naturally, we did what any indecisive couple would do: we said both.

Sort of.

While Kyle and I did opt to exchange personal promises to one another earlier in the ceremony, we ultimately decided to recite traditional vows before we were pronounced husband and wife.

Call me crazy, but as a traditionalist at heart, I didn’t think we’d really and truly be married until we, too, made the sacred vows that so many had made before us. Our parents, grandparents and their parents before them all were married after sharing traditional vows, and it was something I’d always imagined myself doing.

But while the by-the-book side of me insisted on sealing the deal with the tried and true, the sentimental side felt our ceremony – and possibly even our marriage – would be somehow cheapened if we didn’t take the time to interpret those vows in our own words. When we considered what our ceremony actually was about – us, our love and our future together – all the fears we had about condensing our relationship into a few pithy sentences, getting choked up as we struggled to remember our lines and possibly even boring our guests fell by the wayside. This was our day, and the ceremony our chance to take center stage.

Of all the decisions we made before the wedding, deciding whether or not to write our own vows was among the hardest.

So before we said “I do,” Kyle and I also said “I will” with personal promises we wrote to one another. For those of you wondering how we incorporated this into our wedding program and traditional church service, we got the go-ahead from our priest to include “Promises from the Bride and Groom” between the “Declaration of Consent” and “Exchange of Vows.” Worked like a charm. Even Kyle’s ultra-conservative (and very Catholic) Grandma Busam seemed happy with our choices.


Our wedding programs were designed by Laurie Chapman at Wiregrass Weddings. We loved them!

While I began thinking of what I wanted to tell my new husband on our wedding day as early as February (that’s over 7 months before our big day for you math-included brides), rumor has it Kyle hashed out the details of his promises in the final minutes before the ceremony. True story. We have some great footage of the groom pacing behind the vestibule to confirm this.

In the end, I erred on the side of simplicity when it came to writing my vows, and made what at the time seemed like a bold decision. I’d never be able to truly express how and why I loved Kyle, so I wouldn’t even try. Instead, I’d stick to the basics and tell my husband what kind of life I would give him as his wife and what our vows meant to me. (I wish I could share the groom’s thought process with you, as well, but I highly doubt Kyle was contemplating the philosophical origins of his promises in those last harried moments before the quartet cued the procession.)

But, for better or worse, richer or poorer, etc. etc., here is a snippet of our promises.

Bride: Today, five years to the day after our first meeting, I am promising to be your wife, to love and to cherish you, to be faithful, and to give you all joy and happiness – plus a few good laughs and a lifetime of adventures along the way.

I promise to be your best friend, to always tell the truth and to overuse “I love you.”

Today, I also promise that I will make you, our marriage and the family we will one day have my most significant undertaking and, hopefully, the greatest achievement of my entire life.

And most importantly, while I can’t promise I’ll get as excited as you do for Final Four or Fantasy Football, I do promise to always root for the Cincinnati Bengals and the St. X Bombers.

Kyle, I am honored to call you my husband, today and every day, for the rest of my life.

Groom: I promise to be your husband, to always be your best friend, to share in all the good moments, and to laugh with you every day.

I promise to cry when you cry, to say “I’m sorry” – no matter who’s to blame – and to always hold your hand when we’re lost.

I promise to put family above all else, and to strive to be the father that ours have been to us.

I always promise to be your best friend.


See a sweet – but grainy! – video of our promises here, courtesy of cousin Jessi!

Weigh-In: Did you and your husband recite traditional vows or did you write your own, and why? If you went the personal route, what did you say and how did you find your inspiration? Help all our lovely brides-to-be out and comment below or email me!

Written with love by Katharine
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  1. avatar Kelly Sauer reply

    Pete and I wrote our own vows, and used some of the languaging from traditional vows. We both began with a promise, and then we wrote more specific to each of our perspectives from there. They were very personal to us. But we’re dreaming about another wedding for some of the stuff we didn’t have figured out for our first wedding (like photos – love the mileage you’re getting out of yours!), and I don’t know if we’d use them again, or if we’d make something up on the fly, or if we’d go traditional.

    My perspective is that you’ve got enough obligations on your wedding day – Follow your heart with the vows.

    Here is a link to the vows we wrote – http://www.kellylangnersauer.com/blog/2006/09/21/vows/

    • avatar Katharine reply

      Kelly, I agree 100%. One thing that definitely gave me pause about personal vows was whether or not we’d want that added responsibility (and, let’s be honest, stress!) on our wedding day. I can’t imagine our ceremony any other way, but would be lying if I said the decision was stress-free. There definitely were a few extra butterflies the day-of! So glad to hear your vows were very YOU; funny, sweet, romantic or serious, that’s the way they should be. Hugs, Katharine

  2. avatar Gwendolyn Tundermann reply

    My hubby and I wrote our own vows in addition to saying the traditional vows! In the months leading up to our wedding, I reflected on all the reasons why I love him, and that was my inspiration. If you decide to write your own, my suggestion is don’t wait until the night before to write them.

    • avatar Katharine reply

      Amen, sista! Planning is key with personal vows. (Kyle must have missed that memo, but I have to admit I couldn’t have been more pleased with what he said on our wedding day.)

  3. avatar Kerry reply

    Perfect timing Katharine. I needed this article. I have been with the debate myself and had also decided to do both the traditional vows, and a few promises to each other. My fiance and I will probably be a little nervous and choked up, but hopefully we can make out a few sentences! Your vows are so sweet, and I am sure that it added so much personality to your ceremony. It will be something of your own to treasure.

    • avatar Katharine reply

      Kerry, I’m so glad this post was helpful for you!! That’s the goal, and I’m tickled it actually helped :) Emily and I were talking a lot about vows yesterday, and being of the more “traditional” (but sentimental!) mindset, felt saying both personal and conventional vows offers the perfect blend of personality and tradition. As a sidenote, almost all of our guests told us how nice it was to hear from the bride + groom directly during the ceremony. I’m sure your vows will be perfect!

  4. avatar Tweets that mention I Do or I Don’t: Writing Your Own Vows « Southern Weddings Magazine — Topsy.com reply

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Emily Ayer, Katharine Waterman. Katharine Waterman said: I Do or I Don't: Writing Your Own Vows. Brides, weigh-in! http://bit.ly/gj03qW […]

  5. avatar Erin reply

    I so needed to see this article–THANK YOU KATHARINE! My fiance, Stephen, and I just found out a couple of days ago that he’s being deployed to Afghanistan in July so we’re going to get courthouse married this coming March (exactly 18 months before our planned-all-along wedding-wedding!…YAY for two anniversaries!). He’s all about writing our own vows, but said we should save them for the wedding-wedding in September 2012 that we’ve been planning all along. I’ve been so nervous this whole time thinking “I so cannot write my own vows, oh my goodness.” I actually watched an episode of Four Weddings the other night and began thinking of what I might even begin to say to Stephen on our wedding-wedding day and, stone-cold sober, couldn’t stop sobbing! I told my mom and she said “Ah, that is why you have to PRACTICE….A LOT!” haha. Even if boys wait to the last minute, I know I’ll have to be like you and think (and practice!) months and months before hand!

    • avatar Katharine reply

      Hi Erin! Congratulations to you and your lucky groom… on BOTH of your upcoming weddings! (Two wedding anniversaries means two presents, which is reason enough for two weddings.) But I know exactly what you mean: deciding what to say and where to start with your vows is possibly THE most overwhelming part of the entire planning process. In the end, I had to cut to the chase, if you will, when writing my vows, and keep it simple. (Lots – and lots – of practice certainly doesn’t hurt, either!) Good luck with your vows! Please keep me posted on your progress, and a big thank you to your fiance for his service! xo, Katharine

  6. avatar Lara reply

    I think the WORLD of you! Your vows made me cry… yet again. So beautiful!!! Missing you guys!

  7. avatar Kate reply

    The thought of writing my own vows was super-stressful (not to mention that my now-husband is WAY better at that sort of thing than me…true story!) but we wanted something more personal in addition to traditional. It was also really important to me that we say the same vows. I looked at hundreds of examples and took bits and pieces of things I liked and then combined them together. So I didn’t have to WRITE anything, per se, but our vows were still unique and personal.

  8. avatar Chelsea Patricia reply

    My hubby and I wrote our own vows to one another in December. It meant so much to us to really, truly MEAN what we were saying to one another, so we made promised from our hearts.

    http://vimeo.com/19199184

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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