Photo by Susan Gruber Photography
When I ask couples why they have chosen a civil ceremony their most common response is because they want a ceremony that is all about them, not just a stock standard ceremony with their names added in. The most personal part of these ceremonies? Their vows. I am always in awe of the vows couples share with each other. It offers the rest of us a little glimpse into their very private world. Like when Temika told Jordan that just by being there when she was down he could stop the rain and let the sun shine on their lives. You can see in their eyes that they have almost forgotten everyone else is there and they are only talking to each other.
The vows are the heart of your ceremony and the most important words you’ll say on the day. They are a declaration of your love and a statement of the promises you are making to your partner. So how do you find those words? The ones that say exactly how you feel? Well for starters find a great celebrant – one who you click with. They can help you to choose the perfect vows, the ones that will have everyone reaching for the tissues (or bursting with laughter) and will melt the heart of your soon to be spouse.
Photo by Lisa Lent
But before we get into the fun bit let’s look at the legal requirements. To ensure that a civil ceremony is legal both the bride and groom must say the following words and they must be heard by the celebrant and the two witnesses: ‘I call upon the people here present to witness that I Jordan take you Lee to be my lawful wedded husband/wife’.
You can include your full names here but many couples find these vows formal enough already and instead include them in the introduction. As you can see the legals don’t really scream ‘love’ so most people like to add some extra vows.There is no right or wrong when it comes to writing your vows but if you’re stuck for ideas here are a few suggestions:
- Write your own – Not channelling Shakespeare today? That’s ok, look at what others have written (ask your celebrant for some suggestions) and adapt their words to suit you. This is by far the most popular option with the couples I marry.
- Find a poem or song lyrics that express how you feel.
- List 10 things you love about your partner.
- Go traditional – although they are more commonly found in church weddings some couples still choose ‘to have and to hold as long as we both shall live’.
If it suits the style of your wedding, have some fun with your vows. Like when Matt promised Dianna (amongst other things) puppies when times were tough, fluffy socks when she felt cold and lots of kisses. I can’t wait for (oops can’t say who’s just yet) wedding where the vows are like a Dr Suess poem. Sadly I’m not allowed to wear the big red and white hat!
Photo by Felicity Jenkins
When planning your ceremony decide if you’ll both say the same vows or each choose something different. If you are going for different vows will you share them with each other before the ceremony? I have to say, it is lovely to watch the faces of couples as they hear their partner’s vows for the first time.
Photo by Kelly Luker
Finally here are a few tips to make sure that those carefully chosen words are allowed to shine:
- Make sure that everyone can hear you say your vows. Ask your celebrant to turn their mic off and yours on. No one needs to hear them twice.
- Look at your partner while you are saying them. It’s amazing how many grooms look at me when I say the words for them to repeat. Obviously they are very well brought up but this isn’t the time for manners.
- Talk with your celebrant beforehand about whether to read your vows from a card or repeat after them. Both have pros and cons but that’s a whole other topic.
- Most importantly, relax! This is your big day so there’s no need to rush through your vows. If you need a break take it, it’s ok.
Photo by Steven Thomson
Ms Gingham says: Such great advice on vows. I suspect most people just wouldn’t know where to start when composing these words. And they’re pretty important and special after all!
Sarah says: “Engage Celebrants is a network of young, professional and above all fun celebrants. We aim to get the word out to couples about just how great a civil ceremony can be and the importance of choosing the perfect celebrant to bring your dreams to life. “
Want more? Check out these posts from the archives: