Writing Your Own Vows

Personalized vows are common in modern weddings. Many couples customize their ceremonies to make the words truly speak to and about them.

It is important to check with the officiant, however. Some faiths require specific words and rituals. If no restrictions exist, then there are many opportunities for personal touches. Oregon law only requires that a couple obtain a marriage license and state that they wish to be married to one another in front of two adult witnesses and an authorized officiant. This opens the door for a great deal of creativity.

A pair might write just the vows or create a ceremony from scratch. Some officiants provide pre-written resources to compile, add to, or subtract from until the perfect ceremony emerges. Many books or Internet sources offer materials too. Greeting cards, poetry, or words jotted down from brainstorming sessions could work as well, especially for those who have no idea what to write.

The following are usual elements used in a wedding ceremony:

  • Gathering words: The opening states the reason for the occasion, general words about love, and/or a summary of how the bride and groom met and fell in love.
  • Consent: The officiant asks the couple if they understand the importance of the commitment and if they wish to proceed.
  • Vows: These take the form of words read off of cards, "repeat after me" phrases, or traditional "I do" questions.
  • Ring exchange: Most couples including a second set of vows and explanation of the ring symbology.
  • Pronouncement: The bride and groom are declared husband and wife, followed by the kiss.
  • Announcement: Many couples chose to be announced as a way to let the guests know of a name change or retention of pre-marriage names.Couples might also include prayers, readings, handfasting (literally tying the knot), or unity rituals like candle lighting or sand ceremonies. People sometimes add rituals acknowledging children from previous relationships, too.

When planning a wedding customizing the marriage ceremony itself offers a terrific opportunity for creating a unique and memorable occasion. Each couple is unique, why shouldn't their ceremony be too?

Reverend Marcie D.B. McDonald, M. Div., is an interfaith wedding officiant based in the Portland, Oregon area. www.wedding-minister.net (503)351-8572

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