Your wedding vows are probably the most sentimental, thought-out words you've ever spoken—let alone written—to your spouse. They're precious, timeless, and a true testament to the reason you're standing up at the altar (or wherever you're saying your "I do's") next to him or her. Bottom line? They should be extra special and certainly not rushed at the last minute. To help you come up with personalized ceremony vows that you'll enjoy looking back on for years and years to come, check out these "I do" dos and don'ts.
Don't write things you don't mean.
Jotting down words and phrases just because they sound nice isn't the way to go about creating your vows. In fact, this is how many people get themselves into ill-fated marriages, according to Kat Van Kirk, Ph.D., licensed marriage, family, and sex therapist. "When we choose a partner because we think we have to, get married because that's what's expected of us and say things because we think we should, trouble follows," says Dr. Van Kirk. Truth and honesty—although not always easy—is the foundation you want to build your marriage on. "If you've had some rough times together, those experiences should be honored because that's what it will take in a successful, long-term marriage."
Put some thought into it.
You might know how very deeply you love and care for your soon-to-be spouse, but have trouble drumming up the right words to say. That's alright! "Very few people are good at 'off the cuff' speaking,'" says Dr. Van Kirk. "It doesn't have to be overly verbose—short and sweet is fine. And you don't have to memorize anything." A notecard or binder is totally acceptable, especially if it helps you alleviate anxiety in regards to speaking in public.
Make sure your vows sound like they're coming from you.
Just because you may lack the immediate words to write or say how you feel doesn't mean you should Google vows and recite something you found online. Fair warning: If you do this, there's a good chance it will sound insincere. "Go ahead and read examples of vows to get an idea of what you want to say, but do so in your own words, even if you don't think you sound eloquent," says Dr. Van Kirk. "It will mean so much more to your spouse and will set you up for success in your marriage."
Stay practical and simple.
It's not a smart idea to start making promises in your vows that you're not sure if you can keep. "We all have the best of intentions when getting married, and it's tempting to promise the moon and sun," says Dr. Van Kirk. "But, while your intentions may be to make millions of dollars so you can travel the world with your spouse, most of marriage has to do with the simple acts of kindness, compassion, and love that you share." In other words, foot rubs and a shoulder to cry on will be worth far more in your marriage in the long run than lavish cars and and exotic trips.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
There's no better time to bare your soul—both to your partner and those present to witness the occasion—than while saying your vows. "It's also a good way to model the kind of communication you'd like in the marriage," Dr. Van Kirk suggests. "Whether you write them together or separately and share them as a surprise, have a discussion about the emotional depth you want to include so you can both be on the same page and present a united front." Much like what you'll need to do in your actual marriage!