Read Your Vows Like a Pro

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (29/11/2021)
Categories:  |  Vows   |   Wedding Ceremony | 
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Vows booklet on a Marriage Register with a
                    silver and gold pen and a filigree wooden heartThe heart of your wedding ceremony is your exchange of vows. While, traditionally, the "I Do/I Will" question, is a question posed to each of you, individually, the vows are structured as "repeat after me", where they are fed to you in short phrases by the celebrant.

Legally, in Australia, in common with many other countries, just responding to a question by saying I Do or I Will, does not create the marriage. Each of you must speak a specific contractual statement. It is this statement that creates your marriage. However, there is no reason, either legally or ceremonially, why you cannot read this legal statement and/or any personal promises you choose to make.

Ensuring that your reading of your vows is successful, takes preparation. And that preparation needs to start well before the big day.

Decide early whether you are going to read your vows

Reading your vows takes a deal of prep work, so you need to start early. It also needs to be a mutual decision, with both of you fully on board with whether you will read both the legal statement and your personal promises, or repeat the legal statement after your celebrant and only read your personal promises

Share your decision about reading your vows with your celebrant

For practical and logistical reasons, the earlier you share your decision to read your vows, the better. 

Write your vows the way you speak

There is a huge difference between something that is written to be read, and something that is written to be spoken aloud. While you will be reading your vows, formal language and perfect grammar could sound a bit off - unless, of course, that's the way you speak when in conversation! Making the legal, contractual, statement will be in formal language, because you will be using the words in the Marriage Act. But your personal vows need to sound like you to feel authentic. While this doesn't mean you cannot use what other people have written as inspiration, it does mean that you shouldn't use them word for word. I mean, your best beloved is marrying you, so you should sound like the person they fell in love with when you make your forever promises! 

Practice your vows by writing them out and by reading them aloud

It is well-known in teaching circles that writing out something by hand (pen and paper) helps you remember it much better. You are not aiming to learn your vows off by heart, but to be so familiar with them that you are using your written vows more as a prompt than a script.

It goes without saying that the more often you practice reading your vows aloud, the more confident you will sound on the day. Being confident comes across as meaning what you are promising!

Ditch the scrappy bits of paper

To make it easy to read your vows, and also to make sure that they look fantastic in photos, what you are reading from should look good, feel good, and be easy to hold in one hand. I tend to favour bound booklets with printed text inside, which I create for couples who choose to read their vows, but a nice card, either flat like a postcard or folded as in a greeting card, also works well. The larger the print, the easier it is to read, too. 14 point is good, 16 or 18 even better.

Many celebrants create vows cards, or you can source your own cards or card covers from wedding stationers who offer generic vows cards.

Hold your vows up

There is nothing less romantic than watching someone read their vows with their head buried in them. Practice 1,2,3, and remind yourself of these on the day
  1. Neck straight - keep your neck straight you can look directly at your best beloved without having to lift your head
  2. Chin up, Vows up - hold your vows up with the top of the page or card about level with your chin
  3. Look up - without moving your head look down to read and look up at your best beloved, often.
If you have practiced your vows a lot you will be able to look away from the text with confidence.

Manage the microphone

If you will be holding the microphone while you are reading your vows, bring the mike up to your mouth rather than lowering your mouth down to the mike. Keep your neck straight. It makes a huge difference in your capacity to project your voice. Everyone wants to hear every word you say

Hand off the vows cards

When you have finished reading your vows you will need to hand off your cards, and the microphone to someone in order to leave your hands free. Discuss this with your celebrant. And make sure that the cards are returned to you to keep as a memento.   

What if nerves get the better of you?

In the unlikely event that, on the day, you are too nervous to read your vows, or you choke up in the middle of them, just hand the card to your celebrant who can seamlessly swap to "Repeat after me" mode.

Need some help in writing your vows?

I also have an affordable Vow-Writing Service if you're stuck.

Thanks for reading!
Jenny xxx Let's talk
                      soon about how you can have the best ceremony
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