How to Write a Love Letter

 
by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant (15/04/2020) |  Categories: | Wedding Ceremony | Wedding Planning | Wedding Rituals|
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Black fountain pen lying on a sheet of
                        white paper on which the word Love has been
                        written in blue inkHearing the person you're in love with say those three words is incredibly romantic. Just remembering the sound of them, spoken with love, can warm the heart for years. Receiving those words of love in print is a way to constantly feel the love.
What could possibly be more romantic than receiving a love letter?  Writing one! Putting your love in writing is a way to have it endure for ever. Love letters can be beautiful and important part of your wedding day. They keep the uniqueness and romance of your wedding alive.

Private letters

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Any time is a good time to write a love letter. But having a private message of love delivered to your beloved on the morning of your wedding is particularly intimate. Photographers love this, too, because it gives them an opportunity to capture some very emotional reactions in a way that conveys the connection between you, even though you are not together. So, tempting though it might be, this is one occasion where a text just won't do. After all, there is nothing particularly visually special about a photo of someone looking at their phone.

Love letters in the ceremony

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Love letters can be included in your wedding ceremony in two ways. One, an exchange of love letters during the ceremony, requires that they be read aloud. The other, the Wine Box ritual  doesn't.
  • Exchange of love letters
    How this works is that each of you writes a love letter to the other, to be kept secret until it is read aloud at the ceremony. You can read your letters, or ask your celebrant to do it on your behalf.
  • The Wine Box Ritual
    This ritual involves  a box, and a bottle of wine, and love letters. During the ceremony you put a carefully chosen bottle of wine into a prepared box, along with your sealed love letters and lock it, ready to open on a milestone anniversary.

Love Letters and Vows

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Before you get starting on writing either your vows or a love letter, it is important to get the difference between them clear. Much of the advice about writing personal vows Google will serve up to you blurs the difference.
 Put simply, a vow is a promise. When you make your personal vows you are making a public commitment about the person you are going to be within your marriage and how you are going to behave towards you spouse. A love letter, on the other hand, can include promises and commitment, but is also very much about feelings - how you feel, and how your beloved makes you feel.

Before you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard)

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LIke any piece of writing (other than a Post-It note) a love letter needs to be planned in order to effectively communicate. So, before you start, ask yourself three questions:
  1. Why am I writing this letter?
    Obviously, because you to express your love. And the tips in this blog work just as well for a private letter that you are writing, just because. But, in the context of your wedding day, a love letter to be read privately, a love letter to be read aloud and shared with your guests, and a love letter sealed up and put into a box to be opened at a later date will all have subtle, but significant differences.
  2. Who am I writing this letter to?
    Of course the answer is the bleeding obvious. But you need to dig deeper than the obvious of who to what makes your beloved tick. What is important to your beloved. What do you share that would speak to their heart?

Coordinate with your Celebrant

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When my couples choose to include the reading of love letters in their ceremony I ask three questions
  1. Do you want to read them or would you like me to read them on your behalf?
  2. Would you each prefer to read your own letter to the other, or would you like to exchange them so that each of you reads your beloved's letter for the first time when you read it aloud and share it with your guests?
  3. Would you like me to create matching cards for your letters, or do you want to do your own!

And we also discuss length. If your letters are going to be read aloud during the ceremony they need to be relatively short. I've found 160 words about the perfect length. Long enough to say what you feel, but not so long as to invite waffling or repeating yourself. Even if you're keeping the letters secret from one another, I always encourage sending them to me, in confidence. That way I can make sure that they are of similar length. While no-one comes to your wedding specifically to pass judgement, a noticeable difference in length does invite some speculation. I can also make sure that no-one has written a business letter rather than a love letter! It happens.

Don't feel awkward about asking your celebrant for some help with your draft letters. After all, being a wordsmith is part of our job.

How to write your draft letter

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No-one ever writes a great love letter first try. It can take several drafts. And that's fine. In fact better than fine because the process allows you to make sure that your letter is not only easy to read, but that the message is clear.

Staring at a blank piece of paper in front of you can be a bit daunting. Especially if you're used to writing on a device. Use whatever is most comfortable and familiar to you. If you're used to writing on a device, use it to write your drafts. You can always print your letter out and copy it in your best handwriting when you're happy with your final draft.
  • Start early so you can take your time
    Writing vows or love letters on the morning of your wedding might be the stuff of rom-coms, but is also a sure recipe for failure. Writing a draft, putting it aside for a day or so, and then coming back to it with fresh eyes goes a long way to ensuring that your final letter is everything your beloved hopes it will be.
  • Write with your heart and from your heart
    Use your own words, not something copied from the internet. If what you write doesn't sound like you, it won't feel real.
  • Be specific
    Tell your beloved how much you love them, what it is about them that makes you love them, and what makes them so dear, special, and important to you. It can help to make a list of dot points and then weave them into the text.
  • Don't forget to say how happy you are to be marrying them and how much you are looking forward to spending the rest of your life together.
  • Keep in the forefront of your mind that this is a letter you want your beloved to keep forever
    Forget the boring and the trivial and Dad Joke quality comments. They add nothing to something you want to be a memento and monument to your love.
  • Keep the tone conversational.
    Read your draft aloud. If it sounds unnatural, it will read unnaturally on the day. It could even sound pretentious, or like you're delivering a lecture.
  • Don't fall into the 'I' trap.
    When we're talking to someone who starts every sentence with 'I' we tend to roll our eyes and switch off.  Enough said. When you use 'I' make sure it is balanced with 'You'. In fact, try to use 'You' a lot - it is the verbal equivalent of reaching out and touching. 
  • Be careful with the baby talk
    Even if you do use baby talk and baby names to one another in private, don't include them in a love letter that will be shared with others. It can give the wrong impression about power in your relationship. As can using girl or boy  when talking about one another. 
  • Remember that while letter writing is talking on paper, it isn't like our normal conversational ways of talking. In a letter things that might go unnoticed in ordinary conversation will be noticed. Jargon. Repeating yourself. Half-finished sentences. Bad language. Too much information (remember, a letter in a ceremony is not private, so you don't want steam coming out of someone's ears). Clich├ęs. The word Very. The word Special. Meaningless exaggerations like 'You are the most beautiful woman in the world'.
  • Be funny, but hold off on the teasing
    In a short letter, any humour is going to be, of necessity, a one-liner. Just make sure that it doesn't come across as sarcastic, or have a sting in the tail.
  • Don't write your letter at work!
    When we write for business purposes, we automatically write in a particular, and more formal, style.  You can't help it. So save the letter writing for times where your mindset is romance rather than business.

Some practical advice

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Whether your letter is going to be delivered to be read privately while your beloved is getting ready for your wedding, exchanged and read aloud during the ceremony, or handed over to be sealed up in a box, it will be photographed.
  • There are several good reasons for committing your love letter to paper
    • Paper lasts. For centuries
    • Your letter will always be accessible because paper is immune to technology obsolescence. In fifty years time who knows what technology will look like. One thing is sure, however, a lot of the files that are on our devices now will be totally unreadable because either the software won't be available, the operating system is different, or nobody remembers what was used to create the letter in the first place.
  • Be as careful about choosing how your letter will look as you have been about choosing what you will wear or how the ceremony area will be styled.
    Thin, lined paper that will flap in the wind is not going to look great in photos. On the other hand, luxuriously thick paper adds a sensuous element. Your letter is not only going to be read, it is going to be touched and held. .When my couples choose to exchange love letters during the ceremony I create a folded and decorated card for them. There are many options. If your love letter is short, writing it on a postcard that has significance for your relationship works beautifully. If it is long, using a card allows you to reinvent the custom of earlier times of writing a letters on a single sheet of paper folded in half to make four pages. This could be stapled into the card down the middle to make like a little booklet (you'll need a long arm stapler), or stitched or fastened with ribbon through holes made at the fold.
  • If your handwriting is beautiful, or at least even and legible, hand write.
    But there is nothing wrong with a typed letter. Just make sure you address it (Dear ...) and sign it in your own hand. Choose a font that is easy to read, but is serious. No Comic Sands or cutesy fonts! And use black ink.
  • Leave a decent margin, and break the text up in logical paragraphs.
    It makes your letter easier to read, particularly if it is being read aloud.
  • Make the text big enough to read without reading glasses.
    No-one wants to have to whip out their reading glasses during their wedding ceremony, or down the track at a 25th or 50th wedding anniversary.

Don't forget

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A love letter is a real affirmation. That's what makes it a perfect inclusion for your wedding day. And, as the years go on, and your letter is read again and again, each time it will deepen in meaning as all of the events and feelings that are yet to come are superimposed over your words.

Jenny xxx Let's talk soon about how you
                      can have the best ceremony ever
 
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