Finding the Balance: How to Incorporate Humour into Your Vows Without Going Too Far

Finding the Balance: How to Incorporate Humour into Your Vows Without Going Too Far

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant ©
Categories: | Vows|
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Bride laughing during the vows,
                              hiding her face behind her bouquetA touch of humour in your vows can work brilliantly. And that's why so many "how to write your vows" advise you to write funny vows. Or, at least, to personalise your vows by including a funny promise or two.

Unfortunately, being appropriately funny in your vows is   not as easy as it sounds. If you aren't a naturally funny person (and trust me, very few of us are), standing up in front of a bunch of people is not going to miraculously turn you into one. Much more likely, nerves and the unfamiliarity of the experience will make you less funny than normal, no  matter how hard you've worked on writing "funny" vows.

So it is worth approaching the whole matter of humour in your vows with extreme caution and making an effort to understand how to use it wisely because success requires accurately reading your audience and striking the right balance between love and levity.

It's OK to ignore the standard wedding vow advice


Your vows are your statement of commitment to your partner and your promises about the effort you will put in to being a loyal and loving partner who respects and honours your marriage and behaves towards your spouse with love and kindness.

So it is OK to decide to
  • keep your vows personal, but err on the side of being serious
  • coordinate with your partner to make sure you're both on the same page
  • write collaboratively with your partner so that you share the process, your vows compliment each other's, but your vows are still different

Be clear about your goals, and the process


  • The goal of wedding vows is share lovingly crafted promises in front of the people who will hold you accountable for keeping them.
  • The process of writing personal vows starts and ends with deep thought about your partner, and about the marriage you will be creating together.

Think about your audience


One of the wonderful things about weddings is that they bring together two families and their friends. Two often very different families, more and more commonly from opposite ends of the globe.

Who will be present when you make your vows is a relevant question because the more people present, the less well they will know you, and, more importantly, the less well you will know them and the less likely it will be that your take on what is funny will be shared with all of them. This is particularly true if not every in the room shares the same cultural background. interests, and life experience.
  • Your partner
  • Your partner and your two witnesses
  • Your partner, witnesses, and your nearest and dearest
  • Your partner, witnesses, nearest and dearest, and your guests

Any humour needs to be accessible to everyone present. The last thing you want is to have half the room in fits of laughter and the other half stone-faced because they haven't a clue why.



The point of an in-joke is that the people who understand it, understand it, and those who aren't part of the relevant group, aren't in on the joke. That's reason enough to avoid them.

When the group in on the joke is just you and your partner, everyone present will be mystified. But even worse, lack of knowledge about the background and meaning can leave your guests interpreting the joke negatively.

Case in point. A personal story. In my family one of the in-jokes depended on usage of grammatical convention from a different language. Specifically, if one of us was all dressed up to go out it was common to ask other members of the family "Am I not beautiful". The grammatically correct answer being "Yes, you are not".  Always said with affection in the voice. When my son was in his early teens, a colleague picked me up because we were car-pooling to a professional meeting. As I was leaving, my son and I went through the routine. Well, no sooner was I in the car than my colleague told me, in front of the others in the car, that if his child spoken to his mother like that he would have thrashed him. Had totally ignored the affection and had listened only to the words, which he had misunderstood.

Jokes in general


A bride, a groom, and a celebrant walk into a bar ...

Um. No.

You've got the microphone. You're the only one speaking. Everyone is paying attention. But only as eavesdroppers on the intimate moment when you are talking to one person, your partner and making the most significant promises of your life.

Word-play, puns, and pop-culture references


The other wonderful thing about weddings is that people of all ages will be present. Language changes over generations, and so does pop-culture. People of different generations may not understand some of the more contemporary references.

How to successfully use humour in your vows


When you make your vows you want everyone, not just your partner, to believe in your commitment. Humour, correctly used, is one of the most powerful communication tools we have. Research has proven that if you can make them laugh, they are more likely to accept what you say. Unless, of course, they are the butt of the joke, and therefore offended by it, or offended on behalf of the person or group that is the butt of the joke.
  • Focus the humour on the situation, not the person. Making your partner the butt of your joke will come across as a sly dig.
  • Use humour against yourself. Self-deprecating humour is something we Australians appreciate. And we're pretty good at it. But there is always a but. There is a fine line between self-deprecation and giving the impression that your partner is either controlling or clueless.
  • Use humour sparingly. The odd smile and giggle is fine. Aiming for 2 minutes of side-splitting, rolling in the aisle laughter is OTT and will obscure your commitment.
  • Start and end your vows with serious, romantic, statements (beginning) and promises (ending). Keep the humour for the middle. It helps keep it in perspective.
  • Avoid "funny" quotes about marriage. They usually have a sting in the tail. You're going into this marriage with hope and trust. Don't dilute that.
  • Do not copy "funny" promises from the internet. Generic is generic. Funny or not.
Once you have written your vows, run anything that relies on humour past a couple of people you can trust to give you an honest reaction. Your celebrant, for example, and someone who knows your partner well and ask them look for any way it could be interpreted negatively. By anyone. Edit accordingly.

How it looks in photos


Photos of the couple and/or the guests laughing in the vows are a powerful incentive to try to write "funny" vows. But sometimes, if you look closely, you can see the embarrassment on people's faces. Laughing is a fairly common way to react to feeling embarrassed!

Thanks for reading!

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                        Jennifer Cram Brisbane Marriage Celebrant
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