Ninja Vows: The Pros and Cons of Writing Each Other's Vows

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant ©
Categories: | Vows | 
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Ninja holding
                      a tabletWedding vows are an essential part of any wedding ceremony.  Legal vows are the words that create your marriage, but what everyone looks forward to hearing are the personal promises. These are the vows that couples write themselves, or vows, usually referred to as the traditional vows, that have been part of church ceremonies for hundreds of years.

However, there is a new trend emerging in the wedding world known as Ninja Vows, though there appears to be a bit of confusion as to what Ninja Vows actually are!

What are Ninja Vows?


Do a bit of googling and you will find three distinct definitions of Ninja Vows!
  • The term coined in the 20th century to describe the ethical code that governed the actions of ninjas. This ethical code includes loyalty, courage, perseverance, self-control, and a commitment to honour and justice. A pretty good code for marriage, too.
  • The marrying couple exchanging promises while wielding toy ninja swords. Sword fight while making promises? Mixed message there, I'd say.
  • Couples making vows that they have not seen before the ceremony and have not agreed to  because their partner has written them and kept them secret. Yes it adds an element of surprise and (?) excitement to the wedding day, but is it a good idea?

Surprise vows


The trend to each partner writing their own vows and keeping them secret until they speak the words on the day has become so prevalent that many couples and many civil celebrants appear to accept that this is the only way to make vows.

Ninja Vows, writing their vows as a surprise for them, takes the whole idea of surprise vows one step further. But are surprise vows, in general, and Ninja Vows, in particular, a good move when considered in the context of an ongoing relationship?

Why people choose to keep their vows a surprise

The belief that underlies surprise vows is that keeping your promises a secret from your partner will allow each of you to express your love and commitment in a unique and personal way. By not knowing what the other has written, the vows can be full of surprises and emotions, making the moment even more special.

But is this belief an accurate reflection of the experience? As a celebrant who, in my Vows Magician hat, works with a wide variety of people, world wide, to write the vows they are keeping a surprise from their partner, hand on heart I can tell you that
  • Surprise vows can be risky and stressful. Without some prior agreement about length, tone, and boundaries, writing your vows in isolation can be stressful, and you may be left feeling uncomfortable on the day with what you are being promised, or not being promised.
  • Tone, length, and content are important to the guests as well. When there is a mismatch they can be left feeling uncomfortable about your relationship.
  • Plagiarism, copying generic promises from the internet, is so common that, while you may think your promises sound fine, your guests (and often your celebrant) will have heard those exact words time and time again, and may even be picturing in their minds the last couple they heard making those exact same promises in those exact same words.
  • Open communication and mutual understanding ensures that both of you are comfortable and happy with the commitments you are making and are being made to you. Both open communication and mutual understanding are essential to a successful marriage. Surprise vows deprive you of the opportunity to ensure both of these are part of the process of getting married.

Performance anxiety and vows

If you are already nervous about standing up and speaking in front of people, your performance anxiety will be hugely increased with each layer of responsibility you add.
  • Writing your own vows - level 1 stress
  • Delivering them as a surprise - level 2 stress
  • Being responsible for what your partner will be required to promise you - through the roof stress!

Ninja Vows? Food for thought ...

Those who think Ninja Vows are a great idea, suggest that the element of surprise that comes with Ninja Vows can add a lot of excitement to the wedding day, making the ceremony more memorable and unique. There is that, but remember
  • Your guests won't know that you wrote each other's vows unless your celebrant announces that fact, an announcement that could deflect their attention from the vows while they try to process what they've just been told.
  • Best case scenario, well-written Ninja Vows can show that you know one another well, trust one another, and are willing to take risks together.
  • Worst case scenario, being forced to make promises that may not sit well with you could make your discomfort starkly obvious to everyone. It could also be deemed to be contrary to the legal requirement that your consent to the marriage is free, willing, and unconditional!
  • Lack of input from both of you can lead to you making vows that don't fully represent your relationship or your shared values.
  • Saying no to surprise vows, and yes to working on your vows as a joint effort can minimise your stress and maximise the impact of writing our vows as a relationship-strengthening exercise

Only you can choose.

Thanks for reading!

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                        Jennifer Cram Brisbane Marriage Celebrant
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