Surprise Vows

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant  © (10/08/2023)
Categories: | Vows | 
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Groom laughing as he reads his vows. The
                    bride is seen only from the back. She is wearing a
                    lace dress with cut-outs.Personal vows are an intimate an optional addition to a wedding ceremony. While saying the words that will create the marriage (in Australia those are referred to as the legal vows) is not optional, making personal promises is a choice.

Personal promises give a couple the opportunity to express their deep love and commitment to each other. and to speak their intentions for their marriage.

While you don't necessarily have to write your personal vows yourselves, it is almost universally accepted that you will, either as a collaboration, or as an individual exercise where each keeps their promises secret from the other until you read them aloud on the day.

Surprise personal vows - getting agreement


The secret to ensuring that your surprise vows don't cause any uncomfortable moments is three things
  1. Make sure that both of your are on board with the idea.
    The first step is to make sure that the surprise aspect is something that your partner will actually appreciate. Some people may feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed by a sudden public declaration of emotions, while others may find it incredibly romantic nd touching. Discuss it with your partner. And listen carefully. If you're still not sure how your partner would react, consider talking to close friends or family members for their input.

  2. Without going into details, reach an agreement  about length and content.
    By content, I mean broad agreement about whether you will mention part of your story, whether you will express personal feelings, or whether you will stick to making promises, or some or all of the above.

    There is nothing more uncomfortable than a wedding where the personal vows by the two people getting married don't mesh! If one of you speaks at length, and the other is succinct and to the point, it will feel unbalanced. If one of you makes a wide range of promises and the other makes very few, your commitment will feel unequal. And if one of you is very emotional and the other very business-like, your guests will start to wonder.

    HINT: I can always tell when someone has written their vows at work. So if your normal job involves a lot of formal, business writing, check that that style hasn't leaked into your vows.

  3. Discuss with your celebrant early. Some will give you instructions about length, some will express opinions about content, and some will give you some very useful tips.

A surprise in part

A touching variation to vows that are a total surprise is for the two of you to collaborate on part of your vows, while keeping the rest of your vows a surprise.

How this works is
  • You agree on introductory phrases you will both say to start your vows, and/or
  • You agree on how you will express your "for how long" commitment, for example each of you saying "until the end of time", or the more usual "for as long as we both shall live" or something similar, and/or
  • You agree on what you will make promises about - in broad terms, and/or
  • You write one or more promises together.

Think before you write

Remember that your vows should be a celebration of your love and commitment, not a source of stress or discomfort. So keep them positive. It is surprisingly easy to inadvertently, usually in the interest of getting a laugh, make a promise that comes across with a sting in the tail.

Choose a trusted person to review both vows

As a celebrant, I do ask my couples to send me their vows well before the ceremony.

This allows me to
  • Compare for length
  • Identify anything that might come across as negative and suggest alternative wording
  • Include the vows in my script and in the keepsake copy
  • Produce attractive bound copies of the vows to hand to the couple on the day.
Choose someone who review the vows for you without spilling the beans!

Pros and Cons of surprise vows

Pro: Surprise personal vows can add an extra layer of emotion and excitement to your wedding ceremony
Con: Your marriage is about your relationship, keeping your vows a total surprise can mean you miss out on the relationship-strengthening impact of discussing what you each will commit to on the day

Pro: Keeping your vows secret adds an element of surprise and intimacy to the ceremony
Con: If not carefully managed,  surprise vows that are dissimilar in content or length could create an imbalance and make the other partner feel inadequate

Pro: Surprise vows allow each of you to express your true feelings without outside influence, ensuring that your vows are genuine and heartfelt. and made using words and sentence structures that are recognisably you/
Con: If one partner has unrealistic expectations that are not fulfilled it could cause unnecessary stress or anxiety.
Thanks for reading!
Jenny xxx Let's talk
                        soon about how you can have the best ceremony
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