Your vows are the
centrepiece of your marriage ceremony. In many ways
they are the reason for getting married, because
they are a statement of your commitment.
There is so much advice about writing vows out in
internet land that you might not know where to
start. Ironically, it is often easier to start by
getting clear in your mind what won't fly, the
message you want to avoid sending, and work back
from there to what you do want to say.
Here are the things that should never
included in vows.
that sends a negative message
- Snide jabs at your at your partner
You might think it is a lighthearted joke,
but a jab will embarrass your partner, and come
across as mean to others.
- Any mention of your partner's weaknesses or
There is a very fine line between making fun
of someone in a bantering way that is understood
by you both, and going too far. Even is
something is acceptable to joke about in
private, mentioning it in public, and
particularly on a day when everyone's emotions
are heightened, crosses the line and could cause
lasting damage to your relationship.
- Snide jabs at or jokes about friends or
It is never cool to single anyone out in a
crowd. Taking a detour in your vows will make
you not only come across as mean, but also as
not totally committed to your partner.
- Any mention of break-ups or rough patches
in your relationship
As they say, Never complain, Never
explain. Mentioning that time when you had
a fight and broke up for a while, or where you
hit a rough patch and didn't know whether you
would or you wouldn't, would be both a little
whinge and an explanation. You've drawn a line
under it. You've moved on. Don't give it air
- Anything Heteropessimisistic
We've all heard them. Those negative views
of marriage and relationships. The husband who
introduces his wife as his first wife.
The wife who refers to her husband as her current
husband. All of those marriage is ...
jokey definitions. Frankly, it drives me dilly
when I hear celebrants express such views in
guise of a joke, because it reveals
disappointment about being in a relationship and
suggests an attitude of disappointment. Don't go
Anything that implies an unequal
power balance between you
A bride having to promise to obey is long past its
use by date. But there are other ways of signally or
implying that one of you is subservient to the
They should be avoided.
I will encourage you,
or because you
me is fine. I will let you
because you let me
3. Anything secret or
private - unless you have both agreed to do a
We all have secrets or things we are
sensitive about and prefer not to share with the
world at large. Do break a confidence. Do not out
your partner, or yourself.
On the other hand, if you have a secret you are
dying to share (eg a pregnancy), and you both agree
to reveal, your vows can be an appropriate place.
For example, you could both make promises to the
child we are expecting.
But think very
carefully if a reveal will take the attention away
from the rest of your vows, your promises to one
would warrant a TV/Movie rating or advisory warning,
leave it out, including
- Coarse or foul language
You might be f****** stoked to be getting
married, but best not to say so in those exact
- Anything sexually explicit. That
includes raunchy stories or steamy promises. - a
subtle double entendre may pass muster
or it may not. That will depend on who your
guests are. If in doubt, leave it out. At worst
it could offend. At best it could come across as
cliche or go over their heads and fall flat
- Any allusion to specific body parts -
Everyone assumes you are physically
attracted to one another. You don't have to hit
them over the head with it.
Vows should be PG at most. If you want to say
something steamy, either write your partner a note
to be read before the ceremony, or, whisper in
their ear during your first look or photos after
the ceremony. That will pay dividends without
anyone knowing what you said!
5. Jokes of any sort
are not an open mic night opportunity. While a touch
of playful humour could be fine, keep it to just a
touch (think in terms of adding salt to a dish, you
don't want to overwhelm the flavour of all the other
So don't be telling jokes, and that includes
reference to insider or private jokes, Your guests
want to understand what you are promising. If they
don't know what you are talking about, you will
6. Your murky backstory
This day is about you and your
partner. Your vows are statements about your
commitment to shared future. You past may have
contributed to who you are now, or it may have
played a part in how you but your vows are not the
place to mention your ex, your divorce, or what you
learned in previous relationships.
7. Anything that puts
conditions on your commitment
Don't sink the
ship before it sets sail!
From the legal point of view, both of you must be
committing to your marriage, unconditionally. The
words that create the marriage are simply I take
you to be my lawful wedded
stop. No conditions.
Before you say those words, your celebrant
must recite the legal definition of marriage in
Australia ... the union of two people, to
the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered
into, for life. So anything that can be taken to
be conditional, can also be taken to be less that
fully voluntary. And that will raise doubts as to
the validity of your marriage.
8. Something borrowed
We all know that
rhyme. But here's the thing. It is about an object.
Something you carry, not something you say. Your own
words are the most powerful words you can use to
frame your commitment to your partner. If a quote,
line of poetry, or sentiment from a song, speaks
volumes to you, think about what it says and how you
would express it if you had to share that thought
with someone else but were not allowed to use the
words of the quote. Then do just that.
What you might see as essential detail, those
listening will hear as noise that obscures the
essential core of your commitment. Vows should be a
distillation of your commitment, not the longest
novel ever written. Your vows are not the
place to ramble, to beat around the bush, or tell
10. Ad libs
spontaneous ad lib can change the whole tone of your
vows and turn them into a clowning around look at me
experience for your guests. Don't be tempted.
Nobody expects you to have all the skills and
knowledge to personally create every element of your
wedding from scratch. So if you would rather be
doing something else than sweating over turning your
thoughts, emotions, and commitment into words there
is no shame, or harm, in getting professional help
to write your vows. And I'd love to use my seventeen
years of experience and expertise as a marriage
to do that for you.