Top Tips For Writing Tear-jerking Vows

By John O'Leary Celebrant and Maria Yeonhee Ji

Vows are some of the most personal, public declarations of commitment and devotion that a person will make in their lifetime. There are many different approaches to wedding vows - reading something pre-written, writing your own vows from scratch, or opting for spontaneity on the day and simply telling each other how you feel on the day straight from the heart… Whichever way you choose, consider these top tips from wedding celebrant John O’Leary about how to write vows that will ensure there isn’t a dry eye in the room. 

1/ SHARE YOUR REASONS FOR LOVING YOUR PARTNER

vows, wedding, love, celebrant, reception, toast, promise, rings, writing, ideas, inspo

Image by Fluro Grey 

Though not everything about love can be explained, there’s no doubt you’ll have a lot of reasons why you do love your partner. Your vows give you the perfect opportunity to share some of these reasons. What qualities about your partner do you really love? What kinds of experiences do you love sharing with them? How do they make you feel? What type of person do you become when you are with them? Think about your fondest memories and write them down. Then write down a few sentences, starting with "I love you because ...", and "I love when we ...". Some of John O’Leary’s favorite vows included sentences like: "I love you because you are my best friend and my soulmate"; "I love the way we can just be together, driving the car or doing cooking, or sit together watching television, eating popcorn"; or "I love that you make me a calmer person."

2/ MAKE YOUR PARTNER FEEL IMPORTANT

vows, wedding, love, celebrant, reception, toast, promise, rings, writing, ideas, inspo

Image by Perspectives Photo + Cinema

Your vows are a great opportunity to share with all your family and friends what you admire about your partner. Think about what qualities and characteristics you cherish in them and why they are so admirable. Write down a list, starting each sentence with "I admire you because...". For example: "I admire how you can always find the positive in every situation."

3/ EXPRESS YOUR GRATITUDE

vows, wedding, love, celebrant, reception, toast, promise, rings, writing, ideas, inspo

Image by Lime Green Photography
 
In the lead up to his own wedding many years ago, John O’Leary was struggling with my own vows when his mother-in-law took him aside and gave him some advice. "The best thing is to thank her for who she makes you,” she said. John took her suggestion to heart, and treasures the advice to this day because he believes we love people because of the way they make us feel about ourselves. To come up with some vows that will communicate what you are thankful for about your partner, write some sentences starting with “I want to thank you for…”. For example: "I want to thank you for showing me how to love. I want to thank you for always being there to support me."

4/ VERBALISE THE DREAM

vows, wedding, love, celebrant, reception, toast, promise, rings, writing, ideas, inspo

Image by Perspectives Photo + Cinema

The promises you make to each other about what kind of marriage you want to build are another important aspect of the wedding vows. Think about the paths you want to take with your partner. What parts of yourself do you want to give them? How do you imagine your lives together? Cast aside other people’s expectations and definitions about how define a great marriage and only promise commitments that honour your vision of the next lifetime with your partner. For example, if “I will always obey and serve you” doesn’t encapsulate that dream, don’t feel pressured to make that promise. To brainstorm some ideas of what you could say, write down a few sentences starting with “I promise to…”. One of John O’Leary’s favourite sets of wedding vows had a structure where each sentence began with “I cannot promise that… but…”. For example: “I cannot promise that we will never fight, but I promise that I will always listen to what you have to say.” 

5/ THE LITTLE PEOPLE CAN HAVE THE BIGGEST IMPACT 

vows, wedding, love, celebrant, reception, toast, promise, rings, writing, ideas, inspo

Image by Perspectives Photo + Cinema
 
Your vows are unique to you so there are no rules for what you can and can’t include. Though traditionally wedding vows are said in turn by each person of the couple, if one or both of you have children, consider including them in the vows as well! John O’Leary, for example, is currently working with a special couple who already have three children. The groom has said he wants to include their children in his vows, which is a beautiful, sentimental gesture that shows how important they are in this relationship and future marriage. 

6/ TAKE INSPIRATION FROM OTHER PLACES

vows, wedding, love, celebrant, reception, toast, promise, rings, writing, ideas, inspo

Image by Levien & Lens Photography
 
They say there’s no such thing as originality, just authenticity, so make the most of other literary works or examples of heartfelt vows. Borrow from quotes and other people’s vows and find the bits that resonate with you. John for example has books of vows and transcripts of vows from previous weddings that he has officiated that his clients can go through for some inspiration. You can either reword the vows to personalise it to your relationship, or piece sentences you like together in a new combination to make unique vows just for you. At the end of the day the specifics of what you say don’t really matter as long as you are comfortable and saying things you truly feel. 

7/ REMEMBER YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN RULES

vows, wedding, love, celebrant, reception, toast, promise, rings, writing, ideas, inspo

Image by Perspectives Photo + Cinema
 
Remember that this is your ceremony - exercise your freedom to make your own rules. Do what brings you happiness; there’s no need to be uncomfortable or feel forced into making a grandiose speech if that’s not the kind of thing you’d do. At a recent wedding that John O’Leary officiated, the groom’s vows were about 5 minutes long and the bride’s were less than 1 minute. “There is no rule that your vows have to be the same length,” he says. “If you feel comfortable just saying a little, and your partner wants to say a lot, that is fine.” John O’Leary has also been to a wedding where the groom didn’t want to write any vows, but rather simply wanted to talk about how he felt about her, and how he loved her. “[The groom’s] words were some of the most beautiful that I have heard”, says John.  “His bride, on the other hand, didn't want to say anything. But her expression while he was talking, the way she stared into his eyes with admiration and love, said everything.”

8/ PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

vows, wedding, love, celebrant, reception, toast, promise, rings, writing, ideas, inspo

Image by Perspectives Photo + Cinema
 
As important as the drafting and editing process may be, the delivery of the vows is crucial if you want them to be truly tear-jerking. Unless you have that rare gift of being able to spontaneously come up with a perfectly formed speech even under high-pressure circumstances, you should definitely practise what you want to say a few times before the wedding. The easiest ways to do this are in front of the mirror or by recording yourself on your phone. If your celebrant has experience with public speaking coaching, they will be able to provide you with feedback, valuable tips, and guidance on how to best deliver your vows. John O’Leary finds that the advice he most frequently gives to his clients is “Slow down. Don’t rush. It’s better to speak too slow than too fast. That way you ensure everyone can hear what you say, and you can savour the moment for yourself.”


You might also like

Auckland Wedding 8 Hidden Wedding Costs

8 Hidden Wedding Costs

You’ve budgeted for all the major items – the venue, dress and photographer. But there are lots of little...

Auckland Wedding Wedding Etiquette: Our Top 8 Social Media Do's and Don'ts

Wedding Etiquette: Our Top 8 Social Media Do's and Don'ts

Navigating wedding etiquette is difficult enough as it is, but when you throw technology and social media...

Auckland Wedding How to Create a Seating Plan (Without the Tears!)

How to Create a Seating Plan (Without the Tears!)

Seating Plans: The task sounds easy enough, but ask any bride and you will quickly find that it was likely...

Auckland Wedding To Share or Not to Share: Social Media @ Your Wedding

To Share or Not to Share: Social Media @ Your Wedding

With the exception of your Grandparents, you’d be hard pressed to find someone without at least one social...

Like us on Facebook for giveaways, blog posts and wedding showcases!

I already like Auckland Weddings