For As Long As We Both Shall Live?
"There is nothing you are obliged to promise. Gone are the days where ‘love, honour and obey’ were compulsory and the only vows permissible."
With: Rita Cohann
One of the tasks that is often last on your to-do list - writing your vows, doesn’t have to be a daunting experience at all. All you need to remember is that declaring your vows is what commits your life to your partner’s life. It is the reason why you are having a wedding in the first place.
Having recently gone through the process of vow writing myself, I am all too familiar with the ‘what do I write' scenario. I can also assure you, it’s also one of the most ‘googled’ wedding questions - ‘How do I write my marriage vows?’
I sat down with Marriage Celebrant Rita Cohann, and with her help, I gleaned some inside knowledge on a practical and easy way to writing marriage vows. Rita said that she always tells her couples this: "Promise what is in your heart and what you are really focused on doing to make your marriage wonderful and fulfilling for both of you. There is nothing you are obliged to promise. Gone are the days where ‘love, honour and obey’ were compulsory and the only vows permissible. Be genuine."
1. Book A Great Celebrant
The first and crucially important job is to find yourself a great celebrant – someone you feel confident in, safe with, and can have a laugh with, someone who ‘gets’ you. Finding your celebrant early on will not only give you peace of mind regarding all the legal aspects of your ceremony, it’ll also give you plenty of time to work with your ceremony so they can write a ceremony which reflects and highlights all the special, wonderful, funny, quirky things about the two of you.
2. Legal Stuff
In Australia, you have to give notice that you are intending to marry. The document which gets this happening is called The Notice of Intended Marriage. You can complete and ‘lodge’ this with your celebrant up to 18 months before your wedding. The latest you can lodge your Notice with your celebrant is one month before the wedding date. It’s best not to leave this until the last minute, as you may end up not being able to marry on your preferred date with your chosen celebrant.
3. Think About What Makes Your Partner Special to You
Remember, at the end of the day, your wedding is a commitment to your significant other. You want the world to know why you chose this special person to be your husband/wife. Before you try to formalise your vows into words, write down all the qualities you admire about your partner, what drew you to them, how they have enriched your life and why you have reached this point of your relationship.
4. Find Inspiration In Your Own Love Story
Is there a significant song that reminds you of your partner, or did you watch a movie together on your first date that will always resonate with you? Perhaps a poem or sentence in a book is a memory trigger for you. Whatever it was, you may even consider quoting a line of this in your vows. Rita said her couples have included quotes from Winnie the Pooh to Metallica! Whether the words are whimsical or serious, they could help capture something very powerful that you want your partner to hear in your vows.
5. Careful with Cryptic
You want your guests to be emotionally right there with you during what is a very tender and revealing moment in your ceremony. If your words are too cryptic, obscure or full of ‘inside’ jokes, your guests might easily just tune out if they can’t relate or don’t get your meaning. Rule of thumb: will you be able to look back on these vows in years to come and still feel proud of them.
6. Be Real
Be authentic. Be genuine. Promise what is important to you. It can be broken down into three things really. Affirming your love. What you love about your relationship and what you are looking forward to in your life ahead.
What you are going to do to make your partnership be not only long lasting, but fulfilling and enriching for both of you.
You can’t go wrong if you are coming from that place of truth and sincerity in your heart.
7. Promise The Right Things
Your vows are a sacred commitment, so promising to wash the dishes every night or feeding the cat every morning may be momentarily entertaining, but it can make too light of the lifelong togetherness you are committing yourself to. You can include lots of hilarious things in your speech later.
“I promise to love you, support your dreams, be your anchor and always put our life together first” is probably far more important longterm than nightly foot rubs or weekly house cleans.
8. Honour Your Values
What values do you and your partner hold close? Mention these and that you will forever cherish them and live by them as a couple or family.
If your wedding is of a legal nature (unfortunately some of us haven’t had the privilege to have had a legal wedding as yet. Oh well, all in due time), keep in mind that there is some legal wording which must also be included in your vows. It is this simple, but life changing line. “I call upon all here present to witness that I ( your full name here) take you (your partner’s full name) to be my wedded wife/husband.”
10. Don’t Worry About Memorising
When you are happy with your vows, it is a good idea to read through and even practise them out loud on your own, so you are familiar with them. This can help you not get tongue-tied on the day! You will be excited and possibly a tad nervous on the big day, so trying to remember them word for word probably isn’t going to happen! Your celebrant can offer options - a ‘repeat after me’ scenario with the celebrant leading the lines for you to repeat, or reading your vows off a printed card to each other. Or – be creative!
11. Get Inspiration
If you can’t put your feelings into words and writing your own vows is a struggle, you can always opt for using something you’ve either seen online or in a book.
Your celebrant is always a great source of ideas and will have lots of samples for you to look through.
Rita Cohann is one of Mr Theodore ‘s preferred Celebrants. Warm, funny, yet professional and highly experienced, Rita is one of Melbourne’s most popular Celebrants. She speaks French and Italian as well and loves incorporating these beautiful languages into ceremonies when couples have friends or family coming from overseas for the wedding.
I asked Rita what makes a great celebrant ;“You have to be the anchor for the couple, make them feel safe and totally supported. It is important to have fun and have a great vibe between the three of you. Being flexible, calm and being able to cope with anything is super important too. I always try to do that little bit extra to make sure my couples have the best day ever.”
We can most certainly assure you that that is what we have experienced first hand with Rita as our Celebrant.
You can view Rita Cohann’s page on Mr Theodore.