Want to tell your beloved how you feel but just can’t find the words? These Scottish celebrants help you write amazing and personal vows for your wedding ceremony

What is a wedding other that a public declaration of your love for your partner? These days, your wedding can be exactly what you want it to be, and you can say exactly what you want to say as well. So why not use your ceremony to tell the person you’re marrying – in front of all the people you care about most in the world – how much they mean to you, in your own words?

Writing your own vows might sound like a daunting task, but you will likely never have another chance to express how special and important your relationship is to you, and what you hope and dream about for the future.

So where to start? To help you out, we had a chat with celebrants who’ve officiated at ceremonies across Scotland. They’ve given us their top tips and tricks so that you can write the best possible wedding vows for your big day. Better lay on a good supply of hankies for your guests: they’ll be weeping in the aisles – literally!

How long should my vows be?

The consensus among the celebrants we spoke to is that as long as you don’t end up writing War and Peace, you’ll be fine. It’s also worth agreeing on a rough length with your other half so that your vows don’t end up lopsided.

“I’d say it’s good to start with a little about why you love your partner, and then perhaps three or four promises you’d like to make to them that you’ll strive to keep throughout the marriage,” offers George McLean at Fuze Ceremonies.

Natalie Stevenson, a humanist celebrant based in Motherwell, has this advice: “You can make your vows longer for sure, but don’t go overboard if your other half is keeping theirs short. It is easier to agree in advance a rough number of lines each."

"Then run them past your celebrant – that way they can check the word count and it’ll give an idea of how long the actual ceremony itself might last.”

Can vows be lighthearted, or should I keep it serious? 

It can be hard to strike the right tone. You want to say how you feel, but it can be awkward to convey the depths of your love for your soon-to-be spouse in front of so many people.

“I think first and foremost couples should always remember that writing these kinds of personal vows is entirely optional. It’s not for everyone,” says Craig Flowers at Independent Humanist Ceremonies.

“They should only be done if both parties are up for it, and although they can be a lovely addition, the wedding won’t be lacking in any way if you don’t make them a part of your ceremony.”

It’s a good idea to discuss the tone of your vows before you pick up a pen, says Hazel Sharp at Humanist Society Scotland: “Suddenly coming over all ‘hearts and flowers’ when you’re usually all ‘beer and mountain bikes’ might not feel authentic. The more ‘you’ your personal vows are, the better they’ll feel.”

Natalie Stevenson agrees: “Sometimes people forget what the vows actually are and stray into the territory of saying what they would during the speeches! The vows are a chance for you to say what you promise, your covenant, and your wishes for the future."

"Any storytelling can be left to the speeches or even within the body of the ceremony itself.”

It’s a good idea to discuss the tone of your vows before you pick up a pen, says Hazel Sharp at Humanist Society Scotland: “Suddenly coming over all ‘hearts and flowers’ when you’re usually all ‘beer and mountain bikes’ might not feel authentic. The more ‘you’ your personal vows are, the better they’ll feel.”

How personal is too personal?

Emotions run high at weddings, so reading out something deeply intimate might be harder than you imagine. “Avoiding really personal details will stop either of you getting worked up,” says George at Fuze Ceremonies.

“A single tear or two can look sweet, but things can go awry if the couple start sobbing uncontrollably and can’t continue reading. That’s an extreme example, but it does happen!”

If expressing how you feel to your partner is important to you, Tasha the Celebrant has another special and romantic way to do it: “You could write a letter to each other instead and keep them sealed until the wedding day,” suggests the Renfrew-based officiant.

“After the ceremony and some photos are taken, find a quiet spot with your new spouse, away from the guests, and open your letters together – you’ll still get that lovely heartfelt moment, with the ability to ugly-cry in private!”

Where can I look for inspiration?

There’s loads of inspiration out there online when it comes to writing your own vows, but just like hearing a best man deliver a punchline you’ve heard a hundred times before, it’s bad practice to lift your ‘personal’ vows straight from somewhere else.

It’s far better to draw on your own experience than to rely on the work of others. “Don’t trawl the internet pinching other people’s content – that defeats the purpose,” agrees Craig at Independent Humanist Ceremonies. “These vows should be personal to you and your partner. Write them in your own language, with words that you are comfortable using. That way, you’ll be used to saying them by the time it comes to your legally binding vows with the tricky terminology.”

If you’re really struggling, reach out to your celebrant for guidance. “They can share a selection of examples of personal vows that you can use as inspiration for writing your own,” says Hazel at Humanist Society Scotland. “We’re more than happy to offer support, read over early drafts and keep you right. We’re here to help.”

The thought of talking about my relationship in front of people makes me nervous!

Speaking in public is hard – but doing it while declaring your eternal love to your one-and-only makes it even harder! Luckily, our celebrants are on hand to offer some much-needed advice. “The first thing to do is practise reading them out loud,” says George at Fuze Ceremonies.

“Break down each set of words into small manageable chunks. Avoid any long and difficult-to-pronounce words that could catch you out. If the idea of it still fills you with terror, you can give them to your celebrant who can rephrase them into questions, so all you have to do is reply ‘I Do’.”

Natalie Stevenson says not to sweat it if you make a mistake: “Don’t worry about tripping over your lines. Sometimes celebrants trip over their words too! We are all human and nerves can make it happen. Just take a pause and you can say it again.”

Using a prompt can save you a lot of angst and time, suggests Hazel Sharp: “If you’re nervous, don’t add extra stress by trying to memorise your vows. More often than not, couples will read them from a prompt card or equivalent.”

Finally, Tasha the Celebrant thinks breath control is the way to go: “If you can deliver your own vows, it is just so worthwhile doing so.

However, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable. Stand up straight to open your lungs, and project your voice so the people at the back can hear too. Take your time and enjoy the moment – let loose, speak from the heart, and have the best time ever!”

Share this article:

Previous article

10 dos and don'ts of choosing a reading for your wedding ceremony

Next article

Everything you need to know about getting married outside in Scotland