How to Plan a Wedding: Personalised Ceremony and Vow Ideas

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Undeniably, one of the most (if not the most!) important parts of any wedding is the ceremony. But with wedding blogs, books and magazines mostly focusing on the pretty stuff (flowers! cakes! dresses!!) it is often the bit that leaves couples the most confused. So today I thought I would briefly cover a few of your options and help you to with some vow ideas if you plan to write your own. I’ve concentrated on English marriage laws in this post so be sure to check your own country’s requirements as they may vary.

Unfortunately, English marriage laws are some of the strictest in the world. Here, you can only be legally married in an approved location and the ceremony must be performed by an authorised celebrant (usually, but not always, a minister of religion) or by an authorised registrar. So your dreams of a beautiful beach or backyard ceremony being performed by your best friend who bought his marriage license on the internet would not be legally binding. Sad face.

But, you can still do it! You’ll just have to make sure you do the legal bit as well by popping to your local registry office to sign the papers. Most couples do this on the same day, but you could do it the day before or after and have another mini-celebration! Also, if you’re having a destination wedding make sure you check where you stand legally. Ceremonies that take place in another country are not always legally binding back home! 

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If you’re planning to write your own wedding ceremony, you’ll need to check with your local government to see if there are any legal requirements that must be included. Other than that what else happens is completely up to you, especially if you’re having a non-religious ceremony. If you are getting married in a religious setting the rules about what you can and can’t do are often a bit stricter. Just make sure you speak to your officiant if you want to do anything non-traditional.

When you chat to your celebrant before the day, they will most likely go through what you can expect from the ceremony. They’ll also describe the various aspects and explain their significance to you. They may also suggest that you do a rehearsal the day before so you’re all prepped and there are no unexpected surprises!

Whatever kind of ceremony you’re having it’s nice if it follows a basic structure. This way it will be easier for your guests to follow along. A wedding ceremony usually goes as follows:

Processional (the bit where you walk in)
Welcome
A note about love/ marriage (often referred to as the “definition of marriage”)
Readings
The declaration of intent (the “I Do!” bit!)
Vows
Ring exchange
Pronouncement (aka the kiss!)
The signing of the register
Recessional

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The Vows

The vows that you say to each other during your ceremony are one of the most important parts of the day, so why do so many couples choose to use the standard, one-size-(does not)-fit-all ones? While it is a serious part of the proceedings, these are promises you’re making for life after all, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of fun with them, and add your own personal twist!

There is so much information around when it comes to vow-writing that it can all be a little daunting and overwhelming. But just remember that what really matters is the two of you. You are doing this for yourselves after all, so while listening to advice is a good thing, you really can do – and say – whatever you want!

Here are some simple tips and ideas if you’re planning to write your own vows:

A nice starting point is to try and cover your past, present and future in what you say. This is the perfect opportunity to tell your partner how much they mean to you, and to declare it in front of all your nearest and dearest! Yes, it can be a little scary, but that’s what makes weddings so special don’t you think? ALL OF THE LOVE!

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You might want to collaborate on your vows. While keeping what you want to say a surprise from each other until the day is a nice idea, having a basic structure that you both follow is beneficial. You might not want one person being all serious and talking for ages and the other cracking jokes and being done in 30 seconds… although maybe you do! 

What defines you both? What are your mutual obsessions? A nice (although maybe a little cheesy for some) idea is to include references from these things in there. You could quote from favourite movies or make references to your mutual love of tattoos, dirt bikes, computers… whatever!

If you’re struggling to even get started, try doing some free writing and see where that leads you. Remember, no-one ever has to read it! Think about your fiancé and start writing down the words or phrases that come to mind. From those you’ll then have the bare bones of what you want to say.

Here are some starting points:

What do you love the most about them?
How did you meet and what did you think of them?
When did you know they were ‘the one’?
What does marriage mean to you?
What is your favourite memory from your relationship so far?
What are their best qualities?
What would you like to promise them?

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The ceremony and vows are such a vital part of the wedding so try not to leave them to the last minute. In a perfect world we’d all start thinking about this part before anything else (yeah right, there are DRESSES to look at!) but whenever you do it, just remember that you must ultimatly do what feel right for you and your relationship.

I’d love to hear from you guys on this one now. Are you personalising your ceremony or vows? If so how?

This is part ten of a ten part series on how to plan a weddingIf you missed the previous articles, be sure to check them out as well. 

Don’t fret, it’s not over yet! Next week I’m posting a little bonus for you – how to plan your wedding for as little money as possible… It’s sure to be a goodie!

Supporting Cast

13 comments

  1. Mel

    Ha, this couldn’t have come at a better time for me!

    We’re getting married a week on Saturday and have decided to write our own vows to make the ceremony personal to us. I’m getting to the point where I’m starting to feel nervous about pretty much everything, but the vows are by far the most nerve-wracking! I was just thinking “why did we decide to do this, it would have been so much easier to stick to the provided wording” but now I know why…it just wouldn’t be us if we didn’t put our own stamp on it.

    I just need to man up and get over the nerves, I know it’ll be worth it!

  2. I think we are going to personalise our vows – although I’m super scared about this part of the day as I hate speaking in front of loads of people, I just think it’s really a really lovely thing to do. I love hearing our clients say their vows and the more personal they are to the couple the better.

  3. Katy

    We are having a Humanist ceremony in a Scottish castle so writing all our own vows.
    This article is really helpful – thank you very much!

  4. Jennifer Smith

    I’m about to start writing my own vows for our June wedding! Was planning on doing them for each other as a surpise, but now i’m not sure! Do you have any examples of vows you’ve received for previous posts for inspiration?!

  5. Thanks for this – particularly the order of stuff, I didn’t realise the “i do’s” came before the vows! We’re writing our own and I’ve got a few things I know I want to say already, I just need to make sure I’d don’t talk for too long :)

  6. Dawn

    I want to include our own vows in our ceremony, but as it’s a church wedding we’re pretty restricted.. I think maybe working it in along with/instead of speeches would work well. :)

  7. It’s so refreshing to read such an encouraging and informative article regarding the composition of personal vows. We always encourage couples to be creative and truly make the essential part of the ceremony their own… that’s the beauty of a symbolic blessing…you are not confined by rules or regulations.. words are powerful and your vows are precious because they come from the heart:)

  8. Bianca

    We are just in the very early stages of planing however as we have no common interests and from different cultures we are going with funny vows as we are both a little bit bent. For example I am promising to love him as long as he doesn’t shit me, and I will protect him from spiders unless I have the devil in me and want to scare him. Ha h ah ah and I know he is going to do something just as crazy.

  9. Uncle Dan

    Great piece of work that captures the essence of life, happiness and joy of one of a family’s most important days!

  10. Good luck @ Mel! Not long to go!! We’re going to personalise our vows because in the Netherlands all you have to say is “Ja” (yes) so that’s not very personal at all. The registrar does all the talking and then you just say yes! We’ll also have English family there and the service (legally) needs to be in Dutch so it will be nice to add some vows (in English) to balance it out a bit. Now all I have to do is write them… ;-)

  11. Melli

    This is so important! You are so right about wedding blogs focusing mainly on “the pretty things” but I think it would inspire and help a lot if you also focused on other wedding-related topics (gifts, little surprises for the bride & groom, hen nights/bridal showers etc.)

  12. Fantastic advise, my long term partner are I are getting married this summer your website as been my main resource! So refreshing to know that there are other others on our wavelength!.. At 41 I’m not bothered about doing things by the book and also what others may think about it.
    We plan to have a vintage fifty’s wedding as we already have the car :-) Take our 5 dogs to a woodland themed ceremony. Then on to have photo’s with the preserved steam railway & engine! that happens to be next to reception venue.
    Reception includes; Kitch picnic tables, vintage fair, rockabilly band….Whats not to like.:-) Oh and more tattoos for the big day!!!

  13. Kirra

    Great article! We need some advice actually… We were going to have a humanist ceremony & write our own wording for it after doing the legal bit beforehand, but have had to change our plan due to some family, er, issues with that (!). Rather than have any drama we are going to have the registrar come to our venue on the day for a civil ceremony but I’m not clear about whether we can get them to say the ceremony we have written if the legal vows are included in it? There’s nothing religious involved, just words about how we feel about marriage etc. making it personal to us. Do you know if this is possible in a civil ceremony? One option would be to have the civil ceremony at the start or end of the one we have written and have a friend officiate the rest. It’s all a bit daunting in the organisation so any tips would be welcome!

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