1. Have a plan and discuss it
Before you put pen to paper, Rolfson advises discussing with your fiancé and wedding officiant how you envision your vows so that everyone is on the same page. Think about things such as the tone you want to set and whether you want to design vows with your fiancé or write vows individually. "Whatever you decide, ensure guidelines are in place so all parties are pleased. This will help prevent unwelcome surprises or disappointments," she says.
2. Start small
Writing your own vows can feel daunting. You want to find the perfect way to capture how you feel about one another and what you want your marriage to be, but start slowly. "Don't get overwhelmed by trying to write your vows in one sitting," says Rolfson. She suggests starting with a few bullet points, and then letting your thoughts flow freely. The first goal of writing wedding vows is to simply get something down on paper. You can edit what you've written later.
3. Be honest and sincere
As you begin writing your vows, it's important that they convey your love for your fiancé, while also reflecting who you are and your personal voice. "Speak from the heart," says Rolfson. "Your fiancé fell in love with you, so make sure the vows reflect your true self."
4. Don't share intimate details
Not every inside joke or crazy story, no matter how much it says about your relationship, should make it into your vows. "Some stories or jokes between couples could be interpreted as inappropriate or make wedding guests feel uncomfortable," Rolfson explains. "Many times, word selection changes can save wedding vows from being misconstrued." Remember: When it doubt, leave it out.
5. Keep things light and positive
This is a toast not a roast, notes Rolfson. "Wedding vows toast the beginning of your new life together and should acknowledge the sacred nature of your commitment," she explains. "Further, wedding vows should not include sad memories or stories of fighting or anger." Instead, focus on the positive and the joys of being a couple. This will ensure you create memorable vows that reflect where you are now. Even if some sad memories helped you get where you are, Rolfson advises leaving those details out. "Don't risk your fiancé or wedding guests feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed."
6. Keep your vows short and sweet
Although there are likely endless reasons you love your fiancé and many stories about your life together that your want to share, keep your vows short. Rolfson notes that vows shouldn't exceed a few simple paragraphs. Otherwise, they won't be as impactful. "For many couples, it's helpful to agree on a specific word count for wedding vows," she says, and recommends 175 to 250 words. "Since people speak at different speeds, especially when they're nervous or excited, word count is an easier way to keep vows "short and sweet" rather than setting a time limit."
7. Make sure to practice ahead of time
Take any potential stress out of writing your own vows by ensuring the whole process – from writing to rehearsing – isn't rushed. "Allow time for proper planning and practice, and give yourself enough time to develop, organize and rehearse your vows," says Rolfson. With ample time, you won't feel the added pressure that comes with procrastinating. It's a good idea to devise a schedule and set some goals (i.e. rough draft written by X date) to keep you on track.
8. Create cheat sheets for the ceremony
Even if you know your vows by heart, you don't want to risk drawing a momentary blank during the ceremony. To avoid a slipup, Rolfson advises preparing note cards. "Have a copy of your vows available should you lose your place, and give an extra sheet to your maid of honor or best man for safe keeping," she says.