Self-written vows don't have to be daunting.

This story first appeared in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Columbus Weddings, published in June 2018.

When it comes to your wedding, virtually everything can be personalized to fit you and your partner, including the vows you read to one another. These days, many couples choose to forego reciting more traditional vows in favor of writing something that feels more true to them.

That’s what Mindy and Damian Ettish had in mind when they considered the vows for their own wedding.

“We wanted it to be real and write vows that were representative of us,” says Mindy. They weren’t having a traditional church ceremony and decided to create vows that were more personal in lieu of the standard promise of “for better or for worse.”

The couple started researching online, looking for templates that weren’t centered on religion. Mindy says she and Damian wanted to make sure the vows were the right length and tone and for their guests to feel like their words felt true to the couple, not as if they were reading something generic.

But while you and your partner might know you want to write your own vows, it can be intimidating to share some of your deepest feelings in front of a crowd, even if it is composed of loved ones.

Chase Waits of Columbus Wedding Officiants understands the hesitation some couples feel and says he works with them to find a solution that fits their comfort level for the ceremony while also expressing heartfelt sincerity.

“Sometimes couples will give me words they want to say about one another and have me read them aloud so they repeat after me,” Waits says. “Or sometimes, they’ll just have me read their letters to one another as part of their ceremony.”

Waits says that often, the couples who prefer to make their vows more personalized don’t know where to start, so he suggests a few prompts to get them thinking before they put pen to paper.

“Usually I tell them the couple of pieces you want to include in your vows [are] why you’re choosing to get married and what brought you to this point,” Waits says. “Tell a story about when you first fell in love or you knew you were going to get married to one another.”

For couples who do write their own vows, Waits will review them separately to ensure they’re striking a similar tone. This is also what Lauren and Julian Sullinger asked Mark Harris, Lauren’s brother and their officiant, to do as well.

But first, Lauren and Julian collaborated with Harris on ideas they had and sentiments they wanted to get across. She says this helped her brother convey the appropriate tone and feeling throughout the wedding, because he understood them as a couple.

“We wanted to intertwine things about us and our relationship,” Lauren explains. “We’ve been together for 14 years and wanted to interject those things into our vows and make it light-hearted and fun.”

Fun details, like Julian being a Cleveland Browns fan and Lauren’s love for Justin Timberlake, were included. Lauren searched online for ideas about what other couples had included and used that as inspiration.

“The first few vows were more along the traditional lines of ‘I promise to love you,’ and then veered out into things that were funny and entertaining,” Lauren explains. Their guests loved the vows, she says, and were laughing along with the couple the entire time.

For those feeling unsure or anxious about reading vows in front of their guests, Waits advises against it. Not fully enjoying the ceremony and anxiously waiting for your part to speak shouldn’t be how you remember those moments.

“You don’t want all your focus to be on the vows and whether or not you are speaking your words the right way,” Waits says.

Mindy suggests couples focus on themselves when writing their vows and try to avoid outside pressure to conform to commonly accepted phrases.

“The last thing you want to do is follow someone else’s words just because it sounds pretty, or generic ones because that’s what people are expecting,” she says. “Truly express how you feel and promise your love for each other.”