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If you’ve bravely decided to write your own wedding vows, but you don’t know where to start, you’re not alone. The not-so-new trend of exchanging original vows is here to stay. Even if you’ve decided to stick with a traditional ceremony, you might like to add a bit of your own verbiage to the mix. And while personalized language is an incredibly touching way to commit to a partner, it’s not always easy to articulate. (Especially in front of a crowd.)

Not a professional speechwriter? You don’t need to be. Worried you won’t express all of your feelings thoughtfully? Not a worry, that’s what we’re here for. The key to writing your own vows is to trust that the sentiment inside of you is enough. It may sound deeply cheesy, but it’s deeply true. (And pro tip, “deeply cheesy, but deeply true,” is also a great tone to strike when writing your vows.)

Oftentimes, new writers are told, “Write what you know.” Well, here’s the good news: you know your partner. You have all of these feelings, memories, and commitments to share with them. So whether you’re a novel writer — new to the art form, not an actual novel writer — or you’re a regular Ernest Hemingway, happy to bare your heart for all of your closest contacts to judge (just kidding), here are some concrete tips to guide you as you start putting pen to paper. You’ve got this.

1. Give Yourself Time To Brainstorm

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There are times when procrastination can lead to productivity, but let’s be real, your wedding date is not your college term paper due date. You want time to sort out what you want to say. (And in general, procrastination does not suit wedding planning so well — hello, venues that are booked until 2020!) If you’re feeling blocked, a great place to start can be to write a list of your top ten memories with your partner. That said, any writing to get the juices going is excellent.

2. Get On The Same Page As Your Partner

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One of the most important parts of any piece of writing is deciding its tone. While you and your partner don’t have to be on the exact same page — pun intended — it’s good to check in. If you’re planning on quoting romantic Frank Ocean lyrics, but your partner is working with funny anecdotes, you might want to meet in the middle. Sit down with your partner and think about how serious you want the vows to feel on a piece of paper. You can each write a number from one (not serious at all) to 10 (totally serious). Then you can share the papers with each other and go from there.

3. Be As Vulnerable As Possible

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You don’t need to share anything so intimate it would make your grandmother uncomfortable, but speaking from the heart takes courage. Take the time to identify the qualities you love about your partner, as well as the promises you want to make to them. Do you love how they Facetime you the second they land after a flight? Share it. Be specific and vulnerable. On your actual wedding day, there will be tears, not judgment, from your beloved guests, so bare it all.

4. Consider Starting With An Anecdote

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There’s no need for a long story, this can be as simple as a brief sentence about that one time your partner went above and beyond for you. Think of your vows as a pyramid. Start with a specific moment or detail about your partner, and open the feels up from there.

5. Edit, Edit, Edit!

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Writing is rewriting, so leave plenty of time to write new drafts as you see fit.

6. Acknowledge The Fact That People Are Witnessing Your Day

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While not necessary, it’s nice to include a mention of all of the important people who have gotten you to your special day, and who are witnessing your commitment. It can be as small as a nod to your parents’ marriage, or your friend who set you up.

7. Remember To Say, “I Love You”

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It sounds silly, but this is an easy phrase to forget to include. Of course you’ll express this sentiment in so many more nuanced ways during your vows, but remembering to say the words is important.

Written by: Kimmy Foskett

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