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We VOW to help you WOW the crowd with your VOWS

Writing your own vows is super scary and might keep you up, and away from your beauty sleep. Because I have helped to write multiple vows for scared-and-teary eyed brides, I would like to share my top wow-vow tips with you:

Read lots of vow examples for inspiration.

Start by reading traditional, by-the-book vows from your own religion if you practice a certain faith, and others as well, to see what strikes a chord with you. Incorporate these samples into the original words you write or simply use them as a jumping-off point. Once you've found a few you love, consider what it is about the style that draws you to those vows in particular.

Style in Unison

Decide how you want your vows to come across. Do you envision them as humorous? Poetic and romantic? Go over the logistics too. Will you write them separately or together? Will they be completely different or will you make the same promises to each other as you would with traditional vows? Some couples do a little of each. Finally, will you share them with each other or keep them a secret until the wedding day?

Share a Moment or two

Take some time to reflect on your fiancé. Think about how you felt when you first met, what made you fall in love and when you knew you wanted to spend the rest of your lives together. Write it all out to get your creative gears turning. Here's a handy list of questions to help get you started:

  • Why did you decide to get married?

  • What hard times have you gone through together?

  • What have you supported each other through?

  • What challenges do you envision in your future?

  • What do you want to accomplish together?

  • What makes your relationship tick?

  • What did you think when you first saw your fiancé?

  • When did you realize you were in love?

  • What do you most respect about your partner?

  • How has your life gotten better since meeting your mate?

  • What about them inspires you?

  • What do you miss most about them when you're apart?

  • What qualities do you most admire in one another?

I Promise to...

They're called vows for a reason, so the promises are the most important part. One tip: "Include promises that are broad in scope, such as 'I promise to always support you,' as well as very specific to the two of you, like 'I promise to say "I love you" every night before bed,'" wedding celebrant Christopher Shelley says.

Don't Wing-It. Write It.

Now that you have notes, you're ready to establish a structure and write your first draft. Speechwriting expert Robert Lehrman suggests a four-part outline: Affirm your love, praise your partner, offer promises and close with a final vow. Another way to organize it is to start with a short story and then circle back to it at the end.

Avoid clichés.

Now that you have your first draft, it's time to make edits. Borrow from poetry, books, religious and spiritual texts, and even from romantic movies, but don't let someone else's words overpower your own. You want your vows to sound like you and relate to your relationship, and that won't happen if every word is borrowed from other sources. And if you find yourself relying on cliché phrases (you know, those sayings that have been used over and over so many times they no longer sound genuine) to get your point across, Shelley suggests coming up with a specific example from your relationship that has a similar message. For example, instead of saying, "Love is blind," you might say, "You'll always be the most beautiful person to me, whether you're in a T-shirt and jeans or dressed to the nines."

No Cryptics at the Alter

You've invited your family and friends to witness your vows in order to make your bond public, so be sure everyone feels included in the moment. That means putting a limit on inside jokes, deeply personal anecdotes and obscure nicknames or code words. Wedding celebrant and author Maureen Pollinger says, "Think about how your vows will sound to you 10 years from now." Have a friend or family member read it over ahead of time for feedback, if you're okay with sharing your vows beforehand.

1-2 Minutes MAX

Your vows are important, but that doesn't mean they should drag on. "When someone says something in a very meaningful way, they don't need to say it over and over," Pollinger says. Pick the most important points and make them. If yours are running longer than two minutes, makes some edits. Put some of the more personal thoughts in a letter or gift to your fiancé on the morning of your wedding and save any guest-related topics for your toasts.

Practice out loud

It might sound a little awkward, but this really is the best way to prep. "When you practice, don't just do the same thing over and over. Listen each time—then do it better," Lehrman says. Your vows should be easy to say an