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Writing Vows for a Humanist Wedding Ceremony

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

The look of love. (photo by Lumiere Photographic) - Megan and Joe, saying their wedding vows at The Normans, York

With a humanist wedding ceremony, there are no rules. The style of your wedding vows are entirely your choice! There is no right or wrong way to say your wedding vows. The most important thing is that you are comfortable with saying them on the day. There are many options so speak to your celebrant and they will guide you. If you've decided to write your own unique wedding vows, you may need a little guidance, so please read on!

Different styles of wedding vows

You can stick to traditional, formal promises (to have and to hold, for richer for poorer etc), or you can mix it up and have a blend of styles - with some "I do's", perhaps some 'repeat after me' lines and you could read each other some heartfelt or lighthearted promises based on your most intimate knowledge of one another!

How do you start writing bespoke wedding vows?

Your celebrant should offer to write vows for you, based on your meeting. but you can also write your own vows if you like. If you choose to write your own, this can be done together, or in secret. The reason to do it separately and keep them from each other until the day is that sometimes, an outpouring of love, feelings and perhaps some funny observations can make for the most emotionally rewarding, tear jerking, laughter-causing and surprising part of a ceremony. You will have seen and approved the script written by your celebrant way before your wedding day, so even though your wedding ceremony itself is the first time your family and friends have heard your story and script, secret vows would be the only surprise for you both during the ceremony.

Videographers LOVE to use your own voices as a soundtrack for your highlights video. Watch this beautiful video below, by the fabulous Alt Wedding Co. to see how it works.

In the above highlights video of the gorgeous wedding of Faye and Lucas, you can see me calming the groom's nerves pre ceremony!

There is no rule that you have to pen your own promises. You could use someone's else's words - or a poem or reading - and this can be just as effective and poignant. You may love the idea of surprising your bride or groom with a hand crafted poem, some beautiful words about your feelings for them, or some hilarious insights into what you envisage yourself doing as time goes on. Or you may absolutely hate the idea of being in the spotlight and pouring out your heart in front of all your guests.

You can combine readings, vows and poems or your own words if you are having a symbolic act, such as ring exchange or hand fasting. This is a good way to add significance and emotion to the symbolic act but light heartedness and humour to the end of the vows.

oath stone wedding vows at a humanist ceremony, Rudding Park
Oath stone vows. Photo by Matt Sim Photography

Guidance on writing wedding vows for a humanist wedding ceremony

If you're going to write your own vows, this is the advice that I give to my couples.

Agree on a word count – between 300 and 500 words each is good.

Agree on tone – are you going to add in some humour or keep it sincere and emotional? A mixture of both works really well – emotional rollercoasters work beautifully. Laughter and tears. It works well if you start off with something sincere and reflective, have something funny in the middle and end with something really touching. That said, one bride started your secret vows with the line, "You are the most annoying man I know," which caused a ripple of giggles from the outset. Nobody expected that. As always, I had cast my eyes over the vows to check they were balanced before the wedding day, and was delighted to see the groom had started his with, "I know I'm really annoying, and there's not going to be any change there, going forwards." A little teamwork at the beginning sometimes works an absolute treat.

If you ARE going to write your own vows, always think that a series of thank yous, and then promises works extremely well (3 or 4 of each) - with a blend of sentimentality and humour. Concentrate on the detail - the small stuff is what will surprise and delight. Give specific examples of things. Leave the big, generic stuff like trust, honesty, love, friendship, loyalty, support etc for the formal vows that come with the ring exchange.

The following is not at all prescriptive. Just ideas to get you in the zone.

Start at the beginning - How did it make you feel when you came into each other’s lives.

Say what love means to you - Include a few things that you’ve done that you appreciate.

Love is making you a cake.

Love is walking hand in hand and gazing up at the canopy of trees, stopping to listen to the birdsong.

Love is being able to thrash you at ping pong, but letting you win.

Love is accepting that you’re going to be on Playstation for six hours solid on a Tuesday, because on a Sunday, it’s just you and me.

Say why you feel loved and lucky that you are together – what would life be like without each other?

I can’t imagine my life without you in it. Without you, I would’ve probably still seen a bit of the world, but I can’t imagine anyone better to have shared all my experiences with. You’ve brought so much into my life that it’s impossible to know where to start. I can’t imagine giving my mind, body and soul to anyone else for the rest of my life. With our family and friends as witnesses, I am yours and you are mine.

Be reflective: I’m proud of you for/ thank you for …. Sticking with me even though I’m rubbish at…..

I love you because you always share your chips, even when I said I didn't want any….

I love you because you stood by me and helped me through the dark days when I needed you the most.

That day in the park, when you asked me to be your partner for life, you made me the happiest I’ve ever been.

Bespoke wedding vows. Photo by Martyn Hands

Say how it makes you feel to be stood here today, looking forward to your future together: I stand here, heart to heart and hand in hand to tell you that I love you.

Take a look to the future and what will hold you together - Your aims/hopes.

I promise - with all your faults and all your strengths - to love you unconditionally. I will stand by you but will not limit you. I will support you and I will be proud of you.

Maybe a promise with a compromise: I will always give up the arm rest for you on our plane journeys if you continue to catch the spiders. I will give up a corner of the room for your gaming consoles if you don’t moan about all my candles/space I need for my shoes.

Agree what you want to promise each other: What is the minimum that you expect from each other? Loyalty, understanding, a balance of space and togetherness, commitment through all the joys and challenges that your lives together will bring. You know it’s not going to be perfect, but you can rely on each other to be each other’s friend, care for each other through health, wealth, sickness, career or family changes etc or share the washing up? Do you hope for children? If so, if we have children, I know I’m going to love them because they’ll be half you.

(Or I promise to try and not to leave them in the supermarket because I know I’m a bit absent minded from time to time.)

And what about the fluff? I promise to make you a bacon sandwich if you have a hangover. I promise to continue our adventure, even if it’s from an armchair when we’re in our nineties. I promise not to overfeed you because I like the way we are but if you do put on a bit of timber in your fifties, I will still fancy you because ours is a meeting of minds and goals and a shared path forever. I promise to take the bins out if you promise to take care of the washing.

I know that we won’t always share exactly the same hopes and dreams but I promise to share mine with you, confide in you, listen to you, surprise you, open the door for you at 3am when you’ve forgotten your key because, you know, these things happen sometimes. I promise to love you as much when you’re old and bald as I do now when you’re young and handsome because we’ve got a connection so deep it fills my heart.

Finish it off with a beautiful / positive / loving statement – I love you. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you. Whatever happens, you can rely on me.

Are you doing them separately and keeping them secret from each other until the day? OR you could write them together, and on the day, say alternate lines each. That’s really lovely too.

If you want me to send you some more examples, I can certainly do that! Just let me know!

Meaningful "I do's". Photo by Ray Sawyer

On the Day

I will add your words into the script before the ceremony, but you don’t get sight of each other’s words beforehand.

I can:

  1. Print out the words – and give them to you on cards so you can read to each other in turn

  2. Print out the words, and you read the same thing at exactly the same time, together, to each other

  3. Do a “Repeat after me” so I say it first, and then you repeat a line at a time

  4. Frame the vows as a question – eg “Do you take Jane to be your wife, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health....?” Then you both answer “I do”

Examples of vows

Thank you

For being by my side, literally and figuratively, for so much of my life

For being the most interesting person I know

For making me laugh every single day

I promise

To love you, like I've always loved you, just as you are, for as long as we are

To remember the things you forget and help you find the things you've lost, without complaint...

To always know the answer to 'do you know what I liked?'

There is nothing, in the world, that I ever wanted more.

I love you with my whole heart. You have been with me for 11 years and put up with all my quirks and shenanigans. I am excited to start this next chapter of our lives and eventually call you my wife. I love your smile, I love the way you laugh, I love your bum, I love your awful sense of humour and I’m saying that because you find me funny… most of the time.

I promise to be your sidekick in all of life's adventures.

I promise to be your best friend and your husband.

I promise to support you and hold you when you need it.

I promise to be your anchor in times of storm just as you have been for me.

And most of all I promise to keep making your favourite pesto pasta.

I love you, and that love grows every day I spend by your side.

I love you because with you I can just be myself. You tolerate my silliness, even encourage it, and you don’t mock when I have in depth conversations with the cat or get unduly stressed about the rise of my latest sourdough attempt.

I could talk about our amazing holidays or our Michelin star meals, but the thing is, with you, a ramble round Richmond park listening to your truly awful deer puns, which still somehow manage to make me laugh, is about as good as life can get. I don’t need anything else when I’ve got you.

Thank you for being my friend; for all the laughs we've had,

Thank you for being my love; for all the understanding and support you've given me.

Thank you for agreeing to be my wife; and the promise that this will be forever.

I promise to be there with you when times are good; and there for you when they aren't

I promise to try to remember - always - that we are a team in all things. That it's always 'us' and never 'me.'

I promise to love you constantly; completely and forever.

I fell in love with you as soon as I met you. I love your optimism about life and I love that you are so easy to please. I promise to watch weepy films with you, I will always remove all the spiders from the house, and I will try not to steal the bedcovers at night, even though it’s nice when you cuddle up closer. I will always try to surprise you with things that are out of the ordinary because I love watching your face light up when you get excited. I will encourage and support every one of your dreams within reason, will always buy you chocolate and make sure there's red wine in, and will always tell you what’s on my mind, because I know that I can talk to you about anything. As your husband, I vow to love, support, look after and be faithful to you through good times and tough times for the rest of my life.

I love you exactly as you are. I promise to always support you wholeheartedly, I will encourage you to grow as a person, and I will go anywhere in the world with you, unless it involves a car show. You are the calm before and after the storm and you are the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. You are the yin to my yang and you constantly amaze me with your kindness, your patience, your love for me and the cat, and your exceptional tidiness. I promise to always say sorry when I am wrong, even though we both know I never am and I will always give up the window seat if you share the armrest. I will always be there to hold your hand, so that even when things are not right in the world, they are right with us. As your wife, I vow to love you, support you, look after you and be faithful to you as long as I live.

Celebrant: “James – will you promise to love Laura with all her ways, will you endeavour to keep the fridge stocked with her favourite Pinot, and will you love her,, laugh with her, support her mad ideas and try to avoid talking to her when she’s just woken up from a nap?

James : “I will”

Laura – will you promise to let James organize everything that’s really important because he is more focused on the detail, will you not wear his favourite t-shirt for decorating, and will you make chocolate cake for his birthday for the rest of his life?

Laura: “I will”

writing your own wedding vows for a humanist ceremony
Reading each other secret letters or poetry. Photo by Alt Wedding Co.

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