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ELOPING WITH KIDS HOW TO ELOPE

Eloping With Kids- Ultimate Guide for Including Children in Your Elopement

Including children in your elopement takes planning, but it is a meaningful way of showing them that you’re truly all in this together! Your new adventure as a married couple is an experience you deserve to cherish for the rest of your lives, and planning a day that involves your children can foster feelings of connectedness and belonging amongst all of you. There are lots of reasons for eloping with kids. Below are just a few, as well as loads of ideas for how to include them in your elopement day.

There are lots of ways to include children when eloping with kids along.

Reasons to include your children in your elopement plans

Our children learn from watching us. Their mimicry and imitation of our words, actions, and emotions can sometimes be frustrating, but it’s also a strong motivator for you to be intentional and authentic. Involving them in your elopement plans gives you a chance to show your children what matters most to you – your relationship with your partner, with them, and with our planet. It’s an opportunity to set an example, align your actions with your beliefs, and demonstrate your values in an immensely tangible way. By eloping instead of planning an expensive and wasteful traditional wedding, you show your children that you value experiences over things, and that time spent outdoors with your loved ones is your favorite way to celebrate! By sharing this celebration outdoors in your favorite space, you’re forever connecting intention and celebration with your deep love of nature.

Child in a stroller at an outdoor elopement ceremony.

Our children benefit from experience outdoors

Showing our children what we value most will help them appreciate those same things as they grow older. Developing a connection with nature at a young age helps your children in so many ways! Yes, an elopement is just one day outside, but it’s an immensely important one! And it could very well be the spark that ignites a lifelong love of nature!

Reason 1: Nature facilitates the development of creativity & imagination.

Little girl blowing a wish flower while enjoying time in nature.

  • Natural environments and their contents are more open-ended and less structured, which allows children to use their imaginations, to dream of new possibilities, and to use objects in novel and inventive ways.

Reason 2: Time in nature helps our kids build confidence.

  • They learn to take calculated risks, and discover they can do things without the constant help of adults.
  • Kids have freedom to act outdoors, instead of actions being completely dictated by a curated interior environment, which gives kids a greater sense of efficacy.

Reason 3: Nature helps children build connections and take responsibility.

  • Children who fall in love with wild places are more likely to grow up wanting to protect them.
  • Being outside stimulates a sense of wonder! Children become interested in the Earth and the systems on our planet that foster life. 
  • Being outdoors is the most natural way to teach Leave No Trace principles to our young ones. When they are outside, they learn firsthand what happens if they forget to water a plant, or what happens when they pull a flower. They come to understand the power their actions can have on the planet. 

Reason 4: marrying your best friend is the most amazing experience to share with your children!

By planning your dream outdoor elopement, you’re teaching your kids that anything is possible, and to follow any kind of dream they may have. By watching you act upon your convictions, they witness evidence that untraditional and intentional actions can have great reward, and result in the most meaningful experiences! And by including them in your elopement plans, you’re showing them that you’re all in this together!

Flower children at an outdoor family-friendly elopement.

You are embracing YOUR adventure, prioritizing your relationship in front of your children, and modeling an Earth-centric way to commit to your partner and your family.

Things to think about when planning your family-friendly elopement

Remember this: Your relationship with your partner is still the focus of your elopement, even when your kids are along. Involving your children in your wedding day doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice intimacy with your partner. It’s okay to preserve the elopement ceremony for just the two of you! There are many ways to elope with kids, even if you do choose to step aside at the ceremony to privately share your vows. If a family-friendly elopement is your dream wedding, you’ll find creative ways to involve them below! 

Whether you want to involve your kids in your ceremony or not, you first have to decide what kind of ceremony you want to have! Yes, there are more ways than one to have a wedding ceremony – now is your chance to choose the method right for you and your family.

Your answers to these basic questions will influence how your elopement takes shape:

  • Will we get legally married at this elopement, or will this be a commitment ceremony?
    • Commitment ceremonies are basically just wedding ceremonies without the legal paperwork. For many reasons (such as, timing, location, and guest count) couples choose to separate the legal requirements from their elopement. This means you don’t have to have witnesses or an officiant present on the day you say your vows.
    • Commitment ceremonies are sometimes called “symbolic ceremonies,” and they give you the freedom to do things in whatever way feels right for you! Write your own vows, celebrate your own traditions, and remember that there’s no “wrong way” to celebrate!
  • Will we be self-solemnizing or will an officiant be marrying us?
    • An officiant or celebrant can be a minister, a best friend, a close relative, or even your photographer (I’m actually a licensed officiant and can do this for you!). If you’re not getting married in one of these self-solemnizing states (PA, IL, WI, CO, DC, CA, ME, NV, KS), you will need a licensed officiant, and likely witnesses, at your ceremony. 
    • If your ceremony destination is remote and requires some effort to get to, you may have to find an officiant who is as adventurous as you are!
    • If you’re in a self-solemnizing state, anyone can lead the ceremony – no license required! 
  • Will there be a religious component?
    • Some religious ceremonies necessitate the inclusion of specific passages and readings.
    • Certain religions also have strict rules regarding who can and cannot be involved in the legally binding portion of your marriage union, so keep that in mind as you look to include your little ones.

After nailing down the details of the kind of ceremony you wish to have, you can start dreaming up ways to include your children. The following will help!

how to include your children in your elopement- ideas for eloping with kids along

1. Have your little ones help you during the “getting ready” phase of your day

  • Have your daughter brush your hair, and brush hers. Have your child zip up or button your dress (even if they have only started practicing zippers and buttons). Have your child tie your tie, or button your jacket. Even if they don’t manage to actually accomplish these tasks from beginning to end, I promise these getting ready moments will make beautiful photographs and memories for all of you. You can do this whether your children are coming to your ceremony or not. It’s a way to both involve them meaningfully and to make them feel a part of the action.
  • Expert tip: Make sure to set aside plenty of time for getting ready when small kids are involved. I am familiar with the anxiety that stems from needing to be somewhere at a certain time, despite small children wanting to do everything on their own (and painfully slowly!). Kids move at a different rhythm than adults, and there’s no sense in trying to impart in them a sense of urgency. It won’t do you any good. Give yourself time to enjoy moments that naturally unfold during this intimate part of your wedding day. 

2. Family First Looks

Bride laughing with the flower girl and ring bearer during a family first look at an outdoor wedding.

  • Have a first look with your little ones, before or after a first look with your partner. Your child will feel so important seeing you ready to get married before your ceremony, and the sweet moments this creates are such a lovely addition to an already incredibly meaningful day. And they photograph beautifully.

3. Ask them to be flower children or ring bearers

Little girl acting as the ring bearer during an outdoor elopement ceremony.

  • Yeah, it’s a more traditional role, but remember elopements don’t have rules! You can take what you like from traditional weddings and leave all the rest! Just don’t forget outdoor weddings require a bit more care, and LNT principles should be followed at all times (it’s also a great time to teach your kiddos what LNT principles are all about!). LNT means that you won’t be throwing confetti or flowers in wild places. Instead, let them get creative! Have them brainstorm how they would like to perform their role. I promise, they will think of ideas you would never imagine.

4. Write vows for everyone

  • Write vows for your partner, and your kids! Or ask your kids to write down their feelings to share during the ceremony. If they aren’t old enough to write yet, they can tell an adult what they want to say in their letter (maybe an older sibling, or grandparent). If they’re too young to really verbalize their feelings, have them draw a picture!
  • Including vows to your children shows them the commitment being made is not only to your partner, but to them, and to your family as a whole.
  • You can write your vows to your children in the cover of their favorite childhood book as a special keepsake for them.

Vows can be written in a favorite book of poetry and given to your partner as a keepsake after the ceremony.

Vows can be written in a favorite book and given as a keepsake after the ceremony.

5. Set aside a special time during your ceremony to let them talk

  • Your marriage is a change for them, as much as it may be for you. Even if your typical living situation hasn’t altered much and you’ve been living with your partner for years, there’s something solidifying about tying the knot and making it all “official” with a ceremony. Your kids may feel this weight even more than you do, as kids find a lot of meaning in rituals (especially young ones). Give them an opportunity to talk about what this means to them and what they are looking forward to. You may be surprised and really touched by their earnestness. 

Flower child at outdoor elopement with kids.

Tips and inspiration for writing vows

Vows are often quite personal, may be handwritten, and are filled with and elicit a lot of emotion.  You and your partner can write these together, or compose vows separately and have it all be a surprise, steeping your day in that much more emotion. There’s absolutely no need to memorize your vows. Your wedding day will be filled with so much emotion; take some pressure off and hand write them in a vow book. Or, as a memorable sentimental gift, hand write them in a favorite book and give it as a special gift to your partner at the end of the ceremony.

If you’re writing your own vows, here are a few questions to ask yourself to kick-start the writing process:

  • What is one of your very favorite things about your partner, about your children?
  • Describe one of the times you were proud of your partner, or children.
  • What’s one of the craziest, most adventurous things you have done with your partner?
  • Why did you fall in love with your partner and, importantly, why are you still in love with them?
  • And finally, What are you promising your partner, or your children?
Need more help with writing vows? Check out this “how to write your personal wedding vows” blog post for tips, tricks, and inspiration.

6. huge list of ways to Involve them in the ceremony

Unity ceremony ideas with child 

In a unity ceremony, you take separate things and combine them, turning them into a new singular item. These ceremonies take on many different forms, so there are options for anyone wishing to add some symbolism to their wedding day, and to include their children in the process. 

Couple adding soil to their tree during a tree planting unity ceremony at an intimate wedding.

  • Unity candle ceremony – Light one large candle from smaller candles held by you, your partner, and each of your children, symbolizing the union of you all.
  • Tree planting ceremony – Gather soil from each of your hometowns, have your children gather soil from the home they now live in, as well as the place you intend to build your future together, and combine it in a pot to plant a tree. In a backyard wedding ceremony, this tree can be planted in your own yard right from the start to serve as a reminder for the whole family of your wedding day and of the commitments you have made to each other. This symbolizes that relationships take tending and nurturing to grow big and strong. Giving your children the job of caring for your tree continues to make them feel a part of your wedding, your family, and helps them to learn to care for a piece of nature as well!
  • Sand ceremony – Each of you and your children get a different color of sand in separate vessels to pour into one single vase, creating a lovely display, and signifying a union that is impossible to separate. This is a great alternative to a candle ceremony for outdoor weddings taking place in windy locations. It’s also great for younger children who may not be able to safely handle a lit candle.
  • Blending paint – Perfect for your little artists. Each of you choose a different color of paint and then pour it onto a single canvas, symbolizing your union, and creating a piece of art representative of your relationship. And you end up with a great and sentimental piece of art to hang in your home.

Bonus Idea for Adult Unity Ceremonies: Wine or Beer (and maybe Whiskey, too!) – You choose two different (but compatible!) wines or beers and pour them into a glass to create a third perfect blend that you then drink together. And when your kids are of age, they can toast you as well! Of course, you can involve your kids in more than just unity ceremonies. Below are some more suggestions!

Wine bottles in a handmade wooden box to seal for a later time.

Handfasting ceremony

This is a Celtic marriage tradition, and very possibly where we get the phrase, “tie the knot.” The couple joins right hand to right hand and left hand to left hand, making a figure eight to represent eternity. Then a strip of cloth, ribbon, or piece of fabric is used to tie their crossed wrists together symbolizing union. Your child can do the tying, either alone or with the help of an older sibling or adult. 

Sage smudging ceremony

This is a ritual you may not have considered. Smudging can be used in a secular or religious ceremony, regardless of your faith. You need only three things: a bundle of sage, something to light it, and a bowl to hold it while it burns. After the bundle of sage is lit, an intention, affirmation, or blessing is said by you, your officiant, or even your child (if you’re a Waldorf parent, this may be right up your alley!). Sage is an herb thought to have cleansing properties and, when used on one’s wedding day, is believed to cleanse away negative energy, allowing the family to commence marriage on the right foot. Note: Sage smudging has deep religious and cultural ties to indigenous peoples and should be done respectfully. Take the opportunity to teach your little ones the history and importance of this cultural tradition.

Lasso or El Lazo ceremony

Traditional in Mexican, Filipino, and Spanish cultures, this involves draping a floral garland or rosary around the couple (twisted in the infinity symbol, of course). Your child can do the draping, or can even squeeze into the garland. It is then saved as a symbol of love and unity.

Lei exchange

A lei exchange can be done between the couple, between the couple and their kids, or  grandparents can bestow the leis on the couple and their grandkids. Maile leaf is a popular choice for guys, whereas women wear more fragrant flowers, such as tuberose. Of course, you can use whatever you want!

Ceremonies involving the sharing of a cup

A quaich at a family wedding ceremony.

Communion isn’t the only time a wedding couple might drink from a cup. They are varied, and are used in many cultures, for instance, a Scottish quaich or a Native American wedding vase. You can celebrate by using a child-friendly beverage and all take a sip from the communal cup.

Other ideas to involve your kids

Bride and groom nailing a family time capsule during an outdoor elopement ceremony.

Create a family time capsule!

  • A family wedding day time capsule. Each of you can add a special love note or meaningful item to the box to be stowed away to open at some later date. This is a great way to remind you of what your children were interested in, and where they were in their childhood when you got married. It will be a sentimental reminder for all of you of what your life was like with kids the year you got married. 
  • Let your child pronounce you married. It’s okay if they aren’t quite talking yet. Baby babbles are super cute and a moment you’re not soon to forget!
  • Have your child sign your marriage license. If you’re getting hitched in a self-solemnizing state, your child can sign as witness or officiant. They will feel so important, and this becomes a lovely keepsake to pull out when reminiscing about your wedding day.
  • Do you or your children have other skills you want to put to use on your elopement day? If musically inclined, you could play a song together, or maybe your children could perform one for the two of you. You can write your own song, or choose one that is meaningful to your family.
  • Local traditions. If you’re getting married via a destination elopement, consider incorporating local traditions. Learning about the place you’re getting married can bring up some wonderful ways to celebrate while tying the knot!
  • Cultural traditions. Traditions that give a nod to your roots can imbue your day with even more purpose and intention. This can teach your kids about where they come from while celebrating the future of your family!
  • Start your own family tradition, and have your children help! This can literally be anything you and your kids can dream up. Put them to task brainstorming ways to make your ceremony extra meaningful and they’ll probably come up with things you never would have considered! 
  • Involve family and friends who won’t be there with you. Ask family and friends to write notes for you to read to each other at some point during your wedding day. You’ll feel their love and support from a distance, no matter how far away they are.
  • Wedding cake.  If a wedding cake is as important to you as it is to me, go ahead and have some. Let your kids help choose a style, pick a flavor, and dish it out! I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t like cake!
  • Family wedding reception. You can pack a family picnic to enjoy after your ceremony, and revel in the view from where you chose to say your vows.

Groom playing a song to his family during an intimate forest wedding with kids.

Final things to consider when eloping with kids

7. Be honest with what you want.

If you want an adventurous ceremony that is a bit too exciting for the kids, there are still many ways to involve them! As mentioned above, bring your kids in on the planning and give them a chance to personally craft part of your elopement day, so you can see their hands in the celebration whether they are present or not. You can also include your children virtually by calling them before or after the ceremony.

If your kids are up for part of the adventure, but might not make it all day, split your schedule to spend time with your children before and after your vow exchange. If you want a private vow exchange with your partner, invite your children in for the first look or while you’re getting ready, so they can see how excited you are for this commitment. You can also plan a multi-day wedding experience where one day is family-focused, and another is just-us time with your partner.

8. Be realistic with your expectations.

Only you know your children, their capabilities, and their limits. You are intimately aware of what makes them happy and what is going to put them in a bad mood. Choose an adventure they can handle, or have an alternative plan. Remember: if they can’t handle a backpacking elopement and that kind of adventure is super important to you, you can still make it happen and involve them in other ways! Be realistic about their abilities and have back-up plans. 

9. Designate a kiddo wrangler.

A kiddo wrangler at an outdoor elopement ceremony can entertain your children while you have the best day ever.

Designate a best friend or family member who is attending as your kiddo wrangler, so your child can be present and you can get married without needing to constantly worry about their safety and happiness. Your kids will be happy to have someone else to interact with. Plus, if your kids are anything like mine, they’re much more likely to behave well for another adult.

10. Explain LNT principles to your children in a way that makes sense to them

This article will help: 

Help Kids Leave No Trace 

11. Come prepared! 

Little girl carrying her lovey at an outdoor elopement with kids.

Encouraging your child to bring their lovey along is a great way to keep them occupied and have them feel safe and secure in a new situation.

The best way to ensure everyone is safe, has fun, and doesn’t become overwhelmed is to be prepared for your elopement location and plan. Check out this blog post for the list of essential outdoor wedding gear you’ll want to have on hand!

In summary: You can absolutely have a stress-free wedding day with children, if you plan accordingly! I’m an expert when it comes to planning outdoor celebrations that involve children, and I’d love to help you plan and document the perfect elopement for your family.

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ELOPEMENT TIPS HOW TO ELOPE

How to Elope Without Offending Family- Tips for Telling the People You Love that You’re Eloping

While eloping is arguably a lot less stressful than getting hitched the traditional way, telling friends and family that you’ve decided to forgo a big wedding can feel anything but (hello family dynamics!). Navigating how to elope without offending family is one of the biggest hurdles couples face when deciding to elope. And while I’m not going to lie and say that it will be easy, it doesn’t have to be quite so hard either. Read on for suggestions on how best to announce your intention to elope— you’ve got this!

How to elope without offending family top tips.

Top Tips for Telling Family You’ve Decided to Elope

Tip 1: Tell Them in Person, the Earlier the Better 

Though the word elope is defined as “running away secretly to get married, especially without parental consent,” the word no longer has such clandestine connotations. Today, eloping generally refers to tying the knot on a smaller, more intimate scale while opting out of a large formal wedding.  

Eloping doesn’t have to involve running, and it certainly doesn’t have to be secret. In fact, the best way to elope without offending family is to let them know in person. If you’re anticipating a negative reaction, it may be tempting to break the news over a text message or in an email. Resist this temptation. Talking face-to-face (or FaceTime-to-FaceTime) not only prevents potential misunderstandings, but also shows that you respect the individual and care about their feelings.  

And it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. You don’t want the first time your close friends or family hear about your elopement to be on social media.

Telling friends and family that you’re eloping before you actually do it can go a long way in minimizing hurt feelings. If you’re close with them, you may also want them to participate to some extent. Telling them early will allow them to feel involved and to take part in a meaningful way, even if it’s from a distance (see ideas for involving family and friends below and in this article).  

When announcing your decision, start with those closest to you and move outward. Try to do it in one day so they get to hear it from you and not someone else (creating a list of all the people you will call in advance will make this easier).

Couple embracing during a Pacific Northwest beach elopement.

Tip 2: Prepare for Negative Reactions    

You’re stoked that you’re eloping and others should be, too, right? Well, yes, but don’t expect them to be. While many people will be thrilled about your decision, others may not feel so over the moon. This can be really disappointing when you feel so good about your decision, but don’t let it color your response too much. Instead, active listening and a little empathy can go a long way. You don’t have to give in to validate their feelings. Just understanding and voicing that you do get it can decrease negative emotions when they crop up. Keeping in mind that their emotional reaction isn’t coming from a bad place, rather it’s because they genuinely care about you, may help you keep any disappointment you’re feeling in check.

A couple hugs during a Mount Rainier elopement ceremony.

Tip 3: Share Your Why

Explaining why you’re choosing to elope may be all that’s needed to get some family members on board with your decision. I know it sounds cliche, but letting them know it’s not about them, but rather it’s about you, can really make all the difference.  

Explain to them the reasons you are choosing to elope. There are loads of reasons, but some of the most common ones are:

  • wanting to avoid the stress of planning a big wedding
  • wanting a truly intimate day where the focus is on the relationship
  • wanting to save money for a big trip or a down payment on a house  
  • wanting this to be a special experience for just the two of you and your children 
A bride and groom swing their child while walking through the desert at their Lost Dutchman State Park elopement.

Remind your family that you love them and that your decision has nothing at all to do with them, but is instead what you genuinely feel is right for you and your relationship.

Tip 4: Get Them Involved

Some of the negative responses coming from family and friends may stem from feeling that they are, in a way, being deprived of something. Deprived of planning your wedding, deprived of celebrating with you, deprived of…  Finding ways for them to participate, even if it’s from a distance, allows them to feel involved.  

Tapping into their love language, that is, the way they speak and understand emotional love, can deepen their involvement. For instance, if your mom’s love language is quality time, suggest she plan an engagement party, or intimate affair either before or after your elopement. This acknowledges her desire to spend time with family and friends, and also makes her feel valued. A win-win.  

You may also consider an additional small ceremony that close friends and family can participate in, such as a tree planting ceremony. The tree you plant then serves as a reminder of your commitment to one another and to your family, of how love that is nurtured will grow, and of the love that you all now share. And it can be revisited again and again. Emphasizing the significance of this ceremony and how happy you are to have your friends and family share it with you may go a long way in helping them accept your decision to elope. More unity ceremony ideas can be found in this post.  

You can elope without offending family. This couple had an intimate celebration that grandma attended following their actual elopement.

There are tons of other ways that you can involve friends and family. Invite your mom or best friend dress shopping. Collect letters of well-wishes, marriage advice, or funny memories that can be read during or after the ceremony. Or write a letter to your parents that they can read on your elopement day. They will feel emotionally connected no matter how many miles are between you. Even just giving them the details of your elopement can make them feel that they are part of the planning process.

Tip 5: Stand Your Ground

You have made the brave choice to elope, and family and friends shouldn’t be able to dictate how your day unfolds. Be firm and confident. Remember, this is your day and you deserve a true-to-you wedding experience.  

A couple kissing at a stunning overlook during their Mount Rainier National Park elopement.

Tip 6: And Document the Hell Out of It

I’m not just saying this because I’m a photographer. When you elope, photos become that much more important. During a conventional wedding day, Mom, Dad, Uncle Bob, and a gazillion other people you may (or may not!) know are there to take it all in. They get to see every event as it happens. When you elope, it is very possibly just you, your partner, your kids (if you have them), an officiant, and a photographer.  

Documenting the story of your day, all the big and little moments from beginning to end, and then sharing this with family and friends that were not present helps them to feel cared for. Seeing beautiful images that truly capture the emotions that washed over the day may even help them to understand why you chose to elope in the first place.  

A wedding couple looking at one another and smiling during their Discovery Park, Seattle elopement ceremony in the forest.

Eloping doesn’t mean what it once did, and while some may still be eloping to escape friends and family, many others are choosing this route because they want to focus on their relationship, and the commitment that they are making to each other and to their own little family. While telling friends and family can be difficult, remember that you were badass enough to make this decision in the first place, and you definitely have the strength to see it through.  

Everyone deserves a meaningful wedding day experience. If you have more questions about how to tell friends and family that eloping is ultimately the best choice for you (or you just need some moral support!), I’d love to help. 

Categories
ELOPEMENT TIPS HOW TO ELOPE

How to Write Personal Wedding Vows that are Modern & Meaningful

You have decided to do away with tradition and elope, or have an intimate wedding. But what about the vows?  

While eloping doesn’t require the composition of personal wedding vows, many couples who decide to elope are doing so because they want a more intentional and authentic way to wed. A way that is completely true to them and incredibly meaningful. Just as a traditional wedding day didn’t feel right, traditional vows may not either.  

Writing your own vows gives you the chance to imbue your wedding day with more meaning. And, perhaps most importantly, gives you the opportunity to make promises to your partner that actually matter to you and your relationship. You could even include some recognition of your children in your vows. After all, this is a very important day for them, too. Some couples write a set of vows specifically to their kiddos that are attending. It’s a super sweet way to show the commitment that you are making not only to your partner, but to your little family. Your personal wedding vows will likely be the most significant and most difficult accumulation of words you ever write, because these are the words you will be uttering in the very moments before you take that leap into married life (talk about pressure!). The good news is that there are ways to make the process easier, and maybe even enjoyable.    

Composing your own real vows is a beautiful, intentional way of commencing life with your best friend. Use the tips below to write vows that are poetic, profound, and above all else, representative of your relationship and the future you plan to build.

Wedding vow book for holding your personal wedding vows.

Tips for Writing Your Personal Wedding Vows

Should You Incorporate Traditional Elements?

One thing to consider when thinking about vows has to do with the type of ceremony you are planning. Certain religious ceremonies require you to recite specific traditional vows. Some will allow you to complement the traditional portion with your own personal and more modern vows, but it is important to check with your officiant in advance. Even if you are not having a religious ceremony per se, you may choose to incorporate elements of traditional vows into your own for cultural or personal reasons. 

An open book.

Together or a Surprise? 

The first step of actually writing your own personal wedding vows is deciding whether or not it will be a team effort. Will you and your partner be sitting down to write them together? Or will each of you write them as a surprise for the other on your wedding day? Both methods yield heartfelt moments, so it really is a matter of what feels best for your relationship.  

If you opt to write them together, the process of formulating them becomes an opportunity to gain more understanding and deepen your love. You can decide together what promises are most important for the longevity and happiness of your relationship. Doing this can sometimes cause differences of opinion, or even values, to surface. Just remember, you won’t always be perfectly in sync with your partner (nor should you be, you are unique individuals after all!), but acknowledging where there may be gaps in your understanding can bring you that much closer to respecting and appreciating each other for who you are. And this ability to appreciate each other’s differences is a characteristic of an enduring relationship.

A groom hand writing his vows before the wedding ceremony.

Romantic Wedding Vows

Vows are by their very nature romantic. Even if you’re not typically the lovey dovey type, when tackling the vow writing process, you may find that romantic bone that you didn’t think you had.  

Start by paying attention to your partner’s little quirks (the cute ones, not the annoying ones 😉 ). 

  • What tiny, seemingly insignificant behaviors and characteristics does your partner possess that you just love?  
  • Think about when you first met. What was it that caught your eye, and when did you decide that you loved this person?  
  • Why are you still in love with this person?  
  • If you could have only one character trait of your partner’s, what would it be and why?
  • When do you feel most loved by your partner?  
  • Recall one of the times you were proud of your partner.  
  • What is one of the wildest, most adventurous things you have ever done with your partner? Talk about it.  
  • Think about the promises (both broad and specific) that you want to make to your partner, your relationship, and your family, but make sure you can keep them.
Groom reading his personal wedding vows to bride during an outdoor intimate wedding.

These prompts can provide the raw material for some really heartfelt and authentic personal wedding vows. And don’t forget to take inspiration from everywhere. From your favorite poet (mine just happens to be Neruda), to classical literature, to a favorite movie, inspiration is all around. To get you started, here are some of my very favorite sites for vow inspiration:  

Literary passages wedding vows 

Bookish wedding quotes

Most romantic lines from literature

A poetry excerpt from Pablo Neruda's Captains Verses

Evidence-based Wedding Vows

I’m a sucker for science and evidence-based anything, including personal wedding vows. Luckily there is a whole field dedicated to the study of romantic relationships. So if you love science as much as I do, you may want to take these research-based wedding vows to heart.  

In an article written for Psychology Today, Samantha Joel, Ph.D. lays out a number of real wedding vows that she composed with her partner in hopes of achieving long-term marital bliss. These promises are based on decades of research into the practices, values, and beliefs that lead to a happy and successful union. Their promises address behaviors such as:  striving to see your partner in a positive light (and not dwelling on imperfections), recognizing and protecting your partner’s autonomy, vowing to sensitively meet your partner’s needs, serving as a secure attachment figure, as well as being committed and expressing gratitude.  

I encourage you to go take a look, and if they speak to you and your relationship, consider adding them in some shape or form into your own ceremony.  

Couple saying their wedding vows during an elopement ceremony in the Superstition Mountain foothills of Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona.

How to Write Your Vows & What to Do If You Get Stuck

Writer’s block isn’t unusual. These are important words, and it only follows that some of them may take longer to come than others. Thankfully, there are certain things you can do to help get (and keep) those creative juices flowing.  

Choosing a quiet and relaxing environment where you can truly focus helps. So go ahead and grab a cup of tea or coffee, a glass of wine, or a dram of whiskey, any beverage that helps you feel warm, fuzzy, and RELAXED. Yes, you will use your brain to compose your vows, but this is the stuff that comes from your heart, and for that you’ll have to do some feeling as well.  

Begin by jotting down notes. These don’t have to be perfectly formulated ideas from the start. It’s more than okay to scribble down phrases, or even just words, to get the gears turning. Lists work especially well at this point. You might consider starting with a list of things you absolutely love about your partner (the kind of stuff you just couldn’t do without), as well as a list of promises you want to make to both your partner and your relationship. Getting it all outlined this way gives you a framework for the more complete thoughts and phrases that will follow.  

This doesn’t all have to happen in one session. Just writing down ideas and then giving yourself some time to walk away from it for a while will provide your brain with the downtime it needs to boost creativity. Research suggests that breakthrough thinking occurs most often when you let your mind wander and your imagination roam. So give yourself (and your subconscious) time to dig deep and experience the process.    

Handwritten vows sitting on a bench under a wedding bouquet.

Of course this doesn’t mean that you should procrastinate! The beauty of starting on your vows early is that there will still be plenty of time to take breaks and let your creative juices ebb and flow, without the added pressure of an impending deadline (unless you’re particularly good at working under pressure!). You can take your time and give your vows the attention they deserve. One of my favorite things about elopements and intimate weddings is that you can really let loose and make these vows true to you as a couple, without fear of what others will think. Remember, you’re writing for your partner and your relationship, not anyone else.

And if you truly have a difficult time coming up with anything and have kids, ask them to brainstorm with you! It’s amazing how perceptive those little people can be. Seriously, ask them what they love about your partner and you’ll likely hear your own thoughts echoed, but in a beautifully simple way.

You Don’t Have to Memorize Them

Shelley's Defense of Poetry Book
Vows handwritten in the cover of a favorite book can serve as a keepsake for after the wedding day.

You don’t have to memorize your wedding vows! I mean, you can if you want, but you certainly don’t have to.  

I love the idea of writing them down in the cover of a cherished book, maybe something with some significance to your relationship. You can then gift it to your partner after the ceremony. Likewise, little love notes can be scribbled into your childrens’ favorite books for a special keepsake for them, as well. There are also beautiful vow books that are made to serve as momentos. There are so many out there, you’re sure to find something that feels like you and your relationship. Searching for handmade leather journal turns up some really lovely ones, like this one. If you and your partner love travel and adventure, this one may perfectly embody the current of wanderlust that runs through your relationship. Seriously, there’s something out there for everyone. 

   

A leather journal is perfect for holding  your handwritten personal wedding vows.

The Anatomy of a Wedding Vow

The anatomy of a personal wedding vow includes a declaration of love, promises that you will make to each other and for your future, and your own personal and meaningful touches. If done right, you are left with the very essence of your relationship, that is, what is most important to you as a couple, and how you both tick together. Your vows then become a roadmap for how you will live life as a married couple. They are reminders of what matters most when life gets complicated, and they serve as a guide for keeping your marriage on track when things get tough.

P.S. – Did you know that when dogs get married the promises they make to one another are called bow vows? If not, there’s so much more information I can also impart, so feel free to reach out 😉