Expert Wedding Vow Advice: Vow Muse
Writing your own vows is not as easy as it sounds. You want them to be meaningful, memorable and ideally, a balance between laughter and tears.
Enter Vow Muse. The California-based writing consultation company, owned by duo Alicia and Angie, helps personalize wedding vows, speeches and ceremonies to reflect each client’s personality. The goal is to produce a unique, well-written and brilliant piece. Consultations can be made via phone, Skype or e-mail, and the process includes revisions to ensure perfection. Below, we ask Alicia and Angie for their tips and tricks to writing wedding vows and speeches.
WI: Why do you think vow writing is so difficult?
VM: Writing wedding vows can be difficult for a number of reasons. The most common challenge is translating thoughts and emotions into a comprehensive and eloquent piece of text. In our heads, we enjoy, appreciate, connect with and love other people in a very natural way – but it’s challenging to describe. So we say things like “he just gets me,” or “she and I totally clicked” to express the process of forming important relationships with others – but that doesn’t really descriptively encapsulate what is happening. Part of the problem is that this process is disorganized. It’s not linear, doesn’t always make sense, and is often illogical and irrational.
Wedding vows are exactly the opposite. Vows generally consist of sensible information organized in a linear way that other people can follow. It’s the combination of these two worlds – these two parts of our brain – that makes harnessing all of the extensive memories and intense feelings you have for a person into a succinct written piece so difficult.
Where is the best place to start when writing a meaningful speech?
In the shower. Just kidding. But seriously, the best place to start is right in your own head, in a place where you feel comfortable, undistracted and relaxed (…like the shower). The first step is distilling the important information that needs to be presented in your speech. And before you can distill, you need a pool of information to work from.
This is called brainstorming, but really it just means thinking about the topic of your speech. If you’re giving a maid of honor speech, you have to determine the most important things to say. Your BFF is great. She’s amazing. You love her dearly. She has the guts to sing karaoke every year on her birthday. She brings you soup when you’re sick. Make a list of all the categories that you might want to talk about (you and your BFF, memories you’ve shared, amazing qualities of your BFF, your BFF’s husband, etc.) and collect thoughts that come to mind for each category. From this, you can start to organize the information into an order that makes sense, and start to extract the most important sentiments.
Photo: flutter glass PHOTOGRAPHY
What is some advice you might give a bride-to-be who is experiencing a little writer’s block?
Two things: Don’t judge yourself, and give yourself time. One of the most difficult things about experiencing writer’s block as you pen your wedding vows is that you start to be self-conscious about why you’re having a hard time. Why can’t I think of anything to say about Justin Don’t I love him If I can’t articulate my feelings, what does that mean This does not benefit you at all, and it doesn’t mean anything negative about you or your feelings toward you partner. Remember all that stuff about how emotions and relationships develop in a sporadic way in our brain That’s what makes it so hard to write this stuff down. So, to start, realize that this is not a simple task, everyone works this information through their mind in a different way, and you can do it if you just figure out what your process is.
Once you’re past any self-judgment, you can try some different things to see what works for you. You can research vows on the internet, write a random list of things you like about your fiancé, or watch that movie that makes you both laugh so ridiculously hard. You can sit back, let the information percolate in your head, brainstorm in whatever way works for you, and eventually move those thoughts onto paper. And what you need for this is time.
Do you have any recommendations on how to “spice up” vows?
One way we “spice up” a set of wedding vows is to include something a little bit funny or very personal, or both.
Vows are meant to be emotional and sentimental and serious and all that. But you can really get a good response from your partner, and from the audience, if you toss in a tiny tidbit that no one was expecting to hear or that just makes people giggle. This can be a fine line to walk. You want to take care not to be inappropriate in any way, or to make fun of your partner; but a bit of loving teasing about the adorable baby talk she uses when addressing your dog or admitting that you totally checked out his behind before you were introduced to each other that one night can add a certain playfulness to the moment, deeply personalize your vows, and put a little smirk on your partner’s face.
How do you feel about using quotes in vows and wedding speeches?
We love quotes, but generally only use them in wedding ceremonies. While we’re not opposed to using them in vows and speeches, these written pieces typically have a lot to express in a short time. We like to ensure all the important sentiments are articulated in your own words in the time allotted. That said, a short quote that exactly embodies your feelings or is otherwise very meaningful to you and/or your partner could certainly enhance a well-crafted speech or set of vows.
Photo: Ink Spot Photography
What are some trends you’re seeing?
We are definitely seeing trends that shy away from more traditional, serious wedding customs. This can permeate many aspects of a wedding, but we experience it most with wedding ceremonies. With all of our clients, we ask for a few words they would like to describe the feel of their ceremony (or vows, or speech). The words “sincere,” “sentimental,” and “loving” inevitably come up, but equally so do the words “casual,” “lighthearted,” and “humorous. We love this, as it gives us the freedom to craft ceremonies that are inevitably unique, extremely personalized, and engage the audience in a way that is very relatable and which more traditional ceremonies often don’t.
What are your favorite ways to personalize the wedding ceremony?
There are certain things that most couples value (love, commitment, family, supporting each other), and there are a variety of things that are unique (or at least semi-unique) to a couple. It is these unique characteristics, interests and values that we focus on to personalize each ceremony.
And this doesn’t mean that the couple needs to be professional swing dancers or astronauts to be “unique. The interesting bits of a couple can come from many aspects of their relationship such as how they met, hobbies they share, things they have in common (or don’t have in common) or simply their personalities. We like to express this personalization with recurring themes, quotes and in the vows. For example, if the couple are big hikers, we might incorporate nature-based topics or a quote from John Muir. Or, if the couple loves Wes Anderson movies and thinks sarcasm is the bee’s knees, we’ll mimic some text after the witty stylings of a Bill Murray-esque character. There are a thousand ways to do this, and tackling this challenge is one of the best parts of our job.
You also coach those who may be a little nervous about speaking in front of a crowd. What is the main piece of advice you give to help calm nerves?
Practice. We help critique posture and delivery, but the most important thing people can do to give a successful speech is to practice beforehand. This is not to memorize the text – we actually recommend that people don’t try to memorize their speech – it’s to ensure they’re comfortable saying all the words and to prepare all the other things that go along with speaking in public. What do you do with your hands How do you place your feet Are you speaking too quickly Did you emphasize the wrong word in that phrase While nerves will always be there on the inside, the actual speech will go a lot more smoothly on the outside if you’ve taken a lot of the unknowns out of the equation by practicing.
Photo: Camelot Photography
What are some common mistakes people make when it comes to vows and wedding speeches?
Aside from the obvious things we’ve all (unfortunately) seen, like being totally drunk or saying something wholly inappropriate, the most common “mistakes” are usually those that simply make vows or a speech unmemorable. For example, not touching on anything personal or unique in the text and simply saying what you think you “should” say can be really bland and uninteresting.
Otherwise, the biggest blunders tend to come from being unprepared. When you write your vows or speech, you have to read it out loud to check yourself. Does it feel right Does it sound like you You can’t know this until you read it out loud. You will feel silly about it, but it’s the very best way to make the words sound natural on the day-of.
One other difficulty for vows in particular is that you often don’t know what your partner is writing. We’ve seen this time and again – one person’s vows are long and heartfelt, while the other person’s are short and silly. While this can be a fun way to express your different personalities, it might not be what you want. This is where we find our services particularly helpful. Since Vow Muse is a team of two people, we often each work with one of the partners but then check in with each other to ensure the vows have a similar tone and length. This way the couple can still keep their vows secret from each other until the big day but lose the risk of revealing radically different style vows.
What’s the craziest request you’ve ever received?
We were asked to officiate the first (and only) jetpack wedding in 2012 in Southern California. The bride and groom flew over the water via elaborate hydro-jetpacks strapped to their persons to meet Vow Muse’s Alicia, who married them, on the beach. It was a trip! Read about it here.
Anything else you want people to know?
One question we often receive as writing consultants is, “Is it ok that I need help with this” And our response is always (obviously) a resounding “Yes!” For your wedding day, you seek a variety of professionals to ensure that each part of the day is expertly executed. You hire a caterer, a makeup artist, a photographer and more. When you want everything to be perfect, why leave the words spoken at your wedding to chance Vow Muse is here to guide you through that very important, and often overlooked, part of your wedding. And just as you’d never ask your seamstress if it’s “ok” that you’re asking for help altering your dress, it’s totally ok to ask for help writing the very special words that you and others will speak at your wedding. That’s what we’re here for: to be your muse.