Wedding Vows that Wow

Wedding Vows that Wow

You have just a few brief moments to give
the speech of your married lifetime.

By Barbara Neal Varma

After your special someone says, “Yes! Oh, yes!” to your marriage proposal, the list of wedding to-dos grows exponentially every loving minute: the tuxedo, the dress, the food to serve to around 200 guests without breaking the honeymoon piggy bank. Then, just when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with it all, a helpful someone chimes in, “But what about your vows?”

The answer depends on your personal preference, of course, but whether you take the follow-the-recipe route and recite ready-made vows, or write the words yourself on long reams of perfumed paper, you still have to face the inevitable truth: You will be giving a speech. You will prepare and practice loving words to say in front of an audience of your betrothed, future in-laws, and friends and family members – millions more if the wedding video makes it to YouTube.

Fortunately, your Toastmasters training has given you all the tools you need to write and recite wedding vows that wow. Approach it as you would any presentation and you’ll do just fine when the officiant cues you to take your beloved’s hand and “say a few words you’ve prepared.” Be inspired by a few intrepid souls who’ve boldly proclaimed their polished promises. 

Made Her Laugh, Made Her Cry
Tiffany and Brian Neal weren’t sure what to say to each other at the wedding altar, this being their first leap (and last, they affirm) into wedded bliss. But with help from their minister – a Toastmaster, by happy coincidence – the young couple were able to jot down some thoughts and sentiments to share in public. When the bride began to say her lines, however, she began to cry and then laugh, overcome with the moment’s emotion. No problem – her groom handed her the handkerchief he’d tucked away for just such an occasion, proving early on he could meet her every need.

Love and Learn: Ask the officiant to keep a printed “cheat sheet” of your vows nearby to use if emotions temporarily block your memory.

A Vow of Silence
Carol Meekins and her fiancé, Bart, faced a dilemma as their wedding day drew near: Bart, usually a Chatty Charlie, was losing his voice. Nerves? Wedding-crashing cold? Probably a little of both, but by the time the big day arrived, Bart’s ability to say his part of the wedding vows was completely gone. Fortunately, his friends had conferred privately a few days ahead and secretly prepared a Plan B in the form of raised signs that proclaimed “I do!” at the opportune moment. The two were delighted by this surprise. “Bart had no idea,” the bride recalls. “It was great!”

Love and Learn: Never miss an opportunity to use effective visual aids. 

Love Extemporaneous Style
Sheli and Michael Easton had been together many years before making it official. They were vacationing in Hawaii when “get married” seemed the thing to do for the day, especially when they saw other couples enjoying their nuptials in the warm and romantic surroundings. They quickly acquired a minister and said their vows above the romantic roar of the ocean. “Nothing was planned, so we just spoke from the heart,” says the bride (and former Toastmaster). She attributes their success to Toastmasters training and notes, “Thank goodness for Table Topics!”

Love and Learn: Continue to hone your “off the cuff” speaking skills at Toastmasters meetings during Table Topics and other extemporaneous exercises. You never know when you might want to add “get married” to your day’s agenda. 

Your Turn: Six Ways to Say What you Want to Say on Your Special Day

1. Get the all-clear. Remember: Even the most modern minister, rabbi or other wedding official will want to review your words in advance. Catholic and Episcopal churches, for example, may require you to recite all or part of the traditional vows, although in most instances, that’s left to the priest’s discretion. (Time to use your persuasive speaking techniques.) In short, make sure the kind soul who is marrying you will accept personalized vows.

2. Make a plan. Tackle the logistics and make sure you and your intended are both on the same proverbial page: Will you show the vows to each other before the ceremony? Are you each going to write your own? If you’re feeling shy, you might want to write your vows together and even recite the same verbiage. Don’t forget the Golden Toastmasters Rule: practice, practice, practice. One benefit of saying the same vows is you can have fun practicing together.

3. Create your outline. Here’s a helpful outline format you can use: Plan to talk first about how great your betrothed is, then about how great you are as a couple, and finally, what you’re vowing to each other. As with any presentation, prepare an opening, body and conclusion. An outline helps to establish a structure that you both can follow.

4. Find your voice. What overall tone do you want? Humorous and touching? Poetic or practical? It’s your call – the most important thing is that your vows ring true and come from your heart. A great way to assure a polished presentation is to videotape yourself beforehand, another Toastmasters technique that can be applied to your marriage mini-speech. When saying your vows, face your beloved but project your voice for the audience to hear and enjoy!

5. Cut it down. Finally, pick a length and stick to it by keeping the message pithy and with the point in mind – anything longer than three minutes, and no matter how great your prose, the wedding audience will start to get fidgety.

6. Put it in writing. Use the following prompts below to start you and your intended on your way to vows that wow: 

At what point did you realize you were in love? Be specific to add depth to the story. Was it when he arrived at your place with a present for your cat tucked under his sleeve?

Application 1: I knew I was in love when ____________________. 

What do each of you bring to the relationship? Focus on the mind and soul, not baubles and things. Has he taught you the value of patience? Has she taught you the virtues of a clean kitchen?

Application 2: Before I met you, I ____________________. Now I ____________________. 

What do you miss about each other when you’re apart? Simple things resonate here more than the profound – what about his laugh when watching a TV sitcom or the way she cuts your tuna salad sandwich in four sections just like Mom did?

Application 3: You are such a part of me that when you’re gone, I ____________________. 

And finally, what goals do you both have? Stating your common ground may just expose your inner Shakespeare in love. These bonds – whether a shared faith or your mutual love of classic movies – will also help demonstrate why you were made for each other.

Application 4: We share ____________________, so together we can ____________________. 

Barbara Neal Varma is a freelance writer based in Southern California. You can reach her at

India: The Seven Vows

Around the globe, various countries and cultures prepare their vows in ways significant to their history and tradition. In India, betrothed couples recite the Seven Vows (Saat Phere) while walking around a sacred fire. With each circle, the couple pray for the blessings paraphrased here: 1) nourishing and pure food, 2) a healthy and prosperous life, 3) shared wealth, 4) increased love and respect for each other and their families, 5) healthy, heroic and noble children, 6) a peaceful and long life together and 7) companionship and understanding between themselves. After the vows are completed, the husband says to his new wife that now they have become friends and they will not break their friendship in life.

Make the Most of the Toast

Once the vows have wowed, it’s time to start the party. Barbara’s husband, Michael Varma, ATMG, ALB, happens to be an expert on wedding toasts and offers these sample toasts.

The groom raises his glass to his bride and says:
Here’s to sharing our future and honoring our past
To the adventures that will make our marriage last
Together we’ll share love and laughter
And begin our journey of...happily ever after!

The bride raises her glass to her groom and says:
Here’s to enjoying our life and all we must do
Beyond being faithful, fond and true
Remember that dose of love and laughter
To ensure we live...happily ever after!