This did not exactly work out.
I arrived in Washington completely frazzled, convinced that I would never be able to articulate all that my partner means to me, and the depth of my commitment to our future together. People at the wedding would point and laugh. I would flee to the bathroom.
Eventually, I got a grip on myself and decided I would come at this writing process in steps. I spent a lot of time walking, mostly to and from work, and thinking about the routines and rhythms of our relationship: long drives, homemade-pizza parties, spontaneous walks late at night to check out one specific flower in a nearby garden. The things that I want to nurture as we grow old. I also thought about how I could be a better partner: What lifelong commitments do I want to hold myself to? Every time I had a thought, I’d whip out my phone, open the Notes app and jot it down.
It took a few weeks, but I think I’ve finally managed to find the right words. As we head into wedding season, we asked readers who wrote their own vows to tell us how they tackled the task — and to share the words that ultimately felt right to them. Here are a few of their responses, edited lightly for length and clarity.
Kelly Agrawal, 30, Florida
Married in January 2018 at a banquet hall on a farm in Florida
“My husband is from a small town in northern India, and I am from a small town in the Bible Belt of Florida. When we decided to get married, we knew that we wanted to honor certain aspects of our cultural backgrounds and celebrate the diversity of our families. We decided to write our own vows, and, throughout the process, I happened to learn more about the seven Hindu wedding vows. I surprised him by writing seven of my own vows, inspired by the Hindu tradition.”
Nikunj, my love …
Here, today, in the presence of our loved ones . . .
I vow to always work with you and grow with you in ways that strengthen our union. I will share with you my strength and joy, as well as my fear and sorrow.
I promise to protect and grow the riches of both our home and our spirits.
I vow to care for and support you in sickness and in health.
I will love and respect your mother and father as though they were my own.
I promise to strive every day to be your best and most loyal friend. I vow to remain your faithful partner for life … always equal and forever grateful.
Mai tumse bahut pyaar karti hu and today, I ask you to be my husband.
Rebecca Riffkin, 30, District of Columbia
Married in June 2018 on a rooftop in Washington
“I knew which quote I wanted to use for my wedding vows early in my relationship with my husband, way before we talked about marriage. But it wasn’t until a week before our wedding that I actually sat down and figured out how to use that quote and what else I wanted to say.”
There’s a quote by the author Sherman Alexie that says, “He loved her, of course, but better than that, he chose her, day after day. Choice: that was the thing.”
To me that choice is really what defines a marriage as more than just a relationship.
I will choose to stand by your side, even when that’s hard. I’ll stay with you through sickness and health, happiness and sorrow, for richer and for poorer. And in good times and bad, I still choose you.
David, I love you so much and I’m so happy you chose me, too. I know we’ll have tough times together. But I vow to keep choosing you and choosing to be your wife.
Rachael Small, 34, California
Married in March 2019 at a public park in Los Angeles
“I started writing my vows as a series of notes in an unaddressed Gmail message, months before the wedding. I wanted to have a space to jot down thoughts, ideas and themes that came up, whenever they came up. This gave me space to play around with the language I wanted to use when the spirit moved me. Then, the day before the wedding, my fiance and I sat down together in the lobby of our hotel and wrote our vows, first on our computers, then by hand in little notebooks. We didn’t share them with each other until we were standing together before our friends and family, and yet we found that we’d independently chosen to speak about many of the same things.”
Greg, my love, You are my home, my refuge from the ravages of the difficult world, the mantra that centers me, and I’m constantly amazed by how lucky I am to have found you. You are brilliant, generous, empathetic, funny, and the warmest person I know. Your principles push you to act with humility and with conviction, and I am constantly impressed by the things you do and create.
I promise to always remain open to the challenges you set for me, and to continue to challenge you as well. I promise to approach difficult conversations with an open heart and open mind. To veer off the beaten path whenever the opportunity presents itself, because that’s where we find things and experiences that feel like they are truly ours. . . . I promise to continue to find new ways to love you and to show you every day. For the rest of our lives.
Amy Tingle, 50, New Jersey
Married in 2014 in the poetry garden at Beloit College
“We had been writing letters to each other for a great deal of our relationship, even through our early days of living together. The typewriter factors into our lives, both separately and together, in a variety of important ways, but one of those ways was that we left one sitting on a shared desk. Whenever the other person wasn’t around, we’d write each other a letter about whatever was on our minds. Sometimes it was easier to say something we had been thinking about in writing rather than out loud, and sometimes it was just a fun way to surprise and delight each other. When we decided to get married, we knew writing our own vows was the only way for us … on a typewriter, of course.”
I commit to less sugar, less caffeine, more vegetables and whole grains. I commit to sunscreen and speed limits and exercise. I commit to staying alive so that I may be a part of your life for as long as possible.
I commit to myself. I commit to opening the universe inside myself wider and encouraging you to do the same, to be honest about our desires, our wants and our needs, even when we disagree. I commit to flexibility and an open door to change. I commit to breathing deeper. I commit to you, my tuning fork, my safe space, my grounding force.
Tara Campbell, 28, District of Columbia
Married in 2013 on the shores of Lake Lawrence in Washington state
“It was going to be a small family wedding, with my future brother-in-law performing the ceremony, so we wanted the vows to reflect our personalities and our philosophy about these kinds of things: short and sweet, with a little humor.”
I promise to love you, appreciate you, respect you and listen to you. (Note to audience: “Listen to you” is as close as we get to the word “obey” in this ceremony.)
Thank you for trusting me, for believing in me, and for sharing your feelings with me. Thank you for accepting me whether I’m feeling serious or silly, crass or ladylike, raucous or mellow, snarky or sweet.
In the years to come, there are so many things I look forward to sharing with you.
I can’t wait to:
Keep making you the craziest pancake and brownie varieties I can dream up;
Go back to Barcelona for more sangria;
Keep writing and creating and thinking and sharing with you;
When we get old, go to the doctor together, hold hands in the waiting room and remember each other’s prescriptions;
Hold you and tell you I love you for the rest of my life.