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I'm Rachel, your Washington-based elopement photographer. I create affirming spaces for all couples, so that you can have the freedom to be exactly who you are on your elopement day.
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Want to know how I know that you’ve googled elopement vows?
I’m a witch.
Kidding. It’s because we all do. I did it when I eloped. My partner did it. My couples do it. We all freaking do it because, chances are, we’ve never written elopement vows before! I was going to say it’s like the first time you’re assigned a multi-paragraph essay in school, but elopement vows are way easier and way more fun.
Now, I could have thrown together a list of three vague ideas and washed my hands of this topic. But that’s not how we do things here. This is your ultimate guide to writing your own elopement vows: everything from inspiration to formatting to getting the words down on paper. Hold onto your butts.
No, seriously. I meant what I said 2 seconds ago, and we might as well start here.
It’s ok! Normally, my advice is not to google when you’re trying to be creative and genuine, because that puts stuff in your brain, you know? And then…how do you sift through your thoughts to figure out which are really yours, which have really been inspired by something, not a copy of something?
Here’s the thing though: your elopement vows aren’t being published in a peer-reviewed journal. They don’t have anything to do with your job, your social standing, anything. Your elopement vows are just for you and your partner (and a small group of your nearest and dearest if you’re down to share with them).
So if you come across something that really speaks to you, I certainly don’t mind if you use it in your vows. No one does. It’s like coming across a poem and wanting to share it with your partner because you enjoyed it. …Because that’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re communicating your love to your partner, and if you need a little help putting it all into words, that’s perfectly fine.
(…plagiarism is wrong. We all know this, right? Don’t steal things from people and claim that they’re yours. I hope this doesn’t need to be said in a general sense but I’m saying it anyway because…Internet. Ok. Let’s move on.)
Your elopement vows don’t have to be a secret, but I’ll acknowledge that most people want them to be. It adds to the whole experience if you’re hearing the vows for the very first time during your first look or ceremony.
What I mean about talking to your partner is more about formatting.
…Not like, “Times New Roman, size 12 point font.” More like: about how long do you want the vows to be, what general tone are you going for, some guidelines. A big contributor to stress when it comes to writing your own elopement vows has to do with the unknown: What if one of you shows up with a long, emotional, declaration of love, and the other has a short, lighthearted joke? My partner and I were worried about just that; it’s why we chatted about it ahead of time and sent our vows to a friend to look over.
I know it seems like having this conversation is going to take some of the magic out of it, rob you of the enjoyment, but it actually relieves a huge amount of stress!
Dream your biggest dreams, my darlings.
What do you want your life to look like going forward?? You and your partner are getting married, and there’s so much ahead of you. So much to look forward to. Give yourself some time to sit and think about your future, the things you’re excited for, and what you’re feeling about it (you can do it; I’m Irish and my partner is British, we get the emotion suppression thing. We’re learning alongside you).
Let that excitement spill over in your elopement vows. Communicate it!
What made you fall in love with your partner in the first place? What is your favourite thing about them? What are some things that they do that make you laugh or happy sigh or roll your eyes or love them even more? Share some of these memories in your elopement vows!
These personal stories and quirks are a big part of personalizing your elopement vows–and tugging at your partner’s heartstrings. It’s your opportunity to share those little things that you love and let them know that you notice. From my own experience, something like that really makes you feel seen and appreciated and loved for who you are.
Ooh we’re approaching some vulnerable territory here, folks, aren’t we? Show someone else my vows? I could never.
Let me start by saying: you don’t have to do this. It’s not a requirement, so you can sit back down and relax. However. If you’re stuck and not sure what to do, ask for help.
My partner and I both sent a draft of our vows to a friend because we know what we’re like: he doesn’t write much, I typically over-do it. We didn’t want it to be super unbalanced! And it worked out really well for us.
Another creative solution I’ve seen is hiring a freelance writer to help! You’re allowed to think “that is so extra” and scroll down to tip 4. Feel free. But…it’s also kind of a genius idea, isn’t it?! Hop onto one of those freelance-for-hire sites (like Upwork, Fiverr, etc.) and get yourself a writer or speech editor to help put your thoughts into words. There is no shame in that–I’m actually kind of jealous because I didn’t know about this when I wrote my vows.
(I’m not sponsored by any of these freelancer services, I just think it’s a delightful idea.)
Look, we all knew that this article was going to edge toward the “cheesy” end of the spectrum eventually, didn’t we?
Also: I don’t care. This shit works.
If you feel perfectly at peace in some nook in your home and want to curl up there with a candle and some coffee while it’s snowing outside, write a draft of your elopement vows there. If you hate your kitchen and can’t focus at home, get outside. Do what I did and go hiking for several hours and then settle down somewhere beautiful. The vows will practically write themselves.
Get yourself to a place where you feel calm and relaxed and happy. And then you just…write whatever you want. Whatever you’re thinking about. No one needs to see it if it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. Call it a draft.
Trust me on this one, ok folks?
I need you to put your “project due tomorrow that you haven’t started” tendencies behind you for this one, alright? For your sake.
I’m in no way trying to put pressure on you or anything, but we’re talking about your elopement vows here. You’re pledging your life to another human being in this intentional, intimate way, and that kind of deserves more than a last-minute scramble the day of, don’t you think?
Did I transcribe my vows from a scribbled-up notebook on the day of my elopement? Yes. Yes I did. But what matters is that the vows were already written, and I only panicked and scribbled things out twice.
You may think you can just write something down in a few minutes, but I’m also going to argue that this is an enjoyable process! You get to spend time thinking about how much you love your partner and all the weird shit that they do, and you get to daydream about your future together.
Give yourself the time and space–like a SciFi show–to enjoy this process and do it right.
Look, who am I to dictate how long your vows are supposed to be, but if you’re like me, you’re possibly writing too much and don’t know what to do about it. Knowing this about yourself, when you try to write something new, you’re so focused on it not being too long that you can’t write anything at all.
So. Here’s some advice from me to you: let yourself write the long draft.
Sit yourself down, think all of your thoughts, feel all of your feelings, and get it all out. Once you have everything written out, it’ll be much easier to see where you want to go with your elopement vows and what’s important. I think my original draft was…four or five times longer than my final draft.
Like I said before, this isn’t an essay assignment, and you don’t have to do any of this if you don’t want to. But I know I’m not the only one with the “overwriting” problem. And this is how I deal with it.
Unless your handwriting is completely unintelligible (looking at you, dad; also sorry for outing your shocking handwriting), I strongly suggest you write out your elopement vows by hand.
1. Handwritten vows are a way better keepsake than that times new roman stuff we were talking about before.
2. There have been a number of studies suggesting that writing things out by hand improves recollection and forms a stronger connection in the brain. I remember exactly what it was like to write out my vows at the table in the AirBnB before my own elopement, and most of what I wrote, too. Which is weird, considering my short-term memory isn’t stellar and I got married in 2018.
3. …Handwritten vows look better in photos. They just do, ok? Your handwriting is personal–it’s unique to you. Photographing that little part of yourself makes for a much more compelling story (and image) than a typed up form letter.
I mean this less as “you aren’t here to write better vows than your partner” and more as “literally no one is judging you.”
Who’s going to hear your elopement vows? Your partner. And maybe a few other people if you invite them. But even then…we invited 15 people and they heard nothing. We exchanged private vows during our first look because having the privacy to say what we really feel mattered to us. (You’re allowed to do what you want.)
So if you find yourself worrying that you’re “a shitty writer” or “not good enough,” remind yourself that the only person hearing your vows is your partner. The person you wrote them for. You’re marrying this person! I doubt they’re the sort of person to judge you for your elopement vows.
Your vows aren’t being entered into some sort of competition to be critiqued by professional writers who look down their nose at you. They’re for your partner. And your partner loves you. All you have to do is tell them how much you love them too.
Happy writing, my darlings. I really do hope this helped xx
Want to chat about your elopement? Or bounce some ideas off of a friendly ear (whatever that mixed metaphor means)? I’m right here.