Why Writing a Wedding Ceremony Is Hard


It’s Important

When I received my friend Meredith’s copy of The Wedding Ceremony Planner, I scoffed at the subtitle: “the essential guide to the most important part of your wedding day.” “Most important”? Pshaw.  The most important part is having fun and celebrating with your friends and family and spouse.  Isn’t the ceremony just the part where the guests look over the program again and again hoping to find something else to entertain them while waiting for the bar to open? [Yes, I was (am?) that asshole.]

But I realized around the time we started looking for officiants that I actually did care about our ceremony.  Specifically, I didn’t want it to feel inauthentic.  The thought of hiring an officiant we did not know and following their script for how to marry two people made my stomach sour. It felt dishonest an impersonal and those are the last things I wanted for the beginning of my marriage.

So when I sat down to write our ceremony, it was with an oven-fresh consciousness of the importance of that script.  Importance means high stakes, which means pressure.

There’s Too Much Out There

A lot of wedding blog posts about writing the ceremony suggest reading other people’s ceremonies and cobbling yours out of the best parts.  And I think that’s fantastic advice for a lot of people, but that strategy did not work for me.  I had my two dozen tabs open with ceremony scripts from all my blog friends’ weddings and all their blog friends’ weddings, and I’d see ten variations of the same sentence, and I’d find myself completely at a loss for choosing which version I liked best.  It was overwhelming.  So I closed all my tabs and put away all my wedding books and started with a blank Word document.  I thought this would work for me because…

I’m a Writer

[Ed. note: I wrote this post before today's APW column on writing vows went up, so similarities are coincidental and embarrassing because I do not have ANY degree in writing, because last time I checked you can't get an MFA in Blogging.  YET!]

Maybe the most important lesson of my year+ of wedding planning is that I love writing.  I needed this blog. I needed to get my words back after law school beat all the creativity out of me.

Part of the reason I love writing is I know I am good at it.  In particular, I am good at writing about big emotions and major life events.  I wrote and delivered my father’s eulogy and IT KILLED. I could have made Clint Eastwood cry with that thing.

So writing a kickass wedding ceremony should be easy peasy lemon squeezy, right?  It’s a much happier subject and I am not writing it through the haze of  recent orphanization.  Shouldn’t these happy loving words just pop out of me like a rainbow out of a waterfall?

Well, they didn’t.  I had very high expectations for my work so everything I wrote sounded too hokey or too glib.  I became very familiar with my backspace key.  I’d drink a huge glass of wine to try to loosen the words and I’d think “no wonder so many writers end up alcoholics.”

What Do I Know?

You know that writing advice cliché “write what you know”?  This was my problem with writing a wedding ceremony.  I’m no expert on marriage. I’ve never been married. I’m not even an expert on love! This is my first time in non-sad love.  When a wedding officiant makes a speech about “mawwidge” at a wedding ceremony, they’re speaking from a position of expertise that really glosses over their clichés and cheesiness.  I’m just some dumb kid getting hitched to a dude she’s over the moon about.

And there. That was it.  I needed to stop trying to make our wedding ceremony about why love is great and marriage is important.  I needed to make it about us.  I can write about us in my sleep.  Once I understood that our ceremony could be about why WE are in love and why WE are getting married instead of chasing after universal truths about the experience of love and the institution of marriage, writing the ceremony became 1,000 times easier.  Not EASY, because see above, but DOABLE.

After my wedding ceremony actually happens, I’ll post the text to this blog, and maybe I’ll be one of those links in someone else’s post about how they patched their ceremony together.  Or not, because it is so specific to us.  Whatever!  But to you junior engaged people out there, just know that writing your own ceremony is hard, but you can get through it. You just need to find what you (and your partner, and maybe your families, and maybe your religious institution… yeah, this is really, really hard) want your wedding ceremony to be, be true to that, and it will all come together.


  1. Man, is the timing for this perfect. We’ve just confirmed our good friend as our officiant and are about to embark upon the ceremony writing journey. I would actually be interested in reading yours afterwards, if you’re comfortable posting it!

  2. Yeeeahhh Boyyyyyy! This is a fantastic post. Even though I probably won’t get married till next year at the earliest (still not officially engaged), I have thought about what to say in the vows precisely BECAUSE I didn’t know what to write and I didn’t want to say the same ol’ shi*. I will be excited to hear what you said to your love.

  3. Law school beat all the creativity out of me too. I felt like it changed the way I thought and I’m just now getting it back.

    I cribbed most of the ceremony from other people’s blogs and mashed them together. I hope it is okay — I assume they posted them knowing people would use them — right??

  4. Just so you know, you can totally get an MFA in blogging. Or at least, I got an MFA for taking a blog I’d had for two years and making it pretend to be a novel. It happens!

    In other news, I am eagerly awaiting the release of HitchDied: The Novel.

  5. Robin, I just love your writing. I get so excited when a new post comes up! Focusing on why the two of you love each other and are getting married will no doubt lead to a beautiful, fun, meaningful and personal ceremony.

    I just got married in May, and we worked with our officiant ( a secular Humanist celebrant) to craft our ceremony. We didn’t know every word that she was going to say in advance, but we wrote our own vows and had a lot of input on the structure and content of what she created. In the end, it was so reflective of who we are, and every attendee (all 22 of them!) told us how personal it was, and how much they loved it.

    If you are writing the whole thing, then I can only imagine how sweet, funny and powerful your ceremony will be! Best of luck.

    (Also, we had a pre-wedding cocktail hour, which I CANNOT RECOMMEND ENOUGH. If that’s not possible, a little glass of champagne [or tequila] while you are getting ready would also work…)

  6. Man, there is something in the water! I just posted the full text to our ceremony on my blog today. Maybe there is something there that’ll help you? At the moment I’m not very helpful because I got felled by the post-wedding cold and my head is full of pressure and my throat is sore. But in other news, ceremony writing? Yeah, there was a lot of wine.

  7. My wedding ceremony words (not my vows – we used Hebrew vows and our Ketubah for that) were the hardest words I’ve ever written. And we STARTED with the jump off point of writing about our relationship/each other. We were essentially writing a love letter to each other/statement of love. And it took weeks of panic and ruined drafts and wine and tears and frustration until inspiration really hit. And, unlike most things I write, I was so unsure about it until I read it aloud at the ceremony. I mean, I was sure, but I just had to accept that no words could ever express everything I needed them to say about our love or our commitment.

    My general recommendation now is: start at least one month beforehand. Really. And don’t be surprised if you don’t finish until the week beforehand, because it might be the hardest thing you ever write, even when the words and the emotions are so simple. I’m happy you found your voice and your words.

  8. Hi,
    I am a wedding celebrant from NJ/NY and many of my couples want to write their own vows, and I tell them that the vows are really the simple words in your heart that tell your partner how you feel about them and what you promise in the pursuit of a lasting relationship. The goal may not be to write the most grandiose, nobel prize worthy paragraph or two; in fact those “perfect” vows sometimes don’t even sound like the actual couple wrote them.

    I’ve had couples promise things as diverse as releasing the ownership of the remote to throwing out various favorite, but disgusting pieces of clothing. Those vows are the most memorable. Keep in mind that writing your most poignant thoughts while you’re in your jammies in front of the computer is much different than saying them out loud in front of 100 guests. The entire ceremony is so much more emotionally charged than anyone can describe to you that sometimes very, very personal vows are difficult (if not impossible) to recite.

    The other possibility, and I suggest this to my shyer couples; write your vows to each other; seal them in an envelope and give them to each other before the wedding. Use some less personal (but hopefully beautiful) vows on the day of your wedding (your officiant can do a ‘repeat after me’ format, or (like me) print them in a pretty notebook or journal so you can read them to each other) and then pick a time where you can read your vows to each other; maybe the first evening of your honeymoon. That is a great way to say what you really want to say to each other but maintain some privacy if that is important to you.

    The ceremony? Not everyone can write one, which is why everyone doesn’t. The fact that your uncle Phil CAN do your wedding doesn’t mean he should, unless he’s very very good at commanding a room and orating (and there are many, many ministers and rabbis who suck at this too……)

    Vast sweeping statements about marriage in the abstract will have everyone staring at their watch, waiting for their first glass of Pino Grigio. Your wedding should be about you; it’s far more interesting that way. If you’d like some help, just email me.

    And best wishes!

  9. If your articles are awlyas this helpful, “I’ll be back.”

  10. Wonderful Blog! Great info.

  11. This is a great post Robin. For the past 10 years, I’ve been working with couples to help write their custom and personalized ceremonies. Some couples are able to jump right in and get ideas from the wide array of ceremonies we have in our archives. While many others hesitate to start working with us. It really helps them to have someone who is experienced in the numerous options available to guide them through the process. This has been so successful over the years, that I now offer DIY ceremony writers the option to work with me to plan their ceremony. Once a couple knows that there is an expert available to help ask the right questions and follow a step by step planning approach, it helps to relieve the tension to get started with the process. I do suggest that you start the process 3 months prior to the ceremony and allow 8 weeks to create your ceremony. The last 30 days prior to the wedding should be focusing on the logistical details. Although we work with couples where one partner is Jewish, we can help anyone create a personalized ceremony. http://www.jewishinterfaithweddings.net


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