We’ve all cringed our way through that scene in 'Friends' where Ross says “Rachel” instead of “Emily” at the altar.
While you’ve hopefully got the name of your significant other down pat, it’s completely normal to be a little anxious about everything else you’re supposed to say – or not say – in such a high-pressure situation.
For civil ceremonies in Australia, the only part required by the Marriage Act 1961 is “I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, A.B. (or C.D.), take thee, C.D. (or A.B.), to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband)”. Beyond that, it’s up to you.
“I've found that most couples choose to pen their own personal pledges, rather than opt for the traditional ‘to have and to hold, for better or for worse…’,” says Melbourne marriage celebrant Sally Hughes. “There's a great amount of freedom where civil ceremonies are concerned.”
But while there might be endless choice about what you can say, there are some things you definitely shouldn’t…
Anything that's not 'you'.
“Be yourself, speak slowly, clearly and genuinely with intention,” suggests Sydney-based celebrant Jessie Cacchillo. “No posh, fake or robotic voices!”
Vows you've heard a million times before.
“The best vows are those that don't contain clichés such as ‘I love you to the moon and back’,” says Hughes. “Unless, of course, that is something you say to each other on a regular basis!”
Vague or generic statements.
Vows are a very personal process, says Hughes, so they should reflect who you are as a couple. “Reference first impressions and specific times shared, compliment or accept personality traits, and even include nicknames,” she suggests. “A blend of sincere and romantic praise and gratitude, combined with just a touch of humour, works really well.”
Slang words and phrases.
“Try not to use words that a teenager may use like ‘awesome’, ‘amazeballs’ or ‘OMG’,” says Cacchillo.
Wildly different vows to your groom-to-be.
“If you opt to wait until your wedding day to hear each other's vows, the celebrant should check that you’re both on the same page,” says Hughes. “It's not ideal for a bride to recite lengthy and highly romantic promises with utmost sincerity, only to be preceded by a groom offering rather short and humorous pledges.”
Text that’s been cut and pasted from Google.
“I think the best vows are those that feel conversational and have been written without too much help from external sources,” says Hughes. “Use Google and other resources as a guide, but describe the qualities you most admire in each other and the aspects you love about your relationship in your own way.”
Anything too dramatic or fake.
"No grandiose promises and cheesy drama, like 'forever' or 'from this day forward I promise to always do such and such'," advises Cacchillo. "We are not always perfect!"
Words that are difficult to pronounce.
“You will be a touch nervous on the day, so keep it simple,” says Cacchillo.
The wrong name.
Just don't. Right, Ross?
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