Let's face it, not many of us have the kind of skills or experience to write truly poetic wedding vows. Or do we? Here's the truth: Even if you don't know Dylan Thomas from Bob Dylan, and you're pretty sure T.S. Elliot was that guy who wrote the words to Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Cats," all is not lost! In fact, there are ways to learn to write the words you want. With four simple steps, you can take what you feel in your heart and make it come out as sweetly as any Shakespearian sonnet.
STEP 1: Decide on a theme
Finding a theme should arguably be the easiest part of writing poetry for your wedding vows. But you don't want to be stuck with something trite or cliche, even though the theme of romantic love is probably the oldest known for poetry. There are lots of ways to avoid writing the same old "roses are red, violets are blue" type of poem. One trick the pros use is to envision what a newspaper article about your relationship would say. Would it discuss how and where you met? How your relationship has stayed strong, even during the hard times? What your love has meant to one another? Since newspaper articles get right to the point, this exercise can help you pick out an overriding theme for your vows.
STEP 2: Allow time for reverie
No, not "revelry" (hopefully that will be what your wedding day is all about), but reverie - a quiet time devoted to a kind of dreamy meditation. Try some tricks for allowing yourself time to truly think about your poem - and not just those things that allow you to "act like a poet." Go for a walk alone, listen to instrumental music, or simply shut the door to a room in your house and ask not to be disturbed. The most important thing to remember with any of these methods is that you don't let other people interrupt your time.
STEP 3: Choose Your topic
Theme, as discussed above, is the driving idea behind your poem. The topic, however, is the specific vehicle you use to express the theme. While finding the theme should be the easiest part of writing a poem for your wedding, finding a topic that isn't hackneyed and trite can be a challenge. For instance, love is your theme, but the beauty of your betrothed's eyes may be the topic. You are using the example of her eyes as the symbol of your love. The key is to find something new. There's something that makes your chosen one special, be it appearance, wit, or style. That's the topic you want to choose. Poets use tools like automatic writing, journals, or "dream work" to come up with topics for their prose.
STEP 4: Pick Your Style
As many different poems as there are, there are almost an equal number of styles in which they are written. There are traditional forms, modern, post-modern, and many more. You can work on fitting your rough draft poem into one of these many forms, or you can go with no form at all. The benefit of working on an art form is that there are no hard and fast rules on what the end product must look like. Perhaps you'd like to try your hand at penning your vows in the form of a "experimental" is right up your alley. No matter what you choose, just make sure it fits your style. After all, personalizing your wedding vows means just that - they should be personal, not forced to fit into a style that just isn't "you."
"I Do! I Do! The Marriage Vow Workbook" by Shonnie Lavender and Bruce Mulkey is an excellent resource to assit you along in this process. But above all, let your heart light shine through. Your beloved will appreciate your every word.