Our blog article, Overcoming Stage Fright, has tips that might help. We also asked a few of our JPs for their suggestions.
Most wedding ceremonies, whether it’s an elopement for two or a grand affair for 200, share three basic elements: Intentions, Vows, and the Pronouncement. The “I do” part you’ve mentioned is the Intentions, where each person responds to the officiant, declaring an intent to marry of his/her own free will. It sounds like you’re asking about the Vows, which provide an opportunity for promises to be exchanged. This is the only part of the ceremony when the two people speak to each other, and despite what we see in popular culture, it’s actually quite common for one or both of them to be uncomfortable with expressing their feelings in public.
For those couples I recommend using the simplest of “repeat after me” statements to take the pressure off. It’s also helpful for couples to remember that regardless of whether their vows are short or long, they are speaking to each other, and unless they choose to, they don’t need to focus on whether or not guests can hear them speak.
You and your partner may wish to enhance those moments by inviting a relative or friend to read something meaningful to the entire gathering that speaks to the love you share.
Another possibility is to include a silent ritual – a handfasting or candlelighting. Most JPs will offer samples and ideas. Above all, remember that your officiant is there to support you and help you feel less stressed so you actually enjoy the all-too-fleeting moments of your wedding ceremony.
– Jeanne Pounder, Dover NH
To express one’s true feelings to another is of course the warmest way. But if he is shy, ask him to write his thoughts down and they can become the vows that the JP speaks. Then all he needs to say is “I do.”
– Patrick Benner, South Burlington VT
No words that an officiant can say are capable of expressing the emotions within each husband and wife. I encourage all couples to consider speaking from the heart but few do. The most common excuse is “I’m afraid I am going to cry.” I believe that tears are an unplanned blessing at a wedding. Rather than a sign of weakness, tears are an affirmation of the deep devotion and emotional commitment that each partner is making. And besides,tears are like yawns: they are “catching.” If you look around when tears are shed by a bride or groom, chances are there will be many others reaching for tissues as well! To sum it up, both parties should agree on whether or not to include this aspect in their ceremony, and no one should feel obligated. However, when it is done, it is often the most memorable and touching part of the entire ceremony.
– Steven M. Dembow, Merrimack NH
★ Other blog articles about writing wedding vows have suggestions on finding one’s voice.