Writing your own wedding vows has always been an option, but within the past several years it’s become even more popular. From celebrities to your next-door neighbor, you’ve heard how they’ve put their own stamp on an already special day.

You’ll need to do some research if you decide writing your wedding vows is something you’re interested in. But I can give you some ideas and insights that will keep you from getting tongue-tied at the big moment.

Let’s break it down—there are two main areas to think about. What to say…and how to say it. In other words, content—and style. Here are six suggestions:

Decide Traditional or Non-traditional

This is probably the most important of all my tips. Talk the content over with your partner! Believe me, up in front of a crowd is not the best time for surprises of this kind. Either traditional or non-traditional approaches have their own emotional power. Just make sure you and your partner agree; it could be an interesting discussion.

Make Them Personal And Unique

The best part about writing your own wedding vows is that you can make them completely personal and special—whether you are going the traditional route or not. Take some time to jot ideas about your partner. Novelists call this the “telling detail.” It’s what makes that person stand out from a million others. After all, that’s why you’re marrying them, right? In under an hour, you can probably come up with a dozen or more things; decide on the best four or five and use those.

Choose An Unusual Theme

For traditional vows, there are already many, many sources—including your religion or perhaps the clergy you’ve selected to perform the ceremony. So here, I’m going to focus on non-traditional approaches. My suggestion? Go with something that the two of you both enjoy. This could be as broad as sailing, travel and new places, or sports. Or—as specific as Star Wars or the zombie apocalypse. Heck, even “Breaking Bad” has great potential. Note down key phrases and language from your topic, and simply weave them into your wedding vows.

Consider Unusual Formats

OK, so we’ve looked at the content of your vows. Now let’s consider three important aspects of how you deliver them—in other words, the style. How about a soliloquy from Shakespeare? (Tip: choose one of the comedies, not a tragedy!). Or maybe in the style of a poet you admire, such as Robert Frost. I’ve even seen an amazing take on “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe. But don’t worry–you don’t have to be an English major to pull this one off. Simply choose a format you like, and let out your inner creativity. Tip, being out on the open water can really get the creative juices flowing!

Read It To Yourself First!

Certainly one of the charming aspects of vows is that your partner generally has not heard them before that moment. However…you still need to practice. Take some time to read your vows out loud, as you’d actually say them. Sometimes what’s jotted down on paper is different from how it sounds. Do as many trial runs as you need. And—shorter is better. This isn’t a speech, remember; it’s a heartfelt, intimate exchange of promises. Many people find that a minute, more or less, is a good length. Take out your smartphone and start timing.

Decide: Memorize—or Read

In addition to my first tip about traditional or non-traditional, this is probably one of the most important things to think about ahead of time…way ahead of time. Of course, each option has its advantages…and challenges. For example, memorizing what you’ll say looks very impressive to the audience as you gaze into your partner’s eyes. But—it’s easy to get flustered, and I promise you, you’ll already have plenty of things on your mind that day. If you do decide to memorize, best to keep things short. And, if you decide to read, remember that the slip of paper will be immortalized in your wedding photos forever. Hand-write or print it from your computer on nice stationery.

I hope these suggestions help you write wedding vows that are meaningful and memorable. Just speak from the heart, and you’ll be fine.

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