Stressed Writing Your Wedding Vows? A Professional Vow Writer Could Help. – The New York Times

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In recent years, social media has helped increase demand in this new wedding vendor category. “Vows have gone viral,” one expert said, “and there’s greater attention to the moments that go wrong.”

The 200 guests at Rachel Mumford’s backyard wedding in Malibu, Calif., were suddenly on their feet, clapping, giving her an unexpected ovation. Forty-eight hours earlier, she probably wouldn’t have felt as calm or confident.

The handwritten pages of vows she had in her relaxed grip were now a “structured, organized, funny, intimate and condensed version of our love story,” said Ms. Mumford, 53, who married Brandon Coxton at their home on July 3, 2022. “I wanted my vows to be real, personal and intimate.”

She managed to check off all three boxes after hiring Brian Franklin, a founder of Vows & Speeches, a writing service for wedding participants that he started with his wife, Nicole Franklin, in 2021.

It is a niche service, he said, that has long been lacking in the wedding industry. “This is part of the wedding that has not traditionally gotten professional guidance,” Mr. Franklin said. “Putting your whole relationship into one to two minutes to say how you feel is not an easy task.”

Ms. Mumford, who is a founder of Barry’s, a boutique fitness chain, would agree. She procrastinated in writing her vows, then panicked. “I have great ideas and passion, but I’m not a writer,” she said. “Brian has a comic ability. He knows where to find funny moments.”

After hiring the writing service, she said, “I felt prepared, not alone, and confident.”

It’s no secret that weddings are expensive. For those who are able to afford another component, a speechwriter could be an option. Below, three professionals share their writing process, unique styles and advice for those who hope to write their own. Each also offers delivery coaching via Zoom.

Tanya Pushkine calls herself the Vow Whisperer. Based in New York, she works one on one with couples to create a four-minute, 500-word bespoke speech.

“Couples have too much to say and don’t know how to write from their heart,” said Ms. Pushkine, who has shaped more than 300 vows over the last four years.

To start, she sends couples a questionnaire of 25 “deep, self-reflective questions” like: When did you know for sure that your partner was the one? How has this partner made you a better person?

The answers become the beginning and body of the speech. For the end, she focuses on the future: “I ask, What kind of life will you have together? How will the other person help shape your growth? And, What does each person promise the other? Those answers encapsulate why you’re standing there.”

Once Ms. Pushkine receives the answers, and after several edits, she creates the final 500- to 700-word speech.

Couples’ speeches are also tailored to complement each other — a needed step, as sometimes only one person opts for her service. “The goal is to establish a vibe, so there’s a balance,” she said. “If one is a comedian and the other is not, we might have to rework the speech. I have to work with both personalities.” Ms. Pushkine also officiates and does ceremony production; she is ordained by the Universal Life Church and American Marriage Ministries.

Advice: “Be vulnerable, emotional, and trust yourself. The more vulnerable you are, the more beautiful the speech will be.”

Mr. Franklin of Vows & Speeches asks at least 50 questions because he “loves to hear even the most minute details,” he said. During a 60-minute follow-up phone conversation that he arranges with clients, he might ask even more. Like Ms. Pushkine, he revises and shares drafts over email until everyone is pleased.

“Details tell the story — finding out one person collects sneakers, or another knew his fiancée loved Ariana Grande and took her to a show and learned all the lyrics beforehand are gems and define a person in a dimensional way,” he said. “People forget to tell those stories unless they’re asked. Those nongeneric stories draw the attention of the audience.”

A bad speech, he added, can lead to dangerous moments at a wedding. “If it’s off-color, inappropriate, boring or too long, it sucks the energy out of the wedding as food gets cold,” he said.

Social media, Mr. Franklin said, has helped increase demand in the vow-writing industry. “Vows have gone viral and there’s greater attention to the moments that go wrong,” he said. “There is more pressure to get it right to avoid disaster stories.”

Over the last two years, Mr. Franklin, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife and business partner, previously worked as a political consultant and communications strategist. During the pandemic, he shifted his focus to speech writing, mostly for weddings, working with couples, their parents, maids of honor and best men. Fees vary from $400 for one partner, $600 for both partners and $500 for other wedding party members.

“Most popular are the mothers — I’ve written a hundred of those,” he said, adding that 30 percent of his customers, like Ms. Mumford, are panic buyers who reach out on, say, Friday for a wedding on Sunday.

A parent’s speech is often the hardest, he said, because it typically runs twice as long as the couple’s vows. “They have to speak to and about the couple, sometimes highlighting each person individually, so there’s more to do,” he said.

Advice: “People have a reading voice that’s different than a speaking one. I tell everyone, ‘Push louder and more enthusiastically on humor, and drop your voice down and softer on the sweeter lines.’”

In 2014, Jen Glantz placed an ad on Craigslist offering to pose as a bridesmaid at strangers’ weddings. It went viral. Then she created Bridesmaid for Hire, a company that provides a bevy of bridesmaid services and support. Soon after, she started receiving requests to write their speeches.

“Maid of honor speeches have gotten more elaborate,” said Ms. Glantz, who lives in New York. “People go on TikTok and see these crazy speeches and think, ‘I want that, but I don’t know how to do it.”

She recommends keeping remarks about 800 words, depending on one’s speaking pace. “It’s an important element because it’s the most memorable,” she said of speeches. “It’s supposed to be a gift to the couple.”

Crafting a maid of honor speech, which runs $375, typically involves multiple calls and rounds of edits, said Ms. Glantz, who also transcribes her conversations with couples. The overall process can take four to five hours.

For those on a tighter budget, she uses a maid of honor speech generator, an artificial technology program she helped create that replicates her customized service in minutes and creates speeches that cost $35.

Before she started using the program in September, she could write only up to seven speeches per month. In October, her program wrote 50 for her clientele. Come December, Ms. Glantz plans to expand her business to include brides, grooms and best men.

According to Ms. Glantz, the tool, which she says mimics her writing style, was generated from 30 audio transcriptions and finalized speeches she was hired to write. It creates “a completely personalized and customized speech for you, while integrating unlimited edits and feedback until you think the speech is perfect,” she said.

If you say something inappropriate, Ms. Glantz said, the program asks you to reconsider. “If you say a joke and the tool thinks it isn’t funny, it will give you an alternative way to say it,” she said.

The program offers a variety of lengths and tones through a drop-down menu.

Advice: “Pull out the heartbeat behind the relationship you have with the person. Specific stories and details and nostalgic old memories that create a lingering effect work best.”

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