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Tips for Making Wedding Proposals, Vows, and Speeches

It starts with the wedding proposal of your dreams, goes on to your moving exchange of vows, and ends with a heartwarming toast to you, the newlyweds! But what are the magical ingredients to make it all happen? Finding the precise words is one thing. Creating a unique and memorable scene is yet another. In truth, the possibilities for wedding proposals, wedding vows, and best man’s speeches are virtually endless. The key is to focus on what is truly heartfelt, what is meaningful, and what has "the two of you" written all over it!

Popping the Question

While getting down on one knee was once customary for proposing marriage, you can forego that tradition and take a more hip and modern approach. Be creative! For example, you can prepare nesting boxes in four sizes, one inside the other. In each box, place a meaningful little gift with a card enclosed, printed with the words "Will, " "you," "marry," "me?" to be revealed in sequence as each box is opened. Another clever option is to take a box of candy conversation hearts—typically available during Valentine’s—and have each pair of candy hearts bear the phrase “Marry me?” To do this, gently rub off the original words on each heart and then use a small felt-tipped pen to create your own personal message. Just be sure these candies aren't actually eaten! A third idea would be to find fortune cookies that are made without fortunes inside them. Print your proposal in a fun "fortune cookie style" (for example: "Life is full of questions. Mine is...'Will you marry me?'") and insert it inside the cookie for your bride-to-be.

For ambiance during your proposal, there is an entire array of scenes to choose from. You could orchestrate a truly romantic setting with candlelight, roses, and a string quartet. You could plan a picnic on a hilltop surrounded by a breathtaking view. Or you could pay a sentimental visit to the park where you first met as neighborhood playmates. But whatever your approach or style, the most touching proposals are those that speak more than mere words—and go to the heart of the matter.

Crafting Your Vows

Love poems or romantic quotes can be a wonderful way to begin your wedding vows, or to bring them to a close. After all, who can express true love better than the great poets and writers? For these, you may choose from such works as: Love Sonnets by William Shakespeare, Marriage Morning by Alfred Lord Tennyson, Love and Friendship by Emily Brontë, To My Wife by Oscar Wilde, and To a Husband by Anne Finch.

However, do speak from your own heart as well. Address one another by name and use your own words to express what this moment means to you, and how you look forward to spending the rest of your lives together. You may insert a lighthearted phrase or two, refer to times that you hold especially dear as a couple, and mention special qualities that make the other your perfect match. And if one—or both—of you happens to be blessed with a beautiful singing voice, why not declare your vows in song? You can either select a verse from a song that expresses exactly what you mean, or have someone set your own vows to an original melody. There will probably not be a dry eye at the ceremony!

Toasting the Newlyweds

Now comes the fun part! As the wedding reception nears its end, special members of the wedding party normally make short speeches—both to and about the newlyweds. The best man, in particular, is expected to say a few words about the couple, express his best wishes for them, then conclude with a toast. In some weddings, though, both sets of parents and the maid-of-honor may also take part in the speech making. This adds a touching, intimate aspect to all the ritual and ceremony of a wedding, as it allows a more personal glimpse into the couple's lives. It also sends them off on their new life together with the warm wishes and blessings of those dearest to them.

Some tips to keep in mind? Whether you are the best man, a parent of the newlyweds, or the maid-of-honor, select a few choice memories, qualities, or incidents that best characterize the bride and groom individually, and as a couple—and focus your speech on these. Make it heartfelt, but keep it short and sweet! If you're feeling a bit nervous, it's perfectly fine to have a few notes jotted down on a card or even to read your entire speech. Composing it as a letter to the couple could actually make the "reading aloud" quite touching!

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