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From recession to celebration, the business of wedding vows

A bride reads her vows at a ceremony officiated by Angie Sommer.

A bride reads her vows at a ceremony officiated by Angie Sommer. Amanda Wei

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After the 2008 financial crisis, when jobs were scarce and paychecks were in high demand, Alicia Ostarello needed to make money. She was a writer, and around that time many of her friends and family were getting married, so she helped them write their vows.

Angie Sommer, left, and Alicia Ostarello founded Vow Muse, a wedding writing service.

It was a bright moment in the middle of a dark recession when she realized she could charge for her services. She asked Angie Sommer, her childhood friend, to help and they started Vow Muse, a company offering speech writing services for big celebrations.

Nearly 10 years after founding Vow Muse, Ostarello and Sommer both work full-time jobs in San Francisco. They write speeches and vows in their off time for clients around the country.

Angie Sommer: Hi, I’m Angie Sommer.

Alicia Ostarello: And I’m Alicia Ostarello.

Sommer: We are the founders of Vow Muse.

Ostarello: Vow Muse is a wedding writing service. We write vows, ceremonies, toasts and speeches for people’s big events, mostly weddings, but any kind of celebration speech you might want.

Sommer: Alicia and I both have full-time jobs. So Vow Muse has been our side hustle, labor of love, that we’ve been doing basically nights and weekends for the past nine years.

Ostarello: When we started this in 2010, the economy had just crashed, and we were both unemployed. And we’re like, “Oh, God, I need to make money.” And as we’ve kind of grown in our careers, and the economy is picked back up, we’ve been able to work full time, and there’s something really beautiful about this just being our weekend lemonade stand, as we sometimes refer to it. But just not being stressed about this being an income maker makes the writing better. I think it allows us to put more emotion into what we’re doing.

Sommer: A lot of people say to us, “It’s such a personal thing, how can you have someone else write that for you?” And it’s a collaborative process. And what we’re doing is taking everything that someone thinks and feels and wants to say and just helping them through the process of getting that down on paper. And most of the people we work with are struggling with too much emotion — “Oh my gosh, I’ve known this person for 10 years, and I’m marrying them, and I’m trying to cram all these thoughts and feelings into two minutes? Gosh, where do I even start?” Some people just don’t like writing. They’re not comfortable with it. But it’s important to them and their partner, and they want to get it right.

Ostarello: I mean, I remember sitting at a family member’s wedding and watching the bride and groom gazing at each other lovingly, while the rest of the guests snickered. We were all mortified, like “What is going on up there?” Everyone has cringed at a best man speech or a maid of honor speech.

Sommer: It’s funny because even for a wedding, it’s not like you’re making your cake, usually, you’re not making your own food, not sewing your own dress. Many people are happy to hire someone for help with these things. Then suddenly it comes to speeches or vows and people are like, “Oh, yeah, you shouldn’t get help with that.”

Ostarello: I do feel like politicians, CEOs, world leaders, they don’t write their speeches alone.

Sommer: If you want it done right, you get help. That’s just the way it is sometimes.

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