I’ve been meaning to post this for a while now, but my memory isn’t the greatest (lie–I’m actually a huge fan of “I’ll do it tomorrow”) and I’m just now getting around to it. I performed a wedding ceremony last weekend and some of my friends were all, “How can an ATHEIST perform a wedding ceremony?!?” Well my friends, atheists get married all the time. We are good people. We honor our vows. Just because we don’t believe in a higher power who will punish us when we’re naughty doesn’t mean we can’t make and keep promises. Anyone can get ordained on the internet from the Universal Life Church and you can take any title you want (I took Grand Master Brain Wizard because it sounds so…GRAND!), and no one makes you prove your belief in any god. Even if you just go through life believing that you should try to be the best person you can be, and to make the most of the experiences you get to have because when you’re dead you’re dead, that’s good enough for the ULC!
In point of fact the people who were married by me are Christians; they were just desiring a brief ceremony involving their immediate families and sometimes you just can’t get that from an established church. The ceremony I performed this past weekend was wholly secular, but I could have thrown down a couple of verses from Corinthians or such if the couple desired it–when you perform a marriage ceremony the crap you say doesn’t have to mean anything to you personally, but the people getting married better be feeling it! So here is the ceremony from start to finish. Feel free to borrow it if you ever find yourself in the position of being asked to perform a marriage (hell, it’s about 60% plagiarized from the internet anyway…okay, 80%!).
Welcome family, friends, and loved ones. We gather here today to celebrate the wedding of [Name and Name]. You have come here to share in this formal commitment they make to one another, to offer your love and support to this union, and to allow [Name and Name] to start their married life together surrounded by the people dearest and most important to them. So welcome to one and all, who have traveled from near and far. [Name and Name] thank you for your presence here today, and now ask for your blessing, encouragement, and lifelong support for their decision to be married.
Marriage is perhaps the greatest and most challenging adventure of human relationships. No ceremony can create your marriage; only you can do that – through love and patience; through dedication and perseverance; through talking and listening, through helping and supporting and believing in each other; through tenderness and laughter; through learning to forgive, learning to appreciate your differences, learning to make the important things matter, and learning to let go of the rest. What this ceremony can do is to witness and affirm the choice you make to stand together as lifemates and partners.
[Name and Name], in the days ahead of you, there will be times of difficulty and times of conflict. When you find yourselves in these situations, I ask you to reflect on this marriage advice:
Let your love be stronger than your anger.
Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend than to break.
Look for the best in your beloved rather than the worst.
Confide in your partner and ask for help when you need it.
Remember that true friendship is the basis for any lasting relationship.
Give your spouse the same courtesies and kindnesses you bestow on your friends.
And say “I love you” every day.
[Name and Name], before you met, your lives were on different paths with different destinations, but love has brought you together and joined these separate paths into one. Each one of your friends and family here today have been given a small polished stone that represents their unique individuality and their presence at your wedding today. You also each have a stone of your own that symbolizes your previous separate lives, separate sets of friends, separate families and the different life’s journeys you once traveled.
I will now ask that everyone please take out the stone you have been given and pause to make a wish or blessing for happiness and good will for the couple for the future of their marriage.
Now, we will collect the stones and the couple will then add their individual stones to the container as well.
With the combining of these stones, you have now symbolically joined your once separate lives. As the stones have been combined with love into one container, so now are your friends and family joined, through you, into one. Your life paths are now joined. All that was once separate is now shared, and in this sharing you both will find new strength and joy as together you forge a new life path and destination.
PAUSE (to put the jar somewhere…)
People have been united in marriage in all lands and all cultures. In marriages everywhere, two individuals leave the families that raised them to begin a new family. At this time, we ask the parents of the bride and groom to stand and bless this marriage.
Do you, [Parent Names], who have lovingly raised and nurtured these two individuals, offer your blessing for their marriage, promising to support them, understand them, and encourage them in their solemn endeavor in the years ahead? If you agree, please say, “We do.” [Parents respond.]
And to the witnesses and honored guests here today, I ask the same question. Do you offer your blessing for their marriage, promising to support them, understand them, and encourage them in their solemn endeavor in the years ahead? If you agree, please say, “We do.” [Audience responds]
[Name and Name], you have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. Before this moment you have been many things to one another — acquaintance, friend, companion, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another in these last few years. Now you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you two. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this — is my husband, this — is my wife. (Abridged from a Robert Fulghum quote)
These are sample vows; I found a million online and let the couple choose the ones that resonated best.
I, [Name], take you, [Name], to be my friend, my partner, the mother of my children and my wife. I will be yours in times of plenty and in times of want, in times of sickness and in times of health, in times of joy and in times of sorrow, in times of failure and in times of triumph. I promise to cherish and respect you, to care for you and protect you, to comfort and encourage you, and stay with you, for all eternity.
[Name], I love you. You are my best friend. Today I give myself to you in marriage.
I promise to encourage and inspire you, to laugh with you, and to comfort you in times of sorrow and struggle.
I promise to love you in good times and in bad, when life seems easy and when it seems hard, when our love is simple, and when it is an effort. I promise to cherish you, and to always hold you in highest regard.
These things I promise to you today, and all the days of our life.
Bridal Couple to kids
This marriage is not just the joining of [Name and Name]; it is also the joining of [Children Names] as one family. [Name and Name], do you promise to love [Children Names], to nurture them and to protect them, to teach them and cherish them for now and forever?”
Kids to each other/bridal couple
[Children Names], do you promise to love [Parent Names] as your parents, and do you promise to respect them and cherish them and each other for now and forever?”
[Name and Name] have chosen rings as an outward symbol of the commitment they make today.
From earliest times, the ring has been a symbol of wedded love. It is an unbroken and never-ending circle which symbolizes a commitment to love that is also never ending.
Do you [Bride], accept this man, [Groom], as your husband — joining with him today in matrimony — offering your friendship and loving care — cherishing and respecting him, loving and embracing him in times of adversity and in times of joy? If so, answer now, “I do.”
Please repeat after me:
With this ring / I thee wed. / Take it as a sign / of my everlasting / and unconditional love / with all that I am / and all that I have / from this day forward / as your wife.
Do you [Groom], accept this woman, [Bride], as your wife — joining with her today in matrimony — offering your friendship and loving care – cherishing and respecting her, loving and embracing her in times of adversity and times of joy? If so, answer now, “I do.”
Please repeat after me:
With this ring / I thee wed. / Take it as a sign / of my everlasting / and unconditional love / with all that I am / and all that I have / from this day forward / as your husband.
Love freely given has no giver and no receiver. You are each the giver and each the receiver. The wedding ring is a symbol, in visible form, of the unbroken circle of your love, so that wherever you go, you may always return to your shared life together. May these rings always call to mind the power of your love.
[Name and Name], in the presence of your family and friends who have joined you to share this moment of joy, you have declared your deep love and affection for each other. You have stated your wish to live together, always open to a deeper, richer friendship and partnership. You have formed your own union, based on respect and honor. Therefore, it is my joyful responsibility to officially acknowledge your union as “Husband and Wife.” You may now seal your marriage with a kiss.
May the glory which rests upon all who love you, bless you and keep you, and fill you with happiness and a gracious spirit. Despite all changes of fortune and time, may that which is noble and lovely and true remain abundantly in your hearts, giving you strength for all that lies ahead.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my privilege to present to you for the very first time, Mr. and Mrs. [Groom and Mrs. Groom’s names]!