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Monday, August 25, 2014

How I wrote Our Secular Wedding Script

Since my husband and I are both atheists, we ended up needing to craft our own wedding ceremony script from scratch. I mostly used two really awesome resources that helped me write my wedding.

The first is Wedding Ceremony 101 by Offbeat Bride. Frankly, Offbeat Bride is freaking awesome!!! Definitely go check out this site. It is perfect for the bride that wants to get off the beaten path. I found readings through Offbeat Bride, used them as a resource for outlining our script AND used them as a resource for writing our vows.

The second resource I used is The Wedding Ceremony Planner: The Essential Guide to the Most Important Part of Your Wedding Day by Judith Johnson. I didn't use a ton of the readings from here, but it has some great ideas, outlines, explains the meanings behind different rituals/parts of the ceremony, and the absolutely best part of my wedding script came from here (more on that later down).

Basic Outline

This is the basic outline I used to start writing our ceremony:

  1. Gathering Words
  2. Processional
  3. Introduction
  4. Reading #1
  5. Declaration of Support
  6. Our Love Story
  7. Declaration of Intent
  8. Unity Ritual
  9. Vows to Child
  10. Marriage Vows
  11. Ring Exchange
  12. Reading #2
  13. Declaration of Marriage

Gathering Words, Processional, Introduction

Early on, we decided no brides maids nor grooms men. I also felt like having my father walk me down the aisle was old fashioned... I mean, my dad isn't giving me to my husband. I am my own person and I have been living on my own for 12 years! I thought about having us walk down an aisle together - and in hindsight, this is probably what we should have done.

Instead people got pictures of us walking to the wedding site together anyways. We ended up walking around the corner of the picnic shelter with our officiant and son.

Oh, hi there!
Since we didn't have a processional, the gathering words included introduction of us and thanking guests and family members. It also included introducing why we are here and requesting cell phones to be turned off.

Reading #1 - Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health

This is an excerpt from the Massachusetts State Supreme Court decision for legalizing gay marriage (link to full decision). Massachusetts was the first state to legalize gay marriage, so this was a groundbreaking decision. I believe I found it through A Practical Wedding through one of the comments and it was a perfect introduction of why we chose to get married. I felt this reading was a great substitution for a more typical religious reading.
Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations.
Without question, civil marriage enhances the ‘welfare of the community.’ It is a ‘social institution of the highest importance.’ … Civil marriage anchors an ordered society by encouraging stable relationships over transient ones. It is central to the way the Commonwealth identifies individuals, provides for the orderly distribution of property, ensures that children and adults are cared for and supported whenever possible.
Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. … Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.

Declaration of Support

Check with your states requirements. Some states require a section where the officiant specifically asks if anyone objects to the wedding. Since our state did not require it, we changed it to a more positive request. The officiant asked our guests to show their enthusiasm and support. After the first round, he criticized them: “Is that it? I thought you would be more excited than that…” The guests then immediately hooted and hollered louder.

Our Love Story

The officiant read a quick summary of how we met and how we drove 2,300 miles from Arkansas to Washington so that my husband could live with me. After that, the majority of the guests have watched us grow as a couple.

Declaration of Intent

This is the traditional I do’s. In our state, we were obligated to have a section where we specifically state our intent. We actually twisted this a bit. Here is our version of the “I do’s:”
Officiant: “Jonathan, do you take this woman to be your wife, in sickness and health, in level grinding or a zombie apocalypse, in richness or poverty?”
Groom: “Duh, winning!”
Officiant: “Bethany, do you take this man to be your husband, in sickness and health, as a couch potato or a bloodsucking vampire, in richness or poverty?”
Bride: “Fa' Sho!”

Unity Ritual

There are a ton of unity rituals out there: handfasting, sharing wine/beer, unity candle, sand ceremony… Google them now (links are to google searches) or make one up yourself. We decided to make one up and make it silly. Sooooooo, we shared a hot dog… Lady and the Tramp style!

Sharing a Unity Hot Dog

Vows to Child

Everyone came up to me afterwards and told me this was the absolutely best part of our wedding. If you and/or your partner have children, I definitely recommend involving them in the ceremony. Not only is it incredibly rewarding for you, your spouse and your children, but it will steal the show! Seriously.

A family friend telling me after the wedding how touching our vows to our son was.
The Wedding Ceremony Planner has several ideas on how to include children in the ceremony. One option is to include them in the unity ritual. The sand and candle ceremony are really easy to adapt to include children. The book also has a chapter on different vows to share with children.

We decided to include our son with an exchange of vows. We also gave him tokens of our love. I made him a hemp bracelet. He teared up while I tied it around his wrist and said thank you. His dad gave him a fedora that he had been eyeing every time we went into JCPenney to pick out their wedding clothes (I think we did almost three trips there!).

We grabbed vows from The Wedding Ceremony Planner, adjusting slightly for our son. Here are the vows we exchanged with him:

This ceremony marks not only the union of Bethany and Jonathan as husband and wife, but like ripples on the water, their union creates new family circles as well. So we are here also to celebrate the combining of Bethany and Jonathan with their son, Tristan, into a new family created by this marriage.
Bride to Groom’s son:
Tristan, I feel blessed that our families are joining together today and I can continue my special friendship with you. Even though we will spend time together as a family, your time alone with your father is just as important. I promise you that will continue. I give you this bracelet as a symbol of my promise to be your friend, to always be there for you, and to never interfere or get in-between you and your father.
Tying hemp bracelet onto my son's wrist
Groom to his son:
Tristan, you and I will always be special buddies, and I want you to know that it means a lot to me that you have grown to love Bethany too. While we will all be a new family together, you and I will always have our special friendship. I give you this fedora as a symbol of my love to you forever and my promise that I will always be there to pimp you out.
Our son receives his fedora from his father.
Officiant to child:
Do you, Tristan, hereby promise to love, honor, and cherish your family, to always be honest and true about who you are, to be always awesome and to honor and respect the truth of each member of this family?
Child: I do.

Marriage Vows

We LOVED writing our own vows! So much more personal than standard vows. I love that people teared up when they heard our vows. We used a guide from Offbeat Bride, which gave us this outline:

  1. What do you love about your partner?
  2. What do you promise to your partner?
  3. What do you look forward to in the future?

We used this format and agreed to write about three sentences per section. We also knew we wanted at least one joke each in the promises section. We then wrote our vows side by side and decided to share them with each other before the wedding.

Sharing them with each other ensured that our vows are similar in length and tone. I always thought it was awkward when one persons vows would be short and silly and the others would be an epic tear jerker. I really like how our vows balanced with the others.

Here are our vows:

Now, in front of family, friends and his holy noodliness, the couple would like to say a few words to each other.
Bethany, I love that you always encourage and support the decisions I make. I love how you rationalize my fears when I'm being insecure, and in the end show me how silly I’m being. I love it when you rub my beard to show me how much you care. You are my best friend, and I love you.
I promise to always be the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning. I promise to never let you bottle up your feelings. I promise that every problem that arises, we will face them together. And most importantly, I promise to get off the couch and go outside at least ONCE every week!
Without a doubt, we will face many challenges throughout our lifetime together. However there is no obstacle too big or strong that I know we won't triumph together. In time our family will grow, and I can't wait to share every moment of it with you. I've already said this, but some things are worth repeating. You are my best friend, and I love you.
Jonathan, You are the love of my life. I love how you can make me laugh at almost any moment. I love that you force me to speak my mind, even when I would rather bottle it up. I love that we share all the things we love with each other.
I promise to always be there for you. I promise to help soothe you when you are anxious and help share your burden. I promise to tickle you when you least expect it. I promise to continue trying new recipes, because I love that you love my cooking.
I can't wait to start a family with you. All my dreams are coming true here and now. I feel like we have never been more close then we are today. I can't wait to see how close we are 40 years from now. I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with you.

Ring Exchange

Since we had no best man, no ring bearer, no groomsmen or bridesmaids and no processional, we decided early on that we wanted our son to stand with us. We also decided to let him take on the traditional role of best man. We gave him the rings before hand and the officiant cued him to hand them to us when it was time.

How do I get this on there?

Reading #2 - Poem by Neil Gaiman

I found this reading, I believe through commenters on Offbeat Bride. My husband and I are both fans of Neil Gaiman, so when I found out that he had written a poem for friends that got married, I knew I wanted to include it in our wedding. I thought it filled in the role of a prayer at the end of a wedding nicely.
This for you, for both of you,
a small poem of happiness
filled with small glories and little triumphs
a fragile, short cheerful song
filled with hope and all sorts of futures
Because at weddings we imagine the future
Because it's all about "what happened next?"
all the work and negotiation and building and talk
that makes even the tiniest happily ever after
something to be proud of for a wee forever
This is a small thought for both of you
like a feather or a prayer,
a wish of trust and love and hope
and fine brave hearts and true.
Like a tower, or a house made all of bones and dreams
and tomorrows and tomorrows and tomorrows.

Declaration of Marriage

This is the part where the officiant declares us husband and wife, allows for a kiss to seal the deal, and then presents us to the crowd. We got a little silly with this too. Here is how we did it:

I now pronounce you husband and wife! You may kiss the groom!
May I present to you Mr. and Mrs. [bride's last name]… I mean [groom's last name]!!!
Sealing the deal with a kiss!

Additional Items

We teased everyone that we were going to do a reenactment of the wedding from The Princess Bride, so we actually inserted several quotes into the ceremony. At the beginning of the first reading, the officiant actually starts off quoting Princess Bride: “Mawwwage! Mawwage is what bwings us togethah today... Ack! Ahem! Sorry, have something in my throat…” then reads the actual reading. My husband also asked him to skip to the end right before the ring exchange. It was fun!

You might have caught some comments from the officiant about the "his noodliness" and the fact that he was dressed as a pirate. I think I'll talk more on this in another post, but we had him ordained through the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Our officiant had us take shots of Ron de Jeremy Spiced Rum during the ceremony. He didn't tell us he was going to do this either, which was hysterical! He also took shots at random times.

I loved our wedding and wouldn't have changed anything in the world.

It was fun. It was us. It was perfect.

Linking to: Freedom Fridays


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