What does a non-religious ceremony look like?
Weddings are a permanent feature of society, no matter religion or tradition weddings are a thing and through our lives we will attend a few. Because the history of weddings, well specifically the ceremony, is so tied with religion and because we’ve seen countless weddings on TV and in movies all take place in a church and start with “dearly beloved” many people are not sure what would go on in a non-religious ceremony.
If you’ve grown up religious it can be even harder to imagine what could possibly said at a ceremony with no religious content.
The reality is that there are for more options for ceremony content that is not religious. There are thousands of readings, little rituals, vows to be found and included in a ceremony.
Over the years I have come across a number of things I like and when I do I include it in a ceremony as an option. In order to get a sense of what this looks like, following is one of the ceremonies I use and present to couples as an option.
We are gathered here today to unite (Bride) & (Groom) in marriage. This celebration is but an outward sign of an inward union of two hearts, minds & spirits.
This is the celebration of the joining of two souls already attuned to each other.
When such a true bond already exists between a man and a woman, it is fitting that this outer acknowledgment be made. We are hear to bear witness to the entry into the closer relationship of husband and wife of these two beloved friends, who are already one in spirit.
Officiant: (to Father): Who presents this bride to be married?
Father: Mom & I do (Father kisses (Bride) & shakes (Groom) ’s hand – Father sits down)
(Groom) & (Bride), it is this day that you take a giant step of courage, and commitment to love, understand & grow together. When a commitment this strong is made by two people, the force of that commitment, of that love and of that courage reaches out and touches all of us around you, so that our lives are changed because we share a part of your love. Like a stone dropped in a still pond, the ripples of this love from this celebration extend and change the world we live in.
You are now taking into your care and keeping the happiness of the one person in the whole world whom you love best. You are adding to your life not only the affection of each other, but also the companionship and blessing of a deep trust as well. You are agreeing to share strength, responsibilities, and to share love.
In our long history we have never discovered a better way of life, than sharing it together in a lasting, loving and responsible relationship with someone. This arrangement seems to meet our deepest human need for love and companionship, to have someone with we can share in an intimate and trusting way all the hopes and joys and dreams of life.
But real love (Groom) and (Bride) is something beyond the warmth and glow, and the excitement of romance of being deeply in love. It is caring as much about the welfare and happiness of your life partner as you do about your own. Real love is not total absorption into each other, it is looking outward in the same direction together. Love makes burdens lighter because you divide them. Love makes joys more intense because you share them. Love makes you stronger, so you will embrace life in ways you would dare not risk alone.
Love is the greatest gift that we can offer to one another. This is what makes marriage so very special, and a cause for joy and celebration for all of us who have come here today to share in this event. It is my personal hope and prayer that those of you who have already taken the vows of marriage, will witness the love of these two people, and as you listen to them share their vows, perhaps it will strengthen for you the memory of your happy day, and remind you of the meaning of the vows you yourselves once took. Perhaps it will even strengthen just a little bit, the bond of love that has been growing between you, and if any of this should happen, it would certainly be the greatest gift that (Bride) and (Groom) could offer all of us on their wedding day.
Officiant to (Bride) & (Groom)
(Groom) & (Bride), please face each other and take each others hands.
Bride gives flowers to bridesmaid and takes Groom’s hands, as they face each other)
Officiant to (Groom):
(Groom), do you take (Bride) to be your wedded wife?
Do you promise before this company that you will love her, honour her, comfort her in sickness & in health and that forsaking all others for her alone, will you perform unto her all the duties and respect that a husband graciously bestows upon his wife?
(Groom): I do
Officiant to (Bride):
(Bride), do you take (Groom) to be your wedded husband?
Do you promise that you will love him, honour him, comfort and keep him in sickness & in health, and that forsaking all others for him alone, you will perform unto him all of the duties and respect that a wife graciously bestows upon her husband?
(Bride): I do
Officiant to (Groom): (Groom) please repeat after me as you enter in the covenant of marriage:
(Groom): I (Groom) take you (Bride) to be my wife/ I will cherish our friendship/ and love you today, tomorrow and forever/ I will trust you and honour you/ I will love you faithfully/ what may come I will always be there for you./ As I have given you my hands to hold/ so I give you my life to keep.
Officiant to (Bride): (Bride) please repeat after me as you enter into the covenant of marriage.
(Bride): I. (Bride) take you (Groom) to be my husband/ I will cherish our friendship/ and love you today tomorrow and forever/ I will trust you and honour you/ I will love you faithfully/ what may come I will always be there for you./ as I have given you my hands to hold/ so I give you my life.
Ryan: may I have the rings please (Bestman hands Ryan rings)
(Groom) says to (Bride): (Bride), I give you this ring as a symbol of my love, my faith in our strength together, and my promise to learn and grow with you. As I place it on your finger, I commit my heart and soul to you. I ask you to wear this ring as a reminder of the vows we have spoken today, our wedding day.
(Bride) says to (Groom): (Groom), I give you this ring as a symbol of my love, my faith in our strength together, and my promise to learn and grow with you. As I place it on your finger, I commit my heart and soul to you. I ask you to wear this ring as a reminder of the vows we have spoken today, our wedding day.
A Poem by Neil Gaiman for a friends wedding
“This is everything I have to tell you about love:
The world out there is complicated, and there are beasts in the night, and delight and pain, and the only thing that makes it okay, is to reach out a hand in the darkness and find another hand to squeeze, and not to be alone.
It’s not the kisses, or never just the kisses: it’s what they mean. Somebody’s got your back. Somebody knows your worst self and somehow doesn’t want to rescue you or send for the army to rescue them.
It’s someone who will love you forever, whatever happens. Till they die and after they die, They will find their way out of the land of the dead, Drift around forever, all their atoms, till they find you again. And when they do, cling together so tight that nothing and no one will ever tear you apart. You will live in birds and flowers and pine trees and in clouds and those little specs of light you see floating in sunbeams.
Love is not two broken halves becoming one. It’s the light from a distant lighthouse bringing you both safely home because home is wherever you are both together.
There’s not much I can tell you about marriage. Like a book without pages or a forest without trees. Because there are things you cannot know before you experience them. Because no study can prepare you for the joys or the trials.
Because nobody else’s love, nobody else’s marriage, is like yours, and it’s a road you can only learn by walking it, a dance you cannot be taught, a song that did not exist before you began, together, to sing.
And because in the darkness you will reach out a hand, not knowing for certain if someone else is even there. And your hands will meet, and then neither of you will ever need to be alone again.
And that’s all I know about love.”
Officiant to all: This day of (Bride) & (Groom)’s wedding day, they come before you pledging their lives and their hearts to one and another. Grant that they may be ever true and loving, living together in such a way as to never bring heartache into their marriage. Temper their hearts with kindness and help them to be sweethearts, helpmates, friend and guide, and together, may they meet the cares and problems of life more bravely. Let them remember the value of each other as individuals, and never take each other for granted. And as time takes away their youthful charm, may they find contentment in the greater joy of rich companionship, and may their home truly be a place of love and harmony.
Officiant to (Bride) & (Groom):
Now that we have you have joined yourselves in matrimony, may you always strive to meet this commitment and share the same spirit you now exhibit. We have all borne witness to this ceremony we have just performed, and you are now Husband and Wife.
(Groom) you may now kiss your bride:
Ladies & Gentlemen, I take great pleasure in presenting to you Mr & Mrs.
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