MatrimonyFilter: Sample wedding ceremony scripts for officiating my best friend's wedding?
September 14, 2008 5:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm about to be the officiate my best friend's wedding (first gig) and I was hoping to find some inspiration for the wedding ceremony. I've known the bride since 5th grade and her husband-to-be since he moved across the country to be with her over 6 years ago. Neither of them is religious, one of them is atheist, but some of family has a strong sense in God. Does anyone have some links to fitting wedding ceremony scripts or a great story from personal experience? They're both fairly silly people, so unconventional is okay.
posted by miasma to Human Relations (7 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
We recently got married, and in place of a prayer, the officiant asked our guests to join us "in the spirit of prayer or meditation" followed by a non-specific expression of gratitude for the people who are important in our lives (those gathered and those absent) and for our love of each other. It communicated a sense of spirituality and seriousness, while remaining honest to our beliefs. There was a similar set of beliefs amongst all of the main people involved in our wedding.
posted by thenormshow at 6:30 PM on September 14, 2008

Best answer: has a lot of useful scripts like this. I'd ask the couple for guidance.
posted by canine epigram at 6:36 PM on September 14, 2008

My fiance and I have been looking at a United Church of Christ wedding ceremony script. I'm having trouble finding it online, but for each section it has "Option A" and "Option B"--generally, one mentions Jesus or the Holy Spirit by name, and the other keeps it more general by referencing God without specific names or Christian terms. You can choose (or edit) the sections that suit you while still adhering to a structured ceremony.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:02 PM on September 14, 2008

Best answer: I've performed about a dozen weddings over the years as a minister in the ULC. I've sung them in blues, I've played it straight. I've written each ceremony i've done, so this will be a long post (my longest mefi post!)

In general, I find the following form has worked pretty great. All quotes are from ceremonies that I've performed and written. Please feel free to use and change as you wish.

This might be something like:
"We are here in support today of xxx & xxx as they promise to face the future together, accepting whatever may lie ahead. They have searched their hearts, and their pasts, and they have resolved to be lifelong partners in the dance of life. "
(These days, I'd probably change the "dance of life thing")

This is where you talk about the sanctity of marriage, culturally, emotionally, socially. Your thoughts on the institution are completely valid to put down here. I've always found that the writing of a ceremony can be pretty emotional.

"No other human ties more tender, no other vows more sacred than those you are about to assume. In the face of the chaos of everyday life, every wedding is a celebration of the human potential for goodness. It is a celebration of our ability to live in love and peace. And it is a gift to those attendant, that they may live within the sanctity of their own vows. "

This is where family members or friends may come up and read something, or you might.
For the secular minded, there's e.e. cummings "nobody, not even the rain has such small hands", always a good one. Also Shakespeare's sonnet 116 (Let me not to the marriage of two minds admit impediments) is amazing.

After the reading is the place I've always done a crowd affirmation. After all, sitting in the audience, everyone is thinking about their own commitments, and their own relationships, both to their partners and to the betrothed.

"As they prepare to join their lives, it’s important to understand that everyone present has played a part in shaping the characters of xxx & xxx, and will play a vital role in their continuing lives. And thus we are here not only to witness their vows to each other, but also bestow upon them our blessing.

I ask all present :
Do you bless this couple and pledge, now and forever, to support and strengthen this marriage by upholding xxx and xxx with your love and concern?

(Note: If you have an open bar prior to the wedding, this part can be quite awesomely enthusiastic. We were serving mojitos 1 hour prior to my own wedding ceremony and people were yelling and stamping their feet, it was great)

This is my most recent Congregational affirmation and I really like it:
"As part of the invitation to be here is an covenant that the continuity of our support is not only unbroken, but strengthened by this very moment in time.

Strengthened in 2 ways, one, that we pledge here our counsel and love in support of both xxx and xxx as they move through their days as partners, that we continue, through action and words, to show them a mirror of themselves, both individually and together, at their best.
Just as they will do with each other

And two, that witnessing their pledge reminds us of of the things that we've devoted our lives to, our partners, our work, our hearts. For a wedding is a reflection both between the betrothed, but also among the congregation, you may not feel very religious, but what we have here, is, in fact, a congregation."

This is a kind of a recapitulation and elaboration on the original homily.
"We have joined together here to unite xxx and xxx in the institution of marriage. This is a sacred rite, an ancient rite. The church may bless it, and the state may recognize it as a legal construct, but these are but symbols what is happening whithin xxx and xxx, as their hearts reach across the void to each other, and pledge their devotion. To be real, there must be a consecration of each to the other, and of both to the noblest ends of life"

If there are kids present from previous marriages, this is a great place for them to get mentioned. Often something about expanding the family. We did this with my kids. Our minister wrote a whole piece about my soon-to-be-wife's relationship with my kids.

The Bride and groom may write their own vows, which is always great (has more impact for them IMHO) and they may read them, or they may ask you to read them and get them to repeat. If you do this, do it at about 1/2 sentence at a time. They'll be so nervous and emotional that they won't be able to hold more than about 7 or 8 words at a time in their soon-to-be-married heads.

The vows may also begin with a "Declaration of Love". Some couples love this. Some want to get right to it.

"you entered my life and brought me inspiration and challenge. You earned my respect, my admiration and my love. I love you with all of my heart and vow to spend the rest of my life with you in love."

"You are my inspiration, my best friend, my favorite companion and the one I want to both smile gleefully and hold my hand through life's challenges and chances. You make me feel safe, whole, alive and I love you."

I always throw the Bride and Groom some sample vows to pick and choose from that go beyond the basic "richer and poorer " thing.

There is a metric ton of vows on the web to choose from. In my experience, the betrothed do a great job writing their own vows.

Now the ring part can be simple or complex.

Rings begin with the rings being brought up, either by the best man, or children.
The ring ceremony can begin with a homily specific to the symbol of the ring:

"The circle is the symbol of eternity. It is a symbol of union and of the earth. It is a symbol of the holiness and of perfection and of peace. The rings you exchange and which you will wear are a symbol of a shared love which you are entering now, as husband and wife"

"This ring I give you is my bond made metal. let it's preciousness, it's shine and it's weight always remind you that I am by your side. That I am forever connected to you."

This can be followed by asking each to repeat after you a set of ring vows.

"This ring is a symbol of the sincerity of my pledge. It is a visible sign of the inward and spiritual bond which unites our two hearts. Everything in my past has prepared me to be with you, all that I am and have is yours, and all that I will become and accomplish I share with you. Let this ring, which has no beginning or end, stand as a token for my never ending love and devotion"

At this point you're in the sluice, and there's no reason to drag it out. A final short blessing is great, and I've been using the following for years.


(Apache Wedding Blessing)
Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter to the other
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other
Now there is no loneliness for you
Now there is no more loneliness
Now you are two boduies, but there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place, to enter into the days of your togetherness.
May your days be good, and long upon the earth.

Then you pronounce them man and wife. You can bring in god if you like, but I've also said things like:

"By the authority vested in me by the State of California, the Universal Life Church, and those attendant I now pronounce you Husband and Wife!"

Minister notes:
This is just a rough guideline. Most of my ceremonies follow this form and it's always been well received. As I said before, feel free to use anything you like here.

Don't worry a bit about screwing up. This isn't like a standard performance in any way. In a normal performance, the audience may or may not be involved with what's going on, and their attention or lack thereof can greatly affect the performers.

You don't have to worry about the ceremony going on too long. Nobody gets bored during the actual ceremony, and even the longest one that I've done was only about 12-14 minutes.

At a wedding, everyone is on board. Take a breath and you can feel their enthusiasm. Never an easier or more generous crowd. Your job is to focus their energy on the bride and groom, and speak to them. Indoor weddings are much easier, as projection outdoors can be difficult. I've done voice training and doing a beach wedding took a lot of skill. PA system is preferred for outdoors.

If something big happens during the ceremony, mention it. I've dropped the ring, I've mentioned the helicopter inexplicably hovering overhead, both got huge laughs, and also made everyone present feel like they were in this together.

When you write it, think about what you want to say about marriage. About what you want to communicate to the couple about what's ahead. About your relationships and how you feel when you attend a wedding.

As you go, breathe. Really, you can take your time. Time speeds up on stage, and what may seem like an eternity for you to take a deep breath between parts, and make eye contact with each of the betrothed to anchor them, will sail by to those watching.

It's a lovely thing to officiate. A real honor. Enjoy it.
posted by asavage at 9:00 PM on September 14, 2008 [40 favorites]

Best answer: I was in the same situation as yourself, performing the ceremony for really old friends of mine. Although neither of them were very religious and explicitly asked me to mention god or anything like that, (no problem for me!) her grandfather was a minister and always said the 1 Corinthians 13 passage (love is patient, love is kind...) and asked me to put it in.

Apart from the quotes, I wrote this ceremony from scratch and although parts of it are personal, feel free to sample :)

The Ceremony

The unity sand thing was something they came up with because they wanted to include his daughter in the ceremony, so they all had different colored sand which they filled up a glass vase with. Turned out kinda nice.

Just remember you're pretty lucky as so few people get to do what you're about to do. It's a Pretty Big Deal, and something you'll all be quite happy about afterwards.
posted by ChefQuix at 10:04 PM on September 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

For the reading or sermon, I always liked Kahlil Gibran's poem, On Marriage. You could read the last two stanzas, or do something tricky with the one line in the first stanza:

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.
posted by Houstonian at 2:59 AM on September 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

nthing the crowd affirmation. I love this part of the ceremony. Please, please include that.
posted by raisingsand at 2:35 PM on September 15, 2008

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