Let me not to marriage of true minds admit impediments . . .
July 31, 2011 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Help me write a literary and science-y marriage "sermon" for some colleagues!

I have been honored with the role of marrying two colleagues / friends of mine a week from now. I have the standard “Internet Minister” credential (I was ordained as a minister of the ULC in 2002, and so can legally marry people in New York State). The groom is a public school science teacher and the bride teaches college composition. (why this matters in a minute)

The ceremony is going to be fairly simple, with the couple having written their own vows, but I am going to give a short “sermon” beforehand on love and marriage. I met with the couple a few weeks ago, to get a sense of what they wanted, and the only caveat was “no mention of the word ‘God’ in the sermon.” This is fine with me . . . none of us follow a specific tradition, but rather have eclectic sets of overlapping beliefs.

I want to speak about the value of honoring a committed relationship in view of family and friends, of partnership and journeying through life and growing with a partner . . . this sort of thing. I also want to make it “literary” and perhaps a bit “science-y,” a respectful nod to the bride and groom’s interests . . . and many of the attendees will be other colleagues (university / English grad students) of ours. I’m not looking to show off, but rather to use a few points to underscore the ceremony and what it means to the participants, maybe a little tongue-in-cheek.

I am looking for suggestions of passages, bits of verse, or other texts that speak to love, relationships, marriage, partnership, teamwork, et cetera.

I immediately thought of Forster’s “Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer” and the section in Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet that deals with love and marriage.

I’m looking for other suggestions of literary ideas that support some of the ideas above, and maybe some science-y things that show the history and value of “partnering” or pair-bonding.. The science aspect can be as wild as you can think of . . . I'm not averse to explaining Rayleigh scattering or quantum entanglement (metaphorically, of course) if it will add something.

Bonus points if you have officiated a marriage and have any other tips and tricks. We haven't gone over the "flow" of the ceremony yet . . . we're doing that the night before, at the rehearsal.
posted by exlotuseater to Human Relations (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Here is part of our wedding ceremony. It was written by my boss. (my husband and I both have PhDs in biological sciences). Maybe you can get some inspiration from it?
Love and marriage are defined in many ways.

Socially, marriage is a legal and binding contract recognized by all our government institutions that declares two individuals share equal benefits and responsibilities in matters of wealth and health, in life and in death.

Evolutionarily, marriage is the manifestation of a reproductive strategy based on monogamy and the principle of assortative mating. Each partner chooses and competes for the other based on phenotypic criteria assumed representative of a superior genotype. Reproductive fitness is maximized via the optimal transference of ones genetic material to progeny that will themselves continue to propagate and populate the gene pool.

Chemically, the marriage of two people creates a sum greater than its parts. Rather than additive, it is synergistic. Each partner is a positive allosteric modulator of the other, both are at once ligand and receptor and the double bond generated is covalent, permanent, and stabilized with a few disulfide bridges.

Neurologically, love is dopamine release into the nucleus accumbens, core not shell. It is neurogenesis and the formation of new and stable synapses. It is action potentials and long term potentiation, changes in firing thresholds and selective filtering of sensory stimuli.

Physically, marriage is a gravitational force of mutual attraction between two bodies, the perturbing of orbits until synchronized as one, the generating of a new nuclear family.
posted by gaspode at 1:33 PM on July 31, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I have made a card for people getting married that has the first few steps of the proton-proton chain in solar fusion on the front and an inscription inside along the lines of "This equation represents the permanent joining together of two bodies; it is ultimately responsible for all life on Earth. May you too be joined together forever and bring life to the world."
posted by alby at 1:33 PM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: We included a reading from Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, the decision that legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. Here's the text of the decision. If I remember correctly we used something like this:

"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 [state] identifies individuals, provides for the orderly distribution of property, ensures that children and adults are cared for and supported whenever possible from private rather than public funds, and tracks important epidemiological and demographic data.

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. "It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects." 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.


It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a "civil right.""
posted by jedicus at 2:26 PM on July 31, 2011

Best answer: This is a bit embarrassing because although I didn't love the show, I thought the wedding ceremony in the CBS show Num3ers was beautiful and science-y. I googled and found a fan's transcription.
Well, as you all know, the four fundamental forces of physics: electromagnetism, strong nuclear interaction, weak nuclear interaction, and gravity. [...]

We’ve been talking here about the forces that bind the universe. But what binds humans? Love.

Powerful in small spaces, yet with profound effect on distance. Love defies time, outliving both its source, and its object. Love is faster than light, for light requires time in order to travel through space. But love reaches its object instantaneously.

Love journeys forever, into infinity. And it’s here, binding together two lives.
I'm an atheist and I found myself completely moved. Tearful. Watching a show spelled Num3ers.
posted by Famous at 3:04 PM on July 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: all of these are excellent! thanks, and please, keep 'em coming!
posted by exlotuseater at 5:53 PM on July 31, 2011

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