Wedding ceremonies for the non-religious?
May 21, 2013 9:15 AM   Subscribe

What did you, a non-religious person, do for your wedding ceremony? What was the basic structure? What resources did you use to help you plan?

We're getting married in two and a half weeks and have done pretty much everything except plan the ceremony. Where we live in Alaska, anyone can marry you, so we're having my future brother-in-law officiate. Great! but it means that our officiant doesn't really have any resources for us to rely on.

We're getting married in a beautiful outdoor location (weather permitting). The groom was raised Jewish and, while not religious at all any more, wouldn't mind incorporating some aspects of that tradition. I was raised Mormon and am not at all interested in bringing any of that into the ceremony.

posted by charmedimsure to Society & Culture (39 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I did lots of googling about for already written wedding services, and cut and pasted stuff I liked into our service (with some very minimal writing of my own, as it's not really my skillset). We didn't have any hints of anything religious, but I did take parts here and there from services that were religious, because there were nice parts without religious overtones. I assume there are all sorts of Jewish wedding services online, and you can read through them and find passages that resonate without being too religious.
posted by brainmouse at 9:18 AM on May 21, 2013

We used a basic civil wedding script provided by the lawyer we paid to marry us. It took about five minutes. We were nicely dressed and standing in a pretty location. When it was over, we and our guests all went for coffee.

How long do you want the ceremony to last? Do you want readings?
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:21 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Have you seen A Practical Wedding? Lots of discussion of non-traditional weddings there.

I have been to lots of (Western) weddings, both religious and not. Even the not religious ones tended to follow the formula of standing up in front of everyone, an officiant says some nice things, maybe one or two other people say some nice things, then there's some vowing and some summing up and some being Officially Married. Maybe yours follows that, maybe you have interpretive dance routines instead. What do you like? What of the weddings you've been to do you want to incorporate? I have not-religious friends who still incorporate some Quaker traditions, like ring warming. You need to do some research -- there is One True Non-Religious Ceremony.

The internet will be full of interesting ideas for you if you google something about "writing your own vows." It'll be full of ideas of themes and incorporation of religious, non-religious traditions, cultural traditions, etc. You'll have too much to choose from. Focus on what you know you want, rather than what you know you *don't* want, and go from there.
posted by olinerd at 9:21 AM on May 21, 2013

You can do whatever you want, you know? You and your officiant and your witnesses can gather around the wedding license and sign it in silence if you want. You can have a six hour ceremony that alternates interpretive dance with hour-long periods of silent meditation.

I would say, think about weddings you've attended, and what you liked about them. Think about readings you liked hearing. And keep it short.
posted by mskyle at 9:24 AM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

You might look at Quaker "weddings" for inspiration. I've been to one that was very low-key and lovely and secular. The bride and groom sat separately among the guests, with everyone seated in a circle. People offered thoughts and blessings and whatever was on their mind - anyone could speak. After a while the bride and groom came together and read vows to each other, and then they were married. There was no officiant except some church elder who signed the legal certificate as demanded by the state.
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:27 AM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Many years ago, I was married in a "no god" ceremony by a local non-denominational minister. She had a number of lovely readings about love and making a new live together. I don't have them anymore.

We read a cherokee poem from her readings, had some friends read my favorite Shakespearean love sonnet, read brief self-written vows to each other, brief speech from the officiant, and ended with the Jewish glass stomping (because fun, dramatic, and meant "married" to half the attendees). We walked out to Beethoven's Ninth, but sadly at the dirgelike church version not the uptempo Ode to Joy I had specifically requested.

So bottom line - we picked things I liked that seemed appropriate for a wedding and mushed them together. I wish I'd spent more thought on it though, because it really did seem a little disjointed and the timing of the glass stomping was a bit off.

Anyway, good luck!
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 9:34 AM on May 21, 2013

Best answer: Here was the basic format for our completely secular ceremony.

* Officiant greets guests.

* Officiant asks for support of Muddgirl's family. Asks for support of MuddDude's family (we did this because my dad didn't walk me down the aisle, but I wanted to include our parents in the ceremony - you could probably skip this)

* Secular readings/song - this could be a place to bring in Jewish traditions.

* "Benediction" - we had our officiant say a few short paragraphs that reflected what marriage meant to us. We took the text from the original Massachusetts court decision allowing gay marriage, Goodridge v. Dept. of Health. We probably could have just written something original instead. Again, this could be a place to talk about Jewish conceptions of marriage.

* Vows (these were required in California, I don't know about it Alaska)

* "By the power vested in me..."

The whole thing took about 20 minutes, which may have been a bit long. We did have like 6 readings. That was probably way too many.

Also, I once attended the wedding of a non-religious bride and a secularly jewish groom that was very sweet and thoughtful. They had a chuppa, said some of the prayers that they liked, and broke the wine glass at the end.

You can do whatever you want, you know?

This isn't necessarily true. California required, at a minimum, some vows and the "by the power vested in me" part. Practically, it's not like anyone will check up on whether you actually did it or not, but it's theoretically possible that a wedding could be challenged.
posted by muddgirl at 9:35 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The glass-breaking tradition at Jewish weddings is one that can be used symbolically in non-religious ceremonies. There are a variety of meanings ascribed to this part of the ceremony (representational link but you can find others) which may be useful to you in thinking of things you'd like to have as part of your ceremony.
posted by jessamyn at 9:41 AM on May 21, 2013

We hired a celebrant who did a great job putting everything we wanted together; it went like this:
-- Greeting
-- Statement of support for gay marriage
-- Big Thank You to friends/families, acknowledgement of deceased friends/families
-- Reading (done via video by my dog (husband reading in dog's voice dubbed over video of dog sitting at a table looking at a book))
-- Vows/ ring exchange

We wanted it under 15 min, it was 15:01 incl processional/recessional. No prayers, no mention of God.
posted by Fig at 9:48 AM on May 21, 2013 [9 favorites]

We had our non-religious ceremony at the Boston Museum of Science, officiated by a friend of ours. It was great, and probably about 15 minutes long. It went like this:

Officiant greets/welcomes guests, invites up first reader
First 'reading' was a compilation of marriage advice, which we asked for on our RSVP cards
Officiant invites up second reader
Second reading was the book "I Like You" by Sandol Stoddard Warburg
Officiant prefaces the vows with a very brief paragraph from Union by Robert Fulghum
Officiant leads the couple in their vows
Officiant asks the assembled guests to support the marriage (we called this the community vow and made everybody stand and say 'we will')
Exchange of rings

If you're interested I'd be happy to send you the readings and more specific play by play, just memail me. And congratulations!
posted by hungrybruno at 9:50 AM on May 21, 2013

Glass stomping is fun. But here's what our rabbi told us. Wrap a light bulb (NOT a flourescent!) in a cloth napkin. It's easy to smash and who's to know?

The object of our wedding was to do it as quickly as possible so we could get to the reception.

We had a chuppa, and a rabbi, but you don't need that.

The Knot has some resources for vows.

One thing my dad does when he marries people is he holds the rings up and says: This ring symbolizes love, it has no beginning and no end.

Then my sister and I giggle because we've heard it a bazillion times.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:52 AM on May 21, 2013

My husband and I are agnostic/atheist, but I was raised protestant. We used the Book of Common Prayer ceremony as a jumping off place--that is, we borrowed the overall structure from there, but changed most of the content. You could do something similar by starting with the basics of the Jewish ceremony.

Here is our outline:
Opening Remarks (written by the bride & groom, read by the officiant)
Declaration of Consent
Reading 1
Comments by the Officiant
Song, sung by a member of the wedding party
Exchange of Vows
Reading 2

The opening remarks were an edited version of the decision in Massachusetts' Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the case that legalized same-sex marriage--about the role of marriage as a vital civil institution. We liked this framing as to why we chose to get married.

The readings were something by Woodie Guthrie and "Union" by Robert Fulgham. The text for the exchange of the rings was taken from Knee Play 5 of Einstein on the Beach: "I love you more than tongue can tell..." and "Count the stars in the sky..." For our vows, we used the standard/traditional ones, "to have and to hold..."

And, because we're geeks, we had some footnotes on the back of the program, summarizing the research on the salutary effects of marriage on health and happiness, and mentioning the Na society in China, which is the only documented society that does not use marriage as a central organizing institution (see: Stephanie Coontz, Marriage: A History).
posted by pompelmo at 9:53 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

* Vows (these were required in California, I don't know about it Alaska)

Really? Oh... shit.

I guess it's a little late for me to worry about that now...

Anyway, the Lady Lurgi and I googled "secular wedding vows" and cut and pasted a bunch of things that we liked. We added in some stuff about how we met, threw in a subtle shout-out to marriage equality, stuck in a bit of tradition from Chinese weddings, and called it quits. I wrote a script. She edited the script. I edited her edit. She edited my edit of her edit. And then we were done.

We didn't have anyone else get up and say anything because, to be honest, it didn't occur to us.

Keep it relatively short and everyone will love you.

One thing my dad does when he marries people is he holds the rings up and says: This ring symbolizes love, it has no beginning and no end.

"It also has a hole in the middle. I don't think that's symbolic of anything" (pause for laughter)
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:54 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I basically did what others have mentioned here. My husband and I perused some Internet resources (including these previous AskMes sent by a fellow Mefite who officiated) and picked and chose the elements we liked best. Our ceremony was fairly short (I think about 7 mins) and specific to our personalities/relationship. We wrote it pretty much all ourselves with a bit of input from the officiant, and we kind of enjoyed the opportunity to make it reflect our relationship and values.

Basic structure:
-Declaration of intent (which I believe was a required element in our state).
-Very short reading from a They Might Be Giants Song.
-Asking for parents' support (something I wanted).
-Each of us did our own reading from "I Like You" (jinx, hungrybruno!).
-Pronouncement and kiss.

posted by pitrified at 9:58 AM on May 21, 2013

I had a thoroughly non-religious wedding which was officiated by a humanist friend of my wife.

He wrote a basic script which we aggressively modified.
We had her dad, my dad and a theatrical friend do three readings to keep it interesting and then a couple of singer friends did a few songs whilst we had a ring warming ceremony.
(This is basically where the wedding rings were passed round everyone). The idea behind that is that it is nicely non-specifically sort of symbolic. The spiritual religious folks can believe what they like, the atheists can put forth general good feelings and it gives you an excuse for a music break, every one is happy. We didn't have to acknowledge any sort of magical or diety related thinking, but those that wanted to could without bothering us.

I'd be happy to memail you the whole script of it to give you ideas if you want.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 9:58 AM on May 21, 2013

I guess it's a little late for me to worry about that now...

The actual California law is "...the parties shall declare, in the physical presence of the person solemnizing the marriage and necessary witnesses, that they take each other as husband and wife." Not necessarily part of the vows, but it is usually lumped in with the ring exchange/vows portion.
posted by muddgirl at 10:00 AM on May 21, 2013

My fiance and I are currently labouring over how to lay out our ceremony. We, too, are having a religion-free wedding, so we're taking it as a blank slate. I think our general plan is:
- greeting
- thanks to everyone for being there
- brief overview of our relationship history
- a quick going over of what marriage symbolizes to US
- exchange vows
- we're married! yay!
- smooches

Immediately following the ceremony we're giving everyone a glass of champagne and the best man is going to do a speech/toast to the couple. Then the rest is just reception stuff.

One thing my dad does when he marries people is he holds the rings up and says: This ring symbolizes love, it has no beginning and no end.

"It also has a hole in the middle. I don't think that's symbolic of anything" (pause for laughter)

Oh my god, come hell or high water I am including the "hole in the middle" line in our ceremony! That cracks me up!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:04 AM on May 21, 2013

(to make my last comment on-topic - it looks like Alaska has the same law:
In the solemnization of marriage no particular form is required except that the parties shall assent or declare in the presence of each other and the person solemnizing the marriage and in the presence of at least two competent witnesses that they take each other to be husband and wife.
So, at a minimum, you should say something like "I, charmedimsure, take Sir Charmed to be my husband" and vice-versa.

(But again, it seems rare to have a marriage between to consenting, legal-to-marry parties challenged because the ceremony was not up to snuff.)
posted by muddgirl at 10:08 AM on May 21, 2013

My brother and his wife had a non-religious ceremony. The officiant welcomed everyone, said why we were there, and did a reading (I think) of a poem. Another friend read a poem. The officiant did the official bit (do you take, etc., power vested in me) and then the officiant and I did a handfasting ceremony, which was the really cool bit. A lot of people who attended have mentioned how much they liked that part.

Then they kissed and high-fived, and it was done.
posted by punchtothehead at 10:19 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've been a minister of the ULC for 13 years (though what that means as far as 'faith' goes is following my creed of "when in doubt, do the thing that is right") and have performed a few weddings for my friends. It's kind of one of those gigs where you perform well enough that other people keep asking you to show up to theirs. In general, when I am approached to officiate, I ask the couple if they want to include any of the following components:

1. Greeting
2. Readings
3. Blessing by the Officiant
4. Blessing by the Audience
5. Vows
6. Ring/Token exchange
7. Parting Blessing

They can pick any, not use any, though I usually recommend at a minimum Greeting + Vow + Ring/Token exchange.

I was not really taught to do this, but it's something that's just come from spending my 20s and 30s going to a lot of wedding, and having my 'officiant' status be an extra incentive to pay notes and think about what parts I liked about wedding and how different cultures have different spins on the ceremony but there are certain things that are fundamental.

Like, weddings are, at their base a formal pronouncement of love between two people that is shared with their community. All of the other symbolism and meaning that goes into that is up to you; but the general purpose of the components, as the way I discuss them with the couples.

1. Greeting - basically let people know why they're here. Gives the couple an occasion to recognize the importance of certain members of the community ("we'd like to thank our family who have travelled ..., our friends who've stood besides us..., etc.")

2. Reading - this can be dual purpose. In some communities, readings are an opportunity for the community to share their advice to a married couple, pulling on examples of love as ideals that the couple can hope to strive for. In other cases, this the couple's opportunity to share what love means to them and what has inspired them in the past.

3. Blessing by the Officiant - This can be a mirror to the reading, either letting the officiant's declaration of what love is be reflective of the couple's views, or letting the officiant act as a stand-in by the community. It is sometimes important to a couple that someone else holds the tow of them accountable to their commitment.

4. Blessing by the Audience - This can be an addition or replacement to the blessing by the officiant. The most familiar (and, imho, most toxic) manifestation is the question "if anyone believes these two should not be wed, speak now or forever hold your peace." A better twist on it is asking the audience to make vows (ie. "do you promise to support the Bride & Groom, to give them the wisdom of your counsel, the loyalty of your heart and the fairness of your mind?") which brings in the idea of a community supporting a couple.

5. Vows - more or less self-explanatory. This is the actual declaration of love in front of all. I always insist that the couple write this themselves, though I'm always happy to give some examples.

6. Ring/Token exchange - Significant as a permanent and visible symbol of the union and as a physical expression of commitment. Can be seen as each partner equally giving something of themselves to the other, or making a communal act of commitment. This is also the trigger for the officiant to do the "by the power vested in me..." and solemnize the wedding.

7. Parting Blessing - Thank everyone for being a witness and part of the couple's lives. Introduces the new identity of the married pair. Ok, now go drink.

(ETA: My average ceremony has been about 15 minutes from start to finish. My shortest (3 pieces), was maybe 5 minutes. Longest was 30, but it is always up to the bride and groom as to what their wishes were.)
posted by bl1nk at 10:19 AM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

My husband and I were married by a federal judge (the mother of a friend of ours) in a bed and breakfast. For wedding vows, we actually stole some from Morgan Llywelyn, a Celtic fantasy author (our wedding was Celtic-themed). We're both history buffs and knew the vows weren't authentic, but they very much spoke to things we wanted to promise each other: this is the marriage of equals.
posted by immlass at 10:27 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Resources we used:
Wedding Ceremony 101 post about basic ceremony structure
The Wedding Ceremony Planner, which has really good info on structure & planning for things like processional & rehearsal, along with hundreds of example snippets
Civil ceremony script for British Columbia
posted by animalrainbow at 10:49 AM on May 21, 2013

We had ours in the middle of a fancy cocktail party. The wedding was officiated by a leader of the Society for Ethical Culture, who helped us design the ceremony.
posted by slkinsey at 11:04 AM on May 21, 2013

I was married in the same way as you are about to be. My personal highlight was the processional and recessional music by my friend on acoustic guitar. He played "The Rainbow Connection" as we came into the amphitheater, and "Shook Me All Night Long" as we left.

I did readings at my sister's wedding from The Little Prince and Winnie the Pooh, both of which were appropriate, secular, and went over like gangbusters, especially with the Christians in the audience, who were probably pleasantly shocked they weren't hearing Corinthians for the 1,000th time.

I'm digging around for them and not having any luck, but this Pooh reading is quite good.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:14 AM on May 21, 2013

We were married by a pagan who was legally ordained, and we just went through a book of different components of a marriage/handfasting service (that were wildly pantheistic) to pick and choose things that resonated with us. We shared bread that was baked by his mother, poured wine, lit a candle, did a modified handfasting. It was super awesome!
posted by ersatzkat at 11:16 AM on May 21, 2013

The one thing I could add that others might not have--if your/your partner's parents are married (and have a marriage you might want to emulate)--ask them what they did, or if they have a copy of their ceremony. My parents aren't religious, and they wrote their own ceremony, and when I planned mine (short, sweet and no religion), I asked them for a copy, and I incorporated just a little bit of it into mine. If they did a traditional religious ceremony, maybe if they included a reading that you like, you could use that. I just really liked the idea of a link to the past and sense of aspiration, since my folks have had a good marriage for a long time.
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:18 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Everyone has given great advice about structure. My advice is to be careful about the readings. In my experience, given the opportunity to do "anything they want," people tend to have poor judgment about this. Readings, like wedding toasts, should be pleasant but unobtrusive, if they exist at all. The Massachusetts court ruling, mentioned here, has been used in secular weddings I've seen in my own peer group, and it works well, IMHO. Other readings have made me and other members of the audience feel awkward and uncomfortable with the failed attempt at the couple to show how clever and cute they are. There's something about good readings which have what I would call "romantic dignity" in a wedding ceremony. Aim for that.
posted by deanc at 11:23 AM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

So you're saying he doesn't know what to rely on as far as vows?

1) You can write your own vows.
-Officiant can do the parts about "Thank you for coming" Do you each have vows?" After one of you reads from your vows, officiant can say "Do you accept these vows and take __ to be.... " then the I Do, then the next person.

2) You can do standard non-religious vows.

- I was married in the courthouse with just family in attendance. The judge had vows he had written for us - pretty standard - but we were able to keep what he had typed out for us.

These were ours. There was a back and forth of course, but this is the trimmed version.

"-Will you love, comfort, honor, and keep them both in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, keeping only unto them so long as you both shall live? -

“ I do.”

“I take you to be my lawful wedded spouse - to love with tenderness - to honor and respect - to cherish with devotion - for the rest of our lives.”

“With this ring I thee wed, and give unto you my undying devotion.”

Judge said: "These rings are an outward symbol uniting two lives together; and as these rings are without end, may also your happiness be without end."

Then: "I now pronounce you man and wife, you may kiss the bride."

3) Basically, you can go with whatever format you want. It has to mean something to YOU, not to your guests. It can be short if you want. It's whatever is meaningful to your relationship. Best of luck! Congrats!
posted by Crystalinne at 12:03 PM on May 21, 2013

My wife and I had a non-religious ceremony in a neighbor's back yard. We had readings from Confucius, Wallace Stevens ("Re-statement of Romance") and John Ciardi ("Most Like an Arch this Marriage"), and a homily from Rainer Maria Rilke. Memail me if you'd like a PDF.
posted by brianogilvie at 12:11 PM on May 21, 2013

Mr. Ant and I were married by a retired city councilor at our favorite coffee shop/motorcycle hangout. Our officiant was open to reading whatever we wrote but we chose her canned nonreligious ceremony. It was quick, painless and unexpectedly funny. Especially when she read the room, went off-script and made Mr. Ant vow to do the vacuuming.

I swear, I didn't set that up in advance.

For a reading, I've always been partial to Shakespeare's Sonnet 116: "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments..."
posted by workerant at 1:05 PM on May 21, 2013

We kludged together a ceremony from samples given in two books--I don't remember the titles offhand, but one was published by The Knot--and a couple of readings we found from quotes online. We designed it to be non-religious but reasonably acceptable to religious members of the family. I assume it worked, as we haven't heard anything about it from the extended family.

I'll be happy to email you a copy if you want to look at it. MeMail me.
posted by telophase at 1:49 PM on May 21, 2013

I got married 20+ years ago, and our Moms were united in distress about the lack of religion, so we added the Lord's Prayer, and 1 religious reading, not that they were appeased, but, sigh. We used traditional vows because we liked them. There have been previous Ask.Me questions about wedding readings and music, and your library may be a good resource, as well at the Web. The other reading we used was Shakespeare's Sonnet 116. Family members did the readings.

I recently attended a wedding where the officiant was a very laid-back minister. He did the traditional vows, then the couple read the vows they had written, which were incredibly moving and charming.

Most states have specific criteria for what must be included. Here are the rules for Maine. Here's a religious ceremony.

There's wide latitude for the ceremony. Marriage has its roots in a contract, so I think it's well worth while to think long and hard about what you both want the contract to be, and try to make your vows reflect it. You can keep it quite simple or elaborate. Mazel tov.
posted by theora55 at 2:07 PM on May 21, 2013

We had a God-free wedding, much like those described above. One thing we included that seems common/normal among our religious friends, but that I didn't see mentioned above, was to do a little unity ceremony thing. Most of our Christian friends did a "unity candle." This involves having two lit candles on the altar, which the bride and groom each use at the same time to light a central, bigger candle. Two flames becoming one, symbolism, etc. In a similar vein, I've seen some people pour colored sand into a vase from two smaller jars, creating a keepsake piece of sand-art.

For our wedding, my guy and I individually collected water from the 2 major rivers we grew up near (the Mississippi for me, the Ohio for him), and poured them together into one vessel during the ceremony. The vessels were pottery made by his mom; the significance of the water was explained in our printed program.

I was surprised to discover that this was my favorite part of the ceremony, because it gave us a brief moment together with our backs to the crowd. It's surprisingly intimate and sweet when you haven't seen each other since the night before, you've been surrounded by family and friends and frantic hubbub all day, and even standing there for the ceremony you're probably arms-length away from each other. It was a chance for us each to stand touching shoulder to shoulder, to breathe, to say "hi," to stop worrying whether the ceremony was going as planned, and remember, "Holy crap, I'm here getting married to you! For the rest of our lives!"
posted by vytae at 2:29 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Instead of readings, friends of mine had their wedding guests kick off the vows: pre-selected (I think?) members the groom's friends and family stood up one by one and asked the bride if she would do X (Jane, will you go on long bike rides with John? Jane, will you help John remember to Skype with his parents (who live in another country) regularly?), and then the bride's friends and family asked the groom if he would do X (John, do you promise to always have at least three varieties of cheese in the house for Jane? John, do you promise to protect Jane from spiders?). "X" was always personal to the couple, and after each question, the bride or groom answered "I will" or "I do." (They also did more traditional vows after this section.)

It was one of the most awesome, most full of love, most supportive, most touching, most fun weddings I've ever been to.

As a variant on the unity ceremony, another couple I know put sealed letters to one another into a wooden box along with a bottle of wine and a couple of wine glasses, then nailed the box shut together during the ceremony and promised to open it together on their tenth anniversary. Guests were invited to write messages to the couple on the outside of the box during the reception.
posted by rebekah at 4:28 PM on May 21, 2013

Best answer: I would ask each other the following questions:

1) What do you value and treasure in each other and a relationship?
2) Of the items in #1, which make sense to mention in a ceremony?

E.g. if you both love poetry, music, science, sports, goofy humor, or whatever, incorporate that into your ceremony if the guests won't be spooked by it.

Everything else is optional, just keep it short.
posted by benzenedream at 5:48 PM on May 21, 2013

My wife and I were raised sort of Lutheran and Jewish, but from our early teens we've been non-religious. Nevertheless, we wanted to please our parents by putting a bit of both religions in our non-religious ceremony. We held it in a friend's large apartment, and the celebrant was a retired, lapsed Lutheran clergyman my wife had gone to college with.

We started with an inter-faith script from the United Nation site and reworked it to fit ourselves. My wife's mother sang a Lutheran wedding hymn, "O Precious Love," in her quavering soprano, and a friend said the short service-ending prayer ("May the Lord bless you and keep you") in Hebrew and then in English.

Everybody ended up happy, which was the important thing. We're coming up on our 30th anniversary.
posted by KRS at 7:06 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since people already gave you great advice, here's a little silliness

Here's all you really need (from Spaceballs, the Movie):

The short-short version.

posted by Philbo at 10:59 AM on May 22, 2013

FWIW, I happened to find the Pooh passages I read at my sister's wedding, mentioned way up the thread.

Conversation between Pooh and Christopher Robin:

"Pooh, when I'm --- you know --- when I'm not doing Nothing, will you be here sometimes?
"Just me?"
"Yes, Pooh."
"Will you be here too?"
"Yes, Pooh, I will be, really. I promise I will be, Pooh."
"That's good," said Pooh.
"Pooh, promise you won't forget about me, ever. Not even when I'm a hundred."
Pooh thought for a little.
"How old shall I be then?"
Pooh nodded.
"I promise," he said.

Conversation between Pooh and Piglet:

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
"Pooh!" he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you."

posted by mcstayinskool at 1:02 PM on May 22, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone- especially to those generous folks who offered personal help through MeMail, which I was too busy freaking out to take advantage of.

We went with the basic form as laid out in some of the comments marked as best answers above, and added the breaking of the glass with some remembrances of passed family members who couldn't be there. Our officiant had told us he was planning to add in some surprise stuff about the two of us, but either panicked and nixed that plan or calmly decided that it was such a beautiful day we should all just hang outside and have a beer in the sun and snow- either way, it worked for us. It was simple and short (two readings, 15 minutes total at most?) and felt like us, which was the most important thing to me.
posted by charmedimsure at 7:30 AM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

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