Recently I was honored to officiate a wedding for a couple of my friends. All of us are secular so we developed this secular wedding script together. Names changed to protect the innocent.
This script is heavily based on the script I wrote for my own wedding in 2010. I put it into the public domain and I would be happy to hear if anyone uses it as inspiration for their own wedding.
The vows are especially meaningful -- I mean, the three "I do" questions the officient asks the couple, not the individual statements from the two getting married. When I thought about vows I thought there were three essential components: first, that the person understands marriage and is states that they are ready for it; second, that they accept the other person as their partner; and third, that they promise to be a partner for the other person. I captured those three ideas in three vows.
Welcome friends, families, loved ones, and ‘plus-ones’. All of us are here today to publicly recognize something that already exists, and in so doing to make something new. We are going to start with the loving relationship between Karly and Dirk, we are going to proclaim that relationship together as a community, and by doing that we will create a marriage. For marriage is the public recognition of a private relationship; it is the way that humans use a community to strengthen a partnership of love.
Love organizes our large and chaotic world. Love enshrines and ennobles our human experience. It is the basis for peace in a family just as it is the basis of peace between the peoples of Earth. And one of the great forms of love is that freely shared between two people in marriage.
Marriage is not easy and it wasn’t easy either in 1901 when author Wilferd Peterson wrote “The Art of Life” which contained the following passage commonly called “The Art of Marriage”. I hope Karly and Dirk listen carefully to these words today so they can hold them in their hearts and refer back to them again and again when needed the most.
The little things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say, “I love you” at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted;
the courtship should not end with the honeymoon,
it should continue through all the years.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.
It is doing things for each other
not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice,
but in the spirit of joy.
It is speaking words of appreciation
and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not expecting the husband to wear a halo
or the wife to have the wings of an angel.
It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience,
understanding, and a sense of humor.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere
in which each can grow.
It is not only marrying the right partner,
it is BEING the right partner.
This is “The Art of Marriage”.
All of you are here today because, in one way or another, you have been a part of Karly’s and Dirk’s lives. When we love, we give ourselves freely and generously into the hands of another, and in return we receive the love and trust of the other as a precious gift.
But even as that gift is shared by two people who are in love, it also touches the friends and family members who surround and support the relationship. You are those friends and those family members. You are Karly and Dirk’s community, and each of you has played some part in bringing them to this moment.
This marriage unites not only these two individuals, but also these two communities. Karly and Dirk were accepted by each other’s friends, welcomed warmly by each other’s family, and bonded in the presence of this community. They have come this far in the atmosphere of your love. They thank you.
Our purposes today is to join Karly and Dirk in matrimony. Before we do that I must ask, does anyone here know of any just reason why these two should not be wed?
[Pauses for a moment longer than seems appropriate to most of the people]
Anyone? No? Well thank goodness, because they already signed the papers!
But of course there are no objections, because we all know Karly and Dirk belong together. But they do not live in isolation. Their relationship nurtures not only the two of them but also the world around them. And in turn, we, their community of friends and family, have a responsibility to nurture their relationship. We can help them succeed. We can support their marriage and the new family they are creating today sometimes with our presence and guidance, and sometimes with our absence and silence.
So with that first I ask all of you, if you pledge to help provide the support required to make this marriage successful, please say ‘we do’.
All: We Do
Karly and Dirk, you have prepared your own vows, but before you say them, I want you to pause to look at each other so you can remember this moment. You are two persons, but starting right now there is only one life before you. Understand that marriage vows become real over time in the form of devotion. The words you say next will attain meaning as you create shared experiences throughout your life together.
Karly you can go first.
[Karly reads her vows]
[Dirk reads his vows]
[Officiant pauses briefly in between each of the following questions to let the answer hang in the air a little.]
Can you please take each others hands.
Karly, do you come here free of reservations, knowing fully the responsibilities and privileges of marriage?
Dirk, do you come here free of reservations, knowing fully the responsibilities and privileges of marriage?
Karly, do you choose Dirk, with his strengths and his weaknesses, for as long as you both shall live, to be your lawfully wedded husband?
Dirk, do you choose Karly, with her strengths and her weaknesses, for as long as you both shall live, to be your lawfully wedded wife?
Karly, do you promise to love Dirk, to support him in good times and bad, to care for him in sickness and in health, and to travel with him in the journey of your shared life, as his wife?
Karly, as a symbol of your commitment and trust, you may offer Dirk a ring.
[Puts the ring on Dirk’s finger]
Dirk, do you promise to love Karly, to support her in good times and bad, to care for her in sickness and in health, and to travel with her in the journey of your shared life, as her husband?
Dirk, as a symbol of your commitment and trust, you may offer Karly a ring.
[Puts the ring on Karly’s finger]
May you both take responsibility for making the other feel safe, and give the highest priority to tenderness. May you always need one another, not to fill an emptiness, but to help each other know your fullness. May you always want one another, but not out of lack. May you have happiness, and may you find it in making one another happy.
Karly and Dirk, in the presence of your family and friends who have joined you to share this moment of joy, you have declared your love and dedication for each other. You have stated your wish to live together, always open to a deeper, richer friendship and partnership. You have formed your own union, based on respect and honor.
With that it is my joyful responsibility to officially acknowledge you as “Husband and Wife!” You may now seal your marriage with a kiss.
[Kiss long enough for people to remember to grab their camera, open the shutter, point it at us, push the button, wait for the camera to actually take the picture, and for the eventual flashes. Assorted jubilation ensues.]