I’ve heard from a lot of people that it’s tough to have a non-religious wedding. You have to find an officiant who’s not a priest. You have to use (or write) a ceremony script and vows that don’t bring God into the mix. And, perhaps most importantly, you want to do it in a way that doesn’t draw attention to the fact that God’s not in there (because it might bother some of your guests).
That’s what we was going for, anyway. With the help of our officiant, my wife and I were able to create something that made both of us very happy. (And by “create,” I mean we swiped things heavily from the Internet.) In case anyone wants to know what a secular ceremony script looks like, though, this is pretty much what we ended up using. (Special thanks to Adam Lee for giving us the idea for the first reading.)
The bride and groom have asked you here this evening because each one of you has touched their lives in some special way. They hold you, their family and friends, as a valued part of what they are as individuals, and what they will become as a married couple. Your presence is a gift of support and caring, and they appreciate your sharing in this celebration.
We are gathered here, not to witness the beginning of what will be, but rather what already is! We do not create this marriage, because we cannot. We can and do, however, celebrate with the bride, the groom, and their families the wondrous and joyful occurrence that has already taken place in their lives.
It is our profound honor to participate in the uniting of two people already attuned to each other. When such a true bond already exists between two people, it is fitting that an outer acknowledgment be made. This acknowledgment is the prime reason for this gathering and this ceremony. We are here to bear witness to the entry of these beloved friends, who are already one in spirit, into a closer relationship.
It is my pleasure to introduce the sister of the Bride to share a few words with us.
Reading 1: Decision from Goodridge v. Department of Health — Chief Justice Margaret Marshall
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.
The union of two people is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. 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. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any.
Without question, civil marriage enhances the welfare of the community and is a social institution of the highest importance. 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. Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and a connection to 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.
Thank you so much.
It is now my pleasure to introduce the sister of the Groom to read a poem for us.
Reading 2: “Like” by Mike McGee
I like you the way I like my wonton packed full of shrimp
Like too much syrup on my pancakes… eggs… toast… face… (accident)
I like you a whole bunch of a lot
You’re a pocket full of awesome
I like you not unlike Texans like Texas
Like fat kids like cake
Like two likes three and four likes six (five has issues)
Like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches like teeth
Like cherry flavored Slurpees like to wash down convenience store nachos
Like La-Z-Boys like Sunday afternoon butts
I like you whole bunch of a lot and a little bit more
You’re a bottomless basket of extra crispy French fries covered in awesome sauce
I got a thing for you like magnets got it for refrigerators
I’m stuck on you and I like it
I’m making a pledge because I guess I’m tired of meeting people who define themselves by what they don’t like
I just don’t like that
However, I do like holding you
Like your pillow holds your head when you sleep
Like PBS holds fundraisers
Like the Earth holds the moon and the sun holds the Earth and how they’ll constantly spin around each other forever…
You get the idea
In my book you rock, and I like rocks
And just because I spent an hour or so writing this down doesn’t mean you have to like me back, but I would really like that
Finally, it is my pleasure to introduce you to a friend of the bride and groom for the final reading:
Reading 3: “The Art of Marriage” by Wilferd A. Peterson
A good marriage must be created.
In the art of marriage 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 each day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.
It is speaking words of appreciation and
demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is finding room for the things of the spirit.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is not only marrying the right partner…
It is being the right partner.
[Addressed to Bride and Groom]
Your marriage requires “love,” which is a word often used with vagueness and sentimentality. Yet we mean something very real, when we bind ourselves in love. When we love we see things other people do not see. We see beneath the surface and observe qualities that make this one different from and dearer than all others. To see with loving eyes is to know inner beauty, and to be loved is to be seen and known as we are known to no other. Such love means security — another human being wants us, wants to share life with us, accepts us, without qualification or reservation, not as perfect, but as human, with strengths and weaknesses.
Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together. Take responsibility for making the other one feel safe, and give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves. When frustration, difficulty and fear assail your relationship, as they threaten all relationships at sometime or another, remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part that seems wrong. In this way, you can survive the times when clouds drift across the face of the sun in your lives, remembering that, just because you may lose sight of it for a moment, does not mean the sun has gone away. And, if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight.
May you always need one another, not to fill an emptiness, but to help each other know your fullness. May you want one another, but not out of lack. May you embrace one another, but not encircle one another. May you succeed in all important ways with each other, and not fail in the little graces. May you have happiness, and may you find it in making one another happy. May you have love, and may you find it in loving one another.
This is the point in the ceremony where we usually talk about the wedding bands being a perfect circle, with no beginning and no end. But we all know that these rings do have a beginning. Rock is dug up from the earth. Metal is liquefied in a furnace at a thousand degrees, then molded, cooled, and painstakingly polished. Something beautiful is made from raw elements. Love is like that. It’s hot, dirty work. It comes from humble beginnings, made by imperfect beings. It’s the process of making something beautiful where there was once nothing at all. [Repeat after me] This ring is my promise to accept your imperfections and recognize your beauty.
May your house be a place of happiness for all who enter it, and a place where the old and the young are renewed in each others’ company, a place for growing, a place for music, a place for laughter. And when shadows and darkness fall within its rooms, may it still be a place of hope and strength for all who enter it, especially for those who may be entrusted to your care. May no person be alien to your compassion. May your larger family be the family of all humankind. And may those who are nearest to you and dearest to you constantly be enriched by the beauty and the bounty of your love for each other.
Inasmuch as the bride and groom have consented together in this ceremony to live in wedlock, have witnessed their vows in the presence of this company, and by the giving and receiving of rings, it gives me great pleasure to now by the power vested in me by the Humanist Society and the State of Illinois pronounce that they are husband and wife!
You may now kiss.