taken from Your Wedding, published by the British Humanist Association.
No two humanist wedding ceremonies are the same, as yours is designed for you alone, and can be as traditional or unusual as you like. However, the ceremony tends to follow a basic structure:
The entrance of the bride or bride and groom is usually to a selected piece of (live or recorded) music. The bride and groom can enter together, separately, with their family or supporters.
GATHERING and WELCOME
The celebrant welcomes everyone, and speaks of the importance of them witnessing this marriage, and of the couple's own thoughts and feelings about themselves and their partnership. An example might be:
"It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all on this happy occasion to celebrate and witness the marriage of Linda and David, who now wish to make their vows for a life-long union in the presence of their family and friends. They have written this ceremony themselves to allow them to express to each other, and before us, what this occasion means to them, and the commitments and aspirations they share for the future".
The celebrant may give some general remarks about marriage and, if appropriate, express a humanist view of what a marriage is. For example:
"Linda and David have chosen a humanist ceremony because they feel it best expresses their feelings towards each other. Humanism is a philosophy based on a concern for humanity and the natural world, and which shares many of the ethical values of religious beliefs. Marriage is also a relationship based on love, concern and respect that allows an individual to grow in their respective ways. Marriage is the maturing of love, freely given and gladly returned and is both ordinary and extraordinary, because it is about everyday living".
At this point you could include a poem, reading or an appropriate song, for example:
(Sir Hugh Walpole, 1884-1941)
The most wonderful of all things in life is the discovery of another human being with whom one's relationship has a growing depth, beauty and joy as the years increase. This inner progressiveness of love between two human beings is a most marvellous thing; it cannot be found by looking for it or by passionately wishing for it. It is a sort of divine accident, and the most wonderful of all things in life.
True love is a sacred flame
That burns eternally,
And none can dim its special glow
Or change its destiny.
True love speaks in tender tones
And hears with gentle ear,
True love gives with open heart
And true love conquers fear.
True love makes no harsh demands
It neither rules nor binds,
And true love holds with gentle hands
The hearts that it entwines.
This is the important part of the ceremony, where the bride and groom declare their love for each other in front of their guests.
It is now time to commit to each other publicly. You may choose to use questions and answers or independent statements and you could repeat them to each other or say them at the same time. For example:
"Linda and David, do you promise to share your life with each other, to trust and be honest and faithful to each other? Will you live together in a spirit of tolerance, mutual support and concern for each other's well-being, sharing your responsibilities and joys"? (We do).
Many couples like to include the traditional exchange of rings in their ceremonies, although other tokens of commitment, such as a red rose or the lighting of a candle, are perfectly acceptable. This act is usually followed by an explanation that expresses what it means to the bride and groom. For example:
"I give you this ring as a symbol of our marriage and my enduring love".
"This ring symbolizes my ideal of our relationship, which is whole and without end".
" This candle is a token of our future life together and the hopes and aspirations that we share".
DECLARATION and PRESENTATION
After the couple have committed themselves to one another, the celebrant will declare them man and wife.
The ceremony is concluded with closing words and good wishes.
"I ask you all here present at the marriage of Linda and David to join with me in wishing them every success in their future together. May they continue to love one another forever".
The newly weds exit, usually accompanied by music.