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WEDDINGS OF NEW YORK

Creative Civil Wedding Ceremonies: traditional, unique, or contemporary
Conducted by New York Certified Marriage Officiants*
*all officiants certified by New York City Marriage Bureau: cityclerknyc.org
SAMPLE WEDDING CEREMONIES
A wedding ceremony should reflect the personality and desires of the wedding couple. Although most weddings follow a basic format, couples should feel free to be creative and innovative, and make their wedding meaningful and unique to themselves and their friends and family.

At any point during the ceremony, the couple may wish to address the assembled guests themselves, or ask a friend or family member to make remarks and to offer readings, music, or other appropriate contributions (telegrams, letters, best wishes, meditations, etc.). The Celebrant may also read appropriate selections, if the couple requests. Here are some samples, and we'll be happy to send others.

SAMPLE CEREMONIES

Ceremony Worksheets
Basic Traditional ceremony worksheet

Barebones ceremony worksheet

Examples of personalized ceremonies
Traditional ceremony, formal example
Informal ceremony 1 example
Informal ceremony 2 example
Informal ceremony 3 example
Informal ceremony 4 example

Additional traditions:
Humanist Candle Ceremony
Celtic Handfasting
Fire Ceremony, Eastern Tradition, 7 steps
Wine ceremony
Medieval Wedding Ceremony
Rose ceremony

Other Humanist wedding ceremonies:
Sample Humanist Wedding (British style)
Sample Humanist/Unitarian Weddings (Canadian, external website)
Commitment Ceremonies
Humanist-Society vows (US)

Suggested Readings
Poetry and Prose


Traditional ceremony
Semi-formal afternoon wedding
Loft, 100 guests, attendants

MARY :
"Dear family and friends, we have gathered here today to celebrate the wedding of ANTHONY and JENNIFER."

"Marriage is the promise of hope between two people who love each other sincerely, who honor each other as individuals, and who wish to unite their lives and share the future together. In this ceremony, Anthony and Jennifer dedicate themselves to the happiness and well-being of each other, in the new life they now undertake."

"We rejoice with them that out of all the world they have found each other; and that they will henceforth find the deeper meaning and richness of human life in sharing it with each other."

MARY: [To parents]
"The values, traditions and hopes this couple represent have been nurtured by their family and parents, standing here today. As our sons and daughters find partners and found homes for the next generation, each family is enriched. Do you, the parents of Anthony and Jessica, who have loved and nurtured them, bestow your blessing on their union and their new family?"

FAMILY MEMBERS [in turn]
We do.

MARY:
"On this happy day, surrounded by friends and family, we also honor those who are not with us, especially Anthony's grandmother, and Jessica's aunt. Let us pause for a moment and bring them into our thoughts and into our hearts."

Family and guests sit.

"Anthony and Jennifer have chosen this short reading in honor of their wedding, as they feel it expresses their feelings towards each other;

"What more sweet than to live with one with whom you are united in body and mind, who talks with you in secret affection, to whom you have committed all your faith and your fortune? What in all nature is lovelier? You are bound to friends in affection. How much more to a husband or wife -- in the highest love, with union of the body, the bond of mutual vows, and the sharing of your goods! Nothing is more safe, tranquil, pleasant and lovable than marriage." Erasmus, born in 1466

MARY:
We come to marriage as separate persons, who, through love and affection, agree to unite our lives in common purpose. Marriage, as in life, challenges us to find the best in each other, in times of joy, and in times of sorrow, to learn from each other, and to deepen our love, our compassion and our understanding of each other.

Jessica's cousin, Anna-Maria, will now offer a reading by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, about the challenges and joy of marriage.

from Letters to a Young Poet

"For one human being to love another human being
that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been
entrusted to us, the ultimate, the final test and proof,
The work for which all other work is but preparation.

"Love is a high inducement for the individual to ripen ..
to become world in himself for the sake of another person
-- all human love consists in this: that two solitudes
protect and border and greet each other.

"--even between the closest human beings infinite distances
continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up,
if they succeed in loving the distance between them
which makes it possible for each to see the other
against a wide sky!"

MARY: "Anthony and Jessica, please face each other."

"ANTHONY, are you ready to enter into this marriage with JESSICA, believing the love you share and your faith in each other will endure all things?"

ANTHONY: "I am."

"JESSICA, are you ready to enter into this marriage with ANTHONY, believing the love you share and your faith in each other will endure all things?"

JESSICA: "I am."

MARY: "Will you please join your hands."

"No other human ties are more tender and no other vows more important than those you are about to take. Both of you come to this day with the deep realization that the contract of marriage is sacred as are all of its obligations and responsibilities".
"Please repeat after me:"

ANTHONY
"In the presence of these witnesses, I, ANTHONY,
take you, JESSICA, to be my wife,
to have and to hold from this day forward;
for better or worse, for richer or poorer,
in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish,
as long as we both shall live.
We shall keep together what share of trouble and sorrow
our lives may lay upon us,
and we shall hold together
our store of goodness and plenty and love."

JESSICA
"In the presence of these witnesses, I, JESSICA,
take you, ANTHONY, to be my husband;
to have and to hold from this day forward,
for better or worse, for richer or poorer,
in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish,
as long as we both shall live.
We shall keep together what share of trouble and sorrow
our lives may lay upon us,
and we shall hold together
our store of goodness and plenty and love."

MARY :
"It is a custom to exchange rings as a symbol of love, and remembrance of the promises you have just made.

"Who presents the rings for this couple?"
[MARY receives rings from Jonathan and Betsy.]

MARY:
"ANTHONY, what gift do you offer in pledge of the vow you have made?"
(ANTHONY takes ring from Celebrant and offers it to JESSICA)
MARY: "JESSICA, do you receive this ring in honor of these vows?"
JESSICA: "I do."
(ANTHONY places ring on JESSICA'S finger)
ANTHONY:
"JESSICA, this ring I give to you,
in pledge of my love and devotion."

MARY:
"JESSICA, what gift do you offer in pledge of the vow you have made?"
(JESSICA takes ring from Celebrant and offers it to ANTHONY)
MARY: "ANTHONY, do you receive this ring in honor of these vows?"
ANTHONY: "I do."
(JESSICA places ring on ANTHONY'S finger)
JESSICA:
"ANTHONY, this ring I give to you,
in pledge of my love and devotion."

MARY:
"As the rings have no end so your love should have no end."

[Mary places her hand on their joined hands]
"Here in the space between you both,
lies all the future of the fragment of the universe which is your own.
Your lives are now bound into each other's keeping."

"May the confidence, trust, and affection you have for each other on this day, sustain you as you go forth upon your journey of life together. May you dwell together in peace, true friendship, love, and joy."

[Couple face the guests]

MARY :
"Forasmuch as ANTHONY and JESSICA have consented together to join their lives in the bonds of matrimony, and have witnessed the same before this company of family and friends, and have pledged their love and loyalty to each other, and have declared the same by the joining and the giving of rings, I, therefore, by the authority of the state of New York, pronounce that they are husband and wife."

KISS/EMBRACE

MARY:
I now have the great pleasure to present to you, ANTHONY and JESSICA, husband and wife.

RECESSIONAL

SIGNING OF MARRIAGE LICENSE

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Private lakeside wedding
50 guests, family attendants (no wedding party)

MARY:
Welcome to all, to this beautiful spot, with the lake before us and the clear (if cold!) sky above. We thank everyone who has made the journey to this location to be part of a very special ceremony we are about to enact. Your presence is not only welcome, but needed, as Paul and Theresa will depend upon your love and friendship for this special day, and also in their new lives, from today forward.

Dear family and friends, Paul and Theresa have invited you here today to witness and celebrate this public declaration of the private commitment they have already made to one another.

We are reminded at this moment of the people who are dear to Paul and Theresa who cannot be here today to share this moment. Therefore, it is all the more important that those of you here with Paul and Theresa may stand as witnesses to the happiness which they have found together, and to the pledges they will make, each to the other, for the mutual service of their common life.

[To all of the guests, and family]
Do all of you, who have supported these two in friendship and love, now bestow your blessing on their union and their new family?

RESPONSE: "We do."

In the quiet of this moment, we pause to give thanks for all the rich experiences of life that have brought Paul and Theresa to this point in their lives.

The heritage each individual brings to this marriage will continue to be an important element in their lives, but they will now create a new story - and new traditions, together.

Although they are embarking upon a new and unique relationship by joining their lives in marriage, they retain their own separate and unique heritage, and identity, each enriching the other.

MARY: Paul and Theresa, Please face each other.

Paul, are you ready to enter into this marriage with Theresa, believing the love you share and your faith in each other will endure all things?

PAUL: "I am."

Theresa, are you ready to enter into this marriage with Paul, believing the love you share and your faith in each other will endure all things?

Theresa: "I am."

MARY: Will you please join your hands.

The pledges you will now repeat are a statement of your present intent and future commitment. They cannot endure unless you make them endure, with the resources you will draw from deep within yourselves.

MARY: (bride and groom repeating)

"I [Name] take you,[Name],
to be no other than yourself
loving what I know of you
trusting what I do not yet know
with respect for your integrity
and faith in your love for me
through all our years
and in all that life may bring us.

[Repeat for each]

MARY:

Having exchanged your vows, it is a custom to also exchange rings, as a symbol of love, and a token that you will fulfill your promises to each other.

A circle is the symbol of the sun and the earth and the universe.
It is a symbol of holiness and of perfection and of peace.
In these rings, it is the symbol of unity
in which your lives are now joined.
One unbroken circle, in which, wherever you go,
you will always return to one another and your togetherness. (Hindu)

MARY:

Paul and Theresa had their rings specially crafted in their homeland. It is a tradition that the person who holds the rings will become their chief supporter, helping their marriage remain vibrant and strong.

Who presents the rings for Paul and Theresa?
[Bina steps forward with rings]

Paul/Theresa, what token do you give that you will perform your vows?

(Paul/Theresa takes ring from Bina)

MARY TO PAUL/THERESA:
Theresa/Paul, do you receive this ring in token of the same?

RESPONSE: "I do."
(GROOM/BRIDE places ring on BRIDE/GROOMS finger)

MARY prompting, with GROOM/BRIDE repeating:

With this ring, I offer you my complete love and devotion

MARY: [covering both their hands]
And so you have joined your lives into each others care and keeping.

[Couple face guests]
MARY:
Paul and Theresa - You have spoken your promises. You have exchanged the signs of your commitment each to each. It is thus with great pleasure that I now declare that you have married each other in the presence of these witnesses, and you are now husband and wife.

May all that is noble, lovely, and true abide with you forever. Go now in peace, and may peace attend you all your days.

YOU MAY NOW KISS!

I now present to you Paul and Theresa, Husband and wife.

SIGNING OF MARRIAGE LICENSE

CHAMPAGNE TOAST!

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Informal Wedding Ceremony 2

A Small apartment wedding, 20 guests, no attendants

Guests gather in a semi circle. Bride and Groom facing guests.

MARY: Welcome everyone and thank you all for joining us here in John and Christina's apartment to witness and celebrate their wedding.

Marriage is the promise of hope between two people who love each other sincerely, who honor each other as individuals and who wish to unite their lives and share their future together. Today, John and Christina dedicate themselves to the happiness and well-being of each other, in a union of mutual caring and responsibility.

John and Christina have chosen a Humanist ceremony because they feel it best expresses their feelings towards each other. Humanism is a philosophy of life based on a concern for humanity and the natural world. Humanists view marriage as a relationship based on love, concern and respect that allows individuals to grow in their respective ways. It is the maturing of love, freely given and gladly returned and is both ordinary and extraordinary, because it is simply about everyday living.
It is a Humanist belief that there is equality between men and women in every way, and so marriage is a cooperative venture in every sense. It is a relationship based on love, respect and a determination on the part of both wife and husband to adjust to each other's temperaments and conditions, in health or sickness, joy or sadness, ease or hardship. That is the spirit of the vows John and Christina will exchange today.

John and Christina would like to recognize all the people, places and experiences that have brought them here today. They are especially grateful for those who have loved and nurtured them, particularly their parents [Names]. To all of the parents, John and Christina will need your continued support and love in the future, as they do today.

Do you, family and closest of family friends, now bestow your blessing on the union of John and Christina?

We Do" .

MARY: John and Christina would each like to share a few words with you.
JOHN: Toast to family

MARY: John and Christina, please face each other.

Are you, John, willing to enter into this marriage with Christina? "I am"

MARY: Are you, Christina, willing to enter into this marriage with John? (I am)

MARY: Will you please join hands for your vows.

Repeat after me.

I John take you, Christina as my partner in life, to be no other than yourself,
to have and to hold from this day forward, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health.
I promise to respect, encourage, love and support you for who you are now and for who you may become.
I promise to hold your best interests as my best interests so that we can struggle together to accomplish more as a team than we ever could alone.
I promise to openly share my life, fears and dreams with you --
and to appreciate the wackiness of life.

I promise to be faithful to you, to take care of you, to be honest with you and to love you through all of our years and in all that life may bring us.

(Repeat for Christina)

MARY:

John and Christina traveled to San Francisco to make their silver wedding rings with help from one of Christina's closest friends, Silvia.. Each of their fingerprints is imprinted around each ring.
John and Christina's mothers, [Name and Name], are holding the rings, and will now present them to their children.

John and Christina, now repeat after me. [as placing ring on finger]

JOHN

Christina, Take this ring and with it my promise of trust, patience and love for the rest of my life.

CHRISTINA

John, Take this ring and with it my promise of trust, patience and love for the rest of my life

MARY:
(Places hands on John and Christina's clasped hands)

May you who give it and you who wear it, honour in life the pledge for which it stands. May every blessing be yours, as you bind your lives in each others keeping.

John and Christina face the guests

And now, may the love you have for each other on this day sustain you as you go forth upon your journey of life together.
May you embrace the joys with laughter and bear the sorrows with strength.
May you dwell together in peace, love and joy.

John and Christina have asked that their fathers, [Name] serve as the witnesses for the signing of their marriage license.

SIGNING OF MARRIAGE LICENSE

Inasmuch as John and Christina have consented together in this ceremony to live in marriage and have witnessed their vows in the presence of this company and have given and received rings as a token of their vows, I now pronounce, by the authority vested in me, and in accordance with the laws of the State of New York that John and Christina are husband and wife.

YOU MAY NOW KISS!

PRESENTATION OF COUPLE

MUSIC: America

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