New York Central Park Skyline

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."

"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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


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!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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

MARY

MARTIN: "I am."

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

MAUREEN: "I am."

MARY:
"Will you please join your hands."

Martin and Maureen have prepared their own individual vows for each other:"

"MAUREEN, Will you have MARTIN, As he stands before you today, your best friend for the past 10 years.

You have seen him richer, but lately you have seen him poorer, you have seen him in sickness, and you have seen him in health, (and, you have seen him try to dance).

Knowing what only 10 years can tell you about both yourself and Martin, will you honor all the experiences you have shared, and this amazing life you have built together, by promising today to respectfully and lovingly -- continue to pay the mortgage, raise intelligent and well adjusted cats, and share your life with him?"

MAUREEN: "I will."

MARY:
"MARTIN, Will you have MICHELLE, As she stands before you today, your best friend for the past 10 years.

You have seen her richer, and you have also seen her poorer. you have seen her in sickness, and you have seen her in health, (and you have seen her in graduate school.)

Knowing what only 10 years can tell you about both yourself and Michelle, will you honor all the experiences you have shared, and this amazing life you have built together, by promising today to respectfully and lovingly -- continue to make her coffee each morning, and share your life with her?"

MARTIN: "I will."

MARY:
"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.

- And Martin has asked me to add: The ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle is Pi - an irrational number with no end - draw your own conclusions!"

"In these rings you will now exchange, a circle is also 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."

"MAUREEN please place the ring on MARTIN'S finger."

"MARTIN please place the ring on MAUREEN'S finger. "

MARY:
[Wine Ceremony and final blessing. Mary pours wine into goblets for bride, groom, and witnesses]
"Martin and Maureen would like to have you join them in a toast."
(everyone raises wine glasses)

May all who love MAUREEN and MARTIN continue to rejoice in the commitments they have made to one another. May their home be a place of peace for them and all who enter it.

From this moment, may you dwell together in peace, love and joy -
and may all your friends realize that true happiness,
the kind Martin and Maureen have, can only be found in California."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Informal Ceremony 4, on a park bridge.

Susan singing ‘I Will,’ by the Beatles.

Minna walks across the bridge with Lisel (sister/best woman) and Michael  (bridesmaid). Nigel walks to meet her, with Maureen (sister) and Tim (best man). The wedding party joins Mary

MARY: "Dear family and friends, we have gathered here today to witness and celebrate the wedding of Minna and Nigel.

We rejoice with Nigel and Minna 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: introduces self, welcomes everyone

Minna and Nigel met in the Summer of 2000, when they worked together at a bookstore in Manhattan. On their second date, Nigel brought Minna here to this bridge because he thought she was the type of person who might appreciate seeing a different side of New York City. They had known each other for only two weeks before Minna moved back to Britain and they lost contact.

Two years later, Nigel and Minna, having just moved back to Massachusetts and Britain respectively, were reunited by chance when they each ran into their former bookstore manager. Since then they have lived and traveled together on three continents; teaching English in Bangkok studying and working in London and finally settling again in Brooklyn. Nigel and Minna have decided to legally recognize their commitment to each other, and celebrate it in the presence of their family and friends.

This little bridge will strike most people as an unlikely place for a wedding ceremony. But Minna and Nigel have always been drawn to unconventional beauty, and in the same way their relationship has followed its own unconventional path. Today they are honored to have you here with them to celebrate that relationship.

MARY (To family/witnesses)

Dear family and friends, You know the happiness that this couple has found together, and you are witnesses to the pledges they will make to each other for the mutual service of their common life.

Do you offer your blessing and support for this couple, and wish them the best of lives together?

If so, say “WE DO”.

At this very special time, our community is also shared by those who cannot be here today, and those who have left this life. Their roles in the lives of Minna and Nigel are honored and remembered as we savor today's joyous moments. Join with us, then, in fond recognition of those who cannot be here today, and in memory of those who have left this life

Let us bring them into our thoughts and our hearts”.
(Moment of silence - ring Tibetan bowl)

MARY:

In honor of their wedding today, Nigel and Minna have asked Nigel’s sister Erin to read the poem “Rent,” by Jane Cooper.

“If you want my apartment, sleep in it
but let's have a clear understanding:

the books are still free agents.
If the rocking chair's arms surround you
they can also let you go,
they can shape the air like a body.

I don't want your rent, I want
a radiance of attention
like the candle's flame when we eat,
I mean a kind of awe
attending the spaces between us---

Not a roof but a field of stars.”

MARY:

“Minna and Nigel, please face each other."

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

MINNA/NIGEL: “I am.”

MARY: Extend your hands, each to the other. 

The hand offered by each of you is an extension of your self, just as is your mutual love. Cherish the touch, for you touch not only your own, but another life.

VOWS:

MINNA, Nigel, you and I have never put pressure on each other to be anything that didn’t feel right, but suddenly I find myself in a place where I can’t imagine my life without you,  because everything looks better and more interesting when I’m with you.

You are such an incredible inspiration to me in every aspect of my life, and I love that we never cease to be amazed by each others’ ideas, projects, and plans.

Whenever I need to talk, you’re always here to listen, and it’s not only comforting but also kind of incredible to realize how completely you understand me.

I’m excited and eager to enjoy our life together.  I offer my love, my support, and my commitment to the future we will share.

I accept you as my husband. 

NIGEL:

Minna,
Wherever you travel, I will travel

Your story is my story
Your troubles are my troubles
Your dreams are my dreams
Whatever you become, I will be transformed with you
 
I accept you my wife.

THE RING CEREMONY

MARY:
Minna/Nigel, what gift do you offer to Nigel/Minna as a symbol of your lives together?
Nigel/Minna, do you receive this gift in honor of the vow you have made?

NIGEL/MINNA
Nigel/Minna, take this ring, and wear it with my love.

MARY:  And so you have bound your lives into each other's love and keeping.

BLESSING/READING

MARY: “Nigel and Minna have asked me to read, as their closing blessing,
Song of the
Open Road, by Walt Whitman.

Listen, I will be honest with you ...
I do not offer the old smooth prizes
But offer rough new prizes

These are the days that must happen to you:
You shall not heap up what is called riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand
all that you earn or achieve.

However sweet the laid up stores,
However convenient the dwelling, 
you shall not remain there.
However sheltered the port,
However calm the waters, 
you shall not anchor there.
However welcome the hospitality that welcomes you,
you are permitted to receive it but a little while.

Afoot and lighthearted, take to the open road
Healthy, free, the world before you
The long brown path before you, 
Leading wherever you choose.

NIGEL AND MINNA: 

(say together, prompted by MARY)

Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money; 
I give you myself before preaching and law:
Will you give me yourself?
Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?"

MARY:

"Nigel and Minna. You have spoken your promises. You have exchanged the signs of your commitment each to each. It is thus with great pleasure that I declare that you have married each other in the presence of these witnesses. I now pronounce you husband and wife." 

KISS/EMBRACE
PRESENTATION

I now have the great honor to present to you - Minna and Nigel!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Commitment Ceremonies, Same Sex weddings

Mary and Beth are pleased to officiate at weddings and commitment ceremonies for same sex couples. We are also happy to refer you to religious clergy in New York who perform religious commitment ceremonies.  Mary is also certified as an Non-denominational Chaplain in Ontario, Canada, which has an Equal Marriage Act allowing legal marriage for all couples, all genders.