Creative Civil Wedding Ceremonies: traditional, contemporary or unique
Conducted by New York Certified Marriage Officiants*


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 either address the assembled guests themselves, or ask a friend or family member to make remarks and to offer readings, music, or other appropriate contributions. The Celebrant may also read appropriate selections, as the couple requests.

(note: Remember than the rehearsal, and the wedding reception are also an appropriate place for speeches and toasts, so couples may wish to decide whether items more properly belong in the ceremony or the festivities afterwards).

The following TRADITIONAL BASIC FORMAT offers more ceremony choices than the BARE BONES ceremony. It has been adapted from many sources with the primary inspiration of A Humanist Wedding Ceremony, by Corliss Lamont. It may be adapted, elaborated, expanded or revised as the couple desire. Short meditations, poetry, prose, personal thoughts or other Readings by the couple, by the Celebrant, by friends or relatives, may be inserted at any point, or may be substituted for the current text.

Note: this is the same format for a same sex wedding, and of course we adjust the language to your request (eg partner, spouse, bride, husband, etc.)

[order of service may be changed as desired]

READINGS optional
BLESSING optional


Guests may be seated in advance by ushers, accompanied by music, or the guests and witnesses may assemble informally. The couple and celebrant may lead the guests to the ceremony site. Guests may sit or stand, in rows or in a circle or semi-circle.

In a traditional format, the celebrant enters after the last family members are seated and awaits the couple. The couple may wish to enter singly, or the groom and his attendants/family may enter, and then the bridal procession begins, or both parents may lead/join the procession, accompany the bride, and meet the groom halfway. The bride/groom may kiss both parents and lead them to their seats, or may leave their parents' sides and stand together. The couple may also enter together.
Brides may also remove flowers from a bouquet and hand it to each parent, or acknowledge their parents in some way.

The couple might choose the order in which the addresses/questions are asked, e.g BRIDE first, or GROOM first.



"Dear family and friends, we have gathered here today to witness and celebrate the wedding of [Name] and [Name]."


"Dear family and friends, [Name] and [Name] have invited you here today to witness and celebrate this public declaration of the private commitment they have already made to one another. Let us support them with our hope, love, and respect."


"Let us surround you, [Name] and [Name] with our good and loving thoughts, as you make public your commitment to one another."


"(Dearly Beloved) We are gathered here, in the presence of this company, family and friends, that [Name] and [Name] may be united in matrimony."



"Marriage is the supreme sharing of experience, and the joyous uniting of those whose comradeship and mutual understanding have flowered into love. Today [Name] and [Name] proclaim their love to the world, and we who have gathered here rejoice with them and for them in the new life they now undertake."


"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, they dedicate themselves to the happiness and well-being of each other, in a union of mutual caring and responsibility."


"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."


"Marriage is an honorable estate designed to unite two sympathies and hopes into one; and it rests upon the mutual confidence and devotion of husband and wife."


"We have been called together as witnesses to the happiness which this couple has found together and to the pledge which they will now make each to the other for the mutual service of their common life.

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.

Taught by our own joys,
By our own sorrows,
Even by our own failures,
We remind them
That in marriage
As in all life,
Whosoever insists upon saving his lesser goods
And his little self
Shall miss what is greater,

But whosoever forgets himself
In devotion to his beloved
And in consecration to their common enterprise,
Is surest to find a full and happy life."



"This wedding in the Humanist spirit celebrates the joy and the beauty of life."

"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 about everyday living."


"Humanism sees the inseparable unity of body and mind, so that emotion and intellect functioning together provide the firmest foundation. 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."

"[and/or] [Name] and [Name] 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. Humanism [shares many of the ethical values of religious beliefs, and] affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment, aspiring to the greater good of humanity."


(**see absent members memorial, below)


(Parents or others may join in a circle around the couple or stand beside them and repeat these responses, or the Celebrant may address all the guests together)


As we  gather here to join ___ and ___ in marriage. It is fitting that you, the families [and/or] friends of ___ and ___ be here to witness and to participate in their wedding, for the ideals, the understanding, and the mutual respect which they bring to their marriage have their roots in the love, friendship, and guidance you have given them.


They will need your love and respect in the future as well as on this happy day

"As our sons and daughters [our friends and family] find partners and found homes for the next generation, each family is enriched and enlarged. Do you, who have nurtured these two, bestow your blessing on their union and their new family?"
[Name] "Being assured that your choice of [Name] as a lifelong companion is your true intention, who supports this woman/man/ or [Name] to be married to this woman/man/ or [Name]? "

A member of the family, parents, or other supporters answers
"I do", or "We do"

The supporters/family may then be seated, or step away

You many also use this section to acknowledge family members who are not present, or include those who have died or are not able to attend.

CELEBRANT: Our community is also shared by those who cannot be here today, and those have left this life. Their roles in the lives of [Name] and [Name] are honored and remembered as we savor today's joyous moments. Join with us, then, in fond recognition/memory of all these people, and in particular [Names of family and friends]. Let us bring them into our thoughts and our hearts”.

or "For those who are not with us, we honor their memory. We wish they could be here to share this day."

(**You may wish to light a candle(s)in memory of absent members at this point, or place this remembrance BEFORE the family support response).


READINGS [optional]

The bride and groom  have selected this short passage in honor of their wedding.

Bride and Groom may read to each other, or the celebrant may read passages chosen by each. A relative or friend may also offer a reading at this point.



CELEBRANT: "[Name] and [Name], Please face each other."

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

[Name]: "I am."

CELEBRANT: "Will you please join your hands".
(NOTE: give bouquet to attendant)


[Here are some examples. Your celebrant will send you more examples of vows, including personal vows that you can write yourself] 
Please step forward and 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.."


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

“May this be but the beginning of a relationship that will grow and mature with each passing year until the latter days become the promise of the first”.

CELEBRANT: "[Name], Will you have this woman to be your wedded wife/husband,
to share your life with her/him,
and do you pledge that you will love her/him, honor her/him,
and tenderly care for her/him
in all the varying circumstances of your lives?"

REPONSE: "I will." 

or (The "I DO' formula)

CELEBRANT: "[Name] do you take [Name] to be your wedded wife/husband,
to live together in marriage.
Do you promise to love her/him, comfort her/him, honor and keep her/him
For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health
And forsaking all others, be faithful only to her/him.
So long as you both shall live?"

_____, do you commit yourself to _____, as your wife/husband,
accepting him/her for all the risings and settings of the sun,
for all the days of your lives,

do you pledge your faithful love and support
as long as time is yours? 

RESPONSE: "I do" (or "I will")


"In the presence of these witnesses, I, [Name],
take you, [Name], to be my wife/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,
until we are parted by death.
(and) I make you this solemn vow.
(or) And thereto I plight thee my troth.
(or) and with my earnest and complete devotion I give you my love."


"I [Name] take you [Name] to be the wife/husband of my days,
to be the mother/father of my children,
to be the companion of my house;
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." 


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. 



"It is a custom to exchange rings as a symbol of love.
As the rings have no end so your love should have no end."


"A circle is the symbol of the sun and the earth, and of the universe. It is a symbol of wholeness, and perfection, and of peace. The rings you give and receive this day, then, are symbols of the circle of shared love into which you enter together as husband and wife."

"[Name], what token do you give that you will perform your vows?"
(CELEBRANT receives ring from BRIDE/GROOM )

"[Name], do you receive this ring in token of the same?"

(BRIDE/GROOM places ring on BRIDE/GROOM'S finger)

CELEBRANT prompting, with BRIDE/GROOM following:

"[Name], this ring I give to you, in token and pledge
of my constant faith and abiding love."


"I place this ring on your finger, in token of my love and devotion"

"With this ring, I thee wed"


BLESSING / L'ENVOIE [Optional, may be moved to after Declaration or Signing]
Poetry, Psalm, Sonnet, other blessing,

From a Native American marriage ceremony
(Sometimes known as the Apache Blessing)

May the sun bring you new energies by day;
May the moon softly restore you by night.
May the rain wash away any worries you may have
And the breeze blow new strength into your being.
And all the days of your life,
May you walk gently through the world
And know its beauty.

Now you will feel not the rain, for each will shelter the other.
Now you will feel not cold, for each will warm the other.
Now you will feel not solitude, for each will company other.
Now you are two persons, but both will lead one life.
Go now to your dwelling to enter into the days of your life,
And may your days be good and long upon the earth.

or Celtic Benediction (below)


"And now, 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 with its joy, its laughter, its sorrow and its pain. May you find together the loftiest that is in the universe. May you dwell together in peace, love and joy."

We know not what the future may bring into the life of this couple, but together may they be equal to the needs of their tomorrows. May they have patience in time of strain, strength in time of weakness, courage in time of doubt, and above all, a growing love to sustain them.

 May all who love ___________ and ____________ continue to rejoice in the commitments they have made to one another. We ask for them that the meaning of these moments may abide throughout their lives, and they may be a comfort and a joy to each other. May each bring intelligence and commitment as well as faith to the task which is set before them. May they maintain enduring respect and trust. May their home be a place of peace for them and all who enter it. May all who follow their lives with affection have cause often to rejoice, not only in their happiness, but also in their brave and generous living 



"Inasmuch as [Name] and [Name] have consented together in this ceremony to live in wedlock and have witnessed their vows in the presences of this company and have given and received rings as a token of their vow, I now pronounce, by the authority vested in me, and in accordance with the laws of the State of New York, that they are husband and wife."


"Forasmuch as [Name] and [Name] 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 vested in me by the State of New York, pronounce that they are husband and wife."


"Forasmuch as [Name] and [Name] have grown in knowledge and love of one another, and because they have agreed in their desire to go forward in life together, seeking an even richer, deepening relationship, and because they have pledged to meet sorrow and joy as one family, we rejoice to recognize them as husband and wife."


"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, and you are now husband and wife."


KISS/EMBRACE [or may save to end of ceremony]


SIGNING OF MARRIAGE LICENSE [or may be moved to after ceremony]
Musical interlude is usual during the signing




CELEBRANT holds up Chalice

"The years of our lives are as a cup of wine poured out for us to drink. [Name] and [Name] Drink now to each other from this bowl, and may the cup of your lives be sweet and full."


"This cup is a sign of your unity. Although you are two distinct persons, both respecting the equal dignity of the other, you have chosen to unite your lives and to seek your happiness together. You drink from the same cup to be reminded that you will share pain and pleasure, struggle and hope."


"The years of life are as a cup of wine poured out for you to drink. The cup of life contains within it the sweet wine of happiness, joy, hope and delight. The same cup, at times, holds the bitter wine of disappointment, sorrow, grief, and despair. Those who drink deeply of life invites the full range of experiences into their being.

This cup is symbolic of the pledges you have to made to one another to share together the fullness of life. As you drink from this cup, you acknowledge to one another that your lives, until this moment separate, have become one vessel into which all your sorrows and joys, all your hopes and fears, all you dreams and dreads, will be poured, and from which you will find mutual sustenance. Many days you will sit at the same table and eat and drink together.

Drink now, and may the cup of your lives be sweet and full to overflowing.

(Present glass to [Name], to sip and pass to [Name] )

or add another optional blessing/toast, such as

A Celtic Benediction

"The peace of the running water to you,
The peace of the flowing air to you,
The peace of the quiet earth to you,
The peace of the shining star to you,
And the love and the care of all of us to you."

CELEBRANT may invite the guests to repeat this blessing, line by line, or to simply answer "And so say we all" at the close..

or drink from cup and guests may sing 'Drink to me only with thine eyes' following words printed in the program.

"Drink to me only with thine eyes
And I will pledge with mine
Or leave a kiss within the cup
And I'll not ask for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine
But might I of Jove's nectar sip
I would not change for thine.
Ben Jonson

Wrap the glass in a napkin and place it under the groom or brides foot.

CELEBRANT: "As there is no joy without sorrow, and no new beginnings with out endings, May the sound of the glass breaking be the sound of mazeltov"


CELEBRANT:  (takes 2 roses from table or attendant)
You now have what remains the most honorable title which may exist between a man and a woman - the title of "husband" and "wife." The rose is a symbol of love and a single rose always means one thing - the words "I love you." So it is appropriate that for your first gift as husband and wife, that gift will be a single rose. Please exchange your first gift as husband and wife.

(CELEBRANT gives bride and groom a rose)

Your gift to each other for your wedding today has been your wedding rings - which shall always be an outward demonstration of your vows of love and respect; and your commitment to each other.

For your first gift as husband and wife, that gift will be a single rose.

(couple exchanges roses)

In some ways it seems like you have not done anything at all. Just a moment ago you were holding one small rose - and now you are holding one small rose. In some ways, a marriage ceremony is like this. In some ways, tomorrow is going to seem no different than yesterday. But just now, you both have given and received one of the most valuable and precious gifts of life - the gift of true and abiding love within the devotion of marriage.

BRIDE AND GROOM, I would ask that where ever you make your home in the future, that you both pick one very special location for roses; so that on each anniversary of this truly wonderful occasion you both may take a rose to that spot both as a re-commitment to your marriage.

In every marriage there are times where it is difficult to find the right words. It is easiest to hurt those who we most love, and easiest to be most hurt by who we most love. It might be difficult some time to words to say "I am sorry" or "I forgive" or "I need you". 

If this should happen, if you simply can not find these words, leave a rose at that spot which both of you have selected - for that rose will say what matters most of all and should overpower all other things and all other words.

That rose will say the words: "I still love you." The other should accept this rose for the words which cannot be found, and remember the love and hope that you both share today. 


CELEBRANT: "I now present to you [Name] and [Name], Husband and wife."  (or wife/wife, husband/husband, partner/partner, etc)


This ceremony worksheet Copyright By Mary Beaty