I've actually been meaning to do this post for SO LONG, and I just kept pushing it off for other things. For that reason, I'm really excited to finally get to share it with you all today! As many of you know, I got married this past February down in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, which is a smaller tourist town just outside of Cancun. (Side note: If you're looking for a honeymoon or vacation spot with amazing beaches, this is definitely the spot!)
Because I was having a destination wedding, there were some things that I had to wait until the last minute to do, including meeting our ceremony officiant. Now that I think about it, I'm not even sure that I met her until after I walked down the aisle! For that reason, I knew that I needed to over prepare ahead of time, and write out exactly what I wanted her to say during our marriage ceremony. I'm sure that she had her own standard script, but I wasn't going to leave anything to chance! That, and I wanted our ceremony to be personal, and there were a few things that I wanted to make sure were included.
When I sat down to write our ceremony script, I was honestly so confused and overwhelmed by the amount of information available. If you've already began looking online for some help writing your own vows or marriage ceremony, then you probably know that there are about a million and one different ways to go about it - some that are completely different, and others with only minor differences. It was the small variations to things that confused me the most though. I'd be looking for just the traditional marriage vows, and there were so many different versions, that I had no idea which one was "right" and which ones weren't! Now, I'm definitely no expert on this, and if you have access to your officiant or a friend or family member who is more knowledgable on the subject, then I highly recommend talking to them about your ceremony. However, if you happen to be like me, and are trying to tackle this task on your own, then here's how I went about writing my own ceremony script:
I found that a good way to begin writing your ceremony is to begin researching based on what type of religious ceremony you're having. Or, if you're looking for a more spritual ceremony, then start searching for those. Dale and I chose to go with a Lutheran-based marriage ceremony, based on our own personal beliefs, so I started by gathering all of the best versions of a Lutheran marriage ceremony script in one document - literally just cut and paste. Once I had a few versions, I started to delete anything that was repetitive and any parts that I didn't like or deem necessary for our ceremony. From there, I divided the ceremony into different sections and focused on each section individually. I've included a list of the sections that I included just below. With the exception of the ceremony readings, which were actually dispersed throughout the ceremony, in between other parts, this is the exact order of parts that I used.
Parts of Marriage Ceremony
- Opening Prayer
- Definition of Commitment
- Wedding Vows
- Exchanging of the Rings
- Closing Prayer
- Declaration of Marriage
- Ceremony Readings
The ceremony usually begins in a way that's familiar to many of us here in the U.S., with "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to..." and then usually touches upon the seriousness of the impending union. Then, begins the (you guessed it) opening prayer! Be sure to include a "You may be seated" line in there, too, since your guests will still be standing after watching you walk down the aisle ;)
Definition of Commitment
This part of the ceremony was the trickiest for me, because there are SO many different ways of going about it. There were some similarities among the versions that I found, but a lot of it can be tailored to your own relationship and preferences. In ours, the officiant "charges" us to remember our commitment to one another, and then goes into our "duties" to one another, individually as husband and wife - to be a loving husband/wife, faithful, tender, patient and affectionate. When I was putting together this section, I actually found the different parts directed toward the bride and groom to be a bit sexist, which is to be expected, given the fact that a lot of this stuff was originally written long ago. So I just rewrote this part a bit so that I was happy with it! The final part of this section should be the transition into your vows.
Dale and I chose not to write our own vows for a couple of reasons, but it was mainly because we loved that we would be saying the same words, and making the same lifelong promise that millions of other couples had made to one another for many, many years. There's something really and truly beautiful about that :) This was another section that had a million and one small variations to it, so I ultimately just went with the wording that I liked best. Remember that the Vows, which is the "I take thee...to have and to hold..." part, shouldn't be confused with the Exchanging of the Rings, which is the "I give you this ring as a sign of my love and faithfulness" part. The Knot actually has a great "Wording Wizard," that can help you write your vows based on your religious background that's worth checking out, as well!
Exchanging (or Blessing) of the Rings
In some of the ceremony scrips that I found, the exchanging or blessing of the rings was mixed in with the vows part, and sometimes it was kept separate. This totally confused me, but I ultimately decided to keep the two parts separate. The two most common ways to word this part was the way that I used (see full script below), and the "As circles have no beginning and no end, rings have naturally come to symbolize eternal love..." I actually found this great page with several different ways to bless the rings right here.
My husband, Dale, was very adament about this part, and really wanted the traditional Lord's Prayer to be included in our ceremony, so this is what we used. However, there are a few different prayers that you can use here. Here are a few examples of Christian closing ceremonies.
This part was actually a really, really meaningful one to me, personally...although the entire ceremony was meaningful, of course! ;) I chose to integrate the first part of the traditional Apache Blessing, which was also read when my own parents got married. I remember looking over at my mom when the officiant began reading it, and I was definitely a "goner," as they say, at that point! I really encourage you to try to integrate something personal or meaningful into your ceremony - whether that's somehow honoring a family member who has passed away, including your favorite poem into your ceremony reading or integrating a cultural blessing (there are tons of great ones out there...I really love the Traditional Irish Blessing, in particular). A blessing like this can be placed anywhere you'd like during your ceremony, really...many actually ask a friend or family member to recite it as a reading. I just felt like it flowed nicely between the closing prayer and the final marriage declaration.
Declaration of Marriage
Short, but sweet, this is the closing of your marriage ceremony and includes the well known "with the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife," part. The declaration is always sealed with a kiss!
As I'm sure you know, there is a ton of flexibility here, and I encourage you to select a reading that is really meaningful to you. This may or may not be a traditional bible verse such as 1 Corinthians 13:4, or it could be something totally different and unique to you and your husband. I've even heard of couples using "Oh, the places you'll go!" by Dr. Seuss as one of their ceremony readings! We actually asked Dale's dad to choose a reading to recite during our ceremony, and it was very beautiful and really felt like it was one-of-a-kind. If you're still looking for a reading that you love, The Wedding Bee is a great place to find a TON of options. So many, it can get overwhelming though, I'll warn you! I actually don't have Dale's father's reading in print in order to share with you, so I've just pulled a few of my personal favorites for you guys to consider:
"The Lord God said: 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.'
So the Lord God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air,
and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them;
whatever the man called each of them would be its name.
The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals;
but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.
So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep,
he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
The Lord God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man.
When he brought her to the man, the man said:
'This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
This one shall be called 'woman,'
For out of 'her man' this one has been taken.'
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife,
and the two of them become one body."
To love is not to possess
Written by James Kavanaugh, via The Offbeat Bride
To love is not to possess,
To own or imprison,
Nor to lose one's self in another.
Love is to join and separate,
To walk alone and together,
To find a laughing freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit.
It is finally to be able
To be who we really are
No longer clinging in childish dependency
Nor docilely living separate lives in silence,
It is to be perfectly one's self
And perfectly joined in permanent commitment
To another--and to one's inner self.
Love only endures when it moves like waves,
Receding and returning gently or passionately,
Or moving lovingly like the tide
In the moon's own predictable harmony,
Because finally, despite a child's scars
Or an adult's deepest wounds,
They are openly free to be
Who they really are--and always secretly were,
In the very core of their being
Where true and lasting love can alone abide.
By William Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! It is an ever-fix'd mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd.
I hope my advice helps! I've included my ceremony script just below. Like I said, I'm no expert on these things, and the ceremony will obviously change depending on your own personal beliefs. Above all else, I hope that you forget what you're "supposed" to do, and make your ceremony about the two of you. Make it personal. Intimate. It is probably the most important part of your entire day - make it mean something!
Our Marriage Ceremony
February 5, 2011 - Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
We are gathered here in the presence of God, family and friends to unite Sarah and Dale in holy matrimony. Marriage is an honorable estate, and is therefore not to be entered into lightly, but reverently, advisedly, soberly and with God's blessing. Today, they will receive God's greatest gift; another person to share with, grow with, change with, be joyful with and to stand with as one when trials and tribulations enter their lives. It is fitting, therefore, that we should on this occasion begin by asking for God's blessing on this marriage. Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we gather to celebrate your gift of love, and its presence among us. We rejoice that these two people have chosen to commit themselves to a life of loving faithfulness to one another. We praise you, Lord, for the ways you have touched our lives with loving relationships such as Dale and Sarah's, and we give thanks for the special love and friendship you have put in their hearts. Renew within us an affectionate and loving spirit. Enrich our lives with the gracious gift of your love so that we may embrace others with that same love. May our participation in this celebration of love and commitment, give to us a new joy and responsiveness to the relationships that we cherish. In your loving arms we pray, Amen.
You may all be seated.
Definition of Commitment
Marriage is a joyous occasion. It is connected in our thoughts with the charm of love, the warmth of home, and with all that is pleasant, as being one of the most important events of our lives. Its sacredness and unity is the most significant and binding covenant known in human relations.
Dale and Sarah, let me charge you both to remember that your future happiness is to be in mutual consideration, patience, kindness, confidence and affection. It is the duty of each of you to find your greatest joy in the company of the other; to remember that your love pledged today must remain undivided for a lifetime.
It is your duty, Dale, to be to Sarah, a considerate, tender, faithful, and loving husband: to support, guide and cherish her in prosperity and trouble; to thoughtfully and carefully enlarge the place she holds in your life; to constantly show to her the tokens of your affection, to shelter her from danger, and to love her with an unchangeable love.
It is your duty, Sarah, to be to Dale, a considerate, tender, faithful, and loving wife; to comfort, guide and cherish him in prosperity and trouble; to give to him the unfailing evidences of your affection; to continue making the place he holds in your heart, broader and deeper; to support him, value him and work with him to make your marriage the very best that it can be.
I call your attention to the seriousness of the decision which you have made and the covenant you are about to declare before God. The vows you are about to take are not to be taken without careful thought, for in them you are committing yourselves exclusively to one another for as long as you both shall live.
If you are ready to assume the obligations and duties before God, as I have defined them, you will unite your hands and pledge your love and your lives to each other.
Dale, repeat after me.
I Dale, take you, Sarah, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, for as long as we both shall live. This is my solemn vow.
Now Sarah, please repeat after me.
I Sarah, take you, Dale, to be my husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, for as long as we both shall live. This is my solemn vow.
Exchanging of the Rings
You will now exchange rings as a symbol of the lifelong commitment and abiding love which you as husband and wife have promised to each other.
Dale, please place the ring on Sarah's finger, and repeat after me.
I give you this ring as a sign of my love and faithfulness.
And Sarah, please place the ring on Dale's finger and repeat after me.
I give you this ring as a sign of my love and faithfulness.
A reading by Dale's father
Eternal God, help Dale and Sarah to fulfill the promises they have made here today and to reflect your steadfast love in their commitment to each other. Give them kindness and patience, affection and understanding, happiness and contentment. May their family and friends continue to support them in difficult days, so that their love for each other may continue to grow as long as they both shall live.
Let us all pray.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On Earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
And the power, and the glory,
Forever and ever.
As this couple has joined lives here today, it's important to understand that everyone present has played a part in shaping the characters of Sarah & Dale, and will play a vital role in their continuing lives. And thus we are here not only to witness their vows to each other, but also to bestow upon them our blessing.
Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there will be no more loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies, but there is only one life before you.
May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead.
And may your days together be good and long upon the earth.
Declaration of Marriage
Sarah and Dale, having witnessed your vows for marriage before God and all who are assembled here, by the authority invested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride!
It is my pleasure to introduce to you for the first time...
All photography by Erick Rodriguez