A Celebrant or Humanist Ceremony
[Remember you will have to do the legal marriage in front of a registrar in your local Registry Office – the fees for this vary, but can be as little as between £50 – £80. The Celebrant will agree the fee for their services, and should be comparable with having the two registrars you must have at a Civil Ceremony or in a church.]
The way you start your ceremony is completely up to you and how you wish to organise the entrance of the bridal party. For example: you might want the wedding party to take part in a Sand Unity ceremony as they enter the venue – each wedding guest adds some coloured sand to a glass receptacle that slowly fills up and symbolizes all the people who witnessed your marriage. The bride and groom can be the last to add some sand before it is corked by the celebrant at the end of the ceremony.
The welcome to the Guests can be as bespoke, personal and relevant to your two families as you wish. This often makes it easier for those couples whose families are not the usual nuclear family unit.
Here are some possible opening remarks.
Today marks a new beginning in Jane & John’s lives together and it means a great deal to both of them that you, their family and friends, are here to witness their wedding vows and to celebrate their marriage. They are so happy that you are all here to share this special moment with them.
We have guests from as far afield as Cornwall, Scotland and Italy. Many of you have known John & Jane all their lives. You have watched them grow up; you went to school with them; you have worked with them and all of you have shared life’s ups and downs. You have all been involved with these two people and witnessed their growing love for each other, so it is fitting that you are the witnesses to their new life together as husband and wife. And I know that today will be a happy and memorable day for all of you.
A statement about how they got together, for example:
In some ways we are very lucky to actually have got here at all! This is one of those occasions when we can thank Facebook for existing. We had to wait for eight years before John got the chance to convince Jane that he was the right man for her. And when they contacted each other via Facebook, it was the second and successful rematch of their romance.
The Giving Away:
For some couples this is not straightforward. Perhaps there is no father present, but a stepfather; or the couple wants to enter together; or they have a more complicated family set up and want to leave it out altogether. Again the script can be written by the Celebrant to suit your situation.
The importance of the ceremony:
Many celebrants like to start with their own choice of reading about the importance of the marriage. Here is one possible:
True marriage is more than joining the bonds of marriage of two persons. It’s the uniting of two souls already attuned to each other. When such a true bond already exists between man and woman, it is fitting that an outer acknowledgment be made. This acknowledgment is the prime object of this gathering and this ceremony. We are here to bear witness to the entry into the closer relationship of husband and wife of these beloved friends who are already one in spirit.
At this point you might like to put in the first Reading from a guest. Even if you wanted a religious reading, this would be possible if your Celebrant is happy to include it.
Although the celebrant is not registered to be able to perform the “legal” part of the ceremony, we can use very similar words and phrases that you said at the registry office. For example:
I do solemnly declare that there was no impediment that prevented me being joined in marriage to Jane.
The celebrant will make a statement to introduce the vows:
John and Jane will be making a declaration of their commitment to each other before us all today. They have found happiness, fulfilment and love and they now wish to spend the rest of their lives together as husband and wife affirming their relationship through the legally binding vows they made in the presence of the registrar, and again in front of us today, sincerely made and faithfully kept. John do you take Jane to be your wedded wife, to share your life with her, to love her, honour her and care for her, through all that the future may hold?
John: I DO
John please repeat after me… I call upon these persons here present/ to witness that I John / do take you Jane / to be my wedded wife.
The exchange of Rings, vows and promises:
At this point the celebrant may ask the guests to all stand as they witness your vows to each other. Again your vows and promises could be exactly as you said at the registry office, or you can make up your own.
You can include the contracting words that are used in the legal ceremony with a few changes:
I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, John, do take you, Jane, to be my wedded wife.
How you choose to have your rings presented is, again, up to you. Some couples have used quite extraordinary methods, delivered by a bird, in a receptacle that is significant to the couple – a walking boot, a significant person, a family pet etc. etc.
Here are some examples of vows and promises:
Groom: I give you this ring as a sign of our love, trust and marriage. I promise to care for you above all others, to give you my love, friendship and support. I pledge my dedication to you for the rest of my life. To provide you with comfort, peace, happiness and strength. I promise for you to always be the key to my heart, and promise to look upon you forever with unconditional love. No amount of darkness can hide a spark of light.
Or: I promise to love and respect you, helping our love grow, always being there to listen, comfort and support you, whatever our future may bring.
Or: With this ring I choose you because you are my best friend, and the love of my life. I promise to be loyal and faithful. To bring sunshine to your heart and food for your soul. I promise to grow with you even as time and life change us both. To laugh with you in good times and comfort you in times of struggle.
Or: I promise to respect you and cherish you as an individual, a partner and an equal. May we have many adventures and grow old together.
At this point the Celebrant can announce that they are husband and wife and John can kiss the bride.
Certificate of Marriage:
Although there is no register to sign, the celebrant can create a “certificate of marriage” on parchment paper for you as a memento of the ceremony. You can have members of the party to witness these, thereby including more people in your ceremony, which can be presented to you by the Celebrant.
Other additional rituals:
At this point some couples may incorporate another ritual, such as a hand fasting ceremony. Here, the coloured ribbons that have been woven together prior to the ceremony, are used to bind the hands of the couple together. For instance, the Celebrant may introduce it:
Handfasting is a traditional and symbolic way of joining two people in matrimony. We have 3 ribbons, braided together to represent Jane’s life, John’s life and their new life together, bound by their love and commitment to each other which I will tie loosely round their hands.
John and Jane, can you please hold hands. (The celebrant ties their hands together as s/he says the next statement). As this knot is tied, so are your lives now bound. Woven into this ribbon, imbedded into its very fibres, are all the hopes of your friends and family, and of yourselves, for your new life together. With the fashioning of the knot, I tie all the desires, dreams, love and happiness wished for here in this place, as long as you both shall live.
Everyone is now asked to sit down and the second guest may read another reading or poem. The Handfasting ribbons are now untied and put on the ceremony table.
Here are a few others that have been used by couples:
The giving of roses to the two mothers of the bride and groom
The planting of a tree by the Bride and Groom
The closing of a wine box, which includes love letters to each other and then to be opened at a date of your choice, e.g. a wedding anniversary or the birth of your first child.
Jumping the Broom is another ritual, rather like the Handfasting ceremony, echoing ancient ways of signaling a
couples’ commitment to each other. The Bride and Groom “jump” over a besom broom held by the Best Man and Head Bridesmaid to signify them entering a new phase of their lives, sweeping clean their lives etc. The Brooms can be highly decorated and can be displayed in their home.
Conclusion of the Ceremony
The Celebrant will draw the ceremony to a close. They will all have their own specific closing statements. Here is an example:
John and Jane, you have both made the declarations required by law. You have exchanged special promises and made a solemn and binding contract with each other in the presence of your family, witnesses and guests. May your home be a source of love and happiness. Know that as you leave this room you will be carrying the love and good wishes of everybody here with you.
Ladies and gentlemen to conclude the ceremony if I can ask John and Jane to turn round to face your guests, may I present to you all, Mr and Mrs Smith.
This is an example of a possible format for a Civil Celebrant Ceremony, including some of the ideas that have been used by other couples. The only restriction is your imagination.
Thank you to Erica Harley – Marriage Celebrant, for this wonderful insight.
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