At an informal wedding there may be no music, though music may be desired if played beforehand while the guests are arriving.

While it is traditional for the bride to be escorted in by her father, it would be possible to have the minister in place, the witnesses to escort each other, and then each partner to be escorted by a parent on each arm. These gives equal recognition to all four parents.

There there are more than two attendants (one witness each) a rehearsal might be advisable.

The essentials are a large room for the ceremony itself, and a desk or table for the signing of the registration and register. If the chalice is used, it may also be on this table.

In a home setting you may wish to switch off the telephone to prevent interruption.

In a commercial setting (always difficult), it must be made clear to the management that the bar be closed and no alcohol be served prior to the ceremony.


(It is important that the ceremony be as meaningful as possible. The following materials are offered as helpful suggestions. You may choose from them as they stand or with some modification, or you may wish to write your own ceremony. Please discuss which headings you would like to include in your ceremony and which selections you wish to choose under those headings.)



Welcome! My name is ____, a Unitarian minister. It is my honour to officiate at the wedding of ______ and_____. We would appreciate if flash photos were not taken during the ceremony. They may be taken during the kiss, and at the signing of the registry. Video and non-flash photos are fine if the takers are discreet.

OPENING WORDS (Choose one)

1. What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined together to strengthen each other in all labour, to minister to each other in all sorrow to share with each other in all gladness, to be one with each other in the silent unspoken memories.

George Elliot

2. Let not 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 fixed 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 being sickle' s compass come; Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks but bears it out even to the age of doom. If this be error and upon me prov'd, I never writ nor no man ever lov'd.

William Shakespeare: Sonnet 116

3. The most wonderful of all things in life is the discovery of another human being with whom one's relationship has a growing depth, beauty and joy as the years increase. this inner progressiveness of love between two human beings is a most marvelous thing; it cannot be found by looking for it or by passionately wishing for it. It is a sort of Divine accident, and the most wonderful of all things in life.

Hugh Walpole.

4. Love consists of this that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.

Rainer Maria Rilke.

5. When love beckons to you, follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep, And when his wings enfold you, yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed: For love is sufficient unto love.

Kahlil Gibran from "The Prophet"


J. McRee Elrod
1. To the congregation:

We have gathered together to celebrate with ...... and ....... the marriage in which they are now to be united. From the earliest times, marriage has been recognized as a natural relationship, solemnized by the observances of religion and consecrated by the men and women in all ages who have brought it's beauty to flower.

It is not therefore to be entered upon inadvisedly or lightly, but with deliberation and reverence.

The celebration in which we join today is the outward symbol of this inward relationship, recognized by human society but made real and living only within the lives of those who share it.

Neither does it mark a beginning nor an end in a relationship, but one step in a continuing process of change and growth. Growth is an essential part of marriage as it is an essential part of life. A relationship must keep unfolding into new dimensions, moving in step as they go forward together, their marriage will remain a source of new strength and insight.

Into this sacred union ______ and ______ desire to enter.

To the couple:

You have freely decided to commit yourselves to each other in a close and continuing relationship in which your lives will be intertwined.

In the presence of these witnesses you will exchange your pledge of that commitment, affirming your intention to strengthen and cherish the relationship you are building together and to find through the sharing of your lives with each other a unity that will take you out of the loneliness of the isolated self.

2. ______ and ______, you have invited us to be with you today as witnesses to your affirmation of the happiness that you have found together, and to the pledge through which you publicly express your personal commitment to one another.

The ceremony in which we now join marks neither a beginning nor an end in your relationship, but one step in a continuing process of change and growth. Growth is an essential part of marriage as it is an essential part of life. Your relationship must keep unfolding into new dimensions, but if you can keep in step as you go forward together, your marriage will remain a source of new strength and insight.

Inevitably there will be mistakes; inevitably there will be times of tension and conflict. But if these are openly acknowledged and faced, they can be turned from problems into opportunities, and you will find new meanings and richness in your shared life together.

3. We who gather here today share with ....... and ......, their celebration of a memorable moment in their lives. The marriage between them is not created by you or me. It is created by themselves, through the mutual love and commitment they already share, and will now put into words in the presence of us all.

It is good that their relatives and friends should be present to rejoice with them; to hear their vows; to extend good wishes; and to be reminded of the loves and commitments that are a part of their own lives as well.


1. Minister: Who brings this woman to be wedded to this man?

Response: I do.

2. Minister: Who brings this woman to be wedded to this man?

Response: Her Mother and I do.

3. Minister: Who presents the bride in marriage?

Response: I do.

4. Minister: Who stands with this couple to express the good wishes of their families and friends?

Response: I do.

5. Minister: As our sons and daughters find partners and found the homes of the next generation each family is enlarged. Do you, who have nurtured these two, give your blessing to their union and their home?

Response: We do.

[Number 5 is particularly nice in that it gives equal recognition to all four parents.]

Happy Couple

To the couple: ______, do you now declare your willingness to take ______ to be your wife/husband/spouse?

Response: I do.


Will the congregation please stand (and join hands).

Minister: A marriage is above all else an intimate relationship between two persons. But it also has wider ramifications into the lives of relatives and friends, and of the community at large. Do you who are here assembled pledge your support to and in the commitment that ______ and ______ celebrate today?

Response: We do.

The congregation may be seated.


The vows through which you accept each other as husband and wife have no hidden power in themselves. only to the extent that they express in words your continuing intention and commitment do they have meaning.

In a world where the pressures pushing people apart often seem stronger than those drawing people together, your commitment to each other will need to be re-expressed in many different ways in the coming days and years. The expression in your vows today is simply a visible milestone in your journey together.

Bride(s) hands bouquet(s) to her witness.

I invite you now to join hands as you repeat your vows. The hand offered by each of you is an extension of self, just as is your mutual love. Cherish the touch, for you touch not only your own, but another life. Be sensitive to it's pulse. Seek always to understand and respect it's rhythm.

EXCHANGE OF VOWS (Choose one, or write your own)

1. I, ______ now take you, ______ to be my wife/husband/spouse.

2. In the presence of these witnesses I, ______ now take you, to be my wife/husband/spouse. To have and to hold. From this day forward, For better, for worse, For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, In sorrow or in joy, To love and to cherish As long as we both shall live.

3. ______, I take you to be my wife/husband/spouse, to be the mother/father of my children, to be the companion of my days. We shall bear together whatever sorrow and adversity life may lay upon us. we shall share together whatever of joy and fulfillment life may hold in store.

4. In the sight of God and in the presence of the company here assembled, I, ______ do take thee, ______, to be my wedded wife/husband/spouse, to have and to hold from this day forward till death do us part.

5. From this day forward, ______, you shall be my wife/husband/spouse, together to love, to work and to share, to grow and to understand, to discover a deeper, fuller life.

6. In reaffirming the relationship we have been building together, I, ______ now take you, ______ to be my wife/husband/spouse.

7. In the presence of these witnesses I, _______, now take you, ______ , to be my wife/husband/spouse. I give you my friendship and trust, my loyalty and respect. I stand before you and pledge my love and commitment to you, and to our lifelong relationship.


Where one or both of the partners have children who are to be part of the family, they may take the child/children by the hand and repeat:

______, we want you to share in the life and love of our family home.


The witnesses or the ring bearer now give the rings to the Minister:

1. A circle is the symbol of the sun and the earth and the universe. It represents wholeness and peace. In the form of a ring it is the accepted token of marriage. By the use of this ring you express in visible form the unbroken circle of your love, in which wherever you go you will always return to your shared life together.

2. You have had these rings crafted as special symbols of what you intend that your love and your marriage will mean to you. As you wear them, may your commitment to that ideal be fulfilled abundantly.

3. May your ring be always the symbol of the unbroken circle of love. Love freely given has no beginning and no end. Love freely given has no separate giver and receiver. You are each the giver and each the receiver. May your ring always call to mind the freedom and the power of this love.

4. Everything the "power of the world" does is done in a circle. The sky is round and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are the stars. The wind, in it's greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing and always come back again to where they were. Life is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Black Elk, Oglala Sioux.

5. These rings are formed as the linked strands, with no beginning and no end, and as these two form one ring, so shall your two lives entwine in one. May your love be carried safely thus, by each of you, for both of you.

The one giving the ring repeats after the Minister:

1. ______ I give you this ring (to wear upon your hand) as a symbol of our love.

2. ______ I give you this ring in token of the commitment we celebrate today.

3. ______ I give you this ring (to wear upon your hand) as a symbol of our love and commitment.

4. ______ I give you this ring in token of the love and commitment we celebrate today.


(If there are one or two others whom you wish to include in the ceremony, having them do the reading(s) is a good way of doing so.)

1. On Marriage, Kahlil Gibran (from The Prophet)


You are joined together and together you shall be forevermore. You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days. Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God, But let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of heaven dance between you. Love one another, but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. (Fill each others cup, but drink not from one cup.) Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping, For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

2. On Love, x Thomas a Kempis (from Imitatio Christi, 15th Century)

Love is a mighty power, a great and complete good. Love alone lightens every burden, and makes the rough places smooth. It bears every hardship as though it were nothing, and renders all bitterness sweet and acceptable. Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing stronger, nothing higher, nothing wider, nothing more pleasant, nothing fuller or better in heaven or earth; for love is born of God. Love flies, runs and leaps for joy. It is free and unrestrained. Love knows no limits, but ardently transcends all bounds. Love feels no burden, takes no account of toil, attempts things beyond it's strength; love sees nothing as impossible, for it feels able to achieve all things. Love therefore does great things; it is strange and effective; while those who lack love faint and fall. Love is not fickle and sentimental, nor is it intent on vanities. Like a living flame and a burning torch, it surges upward and surely surmounts every obstacle.

3a. On Love, Paul the Apostle (Trad Rendering 1 Corinthians X111 from King James Version, mods from English revised version)

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophesy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, But have not love, I am nothing, And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, And though I give my body to be burned, But have not love, it profiteth me nothing. Love suffereth long, and is kind; Love envieth not, love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, Is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejioiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, Hopeth all things, endureth all things, And now abideth faith, hope, love these three; but the greatest of these is love.

3b. On Love Paul the Apostle (Mod trans New English Bible) I may speak in tongues of men and of angels, but if I am without love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. I may have the gift of prophecy, and know every hidden truth; I may have faith strong enough to move mountains; But if I have no love, I am nothing. I may dole out all I possess, or even seek glory by self sacrifice, But if I have no love, I am none the better. Love is patient, love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; Never selfish, nor quick to take offense. Love keeps no score of wrongs, Does not gloat over other peoples shortcomings, But delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot face; There is no limit to it's faith, it's hope, and it's endurance. There are three things that last forever: faith, hope and love; But the greatest of them all is love.

4. "The Rhythm of Free Partners" by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (from Gift from the Sea)

A good relationship has a pattern like a dance and is built on some of the same rules. The partners do not need to hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern, intricate but happy and swift and free, like a country dance of Mozart's. To touch heavily would be to arrest the pattern & freeze the movement, to check the endlessly changing beauty of its unfolding. There is no place here for the possessive clutch, the clinging arm, the heavy hand; only the barest touch in passing. Now arm in arm, now face to face, now back to back - it does not matter which. Because they know they are partners moving in the same rhythm, creating a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it. The joy of such a pattern is not only the joy of creation or the joy of participation, it is also the joy of loving in the moment. Lightness of touch and living in the moment are intertwined. When both partners love so completely that they have forgotten to ask whether or not they are loved in return; when they only know that they love and are moving to its music - then, and then only, are two people able to dance perfectly in tune to the same rhythm.

5. Come Travel With Me Walt Whitman (from The Song of the Open Road)

Listen! I will be honest with you, I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes. These are days that must happen to you; You shall not heap up what are called riches You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve. Come, we must not stop here, However sweet these laid up stores, However convenient this dwelling, However sheltered this port and however calm these waters, We must not anchor here, However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us, We are permitted to receive it but a little while, Come, 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.

6. A Marriage Blessing (Salish Indian)

Now for you there is no rain For one is shelter to the other. Now for you the sun shall not burn For one is shelter to the other. Now for you nothing is hard or bad, For the hardness and the badness is taken by one for the other. Now for you there is no night, For one is light to the other. Now for you the snow has ended always. It is that way, from now on, from now on. Now it is good and there is always food, And now there is always drink, And now there is comfort. Now there is no loneliness. Now forever - forever, there is no loneliness.

7. Respect for One Another Albert Schweitzer (Memories of childhood and Youth)

To know one another cannot mean to know everything about each other; it means to feel mutual affection and confidence, and to believe in one another. We must not try to force our way into the personality of another. No one has the right to say to another: "because we belong to each other as we do, I have the right to know all your thoughts." All demands of this sort are foolish and unwholesome. In this matter giving is the only valuable process; it is only giving that stimulates. Impart as much as you can of your spiritual being to those who are on the road with you, and accept as something precious what comes back to you from them.


(The use of the wine cup at a wedding is an ancient tradition. It is particularly appropriate at a marriage where the background of one or both parties is of the Jewish tradition. The Minister has a collection of chalices from which a selection may be made, or the couple may provide their own.)

1. This cup of wine is symbolic of the cup of life. As you share the cup of wine, you undertake to share all that the future may bring. All the sweetness life's cup may hold for you will be the sweeter because you drink it together. Whatever drops of bitterness it may contain will be less bitter because you share them.

(The two drink from the cup.)

2. The years of our lives are a cup of wine poured out for us to drink. The grapes when they are pressed give forth their good juices for the wine. Under the wine press of time our lives give forth their labour and honour and love. 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 running over.

(The couple drinks from the cup.)


1. We pray that the holy spirit of love may deepen and enrich the lives of those who here become husband and wife; that each may be enabled to see life from the other's point of view, that they may be tolerant and open minded, sympathetic and kind, considerate of weakness and forgiving of faults. May the relation-ship which today has been given public expression may continue to develop richly in the days to come; and whatever changes time may bring, let whatever has been said and done here remain as a treasured memory and a guide to life. Amen.

2. In this hour, rich with meaning and hope and promise, we pray that the spirit of trust, understanding and love may be with _____and _____through all the years that lie ahead. May their trust bring them strength and confidence, whatever trails and adversities they may meet; may their understanding support an acceptance of each other amid life's uncertain ties; may their love be an avenue of insight into the deepest realities of our being. In the tomorrows which ____ and _____ will enter together may they find far more in life than either of them would have found alone. May they find tolerances for their prejudices, reverence for the beauties and respect for the truths they will encounter as they go forward together. Amen.

3. We cannot know what the future may bring into the lives of _____ and _____ but we pray that together they may be equal to the demands of all their tomorrows.

May their marriage always be a shared adventure, rich with moments of serenity as well as excitement, vital with problems that test as well as achievements that lift, marked by a sense of personal freedom as well as mutual responsibility. May you find in each other companionship as well as love, understanding as well as compassion, challenge as well as agreement. May their friends and family, those present today and those unable to be present, continue to rejoice in the love that has united them. May the home they build together shed it's peace on them and on all who find shelter within it's walls. May it be a place where personal preoccupations do not tower over concern for others, and where the warmth of humour puts both crisis and dullness into perspective. From their life together may they draw patience in time of strain, strength in time of weakness, courage in time of discouragement, vision in time of doubt, and above all, a growing love which radiates into the world around them. Amen.

4. May the love which has brought you together continue to grow and enrich your lives, bringing peace and inspiration to each of you and to those who know you. May you meet with courage any problems that arise to challenge you; may you meet with strength whatever troubles may beset you. May your marriage be one of ever growing depth and meaning, because of the sympathy, understanding, and love which you give to one another in the life you share. Amen.



1. Minister:

Since ______ and ______ have joined themselves in marriage, and have signified their commitment before us in the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of a ring, they are now and henceforth married / husband and wife / husband and husband / wife and wife.

2. Minister:

Since you, ______, and you ______ have joined yourselves in marriage, and have signified your commitment to each other in the joining of hands and exchanging of rings, you are now and henceforth married / husband and wife / husband and husband / wife and wife.


Go now to walk the ways of the world together and may your days be good and long upon the earth.

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Last modified: Saturday, 19-Mar-2016 09:14:00 PDT