GETTING MARRIED IN A UNITARIAN CEREMONY
III PROCEDURE FOR AN INFORMAL WEDDING
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
In a commercial setting (always difficult), it must be made clear to the
the bar be closed and no alcohol be served prior to the
IV. THE MARRIAGE SERVICE
(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
GREETING AND INSTRUCTION
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.
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.
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
Kahlil Gibran from "The Prophet"
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE (Choose one)
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.
THE PRESENTATION (Choose one)
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
Response: We do.
[Number 5 is particularly nice in that it gives equal recognition to all
To the couple: ______, do you now declare your willingness to take
______ to be your wife/husband/spouse?
Response: I do.
COMMITMENT OF THE CONGREGATION (Optional)
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.
PREFACE TO THE VOWS
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
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
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.
RECOGNITION OF CHILDREN
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 RING CEREMONY
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
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
The one giving the ring repeats after the Minister:
1. ______ I give you this ring (to wear upon your hand) as a symbol of
2. ______ I give you this ring in token of the commitment we celebrate
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
(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
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
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
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
Love keeps no score of wrongs, Does not gloat over other peoples
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
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
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
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.
WINE CUP CEREMONY (Optional)
(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
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.)
THE PRAYER OF ASPIRATION OR HOPES FOR THE FUTURE (Optional)
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
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.
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.
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.