Ceremony – Declaration of Intent (I Do’s) – adapted by Arwen Freer

SPOUSE1, do you choose SPOUSE2 to be your lawfully wedded ROLE2, and do you promise to give yourself in all love and honor, in all duty and service, in all faith and tenderness, and forsaking all others, to live with, and cherish PRONOUN2, in the holy bond of marriage as long as you both shall live? (Pause for SPOUSE1 response: I do)

SPOUSE2, do you choose SPOUSE1 to be your lawfully wedded ROLE1, and do you promise to give yourself in all love and honor, in all duty and service, in all faith and tenderness, and forsaking all others, to live with, and cherish PRONOUN1, in the holy bond of marriage as long as you both shall live? (Pause for SPOUSE2 response: I do)

OPTION: for secular ceremonies, the word “holy” can be omitted.

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Reading – Plato’s Symposium (excerpt)

Humans have never understood the power of Love, for if they had they would surely have built noble temples and altars and offered solemn sacrifices; but this is not done, and most certainly ought to be done, since Love is our best friend, our helper, and the healer of the ills which prevent us from being happy.

To understand the power of Love, we must understand that our original human nature was not like it is now, but different. Human beings each had two sets of arms, two sets of legs, and two faces looking in opposite directions. There were three sexes then: one comprised of two men called the children of the Sun, one made of two women called the children of the Earth, and a third made of a man and a woman, called the children of the Moon. Due to the power and might of these original humans, the Gods began to fear that their reign might be threatened. They sought for a way to end the humans’ insolence without destroying them.

It was at this point that Zeus divided the humans in half. After the division the two parts of each desiring their other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one. So ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of humankind.

Each of us when separated, having one side only, is but the indenture of a person, and we are always looking for our other half. Those whose original nature lies with the children of the Sun are men who are drawn to other men, those from the children of the Earth are women who love other women, and those from the children of the Moon are men and women drawn to one another. And when one of us meets our other half, we are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other’s sight even for a moment. We pass our whole lives together, desiring that we should be melted into one, to spend our lives as one person instead of two, and so that after our death there will be one departed soul instead of two; this is the very expression of our ancient need. And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called Love.

 

 

 

 

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Reading – The Wedding of Serge and Molly, from the book Torpedo Juice By Tim Dorsey

I, Serge, take you, Molly, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to love and to hold, in sickness and on health, in good times and bad, choosing you exclusively as my wife, friend, partner, airtight alibi, getaway driver, nurturing each other’s growth, making fun of the same relatives behind their backs, developing a list of running gags that is the foundation of any solid relationship, doing all the cool things married people do, which is why I’m really looking forward to this: snuggling on the couch with photo albums, watching classic movies in bed with lots of snacks, making silly remarks when we fart, at least at first before is becomes contentious, always agreeing with my wife that her really hot-looking friends dress like sluts and promising never, ever to fight. And when we do, to fight fair and not take off our rings and throw them at each other or reach for hot-button secrets we confided like those kids from junior high and their cruel nicknames-damn them to eternal hell! Then having lots and lots of kids with normal names instead of Scout, Tyfani, Dakota, Breeze or Shaniquatella, reading them bedtime stories and nursery rhymes, singing Christmas carols, teaching them that the “special words” Mommy and Daddy use around the house can’t be repeated at school because it’s “our little secret.” I, further solemnly swear to adore and respect, to honor and defend, against all foes foreign and domestic, my love, my light, my life, the wind beneath my wings, the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, fourscore and seven years, in Birmingham they love the guv’nah—ooo-ooo-ooo!  As long as we both shall live! Amen!

 

 

 

 

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Reading – “Today I Marry My Best Friend” by Bertrand Russell

Today I marry my best friend:
The one I have laughed and cried with,
The one I have learned from and shared with,
The one I have chosen to support, encourage and give myself to,
Through all the days, given to us to share,
Today I marry the one I love.

 

 

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Reading – “I Fell in Love with Her Courage…” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity and her flaming self respect. And it’s these things I’d believe in, even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all she should be. I love her and that is the beginning of everything.”

 

 

 

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Reading – Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships?

But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: This quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

 

 

 

 

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Reading – The Rule of Life, by Buddha

“Cherish good will right and left, early and late, and without hindrance, without stint, be free of hate and envy, while standing and walking and sitting down, whatever you have in mind, the rule of life that is always best is to be loving, kind.”   – Buddha in his sermon at Rajagaha

 

 

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Ceremony – Jewish Sheva Brachot, the Seven Benedictions

The Jewish tradition of the Sheva Brachot, the Seven Benedictions:

  • Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.
  • Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Who has created everything for your glory.
  • Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Creator of Human Beings.
  • Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Who has fashioned human beings in your image, according to your likeness and has fashioned from it a lasting mold. Blessed are You Adonai, Creator of Human Beings.
  • Bring intense joy and exultation to the barren one (Jerusalem) through the ingathering of her children amidst her in gladness. Blessed are You, Adonai, Who gladdens Zion through her children.
  • Gladden the beloved companions as You gladdened Your creatures in the garden of Eden. Blessed are You, Adonai, Who gladdens groom and bride.
  • Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, mirth, glad song, pleasure, delight, love, brotherhood, peace, and companionship. Adonai, our God, let there soon be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of gladness, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the grooms’ jubilance from their canopies and of the youths from their song-filled feasts. Blessed are You Who causes the groom to rejoice with his bride.

 

 

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Reading – Carl Sagan on Love

Note: This is not actually a quote from Carl Sagan.  Part of the words are his, the rest are an amalgam from other thinkers.  However, as this quote is generally mis-attributed to Sagan, I have listed it as his, only to aid those who are searching for this quote.

“The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth. We should remain grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides. The sum of all our evolution, our thinking and our accomplishments is love.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Reading – Mark Twain on Marriage

“Marriage makes of two fractional lives a whole, and it gives to two purposeless lives a work […] it gives to two questioning natures a reason for living, and something to live for; it will give a new gladness to the sunshine, a new fragrance to the flowers, a new beauty to the earth, a new mystery to life.”   – Mark Twain

 

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Ceremony – Hand Washing

Couple approaches a table with a bowl of water and two hand towels.

Officiant: Today, you start your life together anew as a married couple. It is best to start with a clean slate, putting problems, big and small, behind you. You come acknowledging that the person you have chosen is not perfect, yet fits with you in a way no other person can. Whatever difficulties you may have experienced, today you have decided that your love is bigger than any of them, and you have chosen a life together. Water brings forgiveness and we all need forgiveness. We need to forgive others and we need to forgive ourselves.  As you wash your hands in this bowl of water, forgive yourself and each other for any pain in the past. Allow yourself to be forgiven for your human imperfections.  (Couple washes their hands.)

Allowing yourselves to have your hands dried by each other signifies your vulnerability. We all have to be vulnerable; it breaks through isolation, and in our own vulnerability, we become more trusting, caring and understanding of our partner. In a loving and compassionate marriage, to achieve the greatest intimacy, you must have the courage to be open and vulnerable to each other.  (Couple dries each other’s hands.)

Do you begin your lives together with grace and compassion?

Couple: We do.

 

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Ceremony – Sand Blending – With Guests

Each of you in attendance were asked to be here because you hold a special place in Spouse2’s and Spouse1’s life.  You came to honor and witness their love and commitment. So, SPOUSE2 and SPOUSE1 wanted to make each of you a tangible part of this ceremony. On their behalf, I will now ask each of you to put a spoonful of sand into this container, representing your love and support for them.

SPOUSE1 and SPOUSE2, today you are making a commitment to share the rest of your lives with each other. Your relationship will be symbolized through the pouring of these two individual containers of sand; each representing all that you were, all that you are, and all that you will ever be.

Consider your containers of sand. Each one holds its own unique beauty, strength, and character. They can stand on their own and be whole, without the need of anything else. These containers represent your lives to this moment; individual and unique. As you now combine your sand together, your lives also join together as one.

When the two are blended, together they represent an entirely new and extraordinary loving relationship. Each grain of sand brings to the mixture a lasting beauty that forever enriches the combination. The life that each of you have experienced until now, individually, will hereafter be inseparably united, for the two shall become one. Just as these grains of sand can never be separated and poured again into the individual containers, so will your lives be.

 

 

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Ceremony – Sand Blending – With Parents

SPOUSE1 and SPOUSE2, today you are making a commitment to share the rest of your lives with each other. Your relationship will be symbolized through this blending of sand.

However, you are not just uniting with each other, but also joining two families together.  Will the parents come forward first and pour a blended layer to honor the foundation each family gave to the Spouse1 and Spouse2 and to show your blessing for this union.

SPOUSE1 and SPOUSE2, consider your containers of sand. Each one holds its own unique beauty, strength, and character. They can stand on their own and be whole, without the need of anything else. These containers represent your lives to this moment; individual and unique. As you now combine your sand together, your lives also join together as one.

When the two are blended, together they represent an entirely new and extraordinary loving relationship. Each grain of sand brings to the mixture a lasting beauty that forever enriches the combination. The life that each of you have experienced until now, individually, will hereafter be inseparably united, for the two shall become one. Just as these grains of sand can never be separated and poured again into the individual containers, so will your lives be.

VARIATION:

An additional layer can be added on top by the minister, to represent God’s blessing to the union.

 

 

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Ceremony – Sand Blending – With Children

SPOUSE1 and SPOUSE2, today you are making a commitment to share the rest of your lives with each other and honor your children as well.

Your family relationship is symbolized through the pouring of these individual containers of sand; one, representing you, SPOUSE1 and all that you were, all that you are, and all that you will ever be, one representing you, SPOUSE2, and all that you were and all that you are, and all that you will ever be.

Each child also has a container, as they also will contribute to this marriage.  As this new family is formed, it will have a deep influence upon them as they will also influence the family. We realize that in order for the home to be a happy one, it is essential that there be love and understanding between the children and the adults being married.

Consider your containers of sand. Each one holds its own unique beauty, strength, and character. They can stand on their own and be whole, without the need of anything else. These containers represent your lives to this moment; individual and unique. As you now combine your sand together, your lives also join together as one. Each grain of sand brings to the mixture a lasting beauty that forever enriches the combination.

Just as these grains of sand can never be separated and poured again into the individual containers, so will your lives be.

 

 

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Ceremony – Sand Blending – 4 Layer

SPOUSE1 and SPOUSE2, today you are making a commitment to share the rest of your lives with each other. Your relationship will symbolized through this blending of sand.

I will pour the first layer of plain sand, to symbolize that the marriage is grounded on a strong, common foundation and an equal partnership.

Consider your own containers of sand now. Each one holds its own unique beauty, strength, and character. They can stand on their own and be whole, without the need of anything else. These containers represent your lives to this moment; individual and unique.

SPOUSE2, please pour a layer of your sand, showing your commitment to brining all of your individual gifts to this union.

Now, SPOUSE1, please pour a layer of your sand, showing your commitment to brining all of your individual gifts to this union.

Now, the two of you, pour together, to combine your sands.  

When the two are blended, together they represent an entirely new and extraordinary loving relationship. Each grain of sand brings to the mixture a lasting beauty that forever enriches the combination. The life that each of you have experienced until now, individually, will hereafter be inseparably united, for the two shall become one. Just as these grains of sand can never be separated and poured again into the individual containers, so will your lives be.

VARIATION:

A 5th layer can be added by the minister, plain or white sand on top of all the rest, to represent God’s blessing to the union.

 

 

 

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Ceremony – Sand Blending – Simple

SPOUSE1 and SPOUSE2, today you are making a commitment to share the rest of your lives with each other. Your relationship will be symbolized through the pouring of these two individual containers of sand; each representing all that you were, all that you are, and all that you will ever be.

Consider your containers of sand. Each one holds its own unique beauty, strength, and character. They can stand on their own and be whole, without the need of anything else. These containers represent your lives to this moment; individual and unique. As you now combine your sand together, your lives also join together as one.

When the two are blended, together they represent an entirely new and extraordinary loving relationship. Each grain of sand brings to the mixture a lasting beauty that forever enriches the combination. The life that each of you have experienced until now, individually, will hereafter be inseparably united, for the two shall become one. Just as these grains of sand can never be separated and poured again into the individual containers, so will your lives be.

 

 

 

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Reading – The Bible – Ecclesiastes 4

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)

9 Two are better than one,because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

 

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Reading – The Bible – Solomon’s Song of Songs

Solomon’s Song of Songs 8:6-7   (NIV)

6 Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. 7 Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.

 

 

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Reading – The Bible – Colossians

Colossians 3:12-15  (NIV)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

 

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Reading – The Bible – 1 John 4

1 John 4:16-19 (NIV)

16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.

 

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Reading – The Bible – Ephesians

Ephesians 4:1- 7 New International Version (NIV)

1 I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Ephesians 5: 21-33 New International Version (NIV)

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

 

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Reading – The Bible – 1 Corinthians 13

1 Corinthians 13 (NIV)

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

 

 

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Ceremony – Wine Blessing

There are two ways to conduct this ceremony.  Either a single glass is poured by the officiant from one bottle of wine, or the couple could each hold a different bottle of wine (usually one white wine and one red wine) which they pour together into a single glass.  In the 2nd type of ceremony, language is added about how their lives will be joined and can never be separated again, like two wines. Below you see the simpler ceremony using one bottle.

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Officiant: A good wine, like a good marriage, is the result of many years of hard work. There is the unhurried nurturing of the vine and tender care of the grape, thoughtful mix of ingredients, patient fermenting — yielding the unique flavors of each passing year.

So let the blessing of this first glass of wine that you taste together celebrate all that has brought you to this moment, expressing hope and faith in the commitments you have made here today. And let it symbolize for you how sharing the partnership of marriage not only doubles the sweetness of life, but also lightens the burden of its bitterness by half.

[ The officiant passes the cup to spouse1, who holds it to spouse2’s lips for them to drink.  Spouse1 then passes the cup to spouse2, who holds it to spouse1’s lips for them to drink.]

 

 

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Ceremony – Handfasting of Six Cords

Officiant: Do you come of your own free will and accord?

Spouse1 & Spouse2: Yes.

Officiant: Since your lives first crossed, you have formed ties between each other. The promises you make today will bind your lives together. With full awareness, know that you declare your intent to be handfasted before your friends and family. Do you still seek to enter this ceremony?

Spouse1 & Spouse2: Yes.

Officiant: I bid you look into each others eyes.

Officiant: [Spouse1’s Name], will you honor him?

Spouse1: I will.

Officiant: [Spouse2’s Name], will you honor her?

Spouse2: I will.

Officiant: [To Both] Will you seek never to give cause to break that honor?

Spouse1 & Spouse2: Yes.

Officiant: And so the binding is made. Join your hands. (First cord is draped across the Spouse1 and Spouse2’s hands.)

Officiant: [Spouse1’s Name], will you share his dreams?

Spouse1: I will.

Officiant: [Spouse2’s Name], will you share her dreams?

Spouse2: I will .

Officiant: [To Both] Will you dream together to create new realities and hopes?

Spouse1 & Spouse2: Yes.

Officiant: And so the binding is made. (Second cord is draped across the couple’s hands.)

Officiant: [Spouse1’s Name], will you share his laughter?

Spouse1: I will.

Officiant: [Spouse2’s Name], will you share her laughter?

Spouse2: I will.

Officiant: [To Both] Will both of you look for the brightness in life and the positive in each other?

Spouse1 & Spouse2: Yes.

Officiant: And so the binding is made. (Drape third cord across the couple’s hands.)

Officiant: [Spouse1’s Name], might you ever burden him?

Spouse1: I might…

Officiant: Is that your intent?

Spouse1: No.

Officiant: [Spouse2’s Name], might you ever burden her?

Spouse2: I might…

Officiant: Is that your intent?

Spouse2: No.

Officiant: [To Both] Will you share the burdens of each so that your spirits may grow in this union?

Spouse1 & Spouse2: Yes.

Officiant: And so the binding is made. (Drape fourth cord across the couple’s hands.)

Officiant: [Spouse1’s Name], might you ever cause him pain?

Spouse1: I might…

Officiant: Is that your intent?

Spouse1: No.

Officiant: [Spouse2’s Name], might you ever cause her pain?

Spouse2: I might…

Officiant: Is that your intent?

Spouse2: No.

Officiant: [To Both] Will you share each other’s pain and seek to ease it?

Spouse1 & Spouse2: Yes.

Officiant: And so the binding is made. (Drape fifth cord across the couple’s hands.)

Officiant: [Spouse1’s Name], might you ever cause him anger?

Spouse1: I might…

Officiant: Is that your intent?

Spouse1: No.

Officiant: [Spouse2’s Name], might you ever cause her anger?

Spouse2: I might…

Officiant: Is that your intent?

Spouse2: No.

Officiant: [To Both] Will you together take the heat of anger and use it to temper the strength of this union?

Spouse1 & Spouse2: Yes.

Officiant: And so the binding is made. (Drape sixth cord across the couple’s hands. Tie cords together while saying:)

The knots of this binding are not formed by these cords, but rather by your vows. For as always, you hold in your own hands the making or breaking of this union. You are now handfasted as one.

 

 

 

 

 

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