This wedding ceremony united two women in holy matrimony, declaring them married in the eyes of God and their families. It preceded the legalization of same-sex-marriage in the USA. I was serving a United Church of Christ congregation in the Seattle area in 2009 when I officiated at this wedding ceremony.
Of the two parties joined in marriage one was a non-practicing Jew and the other was un-churched; they now participate together in a spiritual community of faith. A series of pre-marriage counselling sessions were undertaken by the couple with myself.
The wedding service was held in a small theatre in a tavern in central Seattle. The wording has been slightly updated for use in legal same-sex weddings.
L&T’s families and friends, welcome to this exciting, exotic, auspicious occasion. Welcome to the ____ family traveling from ________ and places beyond. Welcome to the __________ family traveling from _________ and places beyond. Welcome to friends from all over!
We come to celebrate, honour and respect the love of T&L as they make their vows and promises to one another, a new couple, a new family in our midst. And I invoke the mystery that is LOVE to bear witness to our witness and to bless L&T as we bless them this evening.
We start this part of our ceremony with a toast. Has everyone a glass with their preferred beverage?
Two people do not live in isolation. Their love is a source of strength with which they may nourish, not only each other, but also the world around them. And in turn, we, their community of friends and family, have a
responsibility to this couple. By our steadfast care, respect and love, we can support their union and the new family they are creating today.
Will everyone please drink to show you will support L&T.
(read directly from the children’s book ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ by Margery Williams)
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
REAL isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin-Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become REAL.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin-Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are REAL you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin-Horse. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are REAL, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are REAL you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
[Note: today (2016) this reading from ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ appears frequently on the internet as a wedding reading choice.]
Reflection on Love and Commitment
Ah, the mystery of LOVE. Dostoevsky writes, ‘Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to the love of dreams,’ and the love of romance novels, we might add.
[Note: today Dostoevsky’s words do NOT appear on the internet as a frequent wedding reading choice!]
Love: harsh and dreadful… who would want it? Can real love, love in practice, costly love, be desirable? Well, obviously it is, otherwise you would not be standing here, the way so many of us have stood before you.
L&T, you follow where others have led, parents, siblings and friends. LOVE has brought you here. Yet, the mystery of LOVE, REAL LOVE in practice is a harsh and terrible thing. For REAL LOVE in practice explodes the assumptions we have about what “our ideal” — child, parent, lover will be like. Love in practice invites us to “cross-over,” and stand in the shoes of the one we love, especially when they step out of our dreams, our romance novel, our fairy tale for them, and enter into the reality of the world around them, our real world.
The mystery of LOVE, “When someone loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, not just to toy with, not just for fun, or for their own self-satisfaction, but really loves you, then YOU become real.
T&L, you enter into this relationship with the promise to love each other for a long, L—O–N–G time because in that love you have for one another YOU become realized as a person. You become the person that LOVE meant you to be.
Does it hurt? Does becoming realized as a person, does becoming your real self hurt? Does loving for a long, LONG time hurt? Asks the Rabbit. Sometimes.
Some of the times… but you work through those hard times, through, around, over, those hard times of hurt because love is the greatest of all things.
Ah, the mystery of LOVE, sweet LOVE. Emily Dickinson brings a thought to LOVE’s mystery. She writes, ‘That LOVE is all there is, is all we know of LOVE.’ LOVE is all there is. What love joins together may no one separate.
Declaration of Intent
Will you, L, take T to be your life partner in marriage?
L: I will.
Will you, T, take L to be your life partner in marriage?
T: I will.
Reading Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda
You have become mine forever. I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off. I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers; thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance, risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body. I love you without knowing how, or when or from where. I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride; so I love you because I know no other way than this: Where “I” does not exist, nor “You,” so close that your hand on my chest is my hand, do close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
[Note: today (2016) this Sonnet by Neruda appears frequently on the internet as a wedding reading choice.]
Hindu Marriage Poem
Yes, we have become partners. I have become yours. Hereafter, I cannot live without you. Do not live without me. Let us share the joys. We are word and meaning, unite. You are thought and I am sound. May the nights be honey-sweet for us. May the plants be honey-sweet for us. May the earth be honey-sweet for us.
[Note: today (2016) this Hindu poem appears frequently on the internet as a wedding reading choice.]
L&T repeat after me.
(separately, one after the other)
I take you to be my partner in marriage, to love and to cherish, from this day forward as long as we both shall live.
Exchange of Rings
A ring is a circle and the circle is sacred and absolute. It is the circle of the planets and their paths, of the sun and the moon, of time and timelessness; of LP’s and CD’s and 45’s, the hula hoop, and the beach ball; the period that ends a sentence, the path we make when we leave and come back to where we started, and the earth from which we are born and to which we shall return; of pi, the mandala, and the roundness of an eye. The circle, and these rings, symbolize the unity in which your lives are now joined and to which, wherever you go, you shall always return.
[Some of these words came from another source, since lost.]
L, please repeat after me as you place the ring on T’s finger:
Just as this circle is without end/ my love for you is limitless/ my commitment to you will never fail./ With this ring I take you to be my best friend/ lover, and partner for life. Let it be a way for us to hold hands/ even when we are apart. [Adapted from Australia’s example commitment ceremony at https://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au/app/answers/detail/a_id/2903 ]
T, please repeat after me as you place the ring on L’s finger:
Just as this circle is without end/ my love for you is limitless/ my commitment to you will never fail/ With this ring I take you to be my best friend/ lover, and partner for life. Let it be a way for us to hold hands/ even when we are apart.
Announcement of Marriage
L&T, your lives and spirits are joined in a union of love and trust. Above are the stars and below you the earth. Like the stars, your love should be a constant source of light. And like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow.
(from a Celtic wedding handfasting ceremony, today frequently appearing on wedding planning websites.)
As you have consented in this ceremony in the presence of friends and family to be partners for life, I now pronounce you married, united and bound together, body and soul.
Breaking of the glass & the kiss
(adapted from a Jewish wedding ceremony)
A glass, like the vessel of your love, is fragile and must be protected. The promises made by L&T, like broken glass, are irrevocable. Protect and shelter your love, treat it gently.
Break the glass!
You may kiss!
Introduction of new family
It is my pleasure to introduce to you: The ___(new surname)___________.
(Note: The couple created a new surname, joining the first syllable of both of their birth surnames. They changed their names legally after the wedding service. When same-sex marriage was legalized in the State of Washington, the couple legalized their marriage vows to receive the rights of all married couples and to be protected under the laws of the USA.)