Shocked a few months ago was I, when an old friend asked me to marry him. I’ve included my ceremony below. The most interesting part of the experience is that while the ordainment was trivial, I found that I was pulled by duty, pushed by the bride and groom to became very involved in not only the ceremony’s design, but the couple’s relationship and future.
I knew legal ordainment was not an issue. The Universal Life Church has been ordaining instantly since the 1959. First via mail order, now on the Net. The ordainment cost is free, but it costs a few bucks to get an ID wallet card, framed certificate, or even a “Clergy” parking or press pass (not sure what legal rights this gives you, but others won’t be sure either.). I have two uncles in the ULC since the 1960s. They did it to marry friends too. At the wedding I met four other ULC folks! All relayed that they too always take the role very seriously and it’s a lot of work.
My friend is married now. It was terrifying for me! But also one the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done. The bride and groom and I became a triad of support. We looked at each other a lot, for strength in the face of the 100+ guests starting at us, and to help us with the seriousness of the commitments begin made and the emotions flooding. I made a few mistakes, but nothing serious. People could here me in the back, and it was “funny, philosophical, a little unexpected” and under 30 minutes – all goals of the bride and groom.
Here’s the ceremony that the bride, groom and myself created over several weeks. I’ve changed their names and taken out their vows.
Caleb under Chuppah, wedding party walks in, bride last.
Caleb: Hello! Welcome. My name is Caleb Clark. Thank you for coming. I have known Jane since she and Joe met. Joe and I first met when we worked together in 2002. I am deeply honored to officiate their wedding. While my legal ordainment required only a few trivial clicks, the honor is anything but trivial.
We are gathered here today in support of Jane and Joe uniting as a couple in the bonds of marriage. In the chaos of everyday life, weddings are a most humanistic gathering. This ancient and instinctual ritual is a common thread across cultures and religions. Weddings bring out our better nature; community, family, love and commitment. We are here to support, to witness, to give Jane and Joe a good kickstart on the adventure that is marriage.
And what an adventure! Here, today, thanks to Jane and Joe, we are spared of many of the bizarre wedding traditions that have developed over the millennia. For example, groups throughout history that have been barred from marrying, had to invent undetectable ceremonies, such as jumping over a broom. No brooms here today. In some cultures the bride and groom change not only religions, but clothes, during the ceremony. Only one dress here. Some folks have naked weddings, which, despite the weather, I myself am thankful we’re not doing, as I’m sure you are. Grooms in some places have to give gold to everyone present, sadly not happening here. There is no dowry for back dues for mother’s milk today, and fathers will not be made to loudly repeat their approval while in a public square. Wild geese, while wonderful creatures, will not be exchanged here. We will not spend 3 hours on temporary tattoos. Our Hebrew skills will not be tested. The smell of burning of flax spindles is absent, and thank the gods above, there will be no required Lord of the Dance.
What we will have today is a ceremony and wedding designed completely by Jane and Joe, right down to this chuppa we are standing under. Today they start a lifetime of working together as a loving team. By the looks of it, things are off to a great start. As an old friend of Joe’s, I would like to take the liberty of starting off the readings-by-friends part of this wedding.
Caleb: Joe and I supported each other through the single years. Our long walks in the park saved us thousands of dollars on therapy. When Joe met Jane, we walked and talked as their relationship found its path. As the path revealed its destination as here, peace and happiness slowly replaced wandering and wondering. Our walks became less frequent. Since their engagement, when Joe and I call each other, sometimes the other answers with “is anything wrong?” almost wishing it were so. But nothing is wrong, and it’s mostly Jane’s fault. I have grown to trust and love Jane, and I have seen the strength and kindness in their relationship. I am glad she will now be walking with Joe in the park.
Jane has chosen her sister, and Joe has chosen his good friend, to read a poem written by the bridal party for them.
(Table needed for house model pieces made by Joe. Music plays.)
Caleb: This Chuppah, built by Joe and Family, is an ancient symbol of the home Jane and Joe will live in. The walls are open on all sides to symbolize welcoming and hospitality. There is no furniture here. This is to remind us that the most valuable things in a home are not things at all, but the people who live there.
Now, to extend this symbol of home to the coming together of their two families, Jane and Joe have designed a home that needs building.
- Mothers build foundation.
- Fathers build wall.
- Jane and Joe put the roof on.
Caleb: Jane and Joe have been inspired by a wonderful Tradition from the Quaker religion. Those among you who feel moved to speak, please stand now. We will move left to right of the dealer, starting with
(Caleb points to the first person standing to his left).
(1 minute, call and response)
We will now ask you to bless this wedding with a community vow. Please repeat after me.
- We promise to provide
- love and support,
- guidance and wisdom,
- and the occasional brunch,
- to Jane and Joe
- throughout their lives together.
Jane & Joe Speeches
Jane and Joe will now take a moment to share their thoughts.
First Jane, then Joe
Jane & Joe Vows
Caleb: Marriage vows are sacred and ancient . Religions bless marriages, and governments recognize them as a legal construct, but what is far more important is what Jane and Joe want to promise to each other. As such, they have written their own vows.
Caleb: Reads each line
First Jane, then Joe
- [Deleted. Every couple’s vows are their own. These were very simple, short and meaningful, about seven lines. My own vows were longer, and we had prints to read from.]
Caleb: The rings you are about to share are a symbol of union, earth and peace. Your lives are about to be joined in an unbroken circle. Wherever you go, these rings will go with you.
First Jane, then Joe
Caleb: Jane Full Name, do you take Joe Full Name to be your lawfully wedded husband? (I do)
Please place the ring on Joe’s finger.
Joe Full Name, do you take Jane Full Name to be your lawfully wedded wife?
Please place the ring on Jane’s finger.
Caleb: The breaking of the glass is a Jewish tradition that reminds us that every relationship is fragile, and requires gentleness and kindness. Jane, Joe, please step forward and break the glass!
[ Break glass ]
Caleb: May your relationship last as long as it would take to put these pieces of glass back together!
Pronouncement & Kiss
Caleb: And now…by the authority vested in me by the State of New York… and those here today….I pronounce you Husband and Wife!. You may now seal the deal with a kiss!
Thank You & Instructions
Caleb: Please join us on the lawn for appetizers and drinks. Let the celebration begin!
The ULC main tenants are:
“‘Do only that which is right.’ Every person has the natural right (and the responsibility) to peacefully determine what is right. We are advocates of religious freedom. The Universal Life Church wants you to pursue your spiritual beliefs without interference from any outside agency, including government or church authority. You may become a legally ordained ministerfor life, without cost, and without question of faith.” – www.ulc.net, August 2012.