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Atheist Wedding Ceremonies, reading ideas and vows


 

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Opening Words

 



Officiant - You may be seated.


We are gathered here today to celebrate the marriage of [groom] and [bride]. For them, this marriage is both a pledge of enduring love, and an expression of their commitment to each other grounded in law. For the rest of us, this marriage is an occasion where we are reminded of the bonds to our own families and friendships and how important and wonderful these bonds are to us.


Marriage is dedication. You give yourself, your life and love, into the hands of the one you love. You do so trustingly and generously. By the same token, each of you receives a gift - the life and love of the other. You receive this gift not only from the one you love, but also from the parents who brought you into the world and reared you and from the personal world of friends and family who are joined in friendship and faith in your marriage.


Mark Twain once said that "a marriage makes two fractional lives a whole. It gives to two purposeless lives a work, and doubles the strength of each to perform it. It gives to two questioning natures a reason for living. It brings a new gladness to the sunshine, and a new fragrance to the flowers, and new beauty to the earth, a new mystery to life."



 

 

Introduce the Parents

 



Officiant - It is appropriate that you, the family are here to participate in this wedding. The ideals, the understanding, and the mutual respect, which these two bring to their marriage have roots in the love, friendship, and guidance, with which you have provided them.


Who stands with this man in marriage?


[Groom's] parents together - We do.


Officiant - Who stands with this woman in marriage?


[Bride's] parents together - We do.



 

 

The Music

 



Officiant - The wedding couple have chosen music that they feel is meaningful and appropriate on this day that they wish to share with all of you.



 

 

The Readings

 



Officiant - [Bride] and [Groom] have chosen passages which will be read by [Reader], as inspiration for their love on this day.


[Reader] - The first reading is from Michael Ignatieff's book "Lodged in Heart and Memory".


"In the marriage ceremony, that moment when falling in love is replaced by the arduous drama of staying in love, the words "in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, till death do us part" set love in the temporal context in which it achieves its meaning. As time begins to elapse, one begins to love the other because they have shared the same experience. Selves may not intertwine; but lives do, and shared memory becomes as much of a bond as the bond of the flesh. Family love is this dynastic awareness of time, this shared belonging to a chain of generations. We collaborate together to root each other in a dimension of time longer than our own lives. "


My second reading is from Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "A Gift from the Sea".


"When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow and tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the continuity possible, in life as in love, as in growth, in fluidity - in freedom, in the sense that dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.


The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread and anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. For relationships, too, must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits - islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides. One must accept the security of the winged life, of the ebb and flow, of intermittency."



 

 

The Vows

 



Officiant - You may now exchange your vows.


[Groom] - I, [Groom], take you [Bride], to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. With my earnest and complete devotion, I give you my love.


[Bride] - I, [Bride], take you [Groom], to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. With my earnest and complete devotion, I give you my love.


Officiant - Do you, [Groom], take [Bride] who you have promised to love and cherish to be your lawfully wedded wife?


[Groom] - I do.


Officiant - Do you, [Bride], take [Groom] who you have promised to love and cherish to be your lawfully wedded husband?


[Bride] - I do.



 

 

The Exchange of Rings

 



Officiant - Traditionally, the marking of the passage to the status of husband and wife is marked by the exchange of rimgs. These rings are a symbol of the unbroken circle of love. Love freely given has no beginning and no end. Love freely given has no giver and no receiver - for each is the giver and each is the receiver. May these rings remind you always of the vows you have taken here today.


[Groom] - This ring, a gift for you, symbolises my desire that you be my wife from this day forward.


[Bride] - This ring, a gift for you, symbolises my wish that you be my husband from this day forward.



 

 

The Announcement

 



Officiant - And now, may the confidence, trust, and affection you have for each other on this day, sustain you as you go forth upon your journey of life together with its joy, its laughter, its sorrow, and its pain. May you fulfill your personal goals with each others help and guidance. May you dwell together in peace, love, and joy.


[Groom] and [Bride], having witnessed your vows for marriage with all who are assembled here with you, I announce with great joy that you are from this time on, husband and wife.


Ladys and gentlemen, Mr. and Mrs. ____________

***

Officiant – You may be seated.
 

Opening Words

We are gathered here today to celebrate the marriage of Rachael and Jesse. We come together not to mark the start of a relationship, but to recognize a bond that already exists. This ceremony is a public affirmation of that bond.
 

Rachael and Jesse, you have come here today from your varied life experiences to make public the commitment you have made to each other. You come to combine your two separate lives into one.
Although you will be sharing one life, never forget, you are two separate people. Cherish and affirm your differences. Love each other. Keep your commitment foremost in your mind and heart. Together you will laugh and cry, be sick and well, be happy and angry, share and grow.
 

If you will ensure a healthy lasting marriage, always, always value each other. Although you will disagree, remember to respect each other’s feelings, needs and wants. And above all, never, never lose your sense of humor.
 

I would like to read for you a few words which I feel are appropriate on this day.
 

From “The Couple’s Tao Te Ching: “A Sacred Space”, from the sixth century B.C.:

Your love requires space in which to grow.
This space must be safe enough
to allow your hearts to be revealed.
It must offer refreshment for your spirits
and renewal for your minds.
It must be a space made sacred
by the quality of your honesty,
attention, love, and compassion.
It may be anywhere,
Inside or out,
but it must exist.

From the Buddhist Marriage Homily:

To say the words love and compassion is easy. But to accept that love and compassion are built upon patience and perserverance is not easy. Your marriage will be firm and lasting if you remember this.

The Vows

Officiant – Jesse, do you come before this gathering of friends and family to proclaim your love and devotion for Rachael? Do you promise to support her, respect her, and care for her during times of joy and hardship? Do you commit yourself to share your feelings of happiness and sadness? Do you pledge to remain faithful to her?

[Jesse answers]

Officiant – Rachael, do you come before this gathering of friends and family to proclaim your love and devotion for Jesse? Do you promise to support him, respect him, and care for him during times of joy and hardship? Do you commit yourself to share your feelings of happiness and sadness? Do you pledge to remain faithful to him?
 

[Rachael answers]

The Exchange of Rings

Officiant – The rings you give and receive this day are the symbols of the endless love into which you enter as husband and wife. Such a love has no beginning and no ending, no giver and no receiver. You are each the beginning and the ending, each the giver and the receiver.

Officiant - Jesse?

Jesse - This ring symbolises my desire that you be my wife from this day forward. With this ring, I thee wed.
 

Officiant - Rachael?
 

Rachael - This ring symbolises my desire that you be my husband from this day forward. With this ring, I thee wed.

The Blessing
 

Officiant – [Addressing congregation]
Family and friends, this is a moment of celebration. Let it also be a moment of dedication. The world does a good job of reminding us of how fragile we are. Individuals are fragile; relationships are fragile too. Every marriage needs the love, nurture, and support of a network of friends and family. On this wedding day I ask you not only to be friends of Rachael or Jesse, but friends of Rachael and Jesse together, friends of the relationship.

[Addressing Rachael and Jesse]
Rachael and Jesse, may the love you have found grow in meaning and strength until its beauty is shown in common devotion to all that is compassionate and life-giving. May the flow of your love help brighten the face of the earth. May the source of all love touch and bless us and grace our lives with color and courage.

In closing, I would like to read to you these words from an Apache wedding prayer:

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now you will feel no loneliness, for each of you will be a companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies, but there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place, to enter the days of your life together.
And may your days be good, and long upon the earth.

The Announcement

Rachael and Jesse, having witnessed your vows for marriage with all who are assembled here with you, I announce with great joy that you are from this time on, husband and wife.
 

You may kiss.

***

We are gathered here today on this beautiful [location] to witness the marriage ceremony of Name and Name.

Witness 1 and Witness 2, you were requested to witness this ceremony because Name and Name care about you. They trust you, and they need you to be near them during this special time. They invoke your support, your approval, your love, and your good will towards this new marriage. 

Out of the billions of people who inhabit our planet, the five of us have  come together to participate in the marriage ceremony of two unique individuals. Out of those billions of people in the world, Name and Name found and chose each other. They have decided that life will be better if they spend it together as husband and wife.

As an Atheist couple
Name and Name realize that there is only one life. Life choices, therefore, must be weighed carefully and much consideration should be given to any decisions that may alter one's path and have serious impact, both negatively and positively.

We all have freedom of choice and that is what makes the union of Name and Name so very special. 

Name and Name have already begun their journey together. They have  enjoyed the exhilaration of finding one another and they have struggled through many difficulties together. 

This ceremony connotes the end of that beginning and marks a new beginning - the beginning of a committed lifetime journey.

Name and Name, you have arrived at what is perhaps life's most critical  juncture - the beginning of a journey that will require each of you to fully enter into each others experience and care for each other in exceptional ways. This self-transcendence is a prerequisite for further personal growth.  

In a good marriage each person is continually growing while growing in understanding of the other.  This kind of love and intimacy enables each to relate to others more meaningfully. For in the words of Al Carmine, "True love is a prism through which one loves the whole world." 

Every intimacy makes the whole world different and opens one up to the world's reality rather than protecting one from it. 

Please take a handful of rose petals and as you toss the rose petals outward, declare yourselves better able to embrace the world as partners.  Enjoy not only the perfume of one another, but the sweetness of nature and humanity.  With the tossing of the rose petals you have demonstrated your enthusiasm for nature and your acknowledgment that Atheists seek renewal from nature.

Together, you now embark on a quest for meaningful experiences and social connections outside of traditional institutions. Have no fear and do not allow the ways of the unenlightened give you unease. Nontheists also desire support from their family and the humanist community - both near and far. 

Nontheists use reason and common sense as their guide. When emotion and intellect combine they provide the foundation of profound love.  Marriage is a cooperative venture in every sense. It is a relationship Based on love, respect, and a determination on the part of both wife and husband to adjust to each others temperaments and moods in health or sickness - joy or sadness - ease or hardship.

Name and Name, my gift to you today is an invitation to call upon me when you are in need of advice. I am not just your wedding celebrant, I am your friend.  The reality is that everyone's life is limited to only a certain amount of  time. As Robert G. Ingersoll said, "The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here." 

Take the time to make your partner feel special. Never take each other for granted. 

Take the time to listen and to share. Give each other the benefit of the doubt because communication will be different at times and misunderstandings are inevitable.  It takes time, effort, courage, and commitment to make a successful marriage. 

Take the time to negotiate, to talk about your fears, failures, and disappointments. Talk about each other's expectations, hopes, and dreams. Be flexible and willing to adapt well to changes and new circumstances. Above all, take the time to tell each other what you want. Take the risk of being vulnerable with each other. 

You will never finish building your relationship and together you will find new ways to nourish each other's lives while finding greater happiness and meaning in your own. 

Name and Name, please light these individual candles which represent your separate personalities.  

You each have special qualities, talents, and passions. Appreciate these things and never attempt to extinguish each other's inner glow. 

Please take your separate candles and join them together to light the unity candle of marriage. Keep it forever as bright as it is in this moment symbolizing your shared values and commitment. 

Just as a candle will extinguish itself without air so shall your marriage if you do not give each other breathing room. Be close, yet allow each other to breathe.  Like the flame of this candle, be free in the giving of warmth, comfort, and guidance. 

Please light a candle together and renew your promises to each other at your future wedding anniversaries. As your life unfolds, frequently renew your commitment to each other and remind yourselves often of what brought you together.

Name and Name, please look deeply into each others eyes.

Name, please commit to Name by repeating after me:

As your husband and your friend -

I promise that I will stand by you -

In sickness and in health -

For better and for worse -

For richer and for poorer -

For as long as we both shall live -

What token do you offer
Name as a symbol of your commitment?

Do you,
Name, take Name to be your wife and pledge to her your respect and faithful love from this day forward?

Please place
Name's ring on her finger.

Name, please commit to Name by repeating after me:

As your wife and your friend -

I,
Name -

Promise that I will stand by you -

In sickness and in health -

For better and for worse -

For richer and for poorer -

For as long as we both shall live -

What token
Name, do you offer Name as a symbol of your commitment to him?

Do you
Name, take Name, to be your husband and pledge to him your respect and faithful love from this day forward?

Please place
Name's ring on his finger.

You will be reminded each day of your commitment to this marriage with the wearing of your wedding ring.

Words are powerful but fleeting. The wedding ring, therefore, becomes the enduring symbol of the promise we have just heard.
Name and Name, you have formalized in our presence the existence of the bond of love between you - vowing to be loyal and loving toward one another. In expressing your affirmations, you have pronounced yourself husband and wife. 

With abiding confidence and affection, Witness 1, Witness 2 and I send you forth upon your journey in life together.

I hereby declare
Name and Name to be husband and wife each to love, honor, and cherish the other for the rest of their lives.

Please embrace and kiss for the first time as united individuals.

***

   Reading Ideas

On Marriage
Kahlil Gibran
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens 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 other’s 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.

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Links

Atheists.org website wedding ideas.