They are two basic types of wedding ceremony. The first includes a long preamble about what a wedding is, followed by the exchange of vows and rings and ending with the pronouncement.
The second is modeled after religious rituals. It has an entrance followed by readings and may include prayers and blessings, followed by exchange of vows and rings and proclamation.
The preamble style is popular for people who want a short ceremony, a secular secular feeling, or no music. This style can have a more casual and contemporary feeling.
Want a more formal traditional feeling? Go with a more ritualized service. Although modeled after Christian liturgies these ceremonies may be tailored to fit any spiritual belief. Be sure to read the wedding texts page on this site.
The preamble style drops the need for music and reading. It is loved for its simplicity. In the preamble, the officiant talks about what marriage means. This feels particularly touching when the service is for same-sex couples. People interested in a strong political statement as part of their ceremony can include it in the preamble without interrupting their wedding's natural flow . Most officiants are comfortable with writing their own preamble. However, you may be the first same-sex service this person has preformed. So we do have sample preambles that you may use. These can be used in either type of services to gently slip in a political statement that stresses the universality of love rather than the discomfort of the small minded.
If you're looking all for some alternative text for preambles to wedding considered Ted Olson's opening statement before the U.S. Ninth District Court in San Francisco. This text is secular and gives you a good idea of how important this issue is to everyone.
Any service, regardless of the denomination flavor, needs to have a smooth sense of flow. So as you plan, put yourself in the place of a guest attending the service. You come in. Will you be greeted? What happens as you wait? Some things happen at the start of the service. Music, procession, welcoming statement or opening blessings need to be chosen or discarded. Readings interspersed with music is a familiar format of most church services. This may be followed by a few inspirational words or by moving directly to the vows. Marriage rings are exchanged, blessings bestowed, and things get the tidy wrap up of a proclamation of the couple now joined. This can be a little tricky with same-sex couples. Is it a marriage, a civil union, or a commitment ceremony. Words need to reflect what is actually happening. Finally a kiss for luck and the recession as all follow you out.
I have broken these elements down with further commentary and sample selections, all with wording for same-sex couples. Of course you may find language used for heterosexual weddings that work perfectly well or could be made to fit. The samples are intended to get you started.
What will it look like? Does it need to be decorated? Hot, cold or rain--do we need to plan around any weather factors? Will guests sit or stand? Who or what will be greeting guests as they arrive? Music beforehand? Will there be a guest book to sign? Will there be a printed program? We had been together for so many years that we just greeted everyone ourselves. This saved us from a reception line later. I have seen this at other weddings as well, but it is not traditional and would not work with a procession.
Your attention please. Get the focus of the group by: a welcoming statement, call to attention, or a change in music. Even a "please stand." The key is to let the guests know that the ceremony is about to begin. You may like a processional entrance. This is most often done if the marriage is between two women because it is the best way to show off the wedding gowns. Many couples just come out with the officiant. Add music to taste and to set the tone of the ceremony.
This is made by the officiant. It helps to put people at ease. This may be a good time for a statement about same-sex marriage or anything else that would make people feel more comfortable. [We will get you out of the sun as fast as we can. See a short list of gay freindly call to worship just for same-sex weddings.
Some people may want set a sacred tone. In a traditional Christian service this may be done with any opening blessing or, for a more new age feeling, you might to spread rose petals, ring a bell, lay out a circle of flowers, sprinkle the ground with water, salt or earth, call in the four directions, invoke the spirits, etc. You get the idea. This is about setting the tone of the ceremony.
Scripture, poetry, prayers, tributes from friends or family members. You may want several readings with songs in between. I list readings in a number of ways. This may be the hardest part of the planning for gay couples due to the lack of a true body of gay friendly wedding ceremony readings.
A chance for the minister to reflect on the meaning of marriage, or about the couple's life. For some couples this is the MUST DROP. If so, simply ask the officiant for no words of reflection just a wedding ceremony. If there is any fuss get someone new fast, or you will get words like it or not. The preamble style starts at this point, followed by charge to the couple. In some places the charge may be required by law. It can take the form of "does anyone know any reason why this couple may not be joined in.." I would not use this form unless it was the standard form in your church. You may have a wise guy in the house. My list has couple centered statements.
The Vows are exchanged in one of two ways. The officiant reads a statement followed by the "I do's" or the "repeat after me's." In the Late 1960's to the mid 1970's many people wrote their own vows. In those days most churches had the men vowing "to keep" and the woman vowing "to obey." The way around this was to write your own vows. In just a few years, churches all updated their vows to meet the need. Today only the very young write custom vows which have become the brunt of many a joke. Read more samples of religious wedding vows or secular wedding vows.
Like the vows, a ring exchange may be spoken by the officiant or be a "repeat after me." If you used the "I do" format for the vows you will most likely use the "repeat" format here. Skip this if you're not exchange rings. Yes, you can exchange rings later. See sample list of ring exchange ceremonies for gay and lesbian weddings.
This is an offering of best wishes to the couple that may include well wishing to all. Can be in a prayer format Benediction or not. Most couples have it in, but if your wedding is all about speed you can drop it.
The words of the pronouncement simply proclaim the couple to be husband and husband or wife and wife or spouses for life. You many use Religious marriage pronouncements or Secular marriage pronouncements to anounce your same-sex marriage. They are followed by "You may kiss." Some will add a direction to the gathering like: Will the guests please rise and welcome the new couple. This will get a round of applause.
The Recessional use this is get the people moving. Add more music, if needed, as the guests leave the ceremony grounds and move towards the reception.
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