When we got engaged, we were in an interesting situation in that there was no clear choice for an officiant. I turned to the Internet to search for an officiant and was horrified by the prices that I saw. We wanted a simple, short, personal ceremony. We did not want to pay someone thousands of dollars for a 20 minutes ceremony!
My first alternative was to have a friend be ordained online and perform the ceremony. Then I saw that marriages performed by minsters ordained online are not always honored in Pennsylvania. In this search I found out about self-uniting, or Quaker, wedding ceremonies.
Pennsylvania has a strong Quaker heritage and one remnant of that is self-uniting wedding ceremonies. The main difference between a self-uniting ceremony and a traditional ceremony is that in a self-uniting ceremony, there is not minister and the couple marries themselves. Personally, I found this idea exciting and romantic, but my then finance hates public speaking. We compromised by having an emcee help move things along.
I am actually including the exact script that was used in our wedding ceremony for inspiration, or to just copy.
All of the uses of “Bride” and “Groom” were replaced by our names.
Giving Away of the Bride (Emcee, Mom, & Dad)
Q: Who gives this woman to be married to this man?
A: She gives herself, but with her family’s blessing.
We thank you for tolerating us as we choose to step outside the confines of the traditional wedding ceremony, and focus on the things that matter most to us as a couple. We know that many families couldn’t fathom the idea of a wedding ceremony without an officiant, and we are so very lucky that our families not only tolerate our eccentricities, but encourage us to find our own way and love us all the more for doing so.
As Bride said, we’re doing things a little differently. This is the first wedding I’ve seen or been to in a bowling alley. I really wanted to come up with some sort of bowling analogy for marriage, but try as I might I just couldn’t. There are a lot of really smart married folks here who I’m sure could come up with something brilliant, but I’m stuck throwing gutter balls.
This is also the first wedding that I have taken part in the ceremony. I was a ring bearer when I was very small, but I didn’t understand then how important that was. I just knew I had to not drop the really expensive pillow with the even more expensive rings on it.
Today I will be acting as a facilitator. I’ll be asking Bride and Groom a lot of questions. I did not make them up. The Bride sent them to me in a well-organized Word document several months ago, and I wrote them down on these note cards last night. These are questions you may hear a minister ask at most weddings. But I’m not ordained. And I didn’t take a test online to get my license to wed others. Today, the Bride and Groom will officially be wedded by themselves.
Pennsylvania, as a Quaker state, recognizes ceremonies of self-solemnization; which is a fancy way of saying the Quakers believe that marriage is a covenant made between two people because they love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives on earth together.
Why would two folks want to get married? Most will tell you because they love each other. But what does that mean? My understanding, at least in part, is that… two dynamic, unique, and capable individuals decide that they really like each other and want to take on the world as a team. Because they make each other better. They see the best in the other; they celebrate it, cherish it, and encourage its growth. They see the worst in each other and they can forgive and work through it. They put the other first and serve them with their time, strength, talents, and resources.
While there are a lot of things that the Bride and Groom do differently, this is one thing that they wanted to do the same as everyone else. This service is a public declaration of their devotion to each other, this choice, this promise that will last a lifetime. Because while the promise is between two people, they want to make it in front of the people they love, who are important to them, who have helped get them to this point, and who will continue to guide and support them in this next, most exciting part of their lives.
Community Vows (Emcee, Bride, & Groom)
- Groom and Bride, will you reach out to your community both when you need help and when you have something to celebrate?
- We will.
- Community, will you offer the Groom & Bride your wisdom and encouragement in their times of struggle, and celebrate with them in their times of joy?
- We will.
- Community, will you listen to the Groom & Bride, and when they request it, give them your best advice?
- We will.
- Groom and Bride, will you listen carefully to that advice?
- We will.
- Groom and Bride, will you strive as husband and wife to be contributing members of the community gathered here today?
- We will.
- Community, will you do everything in your power to support, uphold, and honor the marriage of the Groom and Bride?
- We will.
Vows (Bride & Groom)
(couple’s vows to each other)
Declaration of Intent (Emcee, Bride, & Groom)
Groom, do you take the Bride, to be your partner in the adventure that lies ahead?
Do you promise to walk by her side to the ends of the earth?
To love, encourage, and support her in her every endeavor?
Do you commit to opening yourself up completely to her and sharing with her your entire being?
To share her laughter as well as tears?
Do you take her as your wife for now until the end of time?
Bride, do you take your Groom, to be your partner in the adventure that lies ahead?
Do you promise to walk by his side to the ends of the earth?
To love, encourage, and support him in his every endeavor?
Do you commit to opening yourself up completely to him and sharing with him your entire being?
To share his laughter as well as tears?
Do you take him as your husband for now until the end of time?
Exchange of the Rings (Bride & Groom)
“I give you this ring as a symbol of my commitment to you and to our partnership in life. You have my heart always.”
Signing of the License (Emcee)
While this wedding is a celebration of love and commitment, it is also a legal ceremony. I ask the Matron of Honor and the Best Man to join me and the bride and groom at the table. The signing of a marriage certificate is not just a legal requirement. It is in fact an ancient custom that represents the concept that not only must marriage be entered into consensually by both parties, but that it is also a social contract between a couple and their community…for the good of all. Signing the marriage document is also a self-defining moment for the Bride and Groom… perhaps one of the most impactful and consequential moments of their lives. So I ask them to sign the document before them. I ask the Matron of Honor and the Best Man to sign the marriage license as witnesses to this moment. May the legal benefits and obligations of marriage enhance your life for all the years to come.
Pronouncement (Groom and Bride)
And finally, by the authority vested in us by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we officially pronounce ourselves husband and wife!