Our wedding ceremony had every single person in the room in tears. It was an easier feat than normal, considering that we were just over 30 people. Sunset, in Scotland, on a loch. Surrounded by family and friends. Absolutely gorgeous.
I know how hard it is to find words for your wedding. It took us a few months last year. We didn’t want it to be religious, but we didn’t want to have to recite the fully-secular and somewhat boring vows that a full-blown civil wedding requires in the UK. We wanted to share with anyone who might be in the same conundrum some of the words we found. We had a Humanist wedding, and that gave us the freedom you’ll see below.
We included a well-wishing from our parents at the beginning of the ceremony. It gave me a moment to sneak some feminism into the ceremony, and to explain partially why I still had a traditional processional with my father. It’s taken from the materials that our Humanist celebrant (Gerrie Douglas-Scott) sent over when we began working with her.
PARENT’S WELL WISHING
In many cultures, including our own, it has long been a tradition for the father of the bride to ‘give away’ his daughter, but I know that Coleen’s father, Mark, is not here today to relinquish any form of ownership and nor is the groom here to claim any! But I know that Mark was delighted to walk Coleen down the aisle today and that both families were delighted when Russell and Coleen announced their engagement.
So I now like to formally ask you parents:
Mark and Sharon, do you entrust your daughter Coleen to the care and love of Russell?
Response – We do
Steve and Doreen, do you entrust your son Russell to the care and love of Coleen ?
Response – We do.
We also had two readings, to include our siblings who couldn’t be in our one-person wedding parties. These are secular readings that are nonetheless beautiful and tear-jerking, and spoke to our thoughts on meeting one another and marriage.
A reading From The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle
But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.
To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take.If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom… the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. It takes a lifetime to learn another person. When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.
And now a reading by Joyce Grenfell
It felt like an ordinary morning
It began an ordinary way
And then, without warning
Became an extraordinary day.
Hadn’t the slightest sort of inkling
No-one said love was on its way
And then within a twinkling
Without the smallest inkling
It became an extraordinary day.
For there you were
And the whole world stood still.
There you were,
I loved you then and I always will
At first, an ordinary morning,
Began in an ordinary way,
And then my heart was beating
At this ordinary meeting
And we both knew
This was not an ordinary day.
We created from scratch another part of our ceremony. This was meant to give us a portion to talk about our international lives, both together and apart. It’s an homage to Pachmama, the earth mother goddess of the Andes. We both spent a long time travelling in South America before we met, and this was a perfect way to include it. Gerrie said she wanted to use this part of the ceremony in her own wedding, one of the first same-sex marriages in Scotland on December 31. We hope she did!
Pachamama Offering – Honouring Mother Earth in a nonreligious way
In the high Andes of South America, where Coleen and Russell travelled before they met, the people honour the Earth in a unique way. They give gifts to Pachamama, the earth mother, whenever they undertake work or celebrate a new beginning, especially on special occasions like weddings!
Now, Pachamama is rumoured to have a sweet-tooth. Russell and Coleen have decided to give a small gift on this occasion, to honour their connection to the only Earth we share. (We will have a small bag of candy and a flowerpot.) For those who travel, that deep connection is not confined to a single place, but spreads over the whole Earth, even to places yet unseen.
(We will put the candy into the flowerpot).
This small gift will be buried on a later date in the forest. Let us take a moment to remember the Earth and to connect with this place, and this time.
(a moment of reflection)
At the end of the ceremony, we had a great thing. It’s called ‘The Mexican Hug,’ and no, it’s not about pouring chili sauce down someone’s back while hugging them. It’s like The Wave, but with hugs. Or The Peace, at some churches. It worked great, and we had trouble getting everyone back into seats so we could leave.
THE MEXICAN HUG best to do at the end of the ceremony when the guests are warmed up!
Now I have a special announcement to make. You’ll be aware of the tradition in some churches of shaking hands with the people around you during a service as a sign of Peace. Well, we’re going to put a more modern twist on that, in what the bride and groom are calling a Mexican hug. Now you all know what a Mexican wave is don’t you? It’s The Wave, like in sports stadiums! (For the Americans, who don’t know what a Mexican Wave is…)
Well, we’re going to start with the bride and groom giving each other a hug, they will then hug someone else, who’ll hug the person next to them and so on, until every single person in the room has been well and truly hugged! Everyone ready? Go!
Bride and groom to start the Mexican hug!
Thank you everyone and I hope you all enjoyed that! I did tell you that this wedding was going to be a little different! And you never know – we might have started something here – maybe another couple will meet and fall in love here today!
An after-ceremony addition: time alone. Following in the Jewish tradition of Yichud, we ran off immediately after the ceremony to have some alone time. We went up to our room and just enjoyed BEING MARRIED. Lucky for us, our amazing venue provided post-ceremony champagne that we got to enjoy in those first moments of being husband and wife. We got this idea from OffbeatBride.com, which has many more suggestions for marriage and weddings of the non-traditional kind.
Use these bits of our ceremony and make them your own! What are some ways you made your non-religious wedding special?