As a non-denominational wedding officiant, almost every weekend I stand before a couple and bear witness to their vows. And each time, as I look out on the gathering of family and friends, I realize that the couple before me will probably never know just how much they are loved.
For me, a wedding ceremony is a HUGE hug that family and friends offer to the couple. Yes, at its core, the ceremony honors and celebrates the love and commitment of the couple. BUT, the ceremony is also that unique time to celebrate all the loves that have helped to bring a couple to that moment in time – parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends tried and true.
Couples come to me because they want a non-denominational wedding ceremony that evades the clichés and that is personalized. More times than not, they’re uncertain as to what kind of ceremony they can have if they have no religious backgrounds or if they don’t want to incorporate the religious traditions of their families.
So, what can they do?
Here’s the thing – the true emotional impact of a ceremony is created by the “visuals.” The truest way to personalize your ceremony is to incorporate the people, the significant loves, who are part of the fabric of your life together.
This was brought home to me last month when I officiated the Los Angeles wedding of Nikki and Mark.
Mark’s family is staunch mid-West Catholic and Nikki’s is culturally Jewish. They didn’t want a religious ceremony and, in fact, Nikki didn’t want “God” mentioned. They did want a ceremony that had a rich texture to it.
Here are 6 ways they personalized their ceremony ~
- Mark’s parents escorted him down the aisle; Nikki’s parents escorted her.
- They had one reading that was offered by both fathers – and, yes, the dads failed to choke back tears!
- After my words of good cheer and encouragement (just prior to the exchange of vows), I invited both sets of parents to come up and light the tapers on either side of the Unity Candle that was set inside a protective hurricane lamp. The lamp was on a festive table underneath a Chuppah (the Jewish side was happy to see the Chuppah and the non-Jewish side thought it was a lovely decoration). After the parents lit the tapers, they all hugged Nikki and Mark and returned to their seats. Then Mark and Nikki lit the Unity Candle.
- All of this was as a prelude – a moment of blessing by the families – to the Exchange of Vows. Mark and Nikki had written down in booklets their own vows. I invited one of Nikki’s grandfathers and one of Mark’s grandmothers to present the booklets to them.
- The rings were presented by two other grandparents, each of whom has been married for sixty years to their respective spouse, which means the rings were presented from a combined legacy of one hundred and twenty years of married love!
- After I pronounced them husband and wife, Mark broke the glass (something he suggested).
While this might sound like a lot of choreography, it actually wasn’t. The entire ceremony, from the time I took my place until they kissed, was no more than thirty minutes – and they had a combined total of sixteen attendants (mixed sex on both sides)!
The ceremony was personal because Mark and Nikki incorporated elements that made sense to who they are as a couple and they decided to place the emphasis on family.
It was warm and gracious as it honored the sacredness of what they were doing, yet, was not “religious.”
People go to a ceremony hoping that it won’t be too long or too boring.
A personalized ceremony allows people to feel rooted and renewed and refreshed.
It’s all about providing people the opportunity to give you that big, tight “hug” –
and so bless, and confirm your union!
Are you thinking of writing personal vows to each other?
If so, I invite you to check out my book –