Music plays while guests are seated
John Coltrane’s “Love Supreme” begins
Parents enter and seat themselves
Best Man/two Maids of Honor enter
Entrance of Georgette and George together (Coltrane song should be at about 6 minutes)
Coltrane song ends, at which point Georgette and George should be in front of the Celebrant – music muted, Coltrane continues
Celebrant welcomes guests
Welcome should include the lines:
“You that love Lovers,
this is your home. Welcome!” [13th century Sufi mystic poem]
With this ceremony George and Georgette seek a public affirmation and wish to share it with those most important to them and their families. Guests are invited to share their commitment as more than spectators: to help Georgette and George affirm their love and support their marriage.
Brief narrative: [redacted]
Each time they travel and camp together, they make another momentous decision. While sitting in the desert in Arizona, they decided to set up house together. On another week-long wilderness trip to Pictured Rocks in Michigan, the idea of marriage began to evolve. They expect to go camping again soon.
Discourse on marriage
[Celebrant will announce round-robin reading of Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Discourse on Marriage,” including wedding party and celebrant]
Marriage is in many ways a simplification of life, and it naturally combines the strengths and wills of two people so that, together, they seem to reach farther into the future than they did before. Above all, marriage is a new task and a new seriousness – a new demand on the strength and generosity of each partner, and a great new danger for both.
(Maid of Honor):
The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of the fullest freedom and development.
(Maid of Honor):
But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.
That is why this too must be the criterion for rejection or choice: whether you are willing to stand guard over someone else’s solitude, and whether you are able to set this same person at the gate of your own depths.
Brief statement (blessing) from each parent
Declaration of Consent
[Bride and Groom will first face each other to say lines adapted from W.H. Auden’s “In Sickness and in Health”]
Georgette: Rejoice, dear love, in Love’s peremptory word;
All chance, all love, by logic, you and I,
Exist by grace of the Absurd
George: beloved, pray
That Love, to Whom necessity is play,
Do what we must yet cannot do alone
And lay your solitude beside my own.
Georgette: That this round O of faithfulness we swear
May never whither to an empty nought
Nor petrify into a square
George: Love, permit
Temptations always to endanger it.
Preserve us from presumption and delay;
O hold us to the voluntary way.
Celebrant should then ask Georgette and George to face him and use the following traditional interrogation:
George, will you have this woman to be your wife, to live together in the state of marriage? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, and be faithful to her, as long as you both shall live?
Answer: I will
Georgette, will you have this man to be your husband, to live together in the state of marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, and be faithful to him, as long as you both shall live?
Answer: I will
Before vows begin, celebrant should include language like the following:
Marriage begins in the giving of words. We cannot join ourselves to one another without giving our word. And this is an unconditional giving, for in joining ourselves to one another we join ourselves to the future and the unknown. [Celebrant will prompt their lines]
George: In marrying you, I promise to go wherever you may want to go, since my trust in you continues to grow more than I ever thought possible; I promise to never stop talking, to be present whenever I am needed, and to always strive to create with you a companionship rooted in equality, honesty, and love.
Georgette: In marrying you, I promise to love you and to let that love evolve, to share my life with you as we continue to grow and change, to encourage your development and independence as you encourage mine, to talk and always keep talking, to continue to create a relationship based on communication, trust, and love.
Exchange of Rings
Celebrant can begin this section by describing the importance of the bond symbolized by the rings. Both rings are carved with parallel lines, signifying the parallel lives that Georgette and George are bonding together. With the carved parallel lines Georgette and George symbolize and acknowledge the yearning for an infinite universality in the idea of marriage. As symbols the rings will be a reminder of their desire to refashion and reaffirm their commitment to that ideal daily.
[lines adapted from Robert Graves’ “Everywhere is Here”]
George: By this exchange of eyes, this encirclement
Georgette: You of me, I of you, together we join
Pronounce as “wife and husband” [please avoid “man and wife”]
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Marriage Vows (with poetry from Rilke, Auden, Robert Graves)
For an unrelated reason I came upon our marriage vows from 1999. I think they've really stood the test of time (I find myself thinking, "wow, we were really smart back then" -- and young and kind of serious). This sort of service is not for everyone. It was outside (rural California). It was short. And we wrote the script entirely ourselves; well, I guess we "adapted" it ourselves. It's a good thing we were prepared, though. Our hired minister had suffered an injury and apparently performed the service completely whacked-out on pain meds. In any case, 13 years and two kids later I share the vows with the Internets.