With thanks to my friend and mentor and fellow Celebrant Tim Maguire who is into plagiarism so I just copy him.
A humanist wedding ceremony is the only form of marriage where two people are free to say in their own words why they are getting married, what their hopes are for the future and what they want to promise to one another. This is a wonderful privilege, but it’s also a terrifying responsibility. Where do we start, what do we say, what don’t we say, how do we make this truly OUR ceremony?
Here’s how I do it.
I don’t want you to think about writing a ceremony at all. I want you to tell me who you are.
You might expect me to ask you this at our first meeting, but I’m not going to do that. Our first meeting is really so I can tell you the many ways in which you can make your wedding ceremony your own. It takes about an hour.So when we meet (or speak over the phone, or Skype), as well as telling you how a typical ceremony might go I will give you an assignment.
The word homework sounds deadly dull, but actually it’s really great fun, and every couple I have ever married has thanked me afterwards for suggesting it. This is how it works.
When we decide to ask someone to marry us, or to accept someone’s proposal, we just intuitively know that it’s the right thing to do: we don’t sit down with a tick list and go through all the things that have happened since we met that led to the decision. Or so you might think.
But actually, our subconscious minds have been keeping that list ever since we first saw one another, first spoke and went on our first date. Human beings can’t help judging – like, don’t like, like, like, don’t like – and when we finally decide that this is the only person we can’t live without, or that this person is the one that we want to spend the rest of our lives with, it’s the culmination of a long process where the likes outweigh the don’t likes by a long, long, long way! So the homework is designed to encourage you – separately – to go back into your memories and remember not just what happened and the story of your courtship, which is fun, but even more importantly, what it was about your partner that made you think, “I love the way he or she is X“.
Not everything you say in your homework has to go into your ceremony. Sometimes none of it does – sometimes all. It’s really just a way to create all the raw material you will draw on when it comes to creating it later. Still interested? Ok, the homework is as follows.
Separately, using one side of the paper only, and no conferring, I want you to
1. Write the story of you – from when you first met and everything that’s happened since. Remember it doesn’t have to be War and Peace. Keep it simple, keep it truthful and use your own voice.
2. Write down ten things about your partner that made you not just fall in love, (which as it says in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, ‘any fool can do’), but that made you decide that you want to spend the rest of your lives together.
3. Finally, I want you to write down ten things that marriage means to you or that you want to achieve in your marriage.
Before you start, make a date by which you both promise to have done this, and arrange to get together one evening when you know you have a long lie the next day.Set the table, turn the lights down low, put a bottle of whatever you drink on the table, and say “OK, what did you write?”
I promise that you will have a wonderful evening.
When you’ve recovered and wiped the tears of laughter and joy from your faces, write up your notes and send them to me. Word documents are best, but an email is fine.
When you email me your homework then, and only then, will I send you Brian’s Handy Wedding Handbook with a couple of sample ceremonies, loads of readings you can use, samples of vows and some symbolic gestures.
With your homework as the core and foundation of YOUR ceremony you can then cut and paste the rest around it.
I am here, on the end of a phone, at the end of an email (that doesn’t sound right) to answer any questions.
How does that sound?
Drop me an email.