Officiant Guide: Non-Religious Ceremony Script
Being asked to officiate a wedding is the greatest honor. By accepting, you become the orchestrator for the entire ceremony and the person who carries the new couple into the next chapter of their lives. Now, before you panic as the brevity of that sets in, I want to let you know a secret. The bride and groom (or bride-bride groom-groom) chose you because they already love you for the job. You don’t have to become something you’re not, adopt a religious viewpoint overnight, or copy word-for-word some online script you’ve come across (or do – mine is below haha). The best advice I can give is to simply be yourself. If they wanted a bland and basic ceremony, they would have just chosen any wedding officiant that was available off of weddingwire.com. Be yourself, whether that’s hysterical or stoic, lighthearted or profound.
That aside, there are some general rules and guidelines to follow to help make sure you don’t completely muck the whole thing up. Sit down (or email) the feyonces and ask them the following questions:
- Religion: Do you want the ceremony to be strictly non-denominational & contemporary, or have some light mentions of religion?
- Readings: Are you going to ask any guests to do a reading? Here is a good list of secular short & sweet readings. However, if you wanted to add a small touch of religion, the reading could be the place to do it.
- Vows: There are so many options, here’s a list of great examples. Which do you prefer?
- use traditional vows that I say and you both respond ‘I do’
- Write your own that you read to each other
- Write your own that I read for you and you both respond ‘i do’.
- Write your own and give them to each other to read alone right before the ceremony E. Traditional vows that you say to each other
- Extras: Any special activities you like? Ex.lighting a candle, pouring sand in a bottle together, planting the tree, breaking the glass, etc. Here’s a list of ideas
- Marriage Certificate: You will have to secure the certificate prior to the ceremony and give it to me. We can either have the witnesses sign during the ceremony or directly following. I will take care of mailing in the executed copy to the appropriate courthouse.
- Microphone: Make sure to ask the event coordinator and/or musician if they have a microphone + speaker set up. Will there be a podium or stand?
- Honorable Mention/Moment of Silence: There is often a moment of silence to remember or honor those who are no longer with us, or who are unable to attend the ceremony for health (or other) reasons. If you’d like to include this, I’ll have you give me the names (and phonetic pronunciation) prior to the ceremony.
- Your love story: Please reply with the story of your love, from your eyes. I’d love to know all the personal details that helped you fall in love with each other, and what makes your love so special. Bonus points for telling me when you knew he/she was the one.
I also followed up with, “I wrote a ceremony outline for my own wedding if you want to take a look, http://travelingfig.com/wedding-ceremony-script/
I have already started jotting down ideas for the opening of your ceremony. I think it is important that we really thank the guests for making the journey, and stressing how grateful you and Daniel are to have everyone present. I plan to talk about how much you have changed one another for the better, and how rare a love like that is. And how you have both stepped into the role of parents with gracefulness. I plan on adding 1-2 lighthearted laughs, followed by (optional) reading by a guest, vows, rings, (any optional extra activity), and announcement as Mr. & Mrs.”
Writing the Ceremony:
Before I get into format and semantics, my best piece of advice is to draft your ceremony through google docs so you can always access it in case you need an extra copy. Before the big day, print out the ceremony and paste it into a basic journal or book so that you aren’t fumbling with loose pages or stuck up there reading off of your cell phone.
The ceremony should start with a warm welcome before the bridal party enters. Do the bride/groom want you to make an announcement for no photography? Either way, remind everyone to put their phone on silent. This is also the place to let everyone know any other important wedding details – like grabbing a cone of flower petals to throw at the end of the ceremony, or helping themselves to parasols, or even helping to make sure everyone has a seat and that the front rows are appropriately filled.
Entrance + Beginning:
Ask everyone (who is able to) to stand for the bride. After she has entered, have everyone be seated. And the ceremony will officially start. There are a million ways to begin your speech, but I find that the easiest place to start is with the love story of the bride/groom. Make the welcome about them, and their special union. If you’re stuck coming up with the right words about the couple, it is a great idea to ask family and friends for input on the relationship beforehand.
For me, it was really important to start with a group breath together to really help us all be present (I am a yoga teacher after all). I also made a point to have the bride/groom look out at all of their guests. It’s a good idea to consider your surroundings as well. No matter where the wedding takes place – guests had to travel, make mention of that, and perhaps draw out something special about the ceremony space.
Moment of remembrance for anyone who has passed that the bride and groom would like to mention. Triple check pronunciation of names.
Call up whomever the bride/groom chose to read. Triple check pronunciation of names and make sure you correctly declare how he/she knows the bride and groom. For example, “I will now call up Chelsea’s aunt, Janis, for a reading on love from the Persian poet Rumi”. Have copies of the readings in your book.
Here is where you add in any of those ceremony extras the bride/groom might want. Maybe it’s lighting a unity candle with their parents, maybe it’s pouring of the sand, maybe it’s passing around the rings for everyone to hold, whatever it is – it goes here. You are responsible for the extras, don’t leave them with a wedding coordinator. Bring the extras yourself on the day of the ceremony and keep them with you to avoid any last minute confusion or scrambling.
I strongly suggest that couples write their own vows. It gives weight to an otherwise informal and nonsecular ceremony. These personalized straight from the heart vows are everyone’s favorite part of the ceremony, and can really make your job easy. If the bride/groom agree, work with them so that the vows are similar in length and sentiment. A good idea is to have them privately read the vows to you a week before the ceremony so you can offer suggestions and feedback. If your bride/groom are into the idea of writing vows, but appalled by the idea of reading them aloud… you can have them send you their vows for you to recite for them. This works especially well if the vows are written in 5-8 promises (instead of a ‘love letter’ format).
About a million ways to word the exchange of the rings, come up with something together! But keep the repetition short and sweet. Make sure to practice this part with the bride and groom so they feel comfortable with the words.
Pronunciation of Mr. & Mrs:
Declare them Mr + Mrs and have them kiss! woohoo! you did it! Don’t forget to stand off to the side and out of the photos for the big kiss.
Tie up the ceremony with some advice on marriage, either personal or generic, and have everyone stand as the Mr and Mrs take their first walk as husband and wife! (or husband/husband wife/wife!). Help the bridal party exit next, then let the guests start filing after. Find out beforehand where the guests are supposed to go next so you can direct them appropriately. And then go get yo drink on, you deserve it.
The rehearsal is vital to a smooth ceremony. Instruct the bride and groom where they are to stand, and tell them that they should look mostly at each other during the ceremony. You don’t want their backs to the audience because they’re looking at you while you speak! A good way to keep them looking at each other is to have them hold hands during the ceremony.
Make sure to chat with the MOH to remind her that she will be fixing the bride’s train and taking the flowers from the bride after she walks down the aisle. The flowers are returned to the bride as she makes her exit with the new hubs.
The rings could be with the ring bearer or the best man. Whichever is the case, make sure that whoever is supposed to have them knows that they will be required to stand from their seat and bring you the rings prior to the ring exchange.
Take notes of where important people will be seated during the ceremony so you can direct them to the appropriate reserved chairs.
Do a mic check!
DOS AND DONTS
Wear something modest. Don’t drink too much the night before (or day of, haha). Eat something before the ceremony. Suck on a cough drop to keep your voice from being dry. Print extra copies of your script to give to someone trustworthy. Email the script to your phone. Wear wedge heels or put grass stoppers on the bottom of your stilettos. Wear sunblock. Take allergy medicine. Don’t roast. Don’t swear. Be respectful of the adults in the audience. Wear waterproof mascara. Keep your hair pulled from your face. Bring a bookmark to keep your place as you read. Use big font. Don’t forget to breathe. AND BE YOURSELF – YOUR BIG BAD ASS OFFICIANT SUPERSTAR SELF. YOU GOT THIS.
SAMPLE CEREMONY SCRIPT
Hi Everyone, we will get started in just a few moments, but first, please double check your phone is on silent. I won’t say photography isn’t allowed, but I will ask you to please be discreet about it. If you, or someone you’re with is incapable of being inconspicuous (Markus, I’m talking to you), please refrain from taking photos until after the ceremony has ended. The bride and groom have stressed that they want this ceremony to be short, sweet and fun, so please help me make it so with lots of audience participation, especially if I attempt a joke.
Lastly, If you haven’t already taken a petal cone, please grab one from the back of the aisle. Please keep your petals safe until the end of the ceremony. I will cue you.
With that, let’s begin.
Everyone please stand for our bride
Please be seated.
Daniel, Allison, welcome to your wedding ceremony. Go ahead and take it all in. The ocean, the breeze, each other. How absolutely stunning Allie looks. And Daniel… I wanted to make a joke about how he’s here too, but he actually cleaned up pretty well. Take this moment in, in its entirety. Actually, everyone, let’s take a nice deep breath together, closing your eyes as you inhale deeply, and mentally sending your well wishes to the bride and groom as you exhale.
This is your wedding day, and while it has definitely been a whirlwind since you got engaged until now, I just want to let you know that you did it. I want you to take a look out at all the faces who travelled all the way here to celebrate your love. These are your nearest and dearest, who came to witness and support your marriage. And yes, I’m sure a reason to party in Ibiza, or eye-betha, or AY betha, was a great incentive, but I want you to know that the real reason your guests traveled all this way is because there is something remarkable about your love. Something palpable, something rare.
Allie has stressed that she wants this ceremony to be short, sweet and devoid of any incriminating stories. Daniel has voiced that he wants it to be a stand up comedy routine full of embarrassing details. I won’t be able to meet the grooms requests, but in keeping with the brides, I have fluffed the following story.
Daniel and Allie met at a holiday party. It wasn’t necessarily love at first sight for Allie, although she was attracted to this muscular and boisterous man in a beanie with an adorable accent and witty banter. Couldn’t have hurt that he may or may not have been a dj. Daniel was obviously smitten with Allie, I mean, look at her. Plus, despite that she’s a crazy cat lady, she’s the most chill, real, and down to earth chick ever. To Allie’s great surprise, she showed up to their first date to find that underneath Dan’s beanie was barren. Also to her surprise, Daniel was sweet and tender and full of love. From that day on, they have been inseparable.
With so much love to give, they ended up bringing a perfect baby into the mix. And when Basil made his arrival, they so beautifully and seamlessly stepped into the roles of parenthood.
You two march to the beat of your own dj set. Whether it’s getting married on a Tuesday on a European island no one can pronounce, or naming your perfect cherub a name that is phonetically incorrect, you do life, unapologetically, on your own terms. And yes you share a lot of commonalities, but the one thing that is so fundamental to your relationship, so very rare, is that you make each other better people.
Let me repeat that again because I want it to really sink in. You make one another better humans. Your steadfast love and unwavering support of each other has transformed you both into the best possible versions of yourselves.
You have tamed and refined each other, without losing your identities. You have grown together in maturity.. Rooted in a love for one another, and an even greater love for the family you have created.
Often people get married to take the next step in their relationship, but you’ve already proven your love can withstand the test of parenthood. This marriage, this union, is just reinforcing the house you’ve already built. I want you both to know that we are all here for you. We all support you. In this marriage, in raising your family, in growing old. This is your community, your support system and your cheering squad, for life.
MOMENT of remembrance
Let’s take this moment for silence and remembrance for the people, and the cat, who could not be physically with us today, but who are with us in spirit. Especially Daniel’s late uncle, Ian Archard, father to David, Kate and Veronica, and brother to Wendy and Jenny, who is with us in spirit.
And now a reading from “Instructions for life in the New millennium” by the 14th Dalai Lama that Allie and Dan have selected.
“Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk. And that a loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life. Be gentle with the earth, be gentle with one another. When disagreements come, remember always to protect the spirit of your union. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other. So love yourselves, love one another, love all that is your life together and all else will follow.”
Allie and Daniel neglected to email me, as promised, their vows. So I’m going to improv a few.
Allie, Daniel promises to always treat blue the cat as his own flesh and blood, to spoil him with treats and chin pets. He promises to cook salmon for you everynight since you’re allergic to cooking. He also promises to always stock the fridge with cheese and to bite his tongue before complaining about your raunchy humor. But above all, he vows to love and appreciate you and Basil with all of his heart, to always put your needs above his, and to be your biggest cheerleader, your confidant, and your best friend.
Daniel, Allie promises to allow minimal neon accents in your wardrobe for the rest of her life. She promises to let you play house music all hours of the day and night and to tolerate your political outbursts. She also promises to always wait for you while you look for your vape pen. but, above all, she vows to love and appreciate you and Basil with every ounce of her being, and to be your biggest fan, your rock, and your best friend.
Do you Daniel take Allison
to be your wife,
your partner and best friend.
To join your life with hers,
to reminisce on all that has come,
and to share with her all that is to be,
to laugh with her in joy,
to comfort her in sorrow,
to grow with her in love.
To honor her and be faithful to her,
today and for all the days of your life?
Dan ‘i do’
Do you Allison take Daniel
to be your husband,
your partner and best friend.
To join your life with his,
to reminisce on all that has come,
and to share with him all that is to be,
to laugh with him in joy,
to comfort him in sorrow,
to grow with him in love.
To honor him and be faithful to him,
today and for all the days of your life?
Allie ‘i do’
The bride and groom will now exchange rings as a physical symbol of the promises they’re making today.
Best man – Rings, please
Allison, as you place the ring on Daniels finger, please repeat after me,
I give you this ring | as a symbol of my love and commitment.
Daniel, as you place the ring on Allies finger, please repeat after me
“I give you this ring | as a symbol of my love and commitment.”
HUSBAND & WIFE
I now pronounce you husband and wife. Daniel, you may kiss the bride.
Before we go celebrate, Ibiza style, I want to leave you with two quick Spanish wedding traditions I found particularly relevant.
The first, in Spain, the groomsmen take the groom’s tie, cut it up, and sell pieces of it at the ceremony to help raise money for the new couple. Just going to leave that there.
The second is a Spanish wedding proverb:
Riñen a menudo los amantes, por el gusto de hacer las paces.
Literal Translation: Quarrel often lovers for the pleasure of making peace.
In Spain, it is common to see couples in heated arguments. but they fight not out of anger, but out of passion.
Your love doesn’t have to be perfect, enjoy the ups and downs the twists and turns. For your love, it is real, and with this marriage, it is solid. remember today. Remember the way you felt, the way you looked at each other, tuck this away somewhere special, and revisit it often.