Monday, November 16, 2009

A traditional, non-traditional ceremony

When I told the 'hive about our officiant-choosing dilemmas, I got a lot of helpful suggestions, like finding a non-denominational minister or having a friend get ordained to perform the ceremony. How did you all get so smart? :)


After a lot of discussions and meeting with a Reform Rabbi from a Los Angeles synagogue that we really liked who was willing to do just about anything we wanted in a ceremony except co-officiate (which I didn't want anyway), Mr. Spaniel and I finally were able to agree... to find a non-denominational officiant! The truth is that neither of us are religious people, and while he liked the rabbi in general, Mr. Spaniel wasn't really comfortable with the concept of being married by a rabbi at all. Although it was a difficult compromise to make at first, I realize now that a secular wedding really suits us much better.

We began the search for our officiant where we begin all wedding-related searches: online! After asking the lovely ladies on the boards for some recommendations and doing a few Google searches of my own, Mr. Spaniel and I shot off some emails to a few prospective officiants and talked to our parents for more ideas. We liked the idea of a Unitarian Universalist minister (there are two UU churches in our neighborhood!), since we didn't expect to find anyone already in our lives to do our wedding. But--serendipity!--it turns out Mr. Spaniel's family knew the perfect guy, who is a good friend of his parents', has a nice speaking voice, and is already ordained by the Universal Life Church. Seriously, when do the stars align this easily?

I admit, I was a teensy-tiny bit nervous about it at first, but when we met Fred this weekend, my fears were allayed. He came prepared with his documentation that he was, in fact, ordained, and a pre-written ceremony sample, and we discussed what we had in mind for our ceremony. The current plan is for us to finish writing the important parts ourselves, and then meet with Fred again to discuss and adapt in the next few weeks before we hand everything over to give him time to memorize and practice.

So now that we have an officiant (hooray!), it's time for us to get to work writing our ceremony! So far, we've created the following outline.

1. Ketubah signing. The question about the "first look" that a lot of couples have to think about isn't actually a question at all for us. Of course we would see each other before I walk down the aisle: we're signing a marriage contract before the ceremony!

2. Introduction. We're willing to let Fred take the lead on this as someone who will have just celebrated his fiftieth wedding anniversary the month before our wedding! I'm excited to see what comes up with.

3. Readings. We would like to keep our ceremony relatively short, but we also have a few readings that we are thinking about using, including an excerpt from Khalil Gibran's "The Prophet" (On Marriage), and an e. e. cummings poem ("i carry your heart"). We haven't decided exactly which readings we'll do or who we will ask to read them.

4. Ketubah reading. The text of the ketubah will be read during the ceremony.

5. Exchange of vows. Catholic wedding vows: "Do you take ___ as your lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish until death do you part?" "I do." (source)

6. Exchange of rings. Unitarian ring exchange: "With this ring, I wed you, and pledge you my love, now and forever." (source) Under Jewish law, the wedding actually becomes valid when the groom "puts a ring on it." Just thought I'd throw that out there. :)

7. Pronouncement of marriage.

8. Breaking of the glass. Sometimes, people put a lightbulb in a cloth napkin and break that instead of a wine glass. Apparently it shatters more easily under the weight of a person's foot. The glass can also be turned into a work of art after the ceremony.

Are you writing your own ceremony? How did you go about doing it, and what did you include?


  1. Wow, your ceremony is going to be so great! My fiance wanted to have a secular wedding ceremony, but it was really important to both of our families to have a traditional Catholic ceremony (my family) and a traditional Hindhu ceremony (his). We are going to have both, but since the wedding will be outside, we had to find a non-traditional Catholic priest. We did, and he is allowing us to personalize the readings a lot. I'm so excited! And I'm so excited for you that you get to break the glass! That is hands-down my favorite part of Jewish wedding ceremonies.

  2. We're doing an Episcopalian wedding. I'm not very good at expressing my feelings (and in fact, it makes me incredibly uncomfortable) so it works well that Episcopalians have a set wedding ceremony out of their book of prayer. It's not for everyone but for us it's perfect!

  3. We're getting married UU. I love the way we can customize our ceremony, just like you're doing! It makes it so much more personal and ours.


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