Sunday, 22 May 2011

writing a secular ceremony

Well, if I thought deciding on a dress was hard, it was nothing compared to writing our ceremony. It's not done, but yesterday our friend who is doing the ceremony came round, and after much prevaricating over sushi and ramen and coffee and a walk in the park and four pots of tea, we decided to sit down with a pen and paper and actually do it.

For those who aren't aware: we are getting married on top of a hill by a friend. We aren't religious and so don't think we should go to church. so we're doing the legal bit in a register office first. But I think the law is an ass on the whole 'not letting you get married outside' thing, so we're working our way around this by having the ceremony we want, outside, on a hill, done by a wonderful friend.

T, our friend, was fantastic. I'd sent him some links (to A Cupcake Wedding and Wedding for Two's blog posts - ladies, what would we do without you?) and he'd done his own research, turning up with a rough outline of how he felt the ceremony should go.

So far, so simple. But then it gets harder. Here were some of the things that we found hard. If you're involved in your ceremony at all, you might find these things hard too. Or you might find something else we haven't thought of hard. Either way, please share in the comments. I need all the help I can get on this...

1. How do you want to involve your guests? We're not having any singing and possibly no live music - though we may have some sort of amp. So how do we involve those people who are there to support us? Hand fasting? Considered but ultimately rejected as a bit pagan for us - some relatives are already convinced we might as well have it at Stonehenge as on top of a hill. Passing rings around? A good idea but will it mean anything to people? I'm uncomfortable with the idea of a 'blessing' and what else would you call that? So we're going to have a 'We do' from the congregation. We will say our vows, and then T will ask if the congregation will support us. And they will hopefully answer, with a prompt: "we do".

2. Readings. These are full of pitfalls. That lovely poem you remember liking from years back? Yeah, it's probably going to have a line or word in it that's going to make you snigger. We went through hundreds of poems and readings, without exaggeration.We rejected some for lines that were suggestive of procreation - can't read those in front of elderly aunts. Others trigger words for getting the giggles ("shaft" - as in "of light" being one, and "sheath" being another - we're very mature people). Beautiful poems but if J hears the word 'shaft' and raises an eyebrow at me, I won't be able to hold it in.

Also - some poems you might feel you want to read to your partner - how would you feel if a friend read them? Do you want to do the reading yourself? Hmm. Is it too soppy? Maybe you need to pick a different poem. Also, I hate any poem with a trace of twee or awkwardness. Anything that said 'tis' was out, unless it was Shakespeare. Modern verse all the way for us. But in the interests of mixing it up, we are trying to find something traditional to break up the flow. TBC.

3. Who is doing the readings? You might love your friend Bob, but if Bob is the shyest man on the planet, would, and could he do a reading? How about bridesmaids? How do you pick one to read if you have several 'maids? Do you want to involve new people?

For us, we wanted to involve our friends that were outside of the 'inner circle' of bridesmaids and family etc. And we had to make sure we picked people that wouldn't be freaked out by the prospect and could stand up and do justice to the words.

4. The inclusion of any religious elements. One thing I have always loved about church weddings is the Corinthians reading - just the passage that starts: "Love is patient, love is kind". It's beautiful, and true and I agree with it. But I am not religious and I feel you cannot pick and choose what bits of religion you like, and excise the rest.

However, we are not dismissive of religion, and also recognise the truth in the words. One way around this that we discussed was the possibility of asking a friend, who is religious, to read this. However, we are currently leaning towards leaving it out.

Anyway. This post is very much unformed thoughts about the challenges we encoutered. I'm sure I'll be much more coherent next time.


  1. I like "librarian of love" by John Citizen as a reading and am hoping my one and only bridesmaid will read it as none of my other friends would feel comfortable reading in a group even though it is going to be a tiny wedding. I think the poem will mean something to her as well. And she will cry, but as it is slightly funny that might help her hold back the tears. We have no idea about any others so am going to see what you picked and see if we can steal any great ideas!