Rachel: Our Civil Wedding Ceremony

We jumped, we kissed, and then we fled!

Civil Wedding Ceremony | A Practical Wedding

After choosing two readings we loved, Eric and I wrote our civil secular wedding ceremony with the help of our officiant (plus some APW inspiration). It ended up being about fifteen minutes long—a bit shorter than we had expected, but perfect for us. Before the wedding, we did our first look, took pictures with our bridal party, and had a joy ride in the most amazing vintage car. We were legally wed by 10:20 AM.

Civil Wedding Ceremony | A Practical Wedding

Venue: Williamson County Courthouse, Georgetown, TX

Photographer: Katherine O’Brien

OFFICIANT: Spike Gillespie

I had only been in our wedding ceremony space twice before we were married in it. Once a year earlier when we decided to book it, and once at our rehearsal the night before the wedding. I think the fact that I wasn’t terribly familiar with it (or any of the other places we spent most of our wedding weekend) led to some of my pre-wedding anxiety; some days in my head the courtroom looked very nice, but other days it just looked meh and kind of junky. But when I walked in on Friday for the rehearsal, it was even lovelier than I remembered it. The day we toured it was cold and rainy, but the sunlight that was streaming in on Valentine’s Day (and again on the morning of our wedding) added something so special to the historic space. The morning of our wedding was cold and crisp and the morning sunlight streamed into the courtroom through the tall windows and skylights, giving everything in it the most wonderful glow.

Processional: “Wonderwall” by Vitamin String Quartet

The courtroom where we were married had a couple of quirks, both of which we learned of about ten days before the wedding. First, there were no microphones and no sound system where we could plug in an iPod for our ceremony music. Our officiant reassured me that we didn’t need mics for such a small gathering, and I brought some decent speakers I already owned to hook up to the iPod. Then we put my friend Lauren (usher, reader, stage manager, and now DJ) in charge of the music for the day. Then there was the fact that the room didn’t have a center aisle down which we could process (something we knew well in advance), and the doors at the front on either side of the judge’s chair were off-limits for making an entrance (something we didn’t know). So instead of processing through the doors and meeting in the middle as planned, we entered from the side door, creating something of an aisle as we did. Eric’s parents escorted him down the aisle, followed by the bridesmaids and groomsmen, who walked alone rather than in the more traditional pairs. (Hey, we had a short aisle so we figured they could take their time getting to their places!)

Civil Wedding Ceremony | A Practical Wedding

Right before I entered, Spike said to the guests, “I invite you all to stand,” which is probably a normal thing to do but was something I totally was not expecting; the rustle and swell of energy as everyone stood took me by surprise and was such a lovely and moving moment. I entered with my mom on my right side and my grandma on my left about ninety seconds into the song, right at a crescendo.

Civil Wedding Ceremony | A Practical Wedding

When I reached Eric, I hugged my grandma and then my mom, as planned. My mom pulled me extra tight, held me for a second longer, and whispered, “I love you,” in my ear, and that was the point at which I started to cry.

Civil Wedding Ceremony | A Practical Wedding

Eric was already a wreck and so we just stood there through Spike’s entire intro, looking at each other, holding hands, and trying our best to pull it together.

Reading #1: An excerpt from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ­decision that made the state the first to authorize gay marriage

(Read by my friend Jordan.)

Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations… Without question, civil marriage enhances the “welfare of the community.” It is a “social institution of the highest importance.”

Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family… Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.

Civil Wedding Ceremony | A Practical Wedding

Reading #2: The Origins of Love, written by Aristophanes for Plato’s Symposium

(Read by my friend Lauren.)

Humans have never understood the power of Love, for if they had they would surely have built noble temples and altars and offered solemn sacrifices; but this is not done, and most certainly ought to be done, since Love is our best friend, our helper, and the healer of the ills which prevent us from being happy.

To understand the power of Love, we must understand that our original human nature was not like it is now, but different. Human beings each had two sets of arms, two sets of legs, and two faces looking in opposite directions. There were three sexes then: one comprised of two men called the children of the Sun, one made of two women called the children of the Earth, and a third made of a man and a woman, called the children of the Moon. Due to the power and might of these original humans, the Gods began to fear that their reign might be threatened. They sought for a way to end the humans’ insolence without destroying them.

It was at this point that Zeus divided the humans in half. After the division the two parts of each desiring their other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one. So ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of humankind.

Each of us when separated, having one side only, is always looking for our other half. And when one of us meets our other half, we are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other’s sight even for a moment. We pass our whole lives together, desiring that we should be melted into one, to spend our lives as one person instead of two, and so that after our death there will be one departed soul instead of two; this is the very expression of our ancient need. And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called Love.

The Statement of Intent

Aside from my hug with my mom, this is the part of the wedding I feel like I’ll never forget.

Eric, do you take Rachel to be your wife? I do.

Civil Wedding Ceremony | A Practical Wedding

Rachel, do you take Eric to be your husband? I do.

Civil Wedding Ceremony | A Practical Wedding

I ask of you both:

Do you promise to choose each other every day, to love each other in word and deed? We do.

Do you promise to recognize one another as equals, and support one another in your goals and wishes for the future? We do.

Do you promise to always share your thoughts, and feelings, and concerns with the other, and be open and honest at all times? We do.

Do you promise that come hell or high water, secession or recession, tracker-jackers or zombie apocalypse, federal indictment or tabloid scandal, that you’re in this together, no matter what? We do.

The Vows

I take you as you are, loving who you are now and who you are yet to become.

I promise to listen to you and learn from you,

to support you and accept your support.

I will laugh with you, cry with you, grow with you, and create with you.

I will love you and have faith in your love for me, through all our years and all that life may bring us.

Spike led us through our vows, with us repeating each line after her. I started mine by repeating, “Eric, I take you as you are.” But when it was Eric’s turn, he didn’t say, “Rachel, I take you as you are”…he said, “Zsas, I take you as you are,” because Eric always calls me Zsas, the nickname that my brother gave me when he was a baby and couldn’t pronounce my name. Eric was a little hoarse at this point so I’m not sure if most people even noticed that he didn’t say my real name, but it was one my favorite parts of the ceremony.

Jumping the Broom

Civil Wedding Ceremony | A Practical Wedding

We end this ceremony with the African-American tradition of jumping of the broom. Slaves in this country were not permitted to marry, so they jumped a broom as a way of ceremonially uniting. Today it represents great joy and at the same time serves as a reminder of the past and the pain of slavery.

As Rachel and Eric jump the broom, they physically and spiritually cross the threshold into the land of matrimony. It marks the beginning of making a home together. It symbolizes the sweeping away of the old and the welcoming of the new; the sweeping away all negative energy, making way for all things that are good to come into your lives. It is also a call of support for the marriage from the entire community of family and friends. The bride and groom will now begin their new life together with a clean sweep!

1, 2, 3… Jump!

Civil Wedding Ceremony | A Practical Wedding

Civil Wedding Ceremony | A Practical Wedding

Civil Wedding Ceremony | A Practical Wedding

Civil Wedding Ceremony | A Practical Wedding

We jumped, we kissed, and then we fled… because at that point I genuinely do not think we could have taken any more public emoting.

Recessional: “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by Vitamin String Quartet

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