Secular Wedding Ceremony Scripts You Can Use When You Get Married

The day you sit down to write your wedding ceremony script is the day that it hits you—for something that can take as little as ten minutes, your wedding ceremony is a wildly important part of your day. After all, the ceremony is when you get married, and the act of marriage is why you’re all there celebrating. If you’re having a religious wedding, your wedding ceremony script is often provided for you by your religious leader, and is sometimes quite a bit longer than ten minutes. (Full mass with communion? You’ll be there awhile.) If you’re opting for a secular wedding, you’ll probably find that you’re going to need to come up with a wedding ceremony script on your own.

two grooms on their wedding day

To this end, we have a ton of resources: traditional wedding vows from various cultures and religions, non-cheesy wedding poems, an essay examining what it means to invite the sacred into your wedding, and hundreds of comments in which readers share their own vows. With that in mind, we thought today was a good day to compile our favorite ceremony scripts from the APW archives into one big post.

Before we get started, it’s probably helpful to tell you what a wedding ceremony script actually is. The wedding ceremony script is more than your vows made to one another, more than the ring exchange, more than “you may kiss”—it’s everything that happens in your ceremony. Your ceremony script can include readings (or not), poems (or not), a three-minute song interlude while you gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes (or not). These example wedding scripts are from real weddings that have been featured here on APW, and are here to provide a guide and a bit of inspiration for your own wedding:

Officiant reading a wedding ceremony script to a couple in the woodsPhoto by Brett and Jessica Donar via A Perfect Wedding Ceremony Script: To Make You Laugh and Cry

a wedding ceremony script for when it’s just the two of you

Liz and Micah eloped while barefoot in the woods, and their wedding ceremony was the stuff of giddy dreams. If you’re looking for wedding ceremony inspiration (and you’re making the whole thing up from scratch), this is a great place to start.

officiant: 

Liz. Micah.

I’m thrilled and honored to be here with my little family to witness, celebrate, and usher in the beginning of yours. It got me thinking about marriage… and what that looks like. In particular, what that will look like for the two of you.

I imagine the marriage between you, Liz, and you, Micah, will look a little something like this:

The most perfect pasta, creamy custard, and buttermilk biscuits. From scratch. With love.

Dreamings over a shared pint of Fullsteam First Frost.

Late night reminiscing and record spinning.

Backyard grilling, planting, and harvesting.

Making a home together… twelve thousand miles from where you started.

May your marriage be a never-ending edit of beautiful vignettes—captured and shared alongside, and with, each other. For as long as you both shall live.

Let’s begin.

LIZ:

“Love” by Roy Croft

I love you,
not only for what you are—
but for what I am
when I am with you.

I love you,
not only for what
you have made of yourself—
but for what
you are making of me.

I love you for
the part of me that you bring out;
I love you for putting your hand
into my heaped-up heart
and passing over
all the foolish, weak things
that you can’t help
dimly seeing there,
and for drawing out into the light
all the beautiful belongings
that no one else had looked
quite far enough to find.

I love you because you
are helping me to make
of the lumber of my life
not a tavern, but a temple.

Out of the works of my every day
not a reproach, but a song.

I love you
because you have done
more than any creed
could have done
to make me good.

And more than any fate
could have done
to make me happy.

You have done it
without a touch,
without a word,
without a sign.
You have done it
by being yourself.

Micah:

From The Princess Bride:

Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches. There has not been a morning when you did not flutter behind my waking eyelids. I have not known a night when your visage did not accompany me to sleep. I have not known a moment in years when the sight of you did not send my heart careening against my rib cage…

I said “as you wish” from the beginning… I loved you from the start.

I love you. Okay? Want it louder? I love you. Spell it out, should I? I ell-oh-vee-ee why-oh-you. Want it backward? You love I…

I love you, Elizabeth.

Officiant:

“Union” by Robert Fulghum

You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes, to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making commitments in an informal way. All of those conversations that were held in a car, or over a meal, or during long walks—all those conversations that began with, “When we’re married,” and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will”—all those late-night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe”—and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding.

The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things that we’ve promised, and hoped, and dreamed—well, I meant it all, every word.”

Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another—acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another these past few years. Shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same.

For after today you shall say to the world, “This is my husband.” “This is my wife.”

Liz, pick up Micah’s ring, and repeat after me.

LIZ:

Micah, I want to spend the rest of my life with you.

I vow to love and serve you as long as we both shall live.

(Pours Micah a shot)

I take you with all your faults and strengths as I offer myself to you—with all my faults and strengths.

I vow to help you when you need help, and turn to you when I need help.

And with this ring, I take you to be my lawfully wedded husband, my constant friend, my partner in crime, and my love from this day forward.

OFFICIANT:

Micah, pick up Liz’s ring, and repeat after me.

MICAH:

Liz, I want to spend the rest of my life with you.

I vow to love and serve you as long as we both shall live.

(Pours Liz a shot)

I take you with all your faults and strengths as I offer myself to you—with all my faults and strengths.

I vow to help you when you need help, and turn to you when I need help.

And with this ring, I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife, my constant friend, my partner in crime, and my love from this day forward.

OFFICIANT:

Now that you have given yourselves to each other with solemn vows, and the giving and receiving of rings, in front of God and all who are assembled here—it is with great joy that I pronounce you husband and wife.

You may now seal your vows with a kiss.

(Kissing!)

And finally, you may begin your marriage how you began your relationship: with a strong drink on a weekday. Cheers to Mr. and Mrs. Micah Johnson!

Couple kissing in the courthousePhoto by Katherine O’Brien via Our Civil Wedding Ceremony

A WEDDING CEREMONY SCRIPT FOR A CIVIL WEDDING

Rachel and Eric had an early morning civil wedding in a courtroom in Houston. The two wrote their own vows and invited friends up for readings, and the entire wedding was over by 10:20 a.m. 

READING #1: AN EXCERPT FROM THE MASSACHUSETTS SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT ­DECISION THAT MADE THE STATE THE FIRST TO AUTHORIZE GAY MARRIAGE

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.

READING #2: THE ORIGINS OF LOVE, WRITTEN BY ARISTOPHANES FOR PLATO’S SYMPOSIUM

(Read by their 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

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

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

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.

JUMPING THE BROOM

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 of 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!

Officiant reading from a wedding ceremony script in front of a couple with a kidPhoto by Jonas Seaman via Our Wedding Was Not Our “Happily Ever After.” It’s the Start of an Adventure.

a wedding ceremony script for blending a family

Fun fact: I officiated this wedding! As such, I wrote most of the ceremony script. Kait and Bobby are a really sweet pair that I love a lot, so there’s a lot that is personal in here—but still plenty that you can borrow if you’re blending your own modern family.

Officiant:

“Love heals. When we are wounded in the place where we would know love, it is difficult to imagine that love really has the power to change everything. No matter what has happened in our past, when we open our hearts to love we can live as if born again, not forgetting the past but seeing it in a new way, letting it live inside us in a new way. We go forward with the fresh insight that the past can no longer hurt us … Mindful remembering lets us put the broken bits and pieces of our hearts together again. This is the way healing begins.” —bell hooks

I really, really like love. I really, really like that you two are in love. Getting to know the two of you and hearing each of your versions of how and why you’re here, right now, has been fantastic, actually.

Something that Kait said to me that really stood out is that you, Bobby, were her family. In fact, she said you were so immediately her family—you were family for her and family for Scarlet before you were ever in love. Likewise, Bobby emphasized how very platonic your relationship was—how you two could sit and listen to one another and tell each other everything.

I think this, more than anything, is what matters. I think this security, this level of trust that is at the heart of what makes you two you, is everything.

I believe you guys both have a few words for each other. Kait, would you like to share your vows first?

Kait:

One thing I will always remember about meeting you is how I just always wanted you around. I wanted to invite you places because you were fun and you made me feel comfortable at a time when nothing else did. You were the only person who felt better than solitude. You still are. You broke the silence. For me, rooms are better when you’re in them. And all of this, it’s all one big promise to keep staying in the room. I love you. Be in rooms with me.

Bobby:

It’s a surreal to think, today is our wedding day. That after today, I’ll spend the rest of my life with the person I want to spend it with the most. And it’s safe to say that it wasn’t love at first sight between us. And I love that. I love that it took us time to possess what we have today. That I’d wake up, wondering what your day would be like. A slow, strong bond had been built without either of us even realizing it. To one day knowing that I could never lose you. That I would always keep you and Scarlet in my life. Nothing in my life has felt more meaningful and more of a family than you two in it. That with the three of us, I’m confident that anything is possible. No matter where the three of us are in life, through the good or bad, everything will work out. Because together, we are a strong, unbreakable bond. I love you, Kait, and I love you, Scarlet.

Officiant:

Obviously you guys aren’t just two—you are three. In fact, you guys happen to live with a pretty awesome Gryffindor. Did you guys want to speak with Scarlet?

kait to scarlet:

I wanted to give you this pin. It says “Constant” because you have always been and will always be mine. You’ve been here with me for all of it. I appreciate your patience with me and your contiguous joy throughout everything we’ve been through together. You will always be my number one. I’m so happy that you’re here right now to be a part of this day. You were pretty much our cupid and I am so grateful for that. Thank you for being my ride or die. I love you. Way, way more than you know.

bobby to scarlet:

I have a ring for you. It has a V shape for Villegas. I know you are still going to have a different last name than me, but you will always be my family. This ring is to show you that no matter what, you will always be a part of our lives. I promise to always take care of you and your mom. I promise that whatever happens, I will always be here for you. I’ll help you as much as I can with anything you may ask of me. I got you. I love you sweetie, very, very much.

officiant:

I think gifts are a fun part of any wedding or celebration, and I believe you guys have gifts to bestow.

Kait, please pick up Bobby’s left hand, look him in the eye, and repeat after me: With this ring, I thee wed.

Bobby, please pick up Kait’s left hand, look her in the eye, and repeat after me: With this ring, I thee wed.

Before we finish, I want to remind you of a quote that you might be familiar with. The context is different—no one is vanquishing a Dark Lord here—but the intent still rings true: “You are protected, in short, by your ability to love.”

I think that says a lot. The ability to love and be loved is an incredible one, and seeing the two of you rise to this commitment is beautiful.

And now we’re here: I am beyond honored to announce you two as wife and husband, and the three of you as family.

You can definitely kiss right now.

bride and groom during handfasting ceremonyPhoto by Leah and Mark via Everything You Need to Know to Write Your Own Handfasting Vows

a wedding ceremony script for a handfasting

Handfasting is an old Pagan custom that dates back to the time of the ancient Celts. It originated as more than an act during a wedding ceremony—in fact, the entire handfasting took place over a period of around a year and served as a trial marriage.

Note: This service incorporates passages from various authors’ works, including Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. You can also find sample vows for a six-corded and four-corded ceremony here.

OPENING

Officiant: Blake and Jessie, today you are surrounded by your family and friends, all of whom are gathered to witness your exchange of vows and to share in the joy of this occasion. Let this be a statement of what you mean to each other and the commitment of marriage you will make.

ADDRESS

Officiant: When you love someone, you do not love them all the time in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love and of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in the terror of the ebb. We are afraid it will never return.

We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity, when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity, in freedom.

The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now.

Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits—islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides of life. —Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

THE EXPRESSION OF INTENT

Officiant: Blake and Jessie have chosen to incorporate the ancient Celtic ritual of handfasting in their wedding ceremony today. Handfasting is a declaration of intent where the couple clearly states that they are marrying of their own free will.

Jessie and Blake, know now before you go further that since your lives have crossed in this life, you have formed eternal bonds. As you seek to enter this state of matrimony, you should strive to make real ideals that give meaning to this ceremony and to the sanctity of marriage. With full awareness, know that within this circle you are declaring your intent before your friends and family as witnesses.

The promises made today and the ties that are bound here greatly strengthen your union and will cross the years and lives of each soul’s growth. Do you seek to enter this ceremony?

Blake and Jessie: Yes.

Officiant: Blake and Jessie, please look into each other’s eyes.

(Blake and Jessie hold hands, one partner with his or her left hand and the other with his or her right hand.)

HANDFASTING CEREMONY

Officiant: Jessie, will you share in Blake’s pain and seek to alleviate it?
Jessie: I will.
Officiant: Blake, will you share in Jessie’s pain and seek to alleviate it?
Blake: I will.
Officiant: And so the binding is made.

Officiant:
Jessie, will you share in Blake’s laughter and look for the brightness and the positive in her? (I will.)
Blake, will you share in Jessie’s laughter and look for the brightness and positive in him? (I will.)
And so the binding is made.

Officiant:
Jessie, will you share in Blake’s burdens so that your spirits may grow in this union? (I will.)
Blake, will you share in Jessie’s burdens so that your spirits may grow in this union? (I will.)
And so the binding is made.

Officiant:
Jessie, will you share in Blake’s dreams? (I will.)
Blake, will you share in Jessie’s dreams? (I will.)
And so the binding is made.

Officiant:
Jessie, will you take the heat of anger and use it to temper the strength of this union? (I will.)
Blake, will you take the heat of anger and use it to temper the strength of this union? (I will.)
And so the binding is made.

Officiant:
Jessie, will you honor Blake as an equal in this union? (I will.)
Blake, will you honor Jessie as an equal in this union? (I will.)
And so the binding is made.

ADDRESS, CONTINUED

Blake and Jessie, as your hands are bound together now, so your lives and spirits are joined in a union of love and trust. The bond of marriage is not formed by these cords, but rather by the vows you have made. For always you hold in your own hands the fate of this union. Above you are stars and below you is earth. Like stars, your love should be a constant source of light, and like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow.

May these hands be blessed this day. May they always hold each other. May they have the strength to hang on during the storms of stress and the dark of disillusionment. May they remain tender and gentle as they nurture each other in their wondrous love. May they build a relationship founded in love, and rich in caring. May these hands be healer, protector, shelter, and guide for each other. —”The Hands of the Couple” (traditional handfasting prayer)

CEREMONY OF THE RINGS

Officiant: I will now ask you to seal the vows you share with each other by the giving and receiving of rings. The perfect circle of the ring symbolizes eternity. The precious metal came from the ground as a rough ore and was heated and purified, shaped and polished. Something beautiful was made from raw elements. Love is like that. It comes from humble beginnings, made by imperfect beings. It is the process of making something beautiful where there was once nothing at all.

Officiant: Blake, please repeat after me:

{Blake’s vows here}

Officiant: Jessie, please repeat after me:

{Jessie’s vows here}

RELATED: HOW TO WRITE WEDDING VOWS

PRONOUNCEMENT AND KISS

Officiant: Blake and Jessie, on behalf of all those present, and by the strength of your own love, I pronounce you married.

You may seal your vows with a kiss.

 What Wedding Ceremony Script Did You Use? Did you Love it? What would you change, or not.

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