A Simple Wedding Ceremony
“Do you do weddings? I just want a simple ceremony.” That’s how the conversation often began during the 33 years that I served as an officiant. My response, during the last ten years of my wedding work, whether on the phone or by e-mail: “Yes, I officiate at weddings as a Retired Judge, both in my office and at other locations. What date, time and location did you have in mind?” This pattern repeated itself hundreds of times. I performed more than 2,000 wedding ceremonies in those 33 years and, in most cases, I used the Simple Wedding Ceremony posted below.
Performing wedding ceremonies was not something I had ever planned to do. It began in 1982, after I was appointed to serve as a full-time judge in the King County District Court. During the first week I was on the job, my court clerk surprised me by asking how I would like to “handle” my weddings. She provided me a small notebook containing the Simple Wedding Ceremony script and told me that the court regularly received calls asking to schedule weddings with the judges. I could choose whether or not to do the weddings and set my fee. My predecessor had apparently charged $50 for court weddings and $75 for home weddings and I agreed to follow that tradition. While I had never previously given any thought to performing weddings, I began right away accepting the requests for both court and home weddings.
I don’t know where the ceremony below originated. I was simply told that this ceremony was the one most judges used. I’ve since learned that it is very similar to traditional Christian ceremonies, with the religious language deleted. There are things about it I was never totally comfortable with: Is sincerity and earnestness really the key to joy in marriage? “Consented together in wedlock” seems an odd way to say you agreed to marry. What does it mean “to have and to hold” another person? The archaic language is understood by most native English speakers, but can be quite confusing to those who grow up in a different tradition. On the plus side, the language of the ceremony is short, simple, and traditional. It reflects the familiar sentiments of love, comfort and forsaking all others for so long as you live. It expresses a lot more feeling and commitment than a simple statement of wanting to get married and a request that witnesses and the judge sign to confirm the commitment, the manner in which some couples choose to enter into marriage.
I continue to share the text of this ceremony, because for many couples it reflects exactly the ceremony they want. For other couples, it’s a starting point for them to create a custom ceremony, by changing a word here or there and adding poetry, quotations or music to personalize their ceremony. Under Washington law a valid marriage license, an authorized judge or religious officiant, two witnesses, a ceremony which indicates you want to get married, and the necessary signatures on the marriage certificate, which gets properly recorded with the county, is all that is required, so couples have a lot of leeway in what they do on their special day.
Carolyn Hayek, Retired Judge (no longer performing wedding ceremonies)
Note: In addition to the Simple Wedding Ceremony posted below, there are three other complete weddings ceremonies posted on this website. Take a look at the Special Wedding Ceremony, the Plain English Ceremony and the Partner Ceremony. You might also be interested in the suggestions contained in the Rehearsal Checklist or A Judge’s Advice About Wedding Planning.
Simple Wedding Ceremony
The union into which you are about to enter is the closest and tenderest into which human beings can come. It is a union founded upon mutual respect and affection. Your paths will be parallel, your responsibilities will increase, but your joy will be multiplied if you are sincere and earnest with one another.
_______________, will you have this woman to be your wedded wife, to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, and forsaking all others, keep you only unto her, for so long as you both shall live?
_______________, will you have this man to be your wedded husband, to love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, and forsaking all others, keep you only unto him, so long as you both shall live?
Take hands and repeat after me: I, _______________, take you, _______________, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, to love and to cherish, from this day forward.
I, _______________, take you, _______________, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, to love and to cherish, from this day forward.
Do you have a ring for the bride? Please place the ring on the bride's finger and say: With this ring, I thee wed.
Is there a ring for the groom? Please place the ring on the groom's finger and say: With this ring, I thee wed. Let these rings be given and received as a token of your affection, sincerity and fidelity to one another.
Forasmuch as _______________ and _______________ have consented together in wedlock and have witnessed the same before this company, and have given and pledged their vows to each other, and have declared the same by joining hands, by the authority vested in me by the State of Washington, I now pronounce you husband and wife.
(You may kiss the bride. You may kiss the groom.)