Partner Wedding Ceremonies

When the law changed in Washington State to allow same sex wedding ceremonies, I didn't know how it would affect my wedding business.  I knew I would start performing ceremonies for same sex couples but didn't know what new issues might arise.  Lots of thoughts went through my head:  Would I actually have wedding requests from same sex couples?  Should I change my website to be more gender neutral?  What type of ceremony were they likely to want?  Would couples in same sex relationships have any special concerns that I didn't experience with other couples?

At first I had very few inquiries and I started to think maybe there was something about me or my website that was discouraging this new wedding business.  I placed an ad in a directory geared toward same sex couples and also changed some of the language on my website to be more gender neutral and the calls began -- lots and lots of them.  That first year I set a personal record in the number of ceremonies performed due to the pent up demand for ceremonies by gay couples not only in Washington but from across the country.  My office was a busy and exciting place to be as calls came in from all over.  Couples were so anxious to marry that they didn't want to wait for the law to change in their home state.  In addition, almost without exception, these new ceremonies were very joyous occasions.  This was a step the couples, their families and friends had looked forward to for a very long time.  They were happy, enthusiastic and grateful to me for helping them make their wedding day possible. Families and friends thanked me warmly and the couples gave me generous tips and thank you gifts.

To accommodate the desires of these new clients, I created a new wedding script (posted below), borrowing from other ceremonies I had done.  I called it Partner Wedding Ceremony thinking that many couples, regardless of gender, view their relationships as a sort of partnership.  Ironically, the very first couple that requested to use this new script after I created it was not a same sex couple.  After that first use of the script it did become very popular with same sex couples, but not all of them, and I continued to have many heterosexual couples choose this ceremony, especially when they had been together many years already.

After awhile the number of same sex couples contacting me reduced substantially.  I don't know exactly why, but I believe it was a combination of less demand because the "bubble" of couples who were ready to marry right away was accommodated and it became much easier to find officiants and venues, all across the country, who were available for these ceremonies. As my requests for ceremonies dwindled I was left with happy memories of the many couples who had allowed me to be part of their lives at a time of important transitions.

Here are a few reflections on my experiences.  I had nothing to worry about in regard to communicating with the gay couples I dealt with.  Everyone was very easy to talk with and their requests were reasonable and easy to accommodate.  As a group they were older,  and seemed to be better educated and more financially secure than other couples I worked with.  Some were immigrants but not many, compared to my other couples.  It was not my job to provide legal advice, but it became apparent that they would continue to need legal advice regarding how marriage would affect them, since many legal issues had not yet been settled.  They seemed to take those challenges in stride, since most of these couples had been dealing with the legal ramifications of same sex relationships for many years. 

As the number of weddings I did for gay couples went down, I began to think that maybe it was transition time for me as well.  In the spring of 2015 I closed my wedding office and retired from performing wedding ceremonies, an activity I had happily engaged in for 33 years.  I treasure my memories of the many couples, families, guests, vendors and wedding venues I worked with over those years.  

Carolyn Hayek, Retired Judge

Partner Wedding Ceremony

Welcome friends and family to this very special occasion in the lives of ______________________ and ___________________, a couple who have had a special relationship with one another for __________ years. This marriage ceremony is a continuation of that relationship, but it also marks a significant change.

As stated by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, "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."

Marriage is the closest relationship two people can have with one another and one of the most important commitments a person will make during a lifetime. A successful marriage is founded upon mutual respect and affection. The lives of the two partners are both parallel and intertwined. Each of you retains your own special interests and personality, yet you have agreed to take on shared responsibilities. This combination of independence and inter-dependence allows you to share both joys and sorrows, and also to help each other achieve personal goals that may not have been possible without the support of a loving partner.

_______________, do you agree to join ______________________ in marriage and commit to love, honor, support and comfort her/him, as her/his faithful partner, and forsaking all others, for so long as you both shall live?

_______________, do you agree to join ______________________ in marriage and commit to love, honor, support and comfort her/him, as her/his faithful partner, and forsaking all others, for so long as you both shall live?

Take hands and repeat after me:

I, _______________, take you, _______________, to be my wedded wife/spouse/husband/partner, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, in joy as well as in sorrow, to love and to cherish, from this day forward.

I, _______________, take you, _______________, to be my wedded wife/spouse/husband/partner, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, in joy as well as in sorrow, to love and to cherish, from this day forward.

Do you have rings to exchange? _________________, please place the ring on ____________________'s hand and say: With this ring, I marry you. Let it remind you, that I am always by your side, and that I will always be faithful to you.

________________________, please place the ring on ________________'s hand and say: With this ring, I marry you. Let it remind you, that I am always by your side, and that I will always be faithful to you.

May these rings always remind you of your love for one another and your commitment to this marriage.

Now that you have made your marriage vows to each other, in the presence of your (witnesses/friends and family), by the authority granted to me by the State of Washington, I now pronounce you partners in marriage.

(You may seal your commitment with a kiss.)

 

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