|Ideally, weddings are a public, spiritual and legal declaration of love and commitment. The legal requirements in California are that you have a valid license, that you both be of age, that you both consent to the union, and that at least one person known to you stand as witness (signing the license before the officiant).Until recently, there was another requirement – that the couple be heterosexual.As an act of protest against this discrimination, and in solidarity with those denied the rights and responsibilities of legal marriage, when Proposition 8 was introduced I vowed no longer to serve as “legal officiant” for weddings until all who wish to marry may do so “legally”.
August 2013 UPDATE: That time as now come!
I so look forward to adding wedding ceremonies back onto my calendar – legally affirming the LOVE that draws individuals together in shared commitment. And I am particularly delighted that legal marriage is now, finally, an “option” for gay and lesbian couples in California.
In celebration of this milestone (and with the support of the congregation I now serve and my UUMA colleagues), I will be offering my services as Wedding Officiant to gay and lesbian couples from now until December 2013 – for FREE!
This offer is for a limited time period, subject to my availability and a few other restrictions, including:
▪ Interested couples must contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP to review hopes and possibilities, and to set up an appointment with me, that should take place at least 2 weeks prior to the agreed upon ceremony date.
▪ Couples are asked to bring their ideas, questions, resources (vows, poems, ideas for other ceremony participants, etc.) with them to the meeting – and be prepared to tell me how they met and what they love about each other!
▪ After the planning meeting I can be available for email/phone consultation to finalize the ceremony details, and to discuss rehearsal logistics. (I will not attend the rehearsal.)
▪ The couple will be responsible for communicating with me in a timely fashion, and for all the usual “bells and whistles” of their wedding: obtaining the license, the wedding location, invitations, transportation, attire, decorations, music, photography, refreshments, etc.
▪ On the ceremony date, the couple and their witnesses will meet with me 1/2 hour before the ceremony begins to sign the wedding license and share a centering meditation.
▪ Since I will be forgoing my usual fee, couples will be asked to consider making a donation equal to or greater than that (in whole or part) to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Santa Clarita Valley, the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry (UULM), or another organization active on behalf of civil or human rights.
Interested? Want to find out more, or share your own love story? I look forward to hearing from you!
In Awe & Gratitude,
* * *
Planning a Wedding
Publicly expressing and celebrating your values, expectations, hopes and understandings in the larger context of supportive family and friends honors the gift of your love and faith, and makes of it a gift that enriches others.
If you are considering taking this step, congratulations! And read on…
Often, the months, weeks and days before a wedding are filled with all manner of activity and responsibility, all manner of details, as you plan for this special celebration of your union. Know that this is also an opportunity to strengthen the foundation already set for your marriage. This is a time for thinking about and sharing openly with each other the feelings and ideas you might not yet have had occasion to discuss. You may discover something new about yourselves, as well as develop a greater sense of how your wedding ceremony could be truly reflective of who you are as unique individuals and of what you bring to this union.
To help your envisioning process, I’ve attached some information regarding elements of wedding ceremonies, as well as a list of questions you are invited to use as a springboard for ongoing conversation.
I look forward to getting to know you and helping you create a truly meaningful and memorable wedding ceremony!
SOME QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
Get Help – The best thing you can do is designate people you know and trust to help you plan and deal with the details, even if your wedding is going to be small or simple. That way you can enjoy the process rather than feel burdened by it. This is especially true if you choose to have a more traditional/elaborate wedding.
Here are some of the things you may need help with: setting a budget, type & number of invitations, transportation, accessibility, accommodations, decorations, favors, guest book, flowers, the legal endorsement of your license, photographs/video, catering, cake, music, sound system, gift table, tuxedo and dress, payments, etc.
The License – The wedding license must be obtained by the couple through the appropriate (Los Angeles) County Clerk office and should be properly endorsed at any time prior to the expiration date. Please note that, as of 11/05/08, I no longer endorse wedding licenses. The County Clerk’s Office will be able to let you know how to go about receiving that legal endorsement.
THE ELEMENTS OF THE CEREMONY
Wedding ceremonies can be as traditional or as unique as you want them to be. Be aware that giving yourselves ample time for thought and planning can either ease stress (because all details are tended to in a timely manner) or increase it (because you’ve focused on nothing else for months on end!).
Listed below are a few standard elements you might wish to include. There is a lot of room for creativity here!
Music – Most wedding ceremonies have a musical component during the processional and the recessional…but music can also be included in the body of the ceremony itself. Do you have friends/family willing to sing or play an instrument? Is there a piece of music particularly meaningful to you?
Processional* – Here you will want to think about whether music will be playing and how that will be arranged. Consider whether you will walk in together, or individually (perhaps accompanied by a parent). If there is a bridal party, you will need to consider how/when they process in, and where everyone will be placed.
Welcome – The officiant welcomes those gathered, acknowledging the special nature of the day and the special nature of supportive relationship. (A simple ritual could be added here to acknowledge deceased family members or those not able to come.)
Prayer – It would be important to have discussed your own thoughts/feelings regarding prayer and religious language with the officiant, to assure that this reflects your values and honors your guests.
About the couple – The officiant (or a close friend!) shares a brief description of your courtship and how you have come to this place in love and commitment…as well as which hopes and expectations you bring to your union.
Reading – If there is poem or reading already special to you, this would be a wonderful time to share it. Otherwise you might ask one or two people close to you to write or bring something special to read aloud, either about you or simply as a gift to you.
Message to the couple – The officiant shares a message regarding the nature of marriage.
Vows – This is a great opportunity to articulate to your beloved your deepest values regarding your relationship and the future you enter together. Consider writing your own vows…or choose existing vows that express what it is you really wish to pledge to each other. There are many books and websites with sample vows, or the officiant can provide you with samples.
The Exchange of Rings – If you have brought rings, you will be asked to reveal them. The officiant will speak to the symbolic nature of these rings and offer a blessing of them before inviting you each to exchange your rings with words of commitment.
The Community Blessing – This is optional, but a wonderful way to publicly include your gathered family and friends in the bond of commitment you are creating. The officiant will ask them to declare aloud their support and blessing of this union.
Closing Words/Blessing – The officiant will offer final words of blessing to this union.
The Pronouncement and First Kiss – The officiant declares the couple to be joined in spiritual marriage and invites the first kiss as a married couple.
Recessional* – The married couple recess, followed by attendants/family. A receiving line is usually formed so that guests may greet you. Photographs may be taken again at this time and hereafter, and the celebrations can begin!
Other possible elements –
* Please note:
Photographs/video – may be taken during the Processional and Recessional portions of the ceremony, but generally are not permitted during the ceremony (especially if flashes need to be used). The reason for this is primarily to support the ceremony as a reverent occasion, as opposed to a “photo op”. But also, because bright lights and the presence/movement of photographers during the ceremony can be distracting and disruptive not only to the couple, but to your guests.