A reader wondered about how to be both officiant and Mother of the bride. What a great question!
My father was a Humanist minister and he taught me how to officiate at weddings. When I was ready to commit to Mark, a second marriage for us both, we asked Dad to officiate. We married in October, in a beautiful waterside restaurant, and then sat down with our 70 guests for dinner.
Most people knew that Dad was a wedding officiant, so it wasn’t surprising to the guests. Since he was already up at the ‘altar’ area, I walked down the aisle unaccompanied. That suited us both well.
I still have the ceremony he wrote for us in a red folder. When I reviewed it for this post, I was reminded that Dad had his private opinions about the existence of an Almighty, but because Mark and I requested a way to bring our faith to the forefront, he wove in phrases such as “With God ever present,” and “God, bless these rings,” etc. He wore a black judge’s robe during the ceremony and the removed it and became a dinner guest, and father of the bride, afterward.
What about when it is your first time officiating at a wedding, and you are a parent as well? I think it’s important to make it clear to the guests that your role of parent is different from your role as officiant. Here are some things to consider:
A reader recently asked for a sample sermon that she could not find in the book. I think she was referring to the wedding homily, which I only discussed briefly (page 50) and called "Words of advice to the wedding couple."
Ministers and priests call this a wedding homily. Merriam-Webster defines a homily as a "short sermon."
Short is good. Rev. Michael Curry's wedding sermon to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was thoughtful and entertaining, but could not be described as short.
When you write your homily, you might talk about how the couple should give each other the benefit of the doubt, be slow to anger and quick to forgive -- all the stuff that makes for a good marriage. Often, priests and ministers also use this as an opportunity to talk about teachings from scriptures and spiritual leaders, or the value of the church.
Here are some other homilies, and another, to get you started.
You can use whatever pieces of homilies you find, whatever speaks to your heart and your couple -- although I would not use an entire wedding homily from one person.
My friend Dan married a couple last year. For his homily, he began:
Everyone has advice for newlyweds.
X and G, I offer these very sage words of advice:
Always separate lights and darks when washing with hot water!
Whenever you're wrong, admit it.
Whenever you're right, shut up!
When the guests stopped laughing, he recited some lines from a well-loved poem by Wilferd Paterson, "The Art of a Good Marriage." (Here is the poem in its entirety.) By the time he finished reading, no doubt, everyone there wanted to be a better person:
Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens.
A good marriage must be created.
In marriage the little things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say “I love you” at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry. . .
It is standing together facing the world. . .
It is speaking words of appreciation
and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow. . .
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful. . .
It is not only marrying the right partner;
it is being the right partner.
Some couples just want to say “I do.” Others are happy to simply repeat the traditional, “For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” And still others want to write their own vows.
There is no wrong way or right decision; only what is most comfortable for you. If speaking aloud during your wedding is an unwanted load of pressure on an already full day, don’t do it.
On the other hand, if you are comfortable reading a vow you’ve written beforehand, here is a sweet template to get you started. Once you’re started, feel free to throw out the template.
Lisa’s throwaway template:
(Name), I love you because. . . .
I love your . . .
I love that you . . .
And how you make me . . .
I promise that . . . .
And I promise to . . . .
A few more thoughts:
At a minimum, try to write five or seven lines.. At maximum, anything longer than a page is a little rough on your guests.
If you are a funny person, it’s OK to add a touch of humor. If you have gone through very difficult circumstances with your beloved, you can mention this, but overall, try to keep everything in the vows positive and upbeat.
Some couples feel better if they know what each other will say, so they write or review their vows together. Others prefer to keep them secret from each other until the ceremony. If you choose the latter, try to let each other know how long your vow will be for a better balance.
It’s best to jot them down. Trying to memorize them adds another element of risk, which might keep you from being fully present during your wedding ceremony.
Finally, don't be afraid to try writing your vows. If they come from your heart, there is no wrong way to write them!
Here are some thoughts about weddings, writing, and the world. Enjoy.