It took me a while to put the actual words and form of our ceremony together. I am really delighted with what we ended up with. Both Rose and her mom were very helpful in this ... in providing a sanity check for comfort level.
Below is a list of the key pieces of the ceremony with my inspirations/rationale. After that follows the actual ceremony itself.
- The Call to Order: When we first started to form the idea of a "wedding cabaret" and tell people about it, a few folks got the wrong idea - that this was a casual, frivolous thing. I started to worry that people weren't taking it seriously. It is a serious thing - a lifetime commitment to one person. I needed something that "set the mood". So in the intro that I wrote for Daniel, our priest/magician, the "call to order", read aloud at the beginning of the cabaret, is designed to help the audience understand the mood we were trying to set. Note: you can check out the full cabaret program here (pdf).
- The Pledge plus the Exchange of Vows and Rings: I really wanted to enact a "wedding that wed" and as part of that, the words of the actual ceremony were incredibly important. I'm a bit of a traditionalist because I like the form of ritual, but a lot of the actual language used in wedding ceremonies isn't appropriate for same-sex couples, or really any couple who understands themselves to be equal partners in the relationship. When we had the civil ceremony in BC, one of the forms of the wedding had some really great language recognizing the nature of the marital covenant (a word I really like): both economic as well as emotional. I used this as an initial inspiration and form.
- The Affirmation from the Family: I myself am not Anglican, but there is a component of old Anglican wedding ceremonies where the family (the parents of the wedding celebrants, specifically) make a pledge. This echoes the participation of the godparents in an Anglican baptism ceremony. I took this idea and expanded on it. It created a nice moment in the ceremony where Rose's parents spoke on behalf of both our families and made a pledge to us.
- The Affirmation from the Community: Finally, it was really important to me that our friends and families were not simply observers but participants. Our extended communities have been really important to both Rose and I, and I really wanted to acknowledge that importance as well as engage our guests. To quote a terrible cliche, "Life is not a spectator sport" ... when you come to a wedding, you should be prepared to do significant ritual work. This turned into an incredibly special moment for me, when our friends, family and colleagues made a pledge on our behalf.
- The Singing of "Oh, Canada": We live in an incredible country ... one that isn't threatened by evolution of societal norms and wants to ensure the rights and freedoms of its citizens. It's important to celebrate these rights and freedoms and acknowledge the leadership that Canada provides in this area. So we all sang "Oh, Canada" to cement the wedding ceremony and close Act 1. Several people said to me that this was perhaps their favourite and most moving part of the whole ceremony. I agree. It was a truly powerful and empowering moment.
And now, the actual text of the call to order and the ceremony ...
The Order of the Day
Two incongruous ideas held in perfect balance and tension
It is serious work we are about to do, in a ritual sense: the binding of two lives.
But, it is also the most joyous work that can be done.
And consequently, it is the most serious of play.
So, your laughter, your applause, your heartfelt enthusiasm, and even your cat-calls are welcome. But keep at the core of your heart, the gravitas and meaning of this event. Ladies and Gentlemen … we are here to wed. Let’s get started!
The Affirmation of the Commitment
Friends … we are gathered here to offer our love and support for Rose and Kate. To witness the public declaration of the covenant of marriage that they are entering. To celebrate their union through the gifts and talents of their friends and family.
Rose and Kate, we have heard you pledge your commitments earlier, one to the other. Now, please join hands. I charge you to answer the following:
Rosemary and Katherine … do you undertake to afford to each other the love of your person, the comfort of your companionship and the patience of your understanding? Do you pledge to share equally in the necessities of life as they may be earned or enjoyed together? And do you commit to respect the dignity of each other’s person and personal rights, and to recognize the rights of counsel and consultation upon all matters relating to the present or the future of your household established by this marriage?
Rosemary & Katherine: I do.
The Exchange of Vows and Rings
You have set rings before me to be used and regarded as a both a seal of the commitment you have made, as well as a confirmation and acceptance of these vows. Please repeat after me:
Rosemary: I call upon those present that I, Rosemary Rowe, take Katherine Trgovac as my lawful wedded wife, from this day forward, in whatever circumstances or experiences life may hold for us. Katherine, I offer you this ring as the token and pledge of my vow and as the covenant of my word.
Katherine: In receiving this ring, I promise to give to you the truth and the faithfulness of my love and my life.
Katherine: I call upon those present that I, Katherine Trgovac, take Rosemary Rowe as my lawful wedded wife, from this day forward, in whatever circumstances or experiences life may hold for us. Rosemary, I offer you this ring as the token and pledge of my vow and as the covenant of my word.
Rosemary: In receiving this ring, I promise to give to you the truth and the faithfulness of my love and my life.
The Affirmation of the Family
A marriage is a covenant between two people. But a successful marriage is care-taken and enriched by family. Marianne and Bill, as Rosemary’s parents, will you please stand and affirm your commitment to this new union on behalf of both families? Please repeat after me:
Marianne and Bill: On behalf of both families, we welcome our new daughter with open arms. We know that marriage brings together different family traditions and that both our family trees are stronger for it. We affirm our continuing support and love for Rosemary and Kate as they grow in their marriage. And we offer to them the best of our care and counsel in their times of struggle, and our celebration with them in their times of joy.
The Affirmation of the Community
Finally, all of you, friends and colleagues of Kate and Rose, you have a role to play in this wedding. It is you who will provide the day to day encouragement in their covenant and set the example with your relationships. I charge all of you to stand and repeat after me:
Community: We promise to support Kate and Rose in their marriage. We affirm their commitment to each other and rejoice in their relationship. We will strive to be a positive example to them and reflect back the love, joy and passion from our own relationships.
Kate and Rose, you have expressed your commitment to each other. You have exchanged vows, and you have given and received tokens of your pledge. So, by your authority, the authority of this community and the continuing authority of the government of British Columbia, I affirm your marriage covenant. You may kiss the bride!
To celebrate Rose and Kate’s legal union as well as this great country we live in, please join me in the singing of “Oh, Canada.”