Our Non-Traditional and Non-Religious Ceremony (with Script)

As we formed a line in that auditorium, I could hear the music begin outside the doors. I was finally a little anxious, but most of all I just wanted to see Nick. I wanted to hear the words of our ceremony, hold Nick’s hands, and see him hold back tears of happiness. And mostly, just be standing in front of him and staring at him.

The music filling the room outside the doors was perfect. Nick and I had decided to use the Atlas March from the movie Cloud Atlas as our processional. As a march, it already paces well for such a thing. But more importantly it comes from a movie that has profoundly affected the two of us, and embodies a message of love across past, present, and future. Nick has said that when the music started, as he was standing there waiting for me, every part of him had to fight back against the emotions bubbling up inside.

Click this bar to hear the song:

 

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After my bridal party had finished their own procession, my parents and I waited for the next movement of the song before exiting the auditorium. I had decided a while back that I wanted all of my parents to walk me down the aisle, as I wasn’t able to choose any one of them. On my right arm was my dad, my left was my mom, and on her left was my step-dad. It definitely looked strange having so many people, but it was what I wanted and I loved having them there with me.

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When I finally saw Nick, he smiled so big I was afraid his cheeks would be in pain. It was the kind of smile that is so happy, he even began to laugh a little. That is the face I want to see every morning when I wake up, and every evening when I go to bed. It’s the best face I’ve ever seen.

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After giving my parents a kiss and handing my bouquet to my sister, Nick and I took each other’s hands and squeezed tight. And man, were our palms sweaty! It was an uncomfortable surprise, and yet I should’ve seen it coming. My palms always clam up when I’m in front of a crowd.

The music faded away and our friend, who graciously accepted our request to become ordained for our wedding, raised his microphone.

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Yes, we really asked him to do that. It was the perfect moment to get us laughing and comfortable right away, and set the tone for the rest of our ceremony.

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Today is a celebration. A celebration of love, commitment, friendship, family, and of two people who are in it for forever.

You don’t have to have a ceremony to have a marriage. And when you think about it, the whole thing is kind of weird, right? You’re standing on a stage, looking fancy, holding flowers, and being stared at by pretty much everyone who has meant anything to you in the past twenty-something years. So why do we do it? The marriage ceremony has been an important feature across nearly every culture, religion, generation, and society. We have thousands of important moments that happen throughout our lives, but this one is regarded as one so critical, we acknowledge its special status by sharing it with others. Why this moment?

Because despite all of our differences, love is what we all share. It’s the great unifier — our one universal truth. That no matter who we are, where we’ve come from, what we believe, we know this one thing: love is what we’re doing right. That’s why you both are standing here. That’s why you all are here to watch them stand up here. We have all loved in our lifetimes, and in this moment, we’re reminded that the ability to love is the very best part of our humanity

All of us here today have our own love stories. Some are short, others long. Some are yet unwritten, while others are just getting to the good part. There are chapters in all of our stories that are sad or disappointing — and others that are exciting and full of adventure.

Sarah and Nick’s story begins at a campground in Port Huron, 9 years ago. Seated at that picnic table next to a campfire, the spark ignited and merged these two lives. Despite their initial spark, fate didn’t bring them together as a couple until 4 and a half years later. I still remember sitting with Nick in his dorm at Albion, seeing his phone screen light up, and his face even moreso. I’d ask, “Is it cute?” and he would giddily respond, “yeahhh.” He was so excited to start this journey with you, Sarah.

Sarah & Nick shared their first kiss in December 2010. They first said “I love you” in February 2011. Their relationship became really long distance in December 2012. They first jumped out of a plane with a ring, a question, and an answer, on August 17th, 2013.

And that brings them here. A time to pause, look back, and smile at all the moments that brought them here. And a time to look ahead at all the moments that are still to come. Nick, I know your dad is smiling right with us, at all the beautiful moments your lives have had and will bring.

It was this moment that Nick began to cry. He’d lost his dad to a heart attack about a year before him and I started dating. His dad meant the world to him, and I asked our friend to put this moment into our ceremony for him. From all Nick’s stories, it sounds like I missed knowing a really incredible human being.

I’m here — we’re all here — because we want those moments for you. We’re here to hope with you, support you, be proud of you, and to remind you that love isn’t happily ever after, love is the experience of writing your story. It’s not one moment — not even this moment. It’s every moment. Big ones like saying “I love you,” moving in together, getting engaged — but mostly a million little ones that come in between the big moments. Falling asleep next to one another, making dinner together, spending holidays with your families, binge-watching Netflix shows, getting a big hug when you get home from work… These everyday moments fuse together into one big experience. And even though this experience is so incredible, words fail us when we try and explain it. That’s just the way it is with love — it’s meant to be felt, not described.

But trying to describe love is one of our favorite pastimes. We use the words we have to write stories, and poems, and songs about love. And even though we describe love in different ways — and even though love can look different from one person to the next — we all know it when we see it. And we see it here.

So today, we have some words about what love is. Coming from Mike Smith*, and excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit.

That’s when our friend, Mike, came up from the crowd to read a passage from the classic children’s book. We wanted to pick a reading that wasn’t ominous or traditional, and after a LOT of searching we’d decided on this passage:

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“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but Really loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Margery Williams, “The Velveteen Rabbit”

I really love that passage.

Once our friend was finished reading, he returned the mic:

You’ve both chosen to wear rings as a reminder of your promises. People often say wedding bands are a perfect circle, with no beginning and no end. But these rings did have a beginning. The stones were formed a long time ago deep within the earth. Eventually, a series of lucky events caused them to rise to the surface, where someone dug them up. Metal was then liquefied in a furnace at a thousand degrees — molded, cooled, and painstakingly polished. Something beautiful was made from raw elements.

Love is like that. It comes from humble beginnings, and through a combination of serendipity and effort, imperfect beings shape it into something extraordinary. It’s the process of making something beautiful where there was once nothing at all. As you look at these rings over the years, I hope you remember that. You’ve created something invaluable, and just as I know you’ll protect these rings, I’m confident you’ll protect the commitments you’ll make to one other today.

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This is when my darling little cousin gave his grand performance for his big job. I swear he was the most perfect ring bearer anyone could ask for. He came over to our officiant, opened the box with the rings, allowed him to remove the rings, and went right back over to his spot in front of the crowd to stand like the cute little button he is.

You fell in love by chance, but you’re here today because you’re making a choice. You both are choosing each other. You’ve chosen to be with someone who enhances you, who makes you think, makes you smile, and makes every day brighter.

You’re about to make promises to each other that you intend to keep. You’re going to vow to take care of each other, to stand up for one another, and find happiness in the other. There’s a simple premise to each of these promises: you’re vowing to be there. You’re teaming up and saying to the other, “Every experience I am going to have, I want you to be a part of.”

Sarah & Nick have elected to write their own vows to one another.

At this point Nick and I were handed slips of paper to read from. We had elected to write our own vows, and we’d decided that I would go first as Nick would more likely be the one to cry while reading.

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Nick. From the first time we met, I knew you were meant to fit into my life like a puzzle piece. A piece that completes the picture, makes it more wonderful, and is the only piece that belongs here. It took sixteen years to find you, and then 4 more to figure out where you belonged. And once we found that place, we both knew you weren’t going anywhere. It was a perfect fit.

Although, neither of us are perfect. You can’t remember our calendar of where we need to be and when, and I can’t cook. But we are perfect together, because in every imperfection such as these, the other fills the gap. As it says in our favorite Owl City song, the spaces between my fingers are right where yours fit perfectly. This is the past, present, and future that I want for us.

I vow to be excited for your life achievements, and to support you in life’s downfalls.  To share my thoughts, and to listen to yours. To make life an adventure that never grows dull. And to, eventually, learn to cook. Above all, I vow to love you, even when your hair has been loved off, your eyes droop out, and you grow loose in the joints. I pinky promise.

I slipped his ring on his finger, and then it was Nick’s turn.

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Sarah. I love you for everything you are and will be.  You are genuine, honest, loving.

In our eyes, we see each other as perfect. In reality we have many flaws. I promise to love you for all that makes you beautiful, but more importantly I promise to love you for your flaws. It’s loving these imperfections that that will help us work through any tough times that lie ahead.

It would be wrong to say that you complete me because we are still growing as individuals, and as a couple. I love you exactly the way you are. But I am even more excited to see what we will become. I vow to grow with you.

I promise to laugh with you, comfort you and rub your feet. I vow to keep you safe, to keep you warm, to provide you with comic relief. I promise to kiss you goodbye in the morning, and again when I return home. I promise to support you in all of your endeavors.   I vow to give you my shoulder to lean on, my arm to grasp and my hand to hold. Most of all, I promise to give you all the love that I have to give.

I promise to do all of these things, from this day, until the last of our days.

Needless to say, we were both incredibly teary-eyed after this. Nick managed to slip my ring on, despite my clammy hands and the warm room. We just stood there smiling, crying, and squeezing each other’s hand.

In the presence of this gathering and by the authority vested in me by the constitution and the laws of this state, it is my honor to now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.

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When we stepped back after our kiss, I began laughing immediately – his lips were CAKED in red! It was so funny, especially when he used his hanky to wipe it off. We are so weird, and I love it.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, presented to you for the first time: Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas and Sarah Katcher.

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We began our walk back down the aisle to “This Will Be” by Natalie Cole. Everyone we loved was clapping and cheering as we wore big, fat grins on our faces. We walked into the auditorium, through its back doors, and came around the back of the crowd now that the ceremony was over. We hugged each other so tightly, and Nick picked me up for one of my favorite photos from the day:

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We were married, and it was perfect. Everything went exactly as we’d imagined, then even better. We hugged all of our friends and family in reach, and saw many red faces from those who’d been crying. It was absolutely perfect.

…To Be Continued…

*Name has been changed

To read my post about asking your friend to become ordained, click here

To email me with any questions about our ceremony, click here

Our ceremony script was taken and altered from this post on the Offbeat Bride

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