Marriage in a New Story

This is not a description of a ceremony, but rather a presentation of some ideas that a couple might like to incorporate into their ceremony.

The presentation presumes some interest in having spiritual/religious content – whether the couple is connected with a religious denomination or not. The “New Story” aspect brings an inclusive dimension to this content.

Whether the ceremony is conducted by a Church celebrant or a civil celebrant, close family friend or someone not well known to the family, will have some bearing on the shape of the ceremony – and the extent to which the celebrant is involved.

Most of the practicalities – such as entrance of groom and bride, bridal party, parents, where the bridal party stands/sits, what music and when to play it etc – are for the couple to work out with the celebrant.

The names John and Mary are used here for the groom and bride.

After entrance, celebrant welcomes couple and all present.
If the celebrant offers a prayer, it should avoid language asking an elsewhere God to send a blessings etc, but rather acknowledge the presence of God in everyone gathered and then consciously bring that gathered presence of God to focus on the bride and groom with a minute or so of quiet reflection/prayer in which everyone quietly prays for the couple.
If “God” language is to be avoided at this stage, use the language of the power of love assembled here and ask people to bring their love and best wishes to bear on this couple in some moments of quietness.
Mary and John, we welcome you and we thank you for the privilege that is ours to share this joyful day with you.
We are mindful today not only of the reality and the joy of your love for each other, but the power of love also. We want to bring the power of all the love here in this gathering today and to focus it on you as you pledge your love for one another.
So (to the congregation), let us join together in some moments of quietness, and in this silence let us gather together and focus on Mary and John  the prayers and best wishes we have for them today.
[About a minute of quiet time]

Celebrant: Please be seated.

Sit for Reflections/Readings.

Have 4 readers come forward. Ensure that readers have practiced previously. These reflections must be well read, slowly and clearly. Have a pause between readings.

First Reflection:  (There is no introduction; reader begins with the words of the reflection)

Contemporary writers are telling a new story about the wonder of being human.
It is a story about every atom in our bodies being manufactured in the explosion of a giant star billions and billions of years ago.
This is a story full of wonder.
This story tells us that the life-form we are gives the universe itself a way of coming to conscious awareness.
As far as we know, nowhere else in the universe, does the universe come to expression in a life form that can speak, sing, dance, dream, imagine, hope and love.
We rejoice today in the way the universe has come to expression in Mary and John.

Second Reflection

This new story about ourselves and our universe tells us that everything, great and small, is held in connectedness and relationship through some kind of energy.
Our human language for this is the language of love.
Love holds us in wholesome connectedness and relationships.
Love energies us.
We are most human when we are most loving.
Our greatest human joy is to discover that we are unconditionally loved and that we can love unconditionally.
We rejoice today in love coming to expression in Mary and John.
(To couple)
We rejoice, Mary and John, in who you are for each other;
We rejoice in who you are for all of us;
We rejoice, today, in the wonder and the power of human love.

Third Reflection
The new story about ourselves and our universe,
about connectedness, relationship and energy,
about love,
has a religious dimension:
To live in love is to live in God.
In human love,
in the love to which Mary and John bear witness today,
there is more than the eye can see –
in love, God comes to human expression in us.
This is a wonderful story about who we are.
It is a story worth telling over and over again.

Fourth Reflection
(This is from “Marriage – A Reading: The Spirit of Life and Love in Human Form” from Praying a New Story by Michael Morwood.  Used with permission)

Mary and John, you are a man and woman of love.
You bring to this wedding ceremony all that you are
and all that has made you who you are:
your families, your friends,
your giftedness,
your experiences of life,
your insights and your wisdom.
You bring your hopes and your dreams of what shared love might be.

In your love for each other we see the Spirit of Life and Love
in human form
and we rejoice in the wonderful ways
each of you makes that Spirit visible to us.

Be always the man and woman you are
because that is what delights and attracts you
and brings you together.
It is also what we your family and friends delight in.

But let there be space and room for the other to grow
as you form a bond this day that you wish to be unending and unbreakable.

May that bonding be joyful and gracious.
May your love be overflowing and generous.

In all the years to come, may you delightedly be
Mary and John, wife and husband,
strong and constant in your love for each other,
for your families and for all your friends.

Pledge of love and commitment.
This can be an exchange between celebrant and couple, or can be adapted to be an exchange between everyone present and the couple. If everyone, the exchange would need to be in printed form for everyone to have.

The couple stand facing everyone.

Celebrant (or congregation)

Mary and John, do you commit yourselves today to an unending and unbreakable bonding of your love?
We do.
Do you commit yourselves to be true and faithful to the demands of married and parental love?
We do.
Mary, will you love John with all your heart, with all your soul, with all you are?
I will.
John, will you love Mary with all your heart, with all your soul, with all you are?
I will.

The couple then address the congregation (or change the wording so that the celebrant does it for them)

Your love and friendship have helped bring us to this moment in our lives. Will you continue to love and support us,  in who we are individually,?
We will.
Will you continue to love and support us, in who we are as a couple?
We will.
Will you continue to love and support us, in who we wish to be as parents?
We will
Will you continue to love and support us, in who we always want to be as friends?
We will.

(If the celebrant addresses the people rather than the couple:
Your love and friendship have helped bring Mary and John to this moment in their lives. Will you continue to love and support them, etc etc)

Will you stand by us in both the good times and the hard times?
We will.

We thank you for all you are to us.
Confident of your support,
and knowing the depth of our love for each other,
and trusting in the presence of God in our love,
we joyfully undertake to pledge ourselves to one another in marriage.

Exchange of vows.
The couple should write their own vows (well before hand!) and determine whether they will read them, recite from memory, or repeat phrases after the celebrant.

Exchange of rings. 
The couple should write their own formula to use as they exchange rings.

Final Blessing
(A blessing should avoid calling down from on high assistance from an elsewhere God. Rather it should affirm the presence of the sacred, God, Spirit of Life and Love within the love of the couple. This is an example.
The blessing could be read by the celebrant or by all present)

Mary and John,
The Spirit of Life and Love is evident in your living and loving.
May that Spirit continue to be given expression
in the generosity of your love for one another
in your love for your children
and in your love for all whose lives you touch.
May your lives be richly blessed by the Spirit of Generosity.

May the Spirit of Creativity bless you richly,
in personal growth,
in your married love,
in parenting
and in reaching out to others.
May your lives be richly blessed by Love that is creative and life-giving.

And may a Spirit of gratitude, wonder and peace
be your gift to others
as the depth of your love for one another deepens.
May gratitude, wonder and peace be the blessings from which you draw joyfully in the years ahead.

{I suggest the couple use the above as a guide: and write their own blessing or ask friends/family members to write a blessing for them}

The couple are then presented as wife and husband.

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