In a civil wedding ceremony, what you say, what poems, readings, thoughts you include are entirely up to you as a couple. Of course, as your marriage celebrant, I am there to assist you in any way I can but your wedding ceremony should be a reflection of how you are as a couple. The mood of the ceremony…the beliefs expressed…the promises given will only have meaning if you believe in them.
To become legally married within the law of Australia, a marriage ceremony must only contain three elements:
Firstly, I must declare my authority to conduct marriages. This is officially called ‘The Monitum’ and it’s exact wording is determined by Marriage Act.
‘My name is Melissa Laird and I am here today as a Civil Marriage Celebrant. In that capacity, I am duly authorised by law to solemnize marriages according to law. Before you are joined in marriage, in my presence and in the presence of these witnesses, I am to remind you of the solemn and binding nature of the relationship in which you are now about to enter. Marriage, according the law in Australia, is the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.
The second compulsory wording relates to the vows undertaken by the couple to be married. Many other thoughts and promises can be incorporated into the wording of the vows, however, it is a legal requirement for the marriage to be valid, that the bride and groom state the following intention.
I call upon the persons/people here present to witness that I…. take thee/you to be my lawful/wedded/lawful wedded husband/wife/partner.
The other requirement for the marriage to be legal is that it is made in the presence of two witnesses who must be over 18 years of age.
So you can see…there can be a lot of creative license in determining how your ceremony should be. Whilst many couples tell me to ‘keep it short and simple’, and I do, you should nonetheless consider that your marriage ceremony is a pivotal and important part your wedding day.
There are many ceremonies within your ceremony which can add extra meaning and significance to your day…perhaps you have already attended the weddings of friends or family and are familiar with some of the ideas listed below. Perhaps you are right at the very beginning of thinking about how you would like you ceremony to be. It is important to take some time to consider what might make it memorable for you both.
The Sand Ceremony
In the union of two people in marriage, each brings his or her own unique beliefs, personality and history that will become part of the larger picture which is now your life together. In wider sense, it is also the coming together of two families.
The ceremony of the sand uses two different of sand, each poured a little at a time, into a larger vessel signifying the joining but also the uniqueness of each. What is created is a beautiful layered representation of two becoming one.
In times before rings were exchanged, handfasting or the binding of hands together constituted a legal marriage. There are a number of variations to this ceremony but in it’s simplest form, a length of ribbon is loosely tied around the joined wrists of the bride and groom in a manner that replicates the figure 8 or the infinity symbol. The hands are then gently removed leaving the knot intact symbolising the joining of two. The tied ribbon is then placed in a ceremonial box or pouch as a tangible reminder of your coming together.
The Blessing/Warming of the Rings
This lovely ritual allows family and friends some personal involvement in your day. Early in the ceremony, I would convey to family and friends your invitation to bless or impart good wishes into the very substance of your wedding rings as they are passed from hand to hand. The rings are usually held in an organza bag so that they can be seen and felt but also held in safe-keeping with the pouch. At the appropriate moment, I will call for the rings to be brought forward symbolically carrying the love and best wishes of all.
The Unity Candle
The lighting of the unity candle is another way of symbolising that a new entity has been created. Taper candles, representing you as individuals, as used to light a single centre candle as the beginning of a brighter, stronger flame that is your life together. I have used this touching ceremony where two families are becoming one. It is a wonderful way to involve the children in helping to create a sense of their future together as one family.
The lighting of candle can also be a poignant remembrance of family members who have passed away. Whilst not positioned centrally, the candles acknowledges those who have influenced our lives and who are missed on significant days particularly. Sometimes a photos or number of photos of parents or grandparents or a sibling can be placed by the unity candle.
In these days of blended families, children may also be acknowledged in the wedding ceremony..making them feel an important part of the day. There are many ways that this can be achieved. Sometimes a piece of jewellery is given….as mentioned above…being part of the lighting of the unity candle helps children to be participants in what for their parents is a significant day.
Another lovely involvement for children is with the inclusion of a vow on their part undertaking to support their Mum or Dad in their life and family.
Many cultures have wonderful traditions and rituals that I am only too happy to incorporate into your wedding ceremony. Occasionally, I work in conjunction with a community, religious or cultural representative in officiating at a service.