Contemporary Ceremony

A contemporary wedding ceremony:  Rachel and Michael
(note: this ceremony is fairly long – approximately 24-26 minutes in length)

Mary asks everyone to join her on the terrace, and to turn off phones.
Noreen plays entrance music (acoustic).

Joanne and Paul (Groom’s supporters) walk to the front. Michael joins them. Ty and Joel (Rachel’s supporters) walk to front.  Rachel joins them. 


Welcome to the marriage celebration of Rachel and Michael. Thank you all for gathering here to celebrate their wedding – some from great distance, and some as far as the OTHER side of the Don River! Let us all surround Rachel and Michael with our hope, our love, and our respect.

Speaking of the Don River, we would like to begin this ceremony by acknowledging the land that we are on has been inhabited and cared for by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years. It is the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, Wendat, and most recently the Mississauga of the New Credit Nation, who are the holders of the Toronto Purchase treaty. We further acknowledge that today this land is the home of the ancestors of these and many other First nations, as well as Metis and Inuit peoples.  We respect their stewardship.  (this section is optional & may be altered due to geography, etc.)

My name is Mary Beaty, I am a Humanist Officiant, Licensed by the Registrar General and certified by the Ontario Humanist Society to Solemnize Marriages in Ontario. I am honoured to have been invited by Rachel and Michael to officiate at their wedding today.

Humanism is a naturalistic philosophy of life, affirming that we are all part of the global human family and that by our very nature, people have the capacity and responsibility to lead meaningful, ethical lives based on reason and compassion. These are the values shared by Rachel and Michael, which they have chosen as the foundation of their union.

Couple’s Story

Most of you know that Rachel and Michael met when they worked together at the U of T bookstore. On their second date, Michael brought Rachel here, to the Mill, because he thought she was the type of person who might appreciate seeing a different side the City. They had known each other for only two weeks before Rachel moved back to Britain and they lost contact.

Two years later, Michael and Rachel, having just moved back from Montreal and Britain respectively, were reunited by chance. Since then they have lived and travelled together on three continents – teaching English in Bangkok, studying and working in London, and finally settling again in Toronto.

Now, they have decided to legally recognize their commitment to each other, and celebrate it in the presence of their family and friends.

The Mill will strike some people as an unlikely place for a wedding ceremony. But Rachel and Michael have always been drawn to unconventional beauty, and in the same way their relationship has followed its own unconventional path. Today they are honoured to have you here with them to celebrate that relationship.

Statement of Purpose

“For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. ” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

Marriage is the promise of hope, between two people who love each other sincerely, who honour each other as individuals, and who have agreed to unite their lives and share the future together.  Marriage is not the beginning but the maturing of a relationship: love freely given, and gladly returned. It is something both ordinary, and extraordinary;  a promise to share equally in the joys and sorrows of everyday living

That is the spirit of the promises that Michael and Rachel will make to each other today – and they are very grateful you are here to offer your love and support, not only on this special day, but in all the days and years to come.

Family and Friends Acknowledgement

As we stand here today, witnesses to the happiness Michael and Rachel have found together, we are thinking about absent family and friends, especially those who cannot travel today, and those who are no longer with us, particularly [names].

Let us bring them into our thoughts and our hearts.
(Moment of silence,  Mary rings Tibetan bowl) 

Readings and Reflections

Rachel and Michael have selected three readings in honour of their marriage, and we would invite Rachel’s Aunt Martha, Michael’s mother Lisa, and their friend Yumi to come forward.

“Rent”  by Jane Cooper

If you want my apartment, sleep in it
but let’s have a clear understanding:
the books are still free agents.

If the rocking chair’s arms surround you
they can also let you go,
they can shape the air like a body.

I don’t want your rent, I want
a radiance of attention
like the candle’s flame when we eat
I mean a kind of awe
attending the spaces between us —
Not a roof but a field of stars.

Traditional Celtic Blessing

You cannot possess one another for you each belong to yourself
But while you both wish it,
you give to each other that which is yours to give.
You cannot command one another for you are each a free person.
But you shall serve one another
in those ways that each of you may require
And the honeycomb will taste sweeter coming from the others hand.

Pledge to each other that the others name will be the name you cry aloud in the night and the eyes into which your smile in the morning.

Pledge to each other the first bite from your meat.
And the first drink from your cup.
Pledge to your living, and your dying,
equally in each others care.

And tell no strangers your grievances.
This is your wedding vow to each other.
This is a marriage of equals.

Dance  me to the end of Love by Leonard Cohen

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, Dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and Dance me very long
We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love


Rachel & Michael, Please face each other.
It is an important universal principle, that a couple themselves shall decide when and where they will be married and to whom.  We know that not all people enjoy this right, and we look forward to the time when all persons will be granted the rights and and responsibilities of marriage, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16
 1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

Therefore I will ask each of you :
Are you each willing to accept each other as your intended life partner, believing that the love you share and your faith in each other will endure all things?  (Both: We are)

Please repeat after me:

I do solemnly declare that I do not know of any lawful impediment why I (Rachel/Michael) may not be joined in matrimony to (Michael/Rachel).

Will you please join your hands?
The hand offered by each of you is an extension of yourself, just as is your mutual love. Cherish the touch, for you touch not only your own, but another life.

The promise you make to each other today is a formal statement of a relationship so close and intimate that it has a profoundly affected your whole lives.  The vows you will now make to each other are your pledge to share the journey of life together.  And so not knowing what is before you, but trusting in each other, you may embrace the joys and the sorrows of life as one family.

Personal Vows

Before exchanging their vows, Rachel and Michael have asked to speak to each other:

Michael, you and I have never put pressure on each other to be anything that didn’t feel right, but suddenly I find myself in a place where I can’t imagine my life without you, and I don’t want to, because everything looks better and more interesting when I’m with you.

You are such an incredible inspiration to me in every aspect of my life, and I love that we never cease to be amazed by each others ideas, projects, and plans. Whenever I need to talk, you’re always here to listen, and it’s not only comforting but also incredible to realise how completely you understand me.

Rachel, wherever you travel, I will travel.
Your story is my story.
Your troubles are my troubles
Your dreams are my dreams.
Whatever you become, I will be transformed with you
And when you sneeze, I will remember to say nothing.

Legal Vows

Please each repeat these words:

I call upon these persons here present to witness
That I Rachel/Michael do take you Michael/Rachel
to my lawful wedded husband/wife –
and to be no other than yourself
loving what I know of you
trusting what I do not yet know
with respect for your integrity
and faith in your love for me
through all our years
and in all that life may bring us.

Ring Ceremony

Having exchanged your vows, it is a custom to also exchange rings,  a symbol of the promises you have just made each to the other.

A ring is a circle, a symbol of the sun and the earth and the universe.
It is a symbol of perfection and of peace.
In these rings, it is the symbol of unity
in which your lives are now joined.
One unbroken circle, in which, wherever you go,
you will always return to one another and your togetherness.

Michael and Rachel’s sisters are presenting the rings, which Michael and Rachel have made for each other. (Please each take the other person’s ring and hold it in your hand)

Rachel/Michael What gift do you offer in honor of the vow you made?
Response:  I offer you this ring
Do you accept this gift, and the pledge with which it is made?
Response: I do.

Place this ring on [Rachel/Michael’s finger] saying:
“I take you into my heart as my husband/wife”.

Wine Cup Blessing

The years of our lives are as a cup of wine poured out for us to drink.  Michael and Rachel, this cup will also serve a sign of your unity.

Although you are two persons, you have chosen to unite your lives and seek your happiness together. You drink from the same cup to be reminded that  you will share life’s pain and pleasures, sorrows and joys as one family.  Drink now to each other from this cup, and may the cup of your lives be sweet and full.
(Present glass to Rachel, to sip and pass to Michael)

Closing Blessing

Michael and Rachel have asked me to read, as their closing blessing,

Song of the Open Road, by Walt Whitman

Listen, I will be honest with you …
I do not offer the old smooth prize
But offer rough new prizes

These are the days that must happen to you:
You shall not heap up what is called riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand
all that you earn or achieve.

However sweet the laid up stores,
However convenient the dwelling,
you shall not remain there.

However sheltered the port,
However calm the waters,
you shall not anchor there.

However welcome the hospitality that welcomes you,
you are permitted to receive it but a little while.

Afoot and lighthearted, take to the open road
Healthy, free, the world before you
The long brown path before you,
Leading wherever you choose.

Michael and Rachel: (say together, prompted by MARY)

Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money;
I give you myself before preaching and law:
Will you give me yourself?
Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

Closing Blessing/L’envoie

To Rachel and Michael who gathered here to pledge their love and join their lives;

May theirs be a shared adventure, rich with moments of serenity as well as excitement;

May the love which has brought them together continue to grow and enrich their lives, bringing peace and inspiration to each other and those around them.

May they meet with courage any problems which arise to challenge them; may they meet with strength any troubles that may beset them;

May their home be a place of happiness for all who enter it, a place for growing, a place for music, a place for laughter;

And above all, may they find an ever richer meaning and joy in the high adventure of lifelong loving and learning together.


Before us all, Rachel and Michael have consented together in this ceremony to live together in marriage.  They have exchanged their promises, each to the other, given and received rings in pledge of these promises, and have agreed to meet sorrow and joy as one family. They have married each other, in the presence of this gathering.

I, Mary Beaty, by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Marriage Act, do hereby pronounce you Rachel and Michael, to be married.


We now ask the groom’s brother Tim and the bride’s cousin Clara to come forward to sign the Marriage License, with musical accompaniment by the bride’s cousin, Ty.  (musicians play, couple return to middle)

I now have the great honour to present to you the newly married couple, RACHEL AND MICHAEL!  Please welcome them enthusiastically!

General merriment and rejoicing – and lots of toasts