A ‘surprise’ wedding is not a surprise to the couple – but often to their guests. A couple may plan an impromptu wedding at a family gathering – or at their engagement party, when their friends and family will already be present. Some people should be alerted to the planned wedding, especially close family members, but the rest are generally unaware, until the couple leaves to gather rings and perhaps change clothes, or the officiant arrives and addresses the group.
Couples may choose such a wedding for a variety of reasons, including being posted overseas, or when family circumstances dictate, or simply as a personal choice. Such ‘impromptu’ marriage ceremonies can be held in the home, in a restaurant, or a hall or the party room of an apartment building. Parents, siblings or close friends should be let in on the secret, and can be asked to carry rings, sign the license, gather guests, or other special tasks. If an impromptu wedding is your choice, be sure to ask about our experience in planning the ‘surprise’ to best effect.
Words of Welcome
Hello everyone. Jessica and Ali have asked me to come here today to help them achieve something they have been planning since last May. Since you are all here today, they have both decided that there is no time better than the present to officially begin a new chapter in their lives together.
I am Mary Beaty, a Marriage Chaplain licensed by the Province of Ontario, and the Ontario Humanist Society, and today I have the privilege and honour of officiating at the marriage ceremony of Jessica and Ali.
(allow time for surprise and re-seating of parents near front, and to gather guests together to see and hear)
It is no accident that Jessica and Ali have brought all of you together here this afternoon. As family and friends, you are the people they love and respect. You have supported and cared for them, and it is with you that they would like to share their joy today.
You are also their support system, throughout their lives, and especially through the last few months. Since marriage is an evolving and continual process, Jessica and Ali hope that all of you will continue to offer your guidance, support, encouragement and love, as they commit themselves to one another, today and for the rest of their days to come.
I will now ask all of those present: Do you now offer your support and best wishes for this couple, wishing them the best of lives together? If so, please say: “We do.”
Address to the assembly
Today, Jessica and Ali’s relationship to each other does not change. It will continue to be rooted in honesty and respect, nurtured by caring and made to flourish by devotion and love. Today their commitment simply grows stronger, made more powerful by their desire, to be expressed in front of all of us, to meet all of life’s challenges together.
Address to the couple
Jessica and Ali: A marriage is more than two people standing together and exchanging vows. A marriage is a life’s work, requiring flexibility, kindness, respect, trust, nurturing, openness and love. Practice and cultivate these skills. Be sure to make time to play together, to challenge each other, to listen and to learn from one another. This will give you strength as you face the world together.
The promise you make to each other today is momentous: it 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.
Expression of Intent and Consent
We rejoice with Ali and Jessica that out of all the world, they have found each other. This wedding in the humanist tradition celebrates the beauty and joy of life, the equality of all people, and acknowledges our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives in service of the common good, and the world we all share.
It is also an important humanist and 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 privilege and we look forward to the day when all people will be able to make the decision that Jessica and Ali have made to marry. I will now to ask Jessica and Ali if they are prepared to be married to each other today.
Please each repeat after me:
I do solemnly declare that I do not know of any lawful impediment why I [Jessica/Ali] may not be joined in marriage to [Ali/Jessica]
Exchange of Vows
Jessica and Ali, we come to your vows. As we know, saying your vows is one thing, but nothing is more challenging than living them day by day. What you promise today must be renewed tomorrow and each day that stretches out before you.
Please turn and face each other and hold each other’s hands and repeat after me:
I call upon these persons here present to witness that I [Jessica/Ali]
do take you [Ali/Jessica] to my lawful wedded husband/wife
To love her/him, comfort her/him, honour and protect her/him
respect her/him, and stand by her/him
for the rest of our lives together.
Giving and Receiving of Rings
Having exchanged your vows, it is a custom to also exchange rings, as an outward symbol of the promise you have just made, each to the other
(Ali’s brother is carrying the rings in his suit pocket, and presents them)
(to each) What do you offer in honour of the vow you made?
Response: This ring, made with my own hands
(to each) Do you accept this gift?
Response: I do.
Place the ring on his/her finger, saying:
Ali/Jessica – With all that I am, I honour and respect you. Let this ring be a symbol of my love, and my devotion.
Affirmation of the Marriage
From all of us, your friends and family, gathered here together on the day of your marriage, here is our wish for you:
May the love which has brought you together
continue to grow and enrich your lives.
May you look for what is good in each other.
May you respect each other’s differences.
May you touch tenderly, speak kindly, and listen with attention.
May you be quick to say “I am sorry” as well as “I forgive.”
May you meet with courage the problems which arise to challenge you
and may your marriage always be one of respect and love.
Again and again, may you renew your dreams.
And may you share your love with the world.
Declaration of Marriage
Ali and Jessica, we have heard your promise to share your lives in marriage. We recognise and respect the covenant of marriage you have made here this day, before each one of us as witnesses.
Therefore, I, Mary Beaty, by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Marriage Act, do hereby pronounce you, Ali and Jessica, to be married!
You may now kiss!
Signing of the Register
Jessica and Ali would like to invite their good friends Susan and Bob, as well as their mothers – Joan and Sora – to step forward and to please sign as witnesses.
While the witnesses sign – if you would all please help yourselves to a glass of champagne in readiness for a toast…
Introduction of the Couple
(couple faces guests, officiant introduces them )
It is my personal privilege and a great joy to present the officially married couple, Ali and Jessica, and to congratulate them on their marriage!
(would you raise your glasses etc.)
To Ali and Jessica, husband and wife!