Planning a wedding as a feminist is not always an easy thing. The patriarchy is alive and well in the wedding industry, and one of the places that we struggled the most while planning the wedding was in what to do about the ceremony. It had to be a secular ceremony. We knew we would not be married in a house of worship of any kind, and we chose to be married by a family friend who is a retired judge and Justice of the Peace. However, we wanted to incorporate pieces of Jewish tradition that felt relevent to us to acknowledge our heritage in that way while staying true to ourselves.
We hereby pledge to trust, respect and support each other throughout our married life together. We shall always endeavor to be open and honest, understanding and accepting, loving and forgiving, and loyal to one another. We hereby promise to work together to build a harmonious relationship of equality. We shall respect each other’s uniqueness and help one another to grow to our fullest potential. We will comfort and support each other through life’s sorrows and joys. Together, we shall create a home filled with learning, laughter and compassion, a home wherein we will honor each other’s cherished family traditions and values. Let us join hands to help build a world filled with peace and love.
I asked my godmother to be my witness. Ben asked his mother.
We each chose to be walked down the aisle by our parents. Ben’s mother walked in with him and I had both of my parents walk in with me, as I was opposed to the idea of being “given away” by my father, since I don’t think that I’m anyone’s property to be given. Ben walked in to an acoustic guitar version of Europe’s “The Final Countdown” (Arrested Development references, FTW) and I walked in to Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” I had the most fun when we both arrived at the “altar” and continued to dance underneath the chuppah before the ceremony started. We made the chuppah out of branches from Ben’s mother’s yard and she made the covering for us. The tassels were the result of a crafting session I had with my friends.
We wrote our own vows and put together the ceremony ourselves from things we found on the internet. Nowhere does it say anything about “forever” or “forsaking all others.” We are both firm believers that if our relationship ends in the future, that doesn’t mean that we were failures and we both believe that if two people no longer want to be together, they should do what’s best for each other and let the other person go. We also don’t think that forsaking all others is always realistic, and it’s something we’re open to discussing in the future if we feel we want to. We tried to keep it a gender neutral as possible, all the way down to ending with, “You may kiss” as opposed to “you may kiss the bride.” We chose two readings and asked our nieces to each read one (our third niece was our ring bearer), which added something really special to the ceremony. For those that are interested, this is what we came up with.
“Officiant: Dear friends, we gather here at this hour to witness and to celebrate the drawing together of two separate lives. Britni and Benjamin, each of you has brought to this moment a wealth of personality, different backgrounds, unique experiences, and various strengths and weaknesses, which you will combine to bring to your new life together.
In 2003, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court wrote about this about marriage in the landmark case of Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health:
“Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations….Without question, civil marriage enhances the “welfare of the community.” It is a “social institution of the highest importance.… Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…. Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.”
I do not think that Ben and Britni asked me to read from this case, establishing equal marriage under the Massachusetts Constitution, because I am a lawyer and a former judge. I have known Ben all his life and Britni for some time now. They are very thoughtful people. They have chosen the words of this ceremony very carefully and deliberately, just as their decision to marry was not made on an impulse or whim. They understand that two people in love do not live in isolation from the wider embraces of humanity. To achieve love is not to be absolved of social responsibility. So it is that the institution of marriage is ordained as a public recognition of the private experience of love, and as a sanctifying of both parties to its great purposes. At the same time it represents the desire of Britni and Benjamin to share their joy in each other with you, their family and their friends.
In this spirit, Britni and Benjamin have chosen to get married today under a chuppah, which symbolizes the home. This “home” initially lacks furniture as a reminder that the basis of a home is the people within it, not the possessions. Being open on four sides, the chuppah welcomes the love of friends and family. In a spiritual sense, the covering of the chuppah represents the presence of God over the covenant of marriage.
Britni and Ben would like their niece [redacted] to further explain why they have decided to marry through a reading they have chosen.
“I Like You” by Sandol Stoddard Warburg.
“I like you because I don’t know why but
Everything that happens is nicer with you
I can’t remember when I didn’t like you
It must have been lonesome then
I like you because because because
I forget why I like you but I do
So many reasons
On the 4th of July I like you because it’s the 4th of July
On the fifth of July, I like you too
If you and I had some drums and some horns and some horses
If we had some hats and some flags and some fire engines
We could be a HOLIDAY
We could be a CELEBRATION
We could be a WHOLE PARADE
See what I mean?
Even if it was the 999th of July
Even if it was August
Even if it was way down at the bottom of November
Even if it was no place particular in January
I would go on choosing you
And you would go on choosing me
Over and over again
That’s how it would happen every time
I don’t know why
I guess I don’t know why I really like you
Why do I like you
I guess I just like you
I guess I just like you because I like you.”
Officiant: We come together, not to mark the start of your relationship, but to recognize the bond that already exists between the two of you. Throughout history, what people have found that is essential for a strong and long-lasting relationship is that it be founded on what we call “love”.
It’s important that we consider this today because, after all, if you did not love one another, none of us would be here today. You would not be about to say your vows in a few minutes if you did not love one another. You would not be about to sign your names on a piece of paper and recording that you are now officially husband and wife, if you did not love one another. So, as important as this ceremony is, it’s important that we recognize that the foundation of your marriage was formed long before we ever came here today, and that is the love that you share.
Love is the most profound experience that can come to humankind. At its best it reduces our selfishness, deepens our personalities, and makes life far more meaningful. Its very nature is to want to give to another, and to feel joy in the joy of the other. Such love can call forth the best qualities in each of you. A marriage that is to last will be continually growing. Yet the closeness which it assumes should not diminish but strengthen the individuality of each partner.
Their niece [redacted] will now sing a little bit more about love.
The Book of Love
BY STEPHEN MERRITT of THE MAGNETIC FIELDS, FROM THE ALBUM 69 LOVE SONGS
The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It’s full of charts and facts and figures
and instructions for dancing
But I, I love it when you read to me
And you, you can read me anything
The book of love has music in it
In fact that’s where music comes from
Some of it is just transcendental
Some of it is just really dumb
But I, I love it when you sing to me
And you you can sing me anything
The book of love is long and boring
And written very long ago
It’s full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
And things we’re all too young to know
But I, I love it when you give me things
And you, you ought to give me wedding rings
Officiant: So today, I want you to remember: Let your love be stronger than your anger. Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend than to break. Look for the best in your beloved rather than the worst. Confide in your partner and ask for help when you need it. Remember that true friendship is the basis for any lasting relationship. Give your spouse the same courtesies and kindnesses you bestow on your friends. Say “I love you” every day .
Officiant: Britni and Benjamin have written their own vows, which they will share with each other at this time.
Ben: Reads his vows.
In each other we found the strength to be the people we have always wanted to be; to be the people we were meant to be. I don’t think it would be in the spirit of our relationship to make any new promises or commitments right now. I feel it is a little bit more of who we are to make official the actions and commitments that have allowed us to stand here, today.
I want to state how I will live my life with you.
I will continue to support your professional and social goals.
I will continue to challenge you personally.
I will continue to welcome any and all constructive criticism, even if it is regarding my awkward speaking cadence.
I will continue to grow with you.
I will continue to share everything in my life with you.
I will continue to support and even encourage each and every hairstyle and outfit decision.
I will continue to laugh with you.
I will continue to mock our animals together with you.
I will continue to overcome any and all challenges we face either individually or as a couple, together.
I will continue to invite your perspective and eternal empathy for others in to all aspects of our life together.
I will continue to love you every way I know how, as my partner and as my best friend.
Britni: Reads her vows.
I cannot believe that we are standing here getting married right now. We have come so far and I never dreamed we would end up here. Of all the gin joints in the world, I had to walk into yours and I’m so glad I did. I want to thank you for inspiring me to try to become a better, more stable, and happier person. You make me want to be the best version of myself that I can be.
I promise to strive to be a better partner every day so that maybe one day I can be half as good to you as you are to me.
I promise to be the calm in your storm and the sanity in your chaos, because that’s what you do for me. I promise to love every part of you because I think you’re perfect exactly as you are.
I promise to pinch myself every now and then as a reminder that my life really is this wonderful; I don’t need to dream about a magnificent life because I already have one.
No matter what happens to us in the future, I promise to remember that every day that I get to spend with you is the best day of my life.
And because I promised I’d quote Parks and Recreation in my vows, I just want to say that I love you and I like you.
Officiant: For thousands of years, lovers have exchanged rings as a token of their vows. Let these rings be a sign that love has a past, a present, and a future, through you and within you. Benjamin, take Britni’s ring and place it on her finger and repeat after me:
Ben: “I give you this ring as a sign that I choose you to be my lover, my partner and my best friend, to the end of my days. Wear it, think of me, and know that I love you.”
Officiant: Britni, take Benjamin’s ring and place it on his finger and repeat after me:
Britni: “I give you this ring as a sign that I choose you to be my lover, my partner and my best friend, to the end of my days. Wear it, think of me, and know that I love you.”
Officiant: Britni and Benjamin hereby pledge to trust, respect and support each other throughout their married life together. They shall always endeavor to be open and honest, understanding and accepting, loving and forgiving, and loyal to one another. They hereby promise to work together to build a harmonious relationship of equality. They shall respect each other’s uniqueness and help one another to grow to their fullest potential. They will comfort and support each other through life’s sorrows and joys. Together, they shall create a home filled with learning, laughter and compassion, a home wherein they will honor each other’s cherished family traditions and values.
As a symbol of their commitment to each other and the life that they are continuing together today, they have both chosen to take the same name after marriage. They have chosen a family name, [redacted].”
Officiant: Britni and Benjamin, we have heard your promise to share your lives in marriage. We recognize and respect the vows you have made here this day before each one of us as a witness. In the honesty and sincerity of what you have said and done here today, and by the power vested in me by the state of Massachusetts, it is my honor and delight to declare you to be husband and wife, Mr. and Mrs. [redacted].”
You may kiss .”
And that was it! Ben chose to break a glass, mostly because who doesn’t want to stomp on something and hear people yell, “Mazel tov!”?? After the ceremony, we exited the room and spent 5 minutes alone together, which is a Jewish tradition. We then proceeded to lock ourselves out of our own reception and had to go get someone that worked at the restaurant to let us back in.