Life, Planning, Wedding

A Secular Ceremony


All photography by the brilliant 5 West Studios

Despite my current heathen ways, I grew up Catholic. Thus, I grew up with the grand tradition of Catholic weddings- the hour-long mass with the bit of wedding stuff at the end. As a kid and teen, I also played harp for a number of weddings- they were mostly in churches, and there was nothing worse than having to sit through a stranger’s long ass wedding. I was getting paid and it STILL sucked. The first time I witnessed a non-Catholic wedding, I was surprised and delighted by the short-and-sweet nature of a judge-presided ceremony. I was in and out of there in less than 30 minutes- prelude, processional, and recessional included. For a vendor, it was a dream scenario.

But as a bride, a 10 minute ceremony seemed a little anticlimactic. Nick was somewhat resistant to my ploys to drag it out. He didn’t want endless readings and lots of filler, but I felt like it needed to be fleshed out. What do you do when there’s no long communion line that gives everyone another 10, 15 minutes to bask in your bridal glory? As the bride(zilla), you want to put everyone through the whole rigmarole. Because you’re a princess and it’s your special day.

But in all seriousness, the ceremony is, after all, the reason you’re doing the whole wedding thing. We wanted something a bit of gravitas- something with weight and substance. Something that feels a little, well, religious, but remains non-theistic.

It can be tricky to find resources and inspiration for such a ceremony. We were lucky that Nick’s dad, our officiant, provided us with a fantastic framework from which we worked. We only changed a couple things- we replaced the traditional vows with a (sort-of) hand-fasting ceremony, added in a poem, and called it a day. A word of wisdom- if you plan to do anything fancy- like knot-tying or anything along those lines, maybe practice it beforehand? We didn’t, and therefore, when the time came to tie the knot, quite literally, we just let the rope hang around our hands like a limp noodle. Or a white Twizzler Pull-and-Peel that someone braided up.


Just straight-up Twizzlering.

I think it still counts, though.

Full ceremony script, after the jump:


Jim: I wish to welcome you all to Garnerville Arts and Industrial Center. My name is Jim Foley, Nick’s Father. I have the joyful privilege and pleasure to participate in this ceremony today as the Officiate. On behalf of KASIA AND NICK, welcome.

For all of you in attendance, friends and relatives alike, you think you know these two people and you know why they are here. But all of you, even the parents, may better understand KASIA AND NICK and their special relationship in just a moment.
I’ve asked the prospective bride and groom to send me a note, privately written, telling me why they were attracted to the other:

Here we go. NICK wrote:

(Nick’s Note- despite the fact he wrote it at 2am the night before the wedding, it was really beautiful and sweet and definitely made me cry. To avoid being TOTALLY obnoxious, I’ll leave it to your imagination.)


KASIA wrote:

(Kasia’s Note- I did NOT write mine at 2am the night before- in fact, I went over it so many times that I pretty much had it memorized. It was, if I may say so myself, pretty, pretty, pretty good.)

0071Probably taken while listening to my beautiful, touching words.

To all in attendance: You have been invited here today because of your ties of love and friendship to these two people.
These ties of love and friendship remind us of what is truly important in life.
We discover the truest guideline to our quest when we realize love in all its magnitudes.
Love is the eternal force of life.
Love and companionship are the forces that allows us to face fear and uncertainty with courage and determination.
The marriage we celebrate today is one expression of the many varieties of love. We come together not to mark the start of a relationship, but to recognize this bond that presently exists between KASIA AND NICK. They wish to thank you all for recognizing them as a couple and for participating in this ceremony today.



Jim: The bond of marriage is a living union of hearts, minds and spirits which we may bless and the State may authorize but which neither of these can alone create nor maintain. That creation is yours to achieve and persevere in, individually and together with your every thought, word, action and feeling toward each other. Your marriage is not complete the day it is celebrated. It takes time to marry completely, two hearts and two lives, even the most loving. True marriage is a growing toward each other through the years, a long continuous falling in love over time.
Marriage is overcoming the daily burdens you each will carry; sharing those burdens: together, as a couple and as a family. To do this you must give yourself to the other deeply, freely and generously.
Withhold criticism and be generous with praise and support.
May your home be a refuge from the daily assaults of life;
a place to replenish yourself and to regain your spirit
to continue to wage, the good fight.


Jim: Now, Kasia’s sisters, Kirsten and Jana, will share a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:


Weisst du, ich will mich schleichen
leise aus lautem Kreis,
wenn ich erst die bleichen
Sterne über den Eichen
blühen weiß.
Wege will ich erkiesen,
die selten wer betritt
in blassen Abendwiesen –
und keinen Traum, als diesen:
Du gehst mit.


Understand, I’ll slip quietly
away from the noisy crowd
when I see the pale
stars rising, blooming, over the oaks.
I’ll pursue solitary pathways
through the pale twilit meadows,
with only this one dream:
You come too.



Jim: I ask all of you to join in a Pledge of Support :

Today KASIA AND NICK, you are surrounded by your friends and family, all of whom are assembled to witness the exchange of your vows and rings and to share in the day’s joy and festivity. Recognizing that friends and family form the circle of acquaintances within which we network and all find support, love and encouragement, I look now to this entire assembly of family and friends gathered here today and I ask all of you, (to the congregation): “Do you all add your blessing and do you pledge your support to KASIA AND NICK?”
If so, reply: “We do.”



Jim: Handfasting is a declaration of intent where the couple clearly states that they are marrying on their own free will.
Kasia and Nick, know now before you go further that since your lives have crossed in this life, you have formed eternal bonds. As you seek to enter this state of matrimony you should strive to make real ideals that give meaning to this ceremony and to the sanctity of marriage. With full awareness, know that within this circle you are declaring your intent before your friends and family as witnesses.
The promises made today and the ties that are bound here greatly strengthen your union and will cross the years and lives of each individual’s growth. Do you seek to enter this ceremony?
Nick and Kasia: Yes.
Jim: Nick and Kasia, please look into each other’s eyes.
Nick and Kasia: (Hold hands, one partner with his or her left hand and the other with his or her right hand.)


Promise of Shared Adventure and Joy:

Kasia: I promise I will share in the best parts of life with you fully- I will say “yes” to adventure and “yes” to opportunity and “yes” to joy every day.
Nick: I promise to make every shared day an adventure, and to make our two lives become one beautiful journey.
Jim: And so the binding is made.

Promise of Shared Sorrow and Hardship:
Kasia: I promise that in times of sorrow and hardship, I will stand steadfastly with you as your partner and support and never as your adversary.
Nick: I promise to be there for you when things are dark or uncertain, treating your struggles and burdens as my own.
Jim: And so the binding is made.

Promise of Strengths:
Kasia: I promise I will never take for granted your thoughtfulness, your capability, or your affection. I will marvel each day that I somehow have managed to find someone as amazing as you to share my life.
Nick: I promise to cherish your brilliance and incredible drive, your endless compassion and love, and your sense of humor.
Officiant: And so the binding is made.

Promise of Weaknesses:
Kasia: I promise that I will work to be patient, that I will try to be slow to anger, and that when I ask you a question, I’ll count to five before asking if you heard me.
Nick: I promise that I will be attentive, present, and occasionally proactive about cleaning the bathroom.
Jim: And so the binding is made.

Promise of Supported Dreams:
Kasia: I promise I will make your dreams my own, and I will follow you beyond the ends of the earth to make the life we want a reality.
Nick: I promise to grow our visions into one, crossing time and space and disciplines to combine our life’s arcs into one grand trajectory.
Jim: And so the binding is made.

Promise of Everlasting Love: (this is where s*** got REAL)
Kasia: I promise that you will always be the first thing I think of when I wake, the last before I sleep, and when I die, it will be with your name on my lips.
Nick: I promise that as the world grows, and we grow, my love for you will grow until our last days on this earth.
Jim: And so the binding is made.


0744They felt it, too.

Jim: Nick and Kasia, as your hands are bound together now, so your lives and spirits are joined in a union of love and trust. Always you hold in your own hands the fate of this union. Above you are stars and below you is earth. Like stars your love should be a constant source of light, and like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow.

May these hands be blessed this day. May they always hold each other. May they have the strength to hang on during the storms of stress and the dark of disillusionment. May they remain tender and gentle as they nurture each other in their wondrous love. May they build a relationship founded in love, and rich in caring. May these hands be healer, protector, shelter, and guide for each other.




Jim: From the earliest of time, the circle has been a symbol of completeness, a symbol of committed love. An unbroken and never ending circle symbolizes a commitment of love that is also never ending. As often as either of you looks at this symbol, be reminded of your commitment to love each other made on this day.
KASIA: (Repeat after me)
I give to you, NICK,
this ring as a symbol of my commitment
to love, honor and respect you
for the rest of my life.


NICK: (Repeat after me)
I give to you, KASIA,
this ring as a symbol of commitment
to love, honor and respect you
for the rest of my life.




Jim: This is a time for celebration. Let it also be a moment of dedication. KASIA AND NICK you have now affirmed before family and friends your love and caring for each other. You have come from different backgrounds, you have walked different paths. You are different individuals. Your love has transcended these differences. In the years before you, may the richness of the traditions that have nurtured you, enhance and brighten your lives, as you help to create and shape the future.
May the challenges of your life together be met with courage and optimism.
May you learn from your failures and grow in your achievements.
May life bless you with friendships and family.
May you always remember that laughter is the medicine for all ills.
May the spirit of love be ever a part of your lives.

Finally, my hope for you is that you will be fortunate and blessed beyond all riches, by becoming partners who over time become one, whose very identity is as a part of your marriage; Two people who occupy one space together; Two people whose love has settled in their bones
It is my hope for you that your marriage will be the blessing that marriage can be at it’s very best.

By the power granted me as a Judge Pro Tem of the Superior Court of the Great State of NEW YORK and by the authority vested in me by KASIA AND NICK
to perform this ceremony,
I now pronounce that you are Husband and Wife.



I present to you, KASIA AND NICK, equal partners, husband and wife, united in marriage.