MODULE THREE: THE WEDDING CEREMONY
Humans love a good party and one of their favorite kinds of party is a wedding celebration. Who knows, maybe weddings are one of the first ritualistic celebrations humans engaged in. Shoot, there are even certificate courses for people to learn how to officiate the marriage and be part of the jubilee. <pause for awkward self-awareness>
We’ve contemplated why people wed and have a party about it, now we will start to think about the wedding ceremony itself. First we will describe a bare-bones ceremony to see what is minimally required of the officiant. Following that we will break down the ceremony into three parts and their potential elements for us to get a better grasp of how weddings can be arranged. The betrothed may have this all worked out, in that case your job is to take what they have arranged and fit yourself right in there.
When it comes to the certification test do not stress too hard about memorizing all the elements of the ceremony. While this section may be bigger than the others it is less represented on the certification test. You just need a basic understanding of how weddings work and the few parts that are crucial for the officiant to cover. The rest are window dressing and is infinitely variable. We have included some common elements of a wedding ceremony, but certainly not all that can be added by wedding planners and hopeful couples. Just enough to keep you from looking like an eight year old wondering in to perform a wedding.
Important note, we may use terms like bride and groom and husband and wife a in this section, but they are not to be taken as an uptight declaration of the genders involved. For modern Dudeists, such as ourselves, these terms are more about playing a part in the proceedings. Be flexible, remember that Dudeism is sex and gender blind, especially in this circumstance.
A BARE-BONES WEDDING
Ask about the rehearsal and whether you should attend. The rehearsal is a fantastic opportunity to pick up some of the loose threads.
Wedding ceremonies come in many sizes and compositions, it may be tough to know what is truly required and what is just fun schtuff that just makes the event more interesting and joyous. Let us cover the bare minimum first, then we can explore and elaborate on the different parts of a wedding ceremony and what elements may be included. Lastly we will mention that it is a good idea to take what you learn here to compose a wedding script to help you take it easy and officiate in style.
For durned near every wedding there are a few bases that you, as the officiant, must cover. You will need to open the ceremony by announcing the betrothed and that they are here to get hitched. You will then prompt a response from each of the people getting married, this is where they share their vows and they affirm their intentions to wed, the “I do” part of the ceremony. Then you must declare that they are now married with your authority to solemnize this wedding, “with the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife.” Generally, the next thing to do is let the couple display their affection for each other, like a first married kiss. Next close the ceremony and introduce the newly hitched couple to the guests and the world at large. A final crucial step is collecting the required signatures, you, the wedded couple, and two witnesses need to sign the marriage license for this all to be legitimate.
It is generally the job of the officiant to open the ceremony by introducing the betrothed to those in attendance. You can use the classic line “we are gathered here to day to join so and so to so and so in matrimony,” or opt to use something custom written for the occasion. This important part lets everyone know that the wedding ceremony has begun. During the opening it is also customary to thank everyone for attending and witnessing this union.
Foregoing any opening remarks and readings, a bare bones ceremony would move on to the affirmations by the couple. They must declare their intent to wed each other in front of you and the witnesses. This can be achieved in many ways, they can read their own vows, follow your prompting to answer “I do,” as you read the vows to them. There is a lot of flexibility here, however it must be that they make a public declaration they fully intend to enter into this marriage.
Once the vows and affirmations are completed you can solemnize their union. This is a formal declaration that their newly formed union is valid and that you have the authority, in this instance, to make that legally binding. Speak clearly so that the witnesses and attendees can hear your proclamation. The couple is no longer betrothed, they are now hitched, let them show it.
It is customary for there to be a show of affection to mark the beginning of their journey together. It is the first act they share as a married couple. It is fitting that it should be an act of love and tenderness between them. The wedding party, witnesses, attendees, and you get to share in this moment of affection. It tends to get emotional and there may be an outpouring of excitement and joy, sometimes people cheer at this display. Take comfort in that, this is one of the good things in life.
Now it is time to close the ceremony. At this point everyone is eager to get to the reception and begin the party, try not to delay that for too long. Maybe say a few words and thank everyone again for attending. Your job is technically complete, however there is one last thing left to tie it all together, and it is your chance to be the first to introduce these people as a married couple. Say something like “friends and family, I am proud to introduce you Mr. and Mrs. so and so. The bar’s over there.” Again, do not be hung up on gender labels, the particular wedding you are officiating should inform your language.
Last, and certainly not least, is signing the appropriate documents. A simple procedure, but one not to be missed. The whole ceremony can be jeopardized by the lack of a proper marriage license. Up to this point all you have had to do is blather on about marriage and how these people are now hitched, the one physical thing required of you is to sign off on the marriage. This makes it legal and cannot be skipped.
Those are the six items you should include in the wedding procedure. Basically, this is what your whole job is all about here, this is the modest task before you. Let us review a list of things that are essential to any wedding ceremony.
You may have noticed that the ceremony can be broken down into three main parts, the opening (ceremony introduction), the solemnizing ceremony (the ritual solemnizing the marriage), and the conclusion (ceremony conclusion). Organizing the ceremony this way helps to break it up into manageable pieces. Introduce the ceremony, conduct the ceremony, and conclude the ceremony. Like most things, a wedding ceremony has a beginning a middle and an end.
These three parts have six elements you must include. During the ceremony introduction you announce the betrothed and the purpose of the ceremony. The ceremony includes a declaration of intent or vows, an official announcement of their union with authority, and a gesture of commitment, such as a first kiss. The ceremony conclusion includes some final words that introduce the newly wedded couple, and the collection of signatures to complete the application. This satisfies the minimal requirements, as we call a bare-bones wedding.
Once you have a good understanding of how the it is time to take some time to write out a script. Having a good wedding script will help you to prepare and perform the wedding much easier than winging it. Take what you have learned in this course compose your own script, or you can use one of the scripts we provide in the resources section. You may want to download one of our scripts to get started, then you can arrange it following the guidance we have provided here to make it your own.
You can view a simplified wedding script HERE.
Next, we will look at each part in turn to get a better understanding of what they each entail. We will also mention a few of the elements that may be included in a longer wedding ceremony.
Know your spot. “Like, where do I stand, man?” The officiant generally stands behind and between the betrothed. What you want to remember is to not get in between the hopefuls. The last thing you want is to tell them to enjoy their first kiss and have your head in the way.
Review and Key Points
Open the ceremony by introducing the betrothed and why they are there.
Ask the hopefuls to declare their intent to wed each other with their vows.
Declare they are now married because you have the authority to say so.
Let them demonstrate their commitment and love for each other, usually with a first kiss.
Announce to the world that they are now hitched.
Get those signatures, this a modest but immutable task.
Writing of using one of our scripts will make your job easier and make you look like an achiever when it comes to officiating.
The introduction is the start of the ceremony itself. You will likely be very involved during this part as it is generally the officiant’s job to lead the festivities at this point. Expect to either make your way to or be standing on your spot and ready to speak clearly to the wedding party and guests. The introduction contains, but is not limited to, the processional, the greeting, and opening remarks. Let us consider each in turn.
This is the beginning of the ceremony itself, there may be music playing as the people involved in the ceremony take their places at the front where the guests can witness the solemnizing of this union. Generally, the officiant is already in place and ready to conduct the ceremony. Other times the officiant may lead the processional, work this out before the main event.
We are not going to get too hung up on who is in the procession or what order they will make their way up the aisle. Traditionally the parents and grandparents go first, then the groom followed by the officiant (that’s like, you, man). Then the bride’s maids and groomsmen, followed by the maid of honor and best man. The betrothed may have a ring bearer that follows, we recommend Hobbits for this job. There may also be a flower girl, these two, the ring bearer and flower girl are generally followed by the bride, who is last. It is customary for the bride and her escort (usually her father) to be last to make their way toward the altar, marking the end of the processional. None of this is carved in stone, be flexible and not hung up on gender roles.
During the processional, your main concern, dude, is to be where you are supposed to be and look kind and friendly as the procession concludes. All that preplanning and your conversations with the hopefuls is going to be everything here. Knowing your job at this stage is key as it sets the tone of the rest of the ceremony. Once everyone is on their marks and the music stops that’s your cue to begin welcoming everyone to the service.
With the wedding party in their place this is the time for you to welcome everyone to the service and thank them for attending this eminently important day for the betrothed. This is the first scripted speaking you will have for the ceremony. Again, planning beforehand is paramount when writing or choosing a wedding script. At this point you absolutely should know the couple and who else is involved in the ceremony. Unless you and the betrothed are going for a barebones ceremony be ready to drop some names.
It is important that you know how the ceremony will go before you start, you should generally give a brief description of the ceremony that follows. You are there to tell the wedding guests what is in store over the course of the festivities. Be sure to remind everyone exactly why they are there by mentioning the couple and their desire to get hitched.
OPENING REMARKS AND READINGS
This optional segment of the introduction is your chance to write some original words about the betrothed, Dudeist philosophy and marriage, or just to get everyone in the mood for the ceremony to come. You should at least have a quick mention of the couple and their intention to wed each other. You can say something like, “Dudely beloved, we are gathered here today to mark the occasion of so and so and so and so getting hitched.”
This is also when you may want to bust out the Abide Guide or The Incomplete Dudeist Priest’s Handbook for a quick reading if you and the betrothed are into that sort of thing. This part of the ceremony is meant to be creative and to set the tone. Have fun but stay within the wishes of the couple tying the knot. They may have some poem or other reading they want as part of the ceremony, again stay limber minded and work with the betrothed
There you go, the wedding ceremony is now underway, everyone is standing in their spots, and looking at you to guide them through the rest of the service. This is it, man. You are in a league game now, best to get to work.
SOLOMNIZING THE CEREMONY
The second part of the ceremony is the heart of the wedding. This is when all the customary boxes are checked. This is also a very flexible segment of the whole operation, with many possible pieces for you to keep track of and manage going forward. There are so many options that can add ritual and gravatas to the proceedings that we will only cover the basics here. Check the resources page for other ceremony ideas and possibilities. For now, let us focus on the typical.
The first thing you will do is address the couple, a last chance to make sure they are ready to take on the privileges and duties of marriage. You may even turn and ask those in attendance for their thoughts about the hopeful couple, “does anyone object?” Then you will ask the betrothed to state their intentions through reciting vows. Next there may be a ritualistic exchange of rings, candle lighting, or other display of commitment. After the vows and possible ring exchange you will declare that they are now married and reference your authority to make such a claim. Then it is customary to give the lovers an opportunity to share a first kiss as a married couple.
ADDRESS THE COUPLE
This is the time when you can explain to those getting hitched all the benefits of being married, but also all the responsibilities too. Remind them that it is about more than just companionship or even simply about zesty activities. They are forming a legal family partnership, which is kind of a big deal. If there is preplanning for it, this could tie in with the vows they have written for themselves. While speaking remember that the guests are listening too.
ADDRESS THE ATTENDEES
While not always necessary we have all seen weddings, either in person or in movies, where the officiant turns to those in attendance and asks if there is any reason why these people should not be married. While potentially dramatic it is not the sort of drama people are looking for on this joyous day. However, it is a good opportunity to declare that this is the last chance for anyone to object to this marriage, and going forward they should keep their traps shut about it. We suggest keeping this as part of the ceremony, except in cases of a bare-bones wedding.
This is what everyone came for, the big moment, the time that all the threads get woven together. Everything else had led to this, this is one part that is absolutely required. During the vows the hopeful couple will take turns declaring their desire to wed the other person and possibly describing why. The betrothed must clearly state their intent to marry each other. This can be done with flowery language and long recitations of love poems, but it must include something that indicates they know what they are getting into, and that they take on this commitment freely. The classic “I do” is enough if the officiant puts the proper question to them. This is also a portion of the proceedings that you will want to have a script for, make sure all the boxes about freely taking on the commitment of marriage are in there, somewhere, better take another look.
THE RING EXCHANGE
The ring exchange is a ritual that signifies the couple’s commitment to each other. This is where the couple gives each other rings or other gifts as tokens of their love and devotion. This is up to the betrothed to choose whether to include this part in a contemporary wedding, but some small gestures do help tie the ceremony together. There are other rituals that can take the place of gifting rings, such as candle lighting or gently binding their hands together with ribbon. Check out our resources page for a list of ceremony additions.
SOLEMNIZE THE MARRIAGE
This is one of the parts of the ceremony that needs to be performed. Now is your chance to do what you came for, declare that they are no longer hopefuls, they are now married, because you say so. That’s what you are here for, this is the modest task put before you. Once the vows are complete, and there are enough witnesses, make your declaration, pronounce them as hitched.
A technicality, but it is important that you make some statement declaring that the betrothed are now a married couple. The traditional “I now pronounce you man and wife” will do for some weddings, but remember to keep your mind limber, and not hung up on archaic rules from less enlightened times. Sure, if the couple digs this line, use it. However, do not be afraid to adjust this line to the situation. “I pronounce you wife and wife” works. “Y’all are hitched now” would also work. What matters is that you, the officiant, make a declarative statement indicating that they are now legally, and otherwise, married. This usually leads to you inviting the newly married couple to enjoy a first wedded kiss. This is just about the last thing for the officiant to do during the ceremony, at this point you are just about ready to point out for everyone where the bar is.
The conclusion is meant to let people know that the solemnizing ceremony is complete, the hopefuls are now hitched, and it is time to segway to the celebration that follows. There is a chance for you to share some final thoughts about the couple and/or marriage itself. You get to be the first to refer to the couple as married. One of our favorite things is announcing the commencement of a party, that’s you here, man. Then everyone gets to leave the stage in the recessional. Finally, there’s some important papers to deal with.
Sometimes there will be an opportunity or possible request for you to have a few closing words about the newly formed union. As with the opening remarks, this should be in line with the couple’s wishes, professional to a point, and faithful towards Dudeist philosophy. Generally, you want to keep it brief as people at this point are ready to start celebrating, so take only the amount of time needed to say a few words, or none at all, depending on what was discussed with the couple. Almost there, man, just a couple of steps left.
INTRODUCING THE COUPLE
This is another important part of the ceremony. While still considered optional, it should be included in most wedding ceremonies. It is fun and helps get everyone in the mood to party with the newly minted couple. A simple “I now introduce to you Mr. and Mrs. So and So.” Once again, this is a guide, do not get hung up on gender roles or titles, if it is a typical wedding this will work fine, but make it personal to the actual individuals concerned.
INVITATION TO THE RECECEPTION
Often one of the last things the officiant may be responsible for is giving instructions to the guests about what comes next. Along with a final thank you for attending you have to tell them where the reception is, and any details about it that the wedded couple wants shared at this time.
A lot of weddings end with a recession of the wedding party and officiant as they leave the stage or what have you. This should be covered during your previous conversations with the betrothed. Know your place in line and follow along with the plan. Simple, like a Swiss watch. Preplanning is a must here, remember to plan how to end the ceremony not just how to say “y’all are hitched” with authority. Will you be leaving immediately after the ceremony, are you invited to mingle with the guests at the reception? Find out the wishes of the betrothed beforehand and abide by them. Now all that’s left is the important papers.
Be sure you understand what paperwork is needed where the wedding takes place, again check with the town clerk’s office for more on this. You will have to sign off on all the documents required. Usually there is a requirement for witnesses to also sign the marriage application. It is your job to satisfy the important papers, don’t forget to get signatures before people have too many beers, white Russians, or what have you. You don’t want to lose track of your witnesses and cause problems for the couple. That’s it, you’ve completed the modest task before you. Far out! The bar’s over there.
Feeling stressed out and overwhelmed? Maybe you need…
WHELP, THAT ABOUT WRAPS'ER UP
This concludes the Dudeist Wedding Officiant Course, you are ready to go forth and be an achiever when it comes to officiating weddings. We have covered everything from basic Dudeist philosophy about marriage, the ethical concerns, legalities, and required duties of the officiant. Be sure to check our recourses page for bonus materials such as wedding scripts and links to other useful sources for the Dudeist officiant. Additionally, you are equipped with the knowledge of how wedding ceremonies are generally conducted. We now invite you to take the test and earn your certificate. Best of luck, and happy officiating, Dude.
There’s only one thing left to do…