The Wedding Ones: Our Ceremony

Today will be the first of three days of wedding posts, and we're starting at the heart of it all: the ceremony! Obviously this is the part where the actual marriage happens, so it's really the most important part of the day, even though most of the planning (and pretty much every other wedding post I've done) ends up going into the reception, the clothes, what everything is going to look like, etc. However, we actually did spend quite awhile crafting our ceremony, as we put the whole thing together ourselves, so today we wanted to share a little about writing our own ceremony, alongside the ceremony itself, and some of our beautiful pictures from that part of the big day.

Speaking of which, all these gorgeous photos were taken by the lovely and amazing Kym Ventola of Ventola Photography, who is based out of Phoenix, AZ (but loves to travel, and you should hire her to come take your pictures wherever you are!) and is an all-around awesome person and photographer (we blogged about her here when we first booked her).  Also, our venue was the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (which we posted about here), and the ceremony took place in the Redwood Grove and Amphitheatre.

We wanted a ceremony that was relatively short and sweet, secular and meaningful.  I scoured the internet and read tons of ceremonies and parts of ceremonies, and had a huge document going with bits and pieces of different things I liked.   I always hope that the things I post about here will be helpful to others in some way, so for anyone else out there writing a wedding ceremony, I went through my bookmarks and pulled out some of my favorites to get you started: first and foremost A Practical Wedding had many posts that were a huge help (like this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, and this one -- make sure you read the comments!!), then reading other people's full ceremonies helped me figure out our structure and such; some faves are Oversized Cliches, Polaroids and Peonies (hard to find these days, here's part 1 and part 2), and 2000 Dollar Wedding has a list of ceremonies to peruse!  Other than that, once I found readings or traditions I was interested in, I would google those and read as much about them as possible, until I found the versions I liked best.

It was surprisingly hard to find to find ceremony wording that wasn't weirdly formal and verbose, and since we had our very good friend as our officiant, we didn't want him to sound too unlike himself or like he was trying to be something he just isn't, namely a priest or someone who is an authority on marriage.  We loved having him perform our ceremony, but we wanted him to be more like a ceremony guide and organizer type figure, and I think we managed that pretty well.

Once I had looked up just about everything ever written about wedding ceremonies, I got Chris to sit down with me and parse out what he liked out of what I had found. We went back and forth a bunch, with me organizing and adjusting everything until we had something we liked. I didn't end up bookmarking everything we used, so I have no idea where some things came from, but most wording was edited at least a bit to fit our style. We wrote the ceremony back in June, but left a hole where the vows would fit in, and we finally wrote the vows (some written by us, some parts taken from other vows) a week or two before the wedding in August. As you'll see with the vows and a few other parts, we really liked the idea of going back and forth (I've heard it called duet vows, alternating vows... it was very hard to track down ideas online), and it worked really well in practice. I imagine if I had had to say more than one line at a time I would have totally broken down, but as it was I managed to keep from actually crying and just had a very wobbly voice.

Ok, that's enough of that, time to get to to the ceremony!

Welcome everyone! We are here today to celebrate the wedding of Christopher Hutchinson and Julia Boal. Please turn off your cell phones so we can all be present in this moment.

Chris and Julia would like to thank each of you for being with them today. They know that getting here took considerable effort for many of you and for this they are very grateful. You were invited here to share this moment with Chris and Julia because you are the people who mean the most to them. Everyone here today will witness the words that they will speak to one another and the vows that they will make. May we always do everything within our power to support the union that will be made here today and to nurture the bond between these two people whom we love. If you are willing to support the marriage between Chris and Julia, please say “We do”

(everyone says “we do”)

Later in the ceremony Chris and Julia will exchange rings as a symbol of their love and commitment to one another. As the ceremony proceeds they would like to invite you, their family and friends, to take part in The Warming of the Rings. As the rings make their way through the group please take a quick moment to hold them, warm them with your love, and silently send some good vibes or say a blessing for Chris and Julia and their future together. When these rings return they will contain your love and support for their union to keep it strong throughout the years.

(whoever has rings hands them to the first person)

Chris and Julia will now share a poem, called “Married Love” by Guan Daosheng:

J: You and I have so much love,
C: That it burns like a fire,
J: In which we bake a lump of clay, molded into a figure of you, and a figure of me.

C: Then we take both of them, break them into pieces, and mix the pieces with water
J: And mold again a figure of you, and a figure of me,
C: So that I am in your clay and you are in my clay.

Chris and Julia, please join hands for a reading from your parents:

B: These are the hands of your best friend, young, strong, and full of love for you.

L: These are the hands that are holding yours on your wedding day as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever.
Al: These are the hands that will work along side yours, as together you build your future.

An: These are the hands that will passionately love you and care for you throughout the years.
J: These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind.
B: These are hands that will countless times wipe tears from your eyes, tears of joy and tears of sorrow.

L: These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children.
Al: These are the hands that will help hold your family together as one.

An: These are hands that will give you strength when you need it.

J: And these are the hands that even when wrinkled with age will still be reaching for yours.

Chris and Julia, today you officially take into your care and keeping the one person in all the world who you love best. Are you ready to make this commitment to one another? If so, please say, “we are.”

C+J: We are

J: I choose you to be my partner, my husband, and my family
C: and I choose you to be my partner, my wife, and my family.

J: I promise to love you all the time, every day, even when I don’t like you all that much.
C: I promise to love you for who you are now, and for who you will become
J: to laugh and be silly with you until we are old and wrinkly
C: to live a long life so we can be old and cool together
J: to respect our differences
C: to keep working on us
J: to always make time for you, and for us, even when life gets insane
C: to listen and to try to empathize with you
J: to communicate honestly and openly with you, even if I am afraid
C: to be careful with my words, even when I am frustrated
J: to trust in you and in us
C: to take care of you when you’re sick and comfort you when you're upset
J: to be your voice of reason
C: to encourage you to take risks
J: to take your dreams as my own
C: to help you fulfill yours
J: to always be on your team
C: to build a home and family together, knowing that we will build a life far better than either of us could imagine alone.
J: Today, I promise that you will always be my family.
C: You are part of who I am, and that can never be undone.

J: Chris, do you take me to be your wife, to have and to hold, in good times and bad, till death do us part?
C: I do, forever and always.
C: Julia, do you take me to be your husband, to have and to hold, in good times and bad, till death do us part?
J: I do, forever and always.

(to whoever has the rings) May I have the rings?

(to everyone) These rings are the outward and visible sign of an inward and abiding love -
 signifying to all others the unbreakable union of Chris and Julia in marriage.

(to Chris) As you put this ring on Julia's finger, please repeat after me:
I give you this ring as a symbol of my love, (C repeat)
and my choice to share my life with you. (C repeat)
With this ring, I thee wed. (C repeat)

(to Julia) As you put this ring on Chris's finger, please repeat after me:
I give you this ring as a symbol of my love, (J repeat)
and my choice to share my life with you. (J repeat)
With this ring, I thee wed. (J repeat)

Chris and Julia, having witnessed your vows to each other along with all your friends and family who are assembled here, and by the authority vested in me by the state of California, I now pronounce you husband and wife.  Chris, you may kiss your wife!

It is my honor to present to you, for the first time as husband and wife: Mr. and Mrs. Hutchinson

That's it!  It went by so fast.  I was out of breath and so overwhelmed after we walked out, it took awhile to calm down.

For ceremony music (more on reception music tomorrow!) we borrowed a fancy bluetooth speaker and had a friend controlling it with my iPod.  We had a half hour of pre-ceremony music that started slow and got more upbeat as we neared the ceremony time (the songs in order for anyone interested: "Canela" by Devendra Banhart, "Blackbird" by The Beatles, "For You in Confidence" by Chris Rubeo, "Anybody Else but You" by The Moldy Peaches, "Ho Hey" by The Lumineers, "I Will" by The Beatles, "I'm Sticking With You" by The Velvet Underground, "Heartbeats" by José González, "Keep Your Heart" by TV On the Radio, "5 Years Time" by Noah & The Whale, and "You and I" by Ingrid Michaelson).

The bridesmaids and groomsmen walked down the aisle to an upbeat string cover of "Such Great Heights" by The Section Quartet, and I came in to "Julia" by The Beatles.  Loved it.  Finally, we walked out to "We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together by Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground.

And that's everything I can think of about our ceremony!  We'll be back tomorrow with the reception!


  1. Simply beautiful! Congratulations!

  2. This is so so helpful I'm bookmarking for future planning. My bf is into the idea of duet vows for our eventual big party but I've been having a hell of a time just figuring out the google search term for it :) Everything about your day looks beautiful and sounds meaningful. Congrats!


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