Wedding Ceremony Format
Part 1 – The Legal Side
In 1996, Humanist Canada was granted the authority by the Registrar General to certify humanist officiants to solemnize marriages in Ontario. The organization has many officiants who perform ceremonies including marriages, funerals, memorials and baby namings.
Humanist Canada is a national, not-for profit charitable organization. It was founded in Montreal in 1968 and is now the primary body advancing Humanism in Canada.
The Marriage Act of Ontario requires certain formalities to be observed as marriage is a legal agreement enacted during a wedding ceremony, whether the couple is being married in a small ceremony in a garden or in a large hotel ballroom. Wedding ceremonies may be informal or formal, simple, or elaborate, but these elements must be included for the marriage to be legal in Ontario.
The Officiant introduces self by name, as a licensed representative of the government, and announces the reason for assembling for the wedding of the couple being married.
Affirmations Of Intention To Marry
The Officiant asks the partners if they are there willingly, that they know of no legal impediment to being married, and that they are ready to enter into a legal marriage with each other. Partners must publicly affirm their willingness to be married and their acceptance of their partner as their spouse.
Signing Of The Documents
The Officiant, the couple and their two witnesses, must sign the official marriage documents:
- Marriage Licence – obtained by the couple from any Ontario city hall
- Marriage Register – the book the Officiant uses to record every marriage solemnized
- Record Of Solemnization – the portion of the license that the couple keeps after marriage
The Officiant, the couple, and the couple’s witnesses sign the first two documents. The Officiant and the witnesses sign the third document.
Declaration Of Marriage
The Officiant publicly states that a contract has been entered into by these two people and that by the power vested in them by the Province of Ontario or the Registrar General the couple is officially declared married.
No two wedding ceremonies are the same. Aside from the four legal elements above every other element is optional. This is your opportunity to work with your Officiant to create a ceremony that tells your own story, in your way – formal, informal, romantic, humourous, family-oriented, with music and readings. You may want to include a special ritual that reflects your heritage, personalities and family traditions.
This is your day, your opportunity to celebrate your love, your commitment, your prospects, expectations and dreams – and yourselves.
Part 2 – The Personal Aspect
The important word here is “Your”. It’s not “The” wedding ceremony set down in a book and repeated for hundreds of years. It truly is your ceremony, crafted by you and designed to express your love for each other, your relationships with your guests and your commitments to each other and your hopes and dreams for the future.
The great thing about a Humanist ceremony is that it does not depend on a single philosophical or doctrinal viewpoint, but reflects what you care about and believe in.
My pleasure in being an Officiant is to work with you to find the right words, structure or ritual to proclaim your union in a personal, meaningful way for you and your guests. I have a large library of ideas to craft your wedding script, to weave through the required elements, with declarations, sayings, poetry, readings, even interesting rituals – that I will assemble, with your guidance – to create your unique ceremony.
Humanist wedding ceremonies are guided by the belief that all human beings shape their own destiny and give meaning to their own lives. We focus on your values and unique personalities to commemorate your special day in a meaningful, non-religious way.
There is no prescribed wording. I will work with you to create a ceremony that is an authentic account of your commitment to each other. A Humanist wedding ceremony can be traditional or whimsical, formal or casual, simple or elaborate. It should be as unique as the two of you.
Humanist wedding ceremonies are inclusive and welcoming to all couples regardless of faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation or cultural heritage.
A SAMPLE CEREMONY
The required elements are highlighted.
A ceremony can take place in 10 – 30 minutes.
The order and content of sections is variable.
Procession and Positioning – perhaps with parents or significant family representative ?
There are a lot of options for a procession and positioning in the ceremony space. i.e after Intro or pre-ceremony music, will there be a second musical piece played for the bride/couple’s entrance?
Introduction by Officiant
Officiant welcomes guests, introduces self, and states the purpose of the ceremony (the legal stuff) with reflections on the importance of marriage.
Recognition of gathered company – special guests, grandparents
Words to the Couple
Officiant or guest speaker
Declaration of Affirmation/Intention
Partners declare that they have come to be married ‘freely and without reservation.’ This is a legal part. Support from the gathering can be included here. This is where the “I Do’s” can happen.
Exchange of Vows
Marriage Partners exchange their personal promises
Exchange of Rings
Rings are the outward symbols of your commitment
Possible special ritual
Ring Warming, Stone Ceremony, Quaich, Sand Blending, Handfasting, Glass Breaking
Rituals can add dimension to your ceremony and make it memorable. Include children?
Signing of Marriage Documents
Takes about 3 -5 minutes.
Let your guests know what will happen immediately after the ceremony.
Is the couple going to leave for photos? For how long?
What will guests do during this time? Is the bar open? When will dinner be served?
Declaration of Marriage
The Officiant announces that the couple is married.
Introduction of the Newlyweds
The couple is introduced as “Legally Married” or “Spouse and Spouse” or “Mr. and Mrs.” or “Mr. and Mr.” or “Mrs. and Mrs.”
We reflect on the ceremony that has just taken place. It may be a charge to the couple for the new life they are entering – or a poem or song