You guys sent in some beautiful examples.
As you’re reading through these, just keep in mind that there are so many ways to show your love for your partner and a god doesn’t have to be included in the mix for those words (and the whole ceremony, for that matter) to be special for everyone in the audience.
Diana and her husband Gabriel used traditional, but godless, vows (PDF), found via Internet sources and friends’ suggestions:
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.
Gabriel and Diana, I remind you that marriage is a precious gift; a lifelong dedication to love and a daily challenge to love one another more fully and more freely.
With this understanding, do you, (Gabriel/Diana), take (Diana/Gabriel) to be your beloved (wife/husband)? Do you promise to be a tender, faithful (husband/wife)? Do you promise to love and cherish (her/him), in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, for better for worse, and keep yourself only unto (her/him)?
May the sun bring you new energy by day.
May the moon softly restore you by night.
May the rain wash away your worries.
And may you live the days of your lives in peace, love, and happiness.
Greta Christina and her partner Ingrid had three wedding ceremonies. One was in the San Francisco City Hall in 2004 — it was later annulled by the courts. One was in the same location in 2008, when gay marriage was legal in California. In between those, they had what they refer to as their “real” wedding, in 2005. There were guests, dancing, cake, and they were able to use their own vows instead of the ones provided by City Hall.
These were their vows:
First part: Officiant prompts and brides repeat sentence by sentence:
I (Greta/Ingrid) take you (Ingrid/Greta) to be my partner for life. I take you into my family, and take your family as my own. I promise to love you, honor you, and treasure you. I promise to trust you, and to trust in our marriage. I promise to savor our good times, and to have faith that the bad times will pass. I promise to value our differences as much as our common ground. I promise to give you my help and support, and to accept help and support from you. I promise to keep my promises, and not to make promises I can’t keep. I promise to always save you the last waltz.
Second part: Officiant asks and brides say “I do”:
Do you, (Greta/Ingrid) take (Ingrid/Greta), to be your partner for life, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, in conflict and tranquility, in poverty and in comfort, placing her above all others, from this day forward? (I do.)
With this ring, I thee wed.
Officiant makes pronouncement:
Greta and Ingrid have chosen to be joined in marriage, and have declared their choice to each other and in the presence of this company. They have given each other their promises, and have made their pledge by giving and receiving rings and by joining hands. Therefore, by the power vested in me by Greta and Ingrid and by the witnesses present here today, I now pronounce you partners for life. You may kiss.
Jen and her husband were married at the Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. That explains what he said to her at the wedding:
It isn’t a coincidence that we are getting married at this place. This observatory is where we can observe the stars above us. This is a place of science. And it is science that binds us together through truth and logic.
But it is also a place where we can look at the magic that is the stars… the wonderment of what is to come in the universe… the eternity of that space.
I will promise you that same eternity. Through supernovas and northern lights, through black rain and blue sunshine, I will take care of you forever.
As if that weren’t romantic enough, here’s a picture of Jen as he was saying that to her:
Jonas walked down the aisle to Dan Barker‘s song “Love” from his “Friendly Neighborhood Atheist” CD.
Here are the vows he and his wife Mary-Alice said:
Random chance seems to have operated in our favor, and brought us together.
My heart is enlarged by your gentle strength, and I find joy in your presence.
For your smile which warms my heart, your smile which pouts with love.
And the leaping of my heart, I cry out, “He Is Mine.” Through rising suns, and darkening stars, through peaceful times, and troubled days, though smiles and through sadness I commit myself to you. To encourage you, to support your dreams, and to love you unceasingly as long as our hearts still beat.
In you I find beauty and the Joie de vivre. My desires are en-flamed and satisfied in one clean sweep. Your love is like a dream that became a reality and spread throughout the stars. For the look in your eyes and the sound of your voice and the leaping of my heart, I cry out, “She Is Mine.” Through bright suns, and waning moons, through celebrated victories, and dangerous journeys, through life’s fine wines and bitter medicines, I will commit myself to you, to encourage you, to support your dreams, to love you unrelentingly, as long as we both draw breath.
Jonas ended the wedding with this:
Together we’re all going to say a blessing so if you can rise and say it with me: “Live Long And Prosper.”
Chris is an atheist from Australia. His wife is “nominally Buddhist” and from Japan. They were married in Japan and said these simple, direct, no-god-needed vows:
We stand before our friends and family today so you may witness our promise. We hereby pledge in front of everyone that we will join together with each other into a happy and loving family, sharing good times and hard times, by uniting our hearts for eternity.
What happened after the wedding was pretty entertaining as well:
At most Japanese weddings, the bride’s friends do some small piece of entertainment, such as musical bells or something. The whole room (especially myself) was very surprised to see three of my wife’s friends walk into the room dressed as nuns. Approaching the microphone, the music played, and they started singing “I will follow him”, from the movie “Sister Act.” A male friend then came to the stage dressed as an evangelical preacher, and conducted them, joining in as lead vocals in the second half.
It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever witnessed, and was the closest thing to religion at my wedding.
Alexandra and her husband used a terrific script for the ceremony (PDF). Here’s just a bit of it:
A true spiritual marriage is an act of metamorphosis, a profound mystery of creation and rebirth, as two become one. It is not a giving up or loss of oneself, but rather a giving over of oneself to something greater — a transformation of self in which each one can say, “I am no longer only I, but also we.” It is a process in which each can be challenged to discover new possibilities in themselves and each other.
In such a marriage, the wedding ceremony is the gateway into this mystery. For the lives the two of you have lived up until this moment are, in some sense, now truly completed and over. Together you now live within the creation of something wholly new and transcendent, something which has never existed before — your miraculous marriage — an expression that is at once public and private, precious, sacred, and truly unique to the two of you. In this act, you open yourselves to a fuller experience and expression of the great, vast miracle of love.
No ceremony can create your marriage. Only you can do that — through love, patience, dedication, perseverance — through talking and listening and trying to understand — through helping and supporting and believing in each other — through learning to forgive, learning to respect and appreciate your differences, and learning to make the important things matter and to let go of the rest. What this ceremony can do is to witness and affirm the choice you have made to begin a new life today as husband and wife.
Rick shared this story with me:
Last summer my oldest daughter was married by a Justice of the Peace. No mention of any god, but there was a reading from a book on life… Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss!
He adds that his fundie in-laws refused to watch the ceremony, but everyone else had a wonderful time
Eric and Kelly got married in 2000. They had an “ordained” friend perform the ceremony and kept some traditions without invoking anything supernatural:
Eric and Kelly, your marriage is a partnership. You are agreeing to share your strength, responsibilities and love for one another. You are adding to your life not only the affection for each other, but also the companionship and virtue of a deep trust as well.
However, your relationship is also a source of nourishment for who you both are individually. Continue to expand and learn, to honor the full stature of one another and to support the unending growth of your experience together.
You are now taking into your care and keeping the happiness of the one person in all the world whom you love best. You are agreeing to share yourselves for the greater good of both you and your children. But remember that love consists of not only gazing at one another, but of looking forward together and building a shared experience of life.
Expression of intent:
Do you Eric and Kelly choose to marry?
And to all of you (i.e. the audience) witnessing the vows they are about to make, will you do all in your power to support these two persons in marriage?
Kelly and Eric, please face each other for the vows.
Eric, will you accept Kelly to be your wife and partner? Will you love her, honor her, and support her, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, throughout the rest of your lives?
Kelly, will you accept Eric to be your husband and partner? Will you love him, honor him, and support him, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, throughout the rest of your lives?
Traditionally, the union of husband and wife is marked by the exchange of rings. These rings are a symbol of the unbroken circle of love; freely given, it has no beginning and no end, no giver and no receiver, for each is the giver and each is the receiver. May these rings always remind you of the vows you have taken.
(Each places the ring on the other’s finger and repeats this vow:)
“May this ring be a symbol of our unassailable marriage, and a reminder of our vows.”
Break the glass and kiss the bride:
In a minute, you will see Eric break a glass. This tradition comes at the end of a wedding ceremony and is a personal reminder that just as we accept joy into our lives we recognize that there will also be times of sorrow.
Now, Eric and Kelly, be partners to one another, share each other’s dreams, console each other’s sorrows and fears, help each other in all life’s vicissitudes, and especially celebrate each other’s joy. Encourage one another in what ever you set out to achieve. Trust each other and find joy in life. Love one another and offer love and support to those around you.
Eric and Kelly, by virtue of the authority vested in me, a deputy commissioner of marriages, I now pronounce you as husband and wife. Congratulations, you may kiss the bride!
Annie and Bill were married in 2006. Their ceremony contained some ritual and symbolism, but I really liked this particular excerpt that the officiant read:
Marriage is dedication. You give yourself, your life and love, into the hands of the one you love. You do so trustingly and generously. By the same token, each of you receives a gift — the life and love of the other. But real love is something beyond the warmth and glow, the excitement and romance of being “in love”. It is caring as much about the welfare and happiness of your life partner as about your own. Real love is not total absorption into each other, it is looking outward in the same direction together. Love makes burdens lighter because you divide them. It makes joys more intense because you share them. It makes you stronger, so you can be involved with life in ways you dare not risk alone.
It should never be said of either of you that you show more concern for a friend than you do for each other. More kindness, gentleness, and concern needs to be shown in the privacy of your own home than anywhere else. Indeed, your home should be a haven from all the confusion and craziness the world will create.
Diana and her husband were married in 2003. To give you a glimpse at their sense of humor, they used a piano arrangement of the Star Wars Throne Room march as their recessional. They hired a female reverend to marry them and requested that she not mention a god at any point.
These were the vows they used:
I promise to take you as my [husband/wife],
To trust you and to be trustworthy,
To support you in your worldly endeavors,
To continue to share my thoughts and feelings, my hopes and desires,
And to love and cherish you for the rest of my life.
Simple and to the point. No need for a god in there.
Meredith S. not only wrote her own vows for the wedding, she explained her process in writing them (which might be extremely helpful to a lot of you):
I knew there were a lot of things that were important to me that I wanted to say, so I started out with a list of the most important characteristics that I wanted in our marriage:
- faithfulness (to each other)
- share our lives
- staying with each other through good and bad times
There were a few more things I considered adding to the list but then changed my mind — not that I didn’t believe in them, but they didn’t ring right for our vows or didn’t seem necessary to say:
- cherishing each other
- sickness and health
- having a family together
- our relationship with family and friends
- something about shared values
After that I took a brief glance over the list and decided what the top items were; in other words, what did I want to say first? It was pretty clear that love was the most important thing, so I put that at the top.
Then after looking at the list more closely, I saw it divided into what I promised to be and do as a wife, and what I wanted our life together to be.
So as a wife I would be:
What’s left is what our life together would include:
- sharing our lives
- through good times and bad times
The first sentence was about my vows as an individual to him.
“[Groom's name], I promise to love you, to protect and care for you, to be patient and understanding, to support you, and to always be faithful to you.”
The second sentence was a statement about our lives together.
“I will be your friend and companion and I will share my life with you, through good times and bad times, as long as we both shall live.”
In the actual ceremony, as opposed to repeating after the celebrant, we read our vows off index cards that he handed to us. That way it was a little clearer that we wrote them ourselves and we could say them in our voices. And while not all people do this, we vowed the same thing to each other.
So in total, our vows:
[Groom/bride's name], I promise to love you,
to protect and care for you,
to be patient and understanding,
to support you,
and to always be faithful to you.
I will be your friend and companion,
and I will share my life with you,
through good times and bad times,
as long as we both shall live.
Carlos and his wife Yarra used a lot of wonderful poetry and tradition during their wedding, but this portion of the ceremony really stood out to me:
Nothing is easier than saying words, and nothing harder than living them day by day. What you promise today must be renewed and redecided tomorrow. At the end of this ceremony, legally you will be husband and wife, but you must still decide, each day that stretches out before you, that you want to be married. Real love is something beyond the warmth and glow, the excitement and romance of being deeply in love. It is caring as much about the welfare and happiness of your marriage partner as about your own. But real love is not total absorption in each other; it is looking outward in the same directions — together. Love makes burdens lighter; because you divide them. It make joys more intense because you share them. Love makes you stronger, so you can reach out and become involved with life in ways you dared not risk alone.
Your love is as the sea, constant and ever-changing… Your love is as the wind, rapturous and all encompassing. Your love is as the earth, solid and firm…Your love is as a flame, illuminating your lives and warming your hearts.
Yet your love extends beyond the sea, wind, earth and flame; it is greater than who you are and meaningless without you; it is more powerful than your past yet the foundation for your future. It has brought you here today to become one in the eyes of your family and friends, for all the days to come. Your love is the essence of your lives.
They also received advice and issued challenges:
You have exchanged vows, rings, and later you will sign your wedding certificate, yet we know that these things do not keep people together. The marriage relationship is not one of dominance of one over the other, but of love and commitment. It is the giving of 100% to each other.
You both have goals and dreams which you would like to accomplish in your lifetime. You should encourage each other to go for your dreams, to reach your goals. Also, remember that you should not be the same people in one, five, or ten years from now. You should encourage and help each other to grow and develop into the people you were intended. You will influence each other because you are together. If you allow each other to develop and to grow then you will not destroy the very personality that attracted you to each other. Never forget that marriage is a partnership between equals.
If you allow the other person to grow and develop then you will have a stronger, happier and more rewarding relationship. Learn to change and to accept change.
A strong marriage is dependent upon many factors. Beyond the love and respect you share for one another, there must be a strong sense of commitment and loyalty that bonds you. And above all, a true friendship and willingness to accept and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Make your partner your best friend. Respect, love, honor and trust each other. Sometimes being best friends will help get you through some of the toughest of times.
[Carlos/Yarra], I challenge you to love, respect and honor [Yarra/Carlos] whom you have chosen to be your wife/husband.
Challenge to Audience:
I ask each one of you here today, since [Yarra and Carlos] have made their decision to be married, that you do everything in your power to see that this marriage relationship remains strong, happy and prosperous.
I (name), take you (name) to be my (husband/wife), my partner in life, and my one true love. I will cherish our union and love you more each day than I did the day before. I will trust you and respect you, laugh with you and cry with you, loving you faithfully through good times and bad, regardless of the obstacles we may face together. I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward for as long as we both shall live.
Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be the shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be the warmth to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. Go now to your dwelling, to enter into the days of your life together, and may your days be good and long upon the earth.
Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together. Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves. When frustration, difficulty and fear assail your relationship — as they threaten all relationships at one time or another — remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part which seems wrong. In this way, you can ride out the storms when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives — remembering that even if you lose sight of it for a moment, the sun is still there. And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight.
Finally, hats off to Adam at Daylight Atheism, who just got married last month. This is part of what he said to his new wife:
You know that there are some things I don’t believe in. But today, I want to tell you about some things I do believe in.
I believe in sunrises and sunsets.
I believe in hikes in the woods and walks on the beach.
I believe in all the beauty, the mystery and the wonder of life, and I believe that these joys, like all joys, are multiplied when you have someone to share them with. And I’m here because I want you to be that person.
There’s no one else I’d rather spend my life with. I love your shy smile, your sweet laugh, your sense of humor, and your adventurousness. And most of all, I love the way you make me happier than I thought anyone ever could. That’s why I’m here, and that’s why I’m marrying you today.
Thanks to everyone who sent me their vows! If you weren’t able to send them in time, feel free to do it now. (If you can, send a picture or two, too!) I’m sure we’ll do this again soon.