What I didn't think about - until I was back home - was whether I could legally do it! However, a quick bit of research made it clear that in most states it is not difficult to become legally qualified to officiate a wedding. So I became an ordained minister through the Universal Life Church, and I am now allowed to officiate over a wedding in my state.
I spent a lot of time working on the ceremony text, making sure there was enough traditional aspects of the usual wedding ceremony in it but also wanting it to be unique enough so that it would be special for the couple. At the same time, I felt as though it was important to include some spiritual aspect within the ceremony to give it greater resonance and to personalize it. This was a bit tricky, because I sensed neither of my friends wanted overt religious content of any kind. However, without this sort of content, the ceremony seemed cold and a bit too 'justice of the peace'-like.
In the sangha I go to, we end each evening with Gandhi's prayer for peace. During this prayer, we form a circle by joining hands: with one hand palm up and the other hand palm down. The idea being that you are taking from the group (palm up) but also giving as well (palm down). I felt this could idea could easily be adapted to the idea of a relationship. So, after writing the text for the bulk of the ceremony, I included this shortly before the vows:
As a sign of this love, please raise your right hand, palm down. This represents what you promise to give to one another:
· - Expressing your thoughts and feelings to each other
· - Sharing your triumphs and successes
· - Offering encouragement and strength in times of need
· - And always, your love and understanding
Now also raise your left hand, palm up. This represents what you promise to take from one another:
· - Listening to your partner’s thoughts and feelings when they share them
· - Celebrating their triumphs and successes
· - Accepting encouragement and strength when you need it
· - And always, being open to the gift of love and understanding that is given to you
Join hands now. This represents a circle of giving and receiving, an unbreakable union between you. Hold fast to the vision and the promise of this special day. Please meditate for a moment on the meaning of this commitment.
It went over very well with the couple when we talked it over and rehearsed it. So the ceremony text was ready (and approved!) after a lot of thought. All I had to do then was show up (and clean up). The weather was amazing for the wedding, and it was beautiful and a lot of fun. I was so happy to be a part of making this day special for my two friends.