The Unitarian Church supports the major tenets of Orthodox religions. As such, the church values the use of many different religious traditions, rituals, and symbols in wedding ceremonies. The wonderful thing about having a Unitarian wedding is being able to incorporate many different elements of other religions into your wedding ceremony. The church places heavy importance on individual expression and belief, and they encourage couples to design their own ceremonies. As opposed to other religions, which believe marriage is a Holy act before God, Unitarians believe that marriage adds a spiritual dimension to the relationship. Unitarians do not believe that they have to be married for God to bless their union, but they choose to do so to affirm their joint spirituality and their wish to bring God into their relationship.
Couples are encouraged to meet with Unitarian ministers and ceremony officiants before their wedding so that they can discuss their reasons for getting married. These meetings also help them come up with ways to make their ceremony spiritual and meaningful. The couple usually chooses their own hymns, readings (from any spiritual book), poems, etc. The Unitarian church supports all types of wedding ceremonies, so Unitarian couples are free to create their own special ceremony in whatever way they want – blending elements from several different religions, or sticking to traditions from their background.
A Lay Chaplain provides the couple with a Guide to Marriage Ceremonies, which gives examples of blessings, vows, hymns, and readings to help plan their ceremony. If the couple prefers it, the minister will plan the ceremony for them and allow them to make revisions that reflect their own personal beliefs. Generally, a Unitarian wedding ceremony includes:
- A statement of Intent
- An address to the couple
- An exchange of Vows
- An exchange of symbols (such as rings)
- Readings, meditations, or prayers
- Pronouncement of the marriage
- Register signing
- Candle Lighting
- Closing Words
These elements are typical for Protestant religions, but the couples may incorporate any religion they choose into their ceremony. Readings from the Q’uran, Talmud, or the Bible are equally common in Unitarian ceremonies.
Typical Unitarian wedding vows are:
“_____, will you take____ to be your husband/wife; to love honor and cherish him/her now and forevermore?”
The bride/groom answers: “I will”
The bride and groom then repeat:
“I, ________ take you, _____to be my husband/wife; to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish always.”
Then the minister asks:
“_________, will you have________to be your husband/wife, to live together in creating an abiding marriage? Will you love and honor, comfort and cherish him/her in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, from this day forward?”
And the bride/groom answers: “I will.”
During the exchange of rings, the minister says:
“As a token of mutual fidelity and affection the rings are now given and received.”
The couple may speak their own vows while exchanging rings, either ones they have written or traditional ones such as: “With this ring, I wed you and pledge you my love now and forever.”
The couple may choose to use vows from other religions, especially if they wish to make specific promises to each other. Clearly, the Unitarian church allows a lot of leeway for personal style and spirituality in wedding ceremonies. The most important element of a Unitarian wedding is the need the couple feels to have a ceremony before God that cements the spiritual element of their relationship.