Several times a month, I will receive a call or email message from a couple interested in fulfilling the legal requirement to be married with the qualifier, no ceremony! Ceremony is defined as “a formal act or set of formal acts established by custom or authority as proper to a special occasion, such as a wedding, religious rite, etc.” I cannot sign a marriage license without gaining the consent of the individuals involved. At a minimum, I have to ask, “do you take this person to be your legally wedded spouse?” If you have a celebration planned for a later date that includes family and friends, please note that the date your marriage license is signed by an individual who has local authority to sign a marriage license is the date the court views as the date you were married. You may have a celebratory event at a later time and you may recognize that date as your “anniversary,” but the date on your marriage license is the date you were legally married. So why not make it special and memorable? It doesn’t take away from the celebratory event planned for another day.
I suggest you use standard traditional vows for the legal ceremony knowing that you can expand the traditional vows for your celebratory eve
nt by adding personal pledges. For example, the tradition vows are: “I, [name] take you, [name] to be my lawfully wedded spouse. I promise to love and cherish you, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, for better for worse, and forsaking all others, keep myself only unto you, for so long as we both shall live.” For the celebratory gathering, you could add, “During our marriage, I promise to help you when you ask for help and ask you to help me when I ask for help.”
Also, do you know the law doesn’t require the exchange of rings? That particular gesture traces back to ancient Egyptians who reportedly exchanged wedding rings dating back to 4000 BC. The wedding ring is a circle symbolizing the never-ending union of marriage. So if you would rather save the ring exchange for the event that includes family and friends, please do so.
Before I sign the license, I pronounce you legally wed and invite you to share a kiss to seal your promises! Congratulations! You participated in a brief ceremony and now you are ready to begin you happily ever after!