Our Wedding Ceremony

May 18, 2016

Photo by 430studios

Our wedding ceremony took place several weeks ago in the gorgeous backyard of our good friends. We rented simple, unpainted wooden chairs and stood with our officiant in front of a beautiful garden with a variety of deities looking over and a rustic woodpile in the back. It was a perfect setting with perfect spring weather - not too sunny, and mostly warm. It rained a touch earlier in the day, but stopped in time for the wedding. On that day, we stood before 100 of our closest friends and family and celebrated our crazy love for each other.

Our ceremony was officiated by our wonderful friend Karen. She is one of my oldest friends, my former college roommate, and our matchmaker. Karen always supported our union and it seemed so fitting that she officiate the wedding. She obtained an online ordination, but we wrote the ceremony script ourselves. There were a few recurring themes, which we identified early on: we wanted to honor our shared passion for adventure, our commitment to change and personal growth, and our sense of humor and silliness. The ceremony included - among other elements - three carefully selected readings, guest participation, a Battlestar Galactica reference, and a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. And of course, we wrote our own personal vows, which ended up having similar themes but pleasantly different styles.

After the wedding, a number of people wrote to us asking about our readings and the wording of certain parts of our ceremony. Many of our guests told us that the ceremony felt incredibly intimate and personal, and it was. Writing the ceremony was time-consuming and began with a thorough online search for others who had written and shared their ceremonies and vows, like I am now. In the spirit of sharing and inspiring others to personalize their commitment ceremonies, my husband Ryan and I have decided to share our complete ceremony script - including vows - below. We hope that it will inspire and assist others looking to create a day as special as ours was, and that it will provide a way for those who could not attend or those whom we could not invite to experience a part of this moment in our life.

Much of the inspiration for our ceremony script came from this post and the resources provided there. If you're considering writing your own wedding or commitment ceremony, I strongly encourage you to go for it! Our ceremony was more intimate and memorable than I could have anticipated and I can't imagine not having written it ourselves. In addition to the ceremony script and vows, I've also included the music we gathered and played before, during, and after the ceremony and during our reception/dance party later that evening. Enjoy!

May 7, 2016
Mallory + Ryan's Wedding Ceremony

We did not have wedding parties, but we do have four sets of parents and we wanted to include them from the beginning. Our processional consisted of Ryan’s dad and stepmom, Ryan's mom and stepdad, my stepmom and brother, and then me with my mom and dad at my side.

Everyone walked down the aisle to “Old School” by Jon Rauhouse.

Karen: Please be seated.

Good afternoon, friends and family. Thank you for joining us today as we celebrate the marriage of Ryan and Mallory.

My name is Karen, and I have known these two people for many years. It is an honor and a pleasure to be standing here today, leading this ceremony for my two friends.

Please note that this ceremony is slightly interactive and there will be several moments in which you, the guests, will be asked to participate by repeating some words, which are printed on your programs. Also, I want to remind you that immediately following the ceremony, you are encouraged to stick around, mingle, and enjoy some refreshments--including some delicious beer brewed by Ryan and Mallory’s friends, Andrew and Joe.

We have been invited here on this beautiful day to share with Ryan and Mallory a very important moment in their lives. In the years they have been together, their love and understanding of each other has grown, and they have decided to live their lives together in marriage. Ryan and Mallory hope that they can mark their transition to husband and wife by celebrating not only the love between themselves, but also the love between all of us--including the love of their families and their closest friends. Without that love, today would be far less joyous. 

Photo Opp!
At this time, you may have a moment to take a picture of Mallory and Ryan. Then, we ask that you set aside your phones and cameras, so that you may be fully present to participate in the ceremony. 

Thank you.

As much as today is a celebration of Ryan and Mallory’s marriage, it is also a celebration of their love, which is built upon nearly 12 years of friendship, the past eight years that they have spent together, and all the experiences encompassed by that time.

Ryan and Mallory have invited us to this beautiful city, Kalamazoo, to show us a glimpse of an important piece of their love. They have invited us here because their love is connected to this place. This is where they grew into adults. Where they met and became friends, and formed some of their closest friendships. It is where they fell in love and shared their first home together. Even though their travels have taken them all the way across the world, Kalamazoo will always feel like a home to them. 

Ryan and Mallory are very honored to be holding this ceremony at the beautiful home of their friends, John and Teri. They would like to thank this wonderful family for their love and kindness and for providing such a serene place to get married. 

We will begin with a reading from Thich Nhat Hanh’s beautiful book, How to Love. Ryan’s sister-in-law, Christine, will give the first reading.

“When you love someone, you have to have trust and confidence. Love without trust is not yet love. Of course, first you have to have trust, respect, and confidence in yourself. Trust that you have a good and compassionate nature. You are part of the universe; you are made of stars. When you look at your loved one, you see that he is also made of stars and carries eternity inside. Looking in this way, we naturally feel reverence. True love cannot be without trust and respect for oneself and for the other person. The more you understand, the more you love; the more you love, the more you understand. They are two sides of one reality. The mind of love and the mind of understanding are the same.”

Ring Warming Ceremony
Karen: During the ceremony, Mallory and Ryan invite all of you to pass their wedding rings between one another. As you hold the rings in your hands, you may take a pause to infuse them with the warmth of your love and your wishes for them and their future. After you have done so, please pass the rings to the person sitting beside you.

You will notice that it is only Ryan and Mallory standing up here. Today, we--the people who are closest to them--witness and celebrate together, and in that wonderful way, we are all making up one big, beautiful wedding party! 

Ryan’s brother, Chad, was given the rings before the ceremony. He will now start the ring-warming. The rings should slowly make their way back up to the front throughout the ceremony.

Acknowledging Friends & Family
Today represents not only the joining of Ryan and Mallory, but also the joining of their families and friends. They stand here today in the presence of people from many parts of their journey and many parts of the country--even the world. With us today are friends and family who have traveled from many places: other parts of Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, California, Oregon, Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Nevada, and Ontario. It would be impossible for Mallory and Ryan to look back on this day unaware of the love and support that truly surrounds them at this moment and in their lives.

Ryan and Mallory would also like to offer their gratitude for the love and care their parents have shown them and for the lessons they have taught them throughout their lives. Parents, thank you for your love and support of your children. The unconditional gifts that you’ve offered have inspired Ryan and Mallory to become who they are today.

Ryan and Mallory have also asked that we take a moment to honor those loved ones who are not with us today. As we share in these expressions of love and connectedness, we must also take a moment of silence for those who could not attend. Please take that brief moment of silence now.

Marriage Address
Thank you. Historically speaking, there are as many ways to wed as there are people and societies. The crucial element is the will of those involved to be married and their commitment to stay that way. In the spirit of this diversity, as they gather here to solidify their commitment to each other, Mallory and Ryan wish to celebrate the fact that marriage equality has become a reality in the USA, making this joyful occasion something that can be shared with so many loving partners who previously lacked the right to enter into marriage.

Humans are diverse, but we have some needs in common, which are the causes for marriage. The need for love, companionship, intimacy, support in hard times; these are things that make a family, be it a family of two or of twenty. Perhaps the most important facet of marriage is that it challenges you to be better than before, as a single person need only worry about him or herself, but a married person must be concerned about the needs of someone else. For Ryan and Mallory, entering into marriage is not just a formality--although it will allow them to more easily pursue their future travel goals. They have chosen to lead a certain kind of life based on their shared values and their deep friendship and love for one another. For them, marriage represents a lifelong companionship. It represents their commitment to live an authentic, creative, and nomadic life together. Today, they vow to respect one another as individuals and to support one another’s passions, interests, projects, and dreams. One dream they certainly share is a life of exploration and adventure. 

With this in mind, Ryan and Mallory’s friend, Mike, will read the final verse from Walt Whitman’s beloved Song of the Open Road:

Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!

Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.

Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

Karen: Ryan and Mallory, as you embark on your new married life, may you continue to give yourself to one another, as partners and travel companions, and to honor your shared priorities in life. You will always remain by one another’s side through the journeys of your life. May you cherish the fact that you have found in one another a fellow wandering soul. As your adventures continue across this astonishing earth, may you continue to turn to one another for support and for reminders of why you’ve chosen this kind of life together. May you embody the values you share: to live adventurously, to follow your respective bliss, to be of service to others, and to continue to grow and change, as individuals and as a couple.

Wendell Berry wrote, “Because the condition of marriage is worldly and its meaning communal, no one party to it can be solely in charge. What you alone think it ought to be, it is not going to be. Where you alone think you want it to go, it is not going to go. It is going where the two of you — and marriage, time, life, history, and the world — will take it. You do not know the road; you have committed your life to a way.” 

Mallory and Ryan, I charge you to remain committed to that unknown road, to the uncertainties of life and of partnership. Your wedding marks neither a beginning nor an end in your relationship, but one step in a continuing process of change and growth. Growth is essential in marriage, as it is an essential part of life. Your relationship continues to unfold into new dimensions, and as you go forward together, your marriage will become a source of new strength and insight. Inevitably there will be mistakes; there will be times of tension and conflict. But as these are openly acknowledged and faced, they can be turned into opportunities, and you will find new meanings and richness in your shared life together. 

The process of marriage does not begin nor end today. It is a lifelong pursuit. To make a marriage work, we learn to overlook and forgive the things that may frustrate us. Like Mallory’s baffling messiness and her tendency to leave piles of her things around the apartment. Or how impatient Ryan gets when he’s hungry. These two are promising to stick together through the frustrations and spats, as well as the good times. In the spirit of this kind of perseverance and commitment, Mallory and Ryan’s friend, Sam, will give the final reading, which is an excerpt from Daily Afflictions by Andrew Boyd.

We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us. But if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. It isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems – the ones that make you truly who you are – that you’re ready to find a life-long mate. Only then do you finally know what you’re looking for. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person – someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, “This is the problem I want to have.”

Karen: Mallory and Ryan, you have each found your right wrong person. For the past eight years, you have built a strong foundation for your relationship based on honesty and respect, and accepting--perhaps even appreciating--one another’s flaws. This came from both the joyful moments and the moments of frustration that you have shared. You have found joy in one another’s company, and you have become better, more fulfilled people because of your connection. You have been able to stay together through the varied challenges of Mallory’s full-time graduate school, changing careers, moving to Chicago with no money, no jobs, and no plan, except to embark on a new adventure. You’ve moved across the world together three times, once to South Korea, then back to Chicago, and back to Korea again. You have talked one another off the ledge of culture shock and homesickness and the stress that comes with the life you’ve chosen to live. You will undoubtedly continue to take on more adventures, as will you face unexpected and difficult challenges. You have remained together because of your shared values and sense of humor, your friendship, and your unconditional love for each other. As long as you maintain these qualities, you will have a long and successful marriage.

In the words of essayist Pico Iyer, “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again--to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.” Ryan and Mallory, may you continue to travel widely--down actual roads and the road of marriage--so that you may continue to be taken in, to feel young, foolish, and in love--with each other and with the world.

Group Declaration of Intent
Now, I ask that Ryan and Mallory’s parents please stand. Ryan and Mallory, please turn and acknowledge them as they acknowledge you. 

To all of you, congratulations on the part you have played in raising a daughter and a son that we have all come to appreciate and respect. On their behalf, and on the behalf of those gathered here, thank you. It is more than their lives that are joined here today; it is your lives as well. Their marriage will be enriched by the families from which they come. With this in mind, I ask you--Jill and Mike, Jack and Emma--to take this man, Ryan, into your hearts, that he might live from this day on as your son, for he is dear and cherished to Mallory and shall continue to be so to you and your family. Do you?

Mallory's parents: We do!

Karen: And of you, Joan and Mike, Al and Lynn, I ask the same. I ask that you take this woman, Mallory, into your hearts, that she might live from this day as your daughter, for she is dear and cherished to Ryan, and shall continue to be so to you and your family. Do you?

Ryan's parents: We do!

Karen: Thank you, you may be seated.

To all of the friends and family here today, you have a special purpose. You form the community of support that surrounds Ryan and Mallory. Each of you, by your presence here today, is being called upon to uphold them in loving each other. Always stand beside them, even if and when you cannot be physically with them. Offer them your love and your support, not your judgement. Skype with them as often as possible and assure them that even though there may be great physical distance between you and them, that your heart is always open to them. They ask that you commit to them, as they are committing to one another. Help them to keep their hearts open, full of forgiveness and compassion, of happiness and light. Encourage them when encouragement is needed and listen to them when they ask for advice. In these ways, you can honor this marriage into which they have come to be joined today. Do you?


Mallory & Ryan - Declaration of Intent
Karen: Ryan and Mallory, please look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another--friends, companions, partners, even teachers--for you have learned much from one another over the years. Shortly, you will say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same. After today, you will say to the world, “This is my husband.” “This is my wife.”

Will you promise to care for each other in the joys and sorrows of life, come what may, and to share the responsibility for growth and enrichment of your life together?

Ryan & Mallory: We will.

Karen: Do you vow to be companions through good and bad, to work toward and to allow space for growth in yourselves and in your relationship, and to endeavor to always act out of love and compassion?

Ryan & Mallory: We do.

Karen: Then please share the vows that you have written for one another.

Exchange of Vows
We surprised our guests by playing Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide who would read their vows first. Amazingly, it took us 5 rounds to determine a winner. Ryan won when he threw paper to my rock, so he went first. 

Ryan’s Vows
Well… here we are. Finally. Celebrating what many would say is the best day of our lives… but I really hope that’s not true. 

I mean… how could it top what we call our magical day? We were living here in Kalamazoo, woke up early, rode bikes, listened to live bluegrass over breakfast, drove out to the beach, read books, and promptly took a nap. I woke up slightly groggy on an empty blanket, craned my head around and got an upside down look at Lake Michigan, where you were gleefully splashing around in the waves. You saw me, gave an infectious smile and wave, and in that moment, for the first time in my life I truly felt love. Unadulterated, pure, genuine, painful, and mad love. 

And for the longest time I thought that was the best day of my life.

Then we boldly (and foolishly) decided to take our first leap of faith and move to Chicago with next to no money and one job between the two of us. 

Then you said yes to marrying me on my 27th birthday.

Then we made the insane decision to move to across the world together.

Then we climbed waterfalls and slept in the jungle.

Then we hiked to the top of Korea for my 29th birthday.

And just this year we spent a day hiking, crossing a 500 foot drop rope bridge, and walking on the edge on an astonishing gorge and realizing I had officially overcome my fear of heights.

Because of your strength, passion, and occasionally your sheer determination I've continued to have the best day of my life over and over. Your amazingly stubborn nature has frustrated me to no end at times, but it’s also what I love the most about you. Because you’re stubborn about living life to its fullest. You’re stubborn about living each moment as it comes, making the best of every situation. And you’re stubborn about caring for other people. Sometimes me, sometimes family or friends, sometimes your students, your clients, or a stranger we’ve only known for a few hours. Your refusal to live life on anyone else’s terms and constantly lead by example has shown me how to be a more caring, thoughtful, patient, and kind human being. Your stubbornness to never stop pushing yourself to change and evolve serves as an inspiration for the kind of man I want to be. And I’m lucky enough to have been by your side long enough to have your stubbornness result in a plethora of the best days of my life. 

And now here we are. The best day of our lives. And you see, that simply can’t be true. You're too courageous, bold, fascinating, stunning, and flat out amazing for me to think we're done having the best day of our lives.

So that’s my vow to you today. I vow to have today forever stand as an affirmation that every day from here on will be a continued push down the path we started so many years ago. I vow that we’ll always have more of the happiest day of our lives ahead of us. I vow to live the next best day of our life (and all of them that follow) to the fullest, living in the moment. More simply, I vow to always love you as we walk side by side through life together. 

Mallory's Vows:

Thank you for loving me, flaws and all. I know that sometimes it's not easy living and sharing a life with me. As has been pointed out, I'm messy, stubborn, anxious, and pushy. Thank you for accepting me as I am. We've built a fulfilling and exciting life together, and I can't wait to see what's next for us.

You are not the same person I met 12 years ago. You have steadily grown into a man of integrity, soul, and an abundance of love. Your dynamic nature and your commitment to growth and change inspire me every day. Because I love you, I vow to support that same personal growth within our relationship and as individuals.

I love that your passions are vast and intense, and that you throw yourself into the things you love. I vow to always respect and give you space for your work, whatever it may be. When you're happy and fulfilled, that shines inspiration and happiness onto me. Thank you for bringing laughter and lightness into my life and encouraging me to be my best by being my happiest. Thank you for supporting me no matter how many times my interests and pursuits change - which is constant - or when I have to pull an all-nighter to study something or retreat to my own space all weekend or I'll go crazy. Thank you for supporting me, even when you don't always understand me. Thank you for trying to understand and know me better.

I love you because you're an outspoken advocate for others and for yourself. You know what you want and you get it. You're brave, you speak your mind, and you stand up for what you believe in. Thank you for nurturing those qualities in me.

From now on, I promise to make Halloween more of a priority, and to support you playing video games to unwind. I vow to let you eat most of the peanut butter without complaint and to rub your head when you can't fall asleep. I promise to go scuba diving with you and make sure that someday you can see a shark. I vow to to love you always, to give you space but keep you close. I vow to hold you accountable to your principles and goals and to do all that is in my power to make your dreams come true.

Thank you for being my best friend, my travel buddy, and my greatest love. I love you so much and I'm thrilled to call you mu husband.

Exchange of Rings
Karen: By now, the ring-warming has finished and we are ready for the ring exchange. Chad, will you please bring forward Ryan and Mallory’s rings? 

Ryan's brother collected the rings and brought them to us.

Thank you. Now that you have shared your personal vows of marriage, please take hands. And all of you who love each other, please take each other’s hands as well. To reach out to someone and be acknowledged and loved is a human need. Taking the hand of one who loves you is a powerful symbol of that unspoken bond. 

For thousands of years, lovers have exchanged rings as tokens of their vows. Rings are circles that contain no end and no beginning. Let these rings be a sign that love has a past, a present, and a future, through you and within you. As you go about your daily work and play, your rings will be tangible reminders of the promises you’ve made to each other. They will always be with you, visible, worn openly and with pride. They will sit quietly upon your fingers, reminding you of the power of love and the pledge that you are making to each other to be faithful and true, and to nurture your love so that it will last a lifetime.

Ryan, please place the ring on Mallory’s finger. 

Mallory, please repeat after me: 

I promise to wear this ring...

Mallory: I promise to wear this ring...

Karen: as a celebration of our friendship, love, and commitment... 

Mallory: as a celebration of our friendship, love, and commitment... 

Karen:  to each other and our shared values.

Mallory: to each other and our shared values.

Karen: And Mallory, please place the ring on Ryan’s finger.

Ryan, please repeat after me: 

I promise to wear this ring...

Ryan: I promise to wear this ring...

Karen: as a celebration of our friendship, love, and commitment... 

Ryan: as a celebration of our friendship, love, and commitment... 

Karen:  to each other and our shared values.

Ryan: to each other and our shared values.

Closing Remarks
Karen: Ryan and Mallory, today we have heard your promise to share your lives together in marriage. We recognize and respect the vows you have made before each one of us as a witness. There is a wonderful life ahead of you--full of travel and adventure, strange foods, new friends, great books, hours-long skype dates with the people sitting before you, laughter, and all the quiet, beautiful moments together in between. Live your live fully. Love its changes and choices. You will change greatly, and many times, in your life together. Let life amaze you and bring you great joy each and every day. Psychologist Dan Gilbert wrote, “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been. The one constant in our lives is change.”

Ryan and Mallory, please forever hold in your heart the person standing before you. This person is a work in progress and will continue to grow and change. Inspire one another to change for the better. Help each other live joyfully, authentically, and without regrets. Commit yourselves to one another’s hearts and share in the beauty and wonder of the world. Help one another to make your wildest dreams into realities and to become the best versions of yourselves. 

Pronouncement of Marriage
In the honesty and sincerity of what you have said and done here today, together with your friends and family--who love and support you--I joyously affirm your union as wife and husband. 

So say we all.

ALL GUESTS: So say we all!

Karen: You may now kiss.

Don’t Carry It All” by The Decemberists

Our Ceremony + Reception Music
A lot of time went into putting together the music for our wedding day, so I'm happy to share our wedding playlists below.

Pre-Ceremony Mix
Prior to our ceremony, we invited guests to enjoy some beer brewed by a few close friends and mingle, and we set the mood with a playlist of twangy country and folk songs. We love good country music, and we wanted to share that love with our friends and family. As the ceremony approached, the music slowed down and became more romantic and waltzy.

Cocktail Hour
After the ceremony, there was a cocktail hour for our guests while we sneaked away with our photographer. During the cocktail hour and the first part of our reception, we played a mix of our favorite songs that aren't easily danced to.

Dance Mix

Our #1 priority at our reception was dancing, so Ryan spent a long time putting together our dance mix. We started the party with our first dance as wife and husband and we danced to "In Love" by Daisy May and Seth Bernard. After that, we kicked out the jams and spent the majority of the evening dancing with our friends and family. I danced so much, I practically forgot to eat!

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  1. Oh Mallory! Thank you so much for this! What a privilege to be able to share, in this unique way, your beautiful wedding. I can hear you and Ryan saying those sincere words to each other. I was saying the responses for "all" along as I read. I love you guys and wish you all the happiness of newlyweds. I hope you both do feel a bit differently now that you've been through the wedding. Marriage can be so beautiful and I know you both will nurture your marriage and each ither in the process. I love you guys and wish every bit of happiness to you both!

  2. This is so awesome!! I wanted to ask for transcripts of your vows because they were so beautiful, but I did not want to intrude. Vows are personal and proprietary. But I am so glad you shared, so that I can write about your wedding on my blog and link to your blog. My mom loved weddings!! Great post Mallory. You should post more often... ahem... :-)

  3. Thank you, wonderful friends. Mary, we definitely feel differently now - more so than we expected, since we were together for so long! Chris - I definitely plan to blog more now that I have more time!! I want to spend as much time as I can on my interests - writing, photography, language learning, etc. and I finally feel able to do so! Thank you for reading and commenting - it means so much to me to have this kind of dialogue. Love you both!

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  5. I am just now reading this and am so glad I did. It allowed me to reminisce on the beautiful day you shared with us. Love you both so much! Hope you are both enjoying the best day of your lives every day.
    Love, Christine

  6. Thank you, Christine! Thank you for being there with us and supporting us in all that we do. We love you so much!


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