| Wedding Ceremony | Wedding Legals
words we hear at the start of a movie, or the
opening line of a novel should say, in the words of
author Stephen King (yep, him of those horror
stores) "Listen. Come in here. You want to know
Ditto for movies. The first words
that we hear draw us in, captivate us, entice us to
immerse ourselves in the story. The Princess
sucks us in from the first words,
whether it is the words that start the movie "The
year that Buttercup was born, the most beautiful
woman in the world was a French scullery maid
" or the first line of the novel
on which the movie was based This is my
favourite book in all the world, though I have
never read it.
And every Christmas, no matter how many times we've
seen it, "Whenever I get gloomy with the state
of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at
Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to
make out that we live in a world of hatred and
greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that
love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly
dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there"
us grabbing the tissues and settling down for a
repeat viewing of Love Actually
So why, you might ask, are the first words out of
the celebrant's mouth at the start of a marriage
ceremony so darn boring? "My name is x,
and I'm a civil celebrant. I am authorised by law
to solemnise marriages according to law"
nothing to suck you in. In fact, it is a signal to
prepare to be bored. So why is it so common? Because
that's the way celebrants been trained to fulfil (a
narrow interpretation of) our legal requirement to
recite the passage required by the Marriage Act
before the marrying couple make their vows.
: I've never started a ceremony this
way and never will!
A lot hangs on the first
Whether book, movie, or your wedding ceremony, the
opening line can be, should be, and, if done well,
is a heads-up that sets the tone, and opens a window
onto what to expect. And what follows should fulfil
the expectation. That's a lot of responsibility!
Think about the movie Kubo and The Two Strings
First line "If you must blink, do it now".
follows is touching, daring, bold, unique. As that
line lead you to expect.
Or the opening lines of Spider-Man. "Who am I?
You sure you wanna know? The story of my life is
not for the faint of heart. If somebody said it
was a happy little tale, if somebody told you I
was just your average ordinary guy, not a care in
the world, somebody lied. But let me assure you,
this like any story worth telling, is all about a
Of course we do.
A lot goes into a great
As demonstrated above, a first line can be
compelling. How it achieves that can differ.
- It can be inviting, welcoming your
guests to participate in to an entertaining
- It can be prefatory, setting the stage
and serving as an introduction, which, to be
fair, is what opening the ceremony with the
celebrant's name and the statement of the
celebrant's authority to solemnise the marriage,
does, because it makes it clear that what
follows will be a civil ceremony, just as the
words "Dearly beloved, we are gathered
together ...." makes it clear that what
follows will be a formal, traditional, religious
- It can be confiding, telling
your guests something they don't already know
that succinctly tells them everything on which
the rest of your story hinges. The movie, A
River Runs Through It, uses that style: "Long
ago, when I was a young man, my father said to
me, 'Norman, you like to write stories.' And I
said, 'Yes, I do.' Then he said, 'Someday,
when you're ready you might tell our family
story. Only then will you understand what
happened and why'."
- It can be unexpected, raising questions
in the minds of your guests that they will be
excited to have answered by the ceremony
- It can be romantic (not necessarily in the
hearts and flowers soppy sense). A great example
of a romantic opening line is the first line of
John le Carré's spy novel Call for the Dead "When
Lady Ann Sercomb married George Smiley towards
the end of the war she described him to her
astonished Mayfair friends as breathtakingly
What are the legal
What the Marriage Act says about the ceremony is
short and to the point.
- The minimum number of people who must be
present, in the same space are the two of you,
your two adult witnesses, and the celebrant
- Your celebrant must recite the passage that is
often referred to as the Monitum (Latin for Warning)
by celebrants, though not called that in the
Act, and must recite it before you say the
mandated words (legal vows) that will create
It is silent about opening lines, closing lines,
rings, what you wear - the list of non-mentions
So, whether the opening line of your marriage
ceremony is inviting, exciting, and something that
signals that the ceremony to follow will be worth
paying attention to or whether it is boring is not
a legal issue. But it is a hugely important
emotional issue worth paying attention to and
Thanks for reading!