A Wedding Ceremony for Secular Humanists

Edit: I have received a few e-mails from folks asking if they can use parts of the ceremony outright. Yes! Please do! Use any / all of it, as it suits you =)

My wife and I talked for a long time about what we wanted to do for our wedding ceremony. We knew that we wanted a ceremony that reflected our humanist view of life & love, but finding a non-religious wedding ceremony that did this proved to be extremely difficult. My wife spent a lot of time searching for examples, but only found posts from other people looking for the same thing without success.

While the process of writing one proved to be even more difficult than we first anticipated, we are so happy that we did. It also allowed us to share a lot about what is important to us about our relationship with our guests in a way that would be difficult otherwise.

Because we know other people out there are also looking for examples, we wanted to share our ceremony in hopes that someone finds it useful or inspirational for creating their own. If you are in this boat, feel free to take / re-use anything in the script, below.

Along with the original material we wrote, we included a reading from my wife's favorite book, "The Little Prince", and Carl Sagan's passage commonly known as "The Pale Blue Dot". In the text below, I've included the entire ceremony with the exception of a little bit in the section about how we met and the text to our vows. We also chose to have the bridal party read the ceremony rather than having an officiant - each groomsman-bridesmaid pair read one section together. Finally, we closed our ceremony with a toast (we gave every guest champagne when they entered).

The order of the ceremony is:

  1. Welcome and Introduction to Us
  2. Excerpt from The Little Prince
  3. On Science and Love
  4. Excerpt from The Pale Blue Dot
  5. Our Family and Friends
  6. Our Next Big Adventure
  7. Vows and Rings
  8. Closing and Toast

  1. Welcome and Introduction to Us

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the wedding of Amy and Ben. Family and friends have come from all over the country to celebrate with them. Thank you so much for being here; it means so much to Amy and Ben and their families that you have taken the time to be with them today.

[Part about how we met, started dating, and moved to California cut for brevity]

One year after arriving in California, Ben proposed. A year and a half later, we are here today for their wedding.

Amy’s favorite book is the childrens’ classic, The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. In the book, a lost little boy finds a fox. We will now read an excerpt from that story.

  1. Excerpt from The Little Prince

"To me, you are still nothing more than a boy who is just like a hundred thousand other boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world..."

"My life is very monotonous," the fox said. "But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? You have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat..."

So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near--

"Ah," said the fox, "I shall cry."

"It is your own fault," said the little prince. "I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you..."

"Yes, that is so," said the fox.

"But now you are going to cry!" said the little prince.

"Yes, that is so," said the fox.

"Then it has done you no good at all!"

"It has done me good," said the fox, "because of the color of the wheat fields."

  1. On Science and Love

At the beginning of this ceremony we told you a story about how Amy and Ben’s relationship came to be -- but the full story is actually quite a bit more complex than that. So, when is the real beginning of this story? Well, a lot of very smart scientists have spent a decent portion of their lifetimes trying to sort it out. The Large Hadron Collider is sure to help, but, for now, the best guess is that it started around 13.8 billion years ago. The universe, that is.

At first there was mostly nothing but random matter floating about - raw materials thrown into the universe by the big bang. Eventually this matter began clustering and forming stars, and then, over time, stars began forming galaxies. This goes on for a while and eventually, 4.5 billion years ago, matter from exploding stars in the Milky Way galaxy forms our solar system. Five hundred million years later, life appears on earth in form of single cell organisms. Eventually, a lowly flatworm develops something resembling a brain. About 365 million years ago, we finally crawl out of the ocean on to land. Finally, 200,000 years ago, actual people, Homo Sapiens, started wandering around our planet.

Humans have existed for only the tiniest bit of the history of the universe, and all of us for only a fraction of that. We are each the product of an incredible line of successful life. Every single living person can trace back through millions of years of ancestors who have survived and paved the way for their children, going all the way back to the boring flatworm with the first brain.

There are few things that better highlight just how special each person is than reflecting on the uniqueness of an individual on the scale of the cosmos. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe, and hundreds of billions of stars in each of those galaxies. In all of the billions of years of history in these solar systems, and in all of the time to come, there has been and only ever will be one instance of every person who has ever lived.

The fact that you both happened to run into each other at the same moment in space and time is both highly improbable, and truly incredible. Think of all the little decisions that led you to the exact same spot at the exact same time, given the vastness of everything that came before it.

There is and only ever will be one of of you, Amy and Ben. And there is and only ever will be one instance of your relationship, your love, and your memories together. On the epic scale of time of the cosmos, the time you have together is brief. Make your time together beautiful and exciting, and cherish your shared experience of life and love. Live your life together for what it is - truly the only shared life and love like it in all of space and time.

And so, billions of years from where our story started, two people, formed of matter from exploding stars, descendants of millions of years of ancestors, who found each other at a pinpoint on the map of the cosmos, are here to start their own family.

Your story is being woven into the fabric of space and time, let it grow and blossom. Treat each other kindly, grow your love strongly, and remember just how precious, how unique, and how singular you both are. Encourage each other's curiosity, sense of adventure, and wonder. As you grow together you will continue to explore and discover wonderful new things about yourselves, each other, and the world around you. Remember to stop and reflect on how amazing of an experience that is. You and the love you share are one of a kind in the history of everything.

Early in their relationship, Amy and Ben watched Carl Sagan’s Cosmos together, and fell in love with it. The following is Carl Sagan’s reflections on seeing an image of Earth taken from Jupiter by the Voyager space craft as it headed on a journey out of the solar system. In the image earth is nothing more than a distant, pale blue dot.

  1. Excerpt from The Pale Blue Dot

"From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Our posturings, our imagined self- importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

"For creatures small as we, the vastness is bearable only through love."

  1. Our Family and Friends

You have all been invited here because you have, in one way or another, been an important part of bringing these two together. Some of you have been there from the very beginning. You sang them to sleep when they were restless, cleaned spaghetti-os out of their hair when dinner got too exciting for eating, put band-aids on their knees as they learned to walk. You endured long nights with stomach flus, chicken pox, and the croup. You woke up early to make pancakes. You patiently listened to them learn how to read, and you secretly chuckled over their first works of art. Some of you men out there even played more than one game of barbies with the bride. You made their childhood magical, special, and full of love. You know their young selves better than they do, and you are a huge part of who they are today.

Others here entered their lives a little later in life. Together, you navigated the halls of middle and high school, figuring out what to wear, which classes to take, and how to survive their first heartache. You stuck by them when they decided marching band wasn’t dorky enough, and what they really wanted was to join a robotics team. When they left home for college, you endured their quirky living habits. You celebrated their successes after tough semesters. You were their family away from home, making sure they ate home cooked dinners and had a place to always feel welcome. Some of you may only know the two as a unit; you are the people in their lives that came to know and love the two as a couple. You are the precious demonstrations that these two are even better together than apart, because you can’t imagine a friendship with one and not the other.

When Amy and Ben met each other, they each came with their own small village. Through each other, they met all those people that helped make them who they are. They brought together their loved ones and asked them to accept a new family member, a new friend. All of us here are a part of the relationship these two have together.

Today, the bride and groom are requesting the continued love and support as they enter this new era of their lives. They also thank all of you for everything you did to bring them together. For raising the person they fell in love with.

  1. Our Next Big Adventure

You two are about to choose each other to be companions through the beautiful and precious adventure called life. Your marriage will be a place of refuge and strength as you brave all the challenges that life will throw at you. Over the past five years, you have found in each other the love needed to take big risks, and welcome huge changes. Whether you’re jumping out of planes, or packing up to move across the country on a moment’s notice, it has been your choice to do it together. You’ve found that what seems impossible, or awkward, or terrifying alone, can be nothing but bliss together.

There is perhaps nothing more worth celebrating than two people who have found their biggest cheerleader, their most trusted confident, the one person in the world who is guaranteed to follow them into the big frightening question of “what next?” Today marks the start of your greatest adventure, your next big leap into the unknown. Your marriage is a blank page, fill it with as much color and as many stories as you can. And when you think you’ve done everything you can, decide you can do more than you thought you could.

Amy and Ben have prepared their own vows, and at this time will exchange them.

  1. Vows and Rings

[Vows and rings!]

  1. Closing

Your vows and exchange of rings is your binding promise to treat each kindly and value every second you have together. Like all good promises, it should be sealed with a kiss!


At this time I’d like to invite everyone to raise their glasses to the bride and groom and join me in toasting to this new marriage. Ben, Amy, on behalf of all of the guests here Congratulations! And many many years of happiness to you! Cheers!


[Bride & Groom & bridal party walk out]

Ben Hilburn

Ben Hilburn

bits, nibbles, bytes, and words
D.C. Metro Area