Writing Your Own Vows

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So, you are getting married, and you want to write your own vows? The exchange of your vows is the most ancient part of the ceremony.  For centuries couples have made promises to one another that bind you together as sacred promises that must be kept forever. They do not need to be eloquent, but they should be personal and from the heart.

Writing your own vows might seem a little daunting at first but, if you follow a few simple tips, you will be able to write vows that will be memorable and meaningful.

1. Read examples of vows – A quick search of the internet will give you many places to go where you can read samples of vows that others have written. Wedding vows have a particular style and flow to them and learning that style and flow will help you in your writing.

2. Decide on the format – Wedding vows can be a repeat after me style where the officiant says a line, and you repeat it. Your vows can be written individually so your personality comes through or you can write them together, so you both say the same words. It is essential to decide on a format before you begin to write your vows.

3. Make notes about your relationship – As yourself the following questions:

What is the greatest thing about your partner?
When did you know your partner was "the one?"
What does marriage mean to you?
What are the most important promises you want to make?
Why have I chosen this person to be my partner?
What do I love most about my partner?
Why are you saying yes? (Maybe the most important question).

4. Make 2-3 Promises – Your vows need to be more than an essay on why you love the person you are standing before they need to be promises, sacred promises if you will. The standard, movie vows as I like to call them, use love, honor, and, depending on how old the film is, obey. These are all promises. These are the promises that you make to one another and that you will strive to live out daily in your marriage. The critical thing to remember is that they should come from the heart and be personal.

5. Use your own words – Although I suggested in tip #1 that you read examples of what others have written, the words you choose should be your own. I cannot stress this enough, you will be standing in front of the person you have chosen to live the rest of your days with. At the moment you recite your vows to each other will be an intimate and sacred moment between both of you. You might not remember any other part of the ceremony, but the vows should remain with you for the rest of your lives so make them your words.

6. Practice, Practice, Practice, and then practice again – The day of your wedding will be one filled with emotion, so it is best to be prepared by practicing your vows before the big day.  If you know what each other has written, stand in front of each other and read them, it's okay to show some emotion, but you do not want to have a breakdown. If you are writing your vows separate and will hear them on your wedding day, then practice them apart. DO NOT TRY AND MEMORIZE THEM! I have seen just how bad things can get if you forget your lines, so it is best to print them out. I offer my couples that I will print your vows for you and present them to you at the appropriate time during the ceremony.

7. Preserve your vows – This comes from Martha Stewart and is actually a nice addition to the six tips I have given above. At a recent wedding, the couples had their vows printed in little folders, like greeting cards. They handed them to me before the ceremony, and I presented them at the appropriate time. It is a lovely keepsake to remind you of your vows and how vital it is to be reminded of them each day.

Writing your own vows can be an excellent addition to your ceremony. Your professional officiant will be able to help you and guide you along the path of the exercise so make sure you ask for advice.

Getting Married in Massachusetts

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So, you just got engaged, great!  You have picked out the perfect venue for your reception. You have hired the best DJ or band around to provide an excellent entertainment experience at the reception. And the caterer you hired serves the most delicious food you have ever tasted. But there is one thing more important than all of that, the marriage license.

Not to worry, applying for a marriage license is an easy process.

Couple of quick things to remember:

There is a 3 day waiting period in Massachusetts to get the license once you apply;
You both need to be present when you apply;
You can apply at any city or town clerk's office in Massachusetts;
There is no residency requirement;
The license is valid for 60 days.

Now let's break it all down.

Massachusetts General Law Chapter 207 covers many of the legal requirements for getting married in Massachusetts.  For the most detailed information, you should contact your city or town clerk, because each place has its own regulations about marriage licenses.

You don't have to be a resident to get married here in Massachusetts. If you or your partner is under 18 years old, you'll need permission from a parent or legal guardian to get married.

Where do I apply for the marriage license?

One of the most frequent questions I get is where do I go to apply for a marriage license and what do I need to bring with me?

Well, you can apply at any city or town clerk's office in Massachusetts. It does not have to be the clerk's office in the city or town you live in or the city or town you plan to have your ceremony in.

What paperwork do I need to get married in Massachusetts?

You need to have a marriage license to get married in the Bay State. You can apply for a license from any city or town in the state — it doesn't have to be from the city or town where you live or where your ceremony will be.

As a good rule of thumb you should contact your city or town clerk's office to find out exactly what you and your future spouse need to do to get a marriage license, but in general, before your wedding, you'll need to:

Fill out a Notice of Intention of Marriage Form — You and your future spouse will need to go in person to your city or town clerk to fill out this form. You'll need to provide:

Proof of your age, such as a birth certificate or passport

Your Social Security number

Payment for fees, which vary by town

The name you'll use after the wedding if you've decided to change it

When can I pick up the license?

Pick up Your Marriage License — There is a required 3-day waiting period before you can pick up your marriage license. The license is valid for 60 days. If you're not married within 60 days of the date the license was granted, you'll need to apply for it again.

What do I do with it after I get it?

Don't lose it or you will have to reapply!

Give Your License to the Person Conducting the Ceremony — After you're married, your officiant must sign and return the license to the city or town clerk who issued it before the 60-day time period is up.

Okay, I have my license now who can perform the ceremony?

Another common question I often get asked is "who can perform my wedding ceremony?" Although I would suggest a professional officiant like myself for example or, you can follow these simple rules.

There are 4 primary groups of people who can officiate at weddings in Massachusetts. Each group needs to meet different requirements to get licensed.

In-state Clergy Member — If you'd like to be married by a member of the clergy who lives in Massachusetts, they are most likely already authorized to perform the ceremony. However, if they haven't performed a marriage in the state before, they'll need to file 3 forms with the Commissions Section of the Public Records Division.

In-state Justice of the Peace — Justices of the Peace are appointed by the Governor. Contact your city or town clerk for more information if you'd like to be married by a Justice of the Peace.

Out-of-state Clergy Member or Justice of the Peace — Clergy members or Justices of the Peace who are authorized in other states to perform marriages have to file the non-resident, out-of-state clergy petition to get a certificate to officiate your ceremony. They shouldn't submit the application more than 6 weeks before your wedding day. Once your officiant-to-be receives the certificate — usually 2–4 weeks after applying — they have to file it with the city or town clerk that will issue your marriage license within 10 days of the ceremony.

Anyone with a 1-day Designation — If you want a friend or family member to officiate your wedding, they can apply for a 1-day designation. They must fill out an application online or by mail from 6 months to 1 week before your wedding date. There is no residency requirement for 1-day designations.

That about sums it up, if you have any questions contact your local city or town clerk or drop me a line.  If you are still in search of an officiant to perform the wedding ceremony, click on over to the contact form and let's start a conversation.

Benefits of Hiring a Professional Wedding Officiant

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One of the common things I hear from couples I work with is that they had intended to ask a friend or a relative to perform their wedding ceremony, but then decided they need a professional officiant. Don't get me wrong, if you want to have your brother or your cousin perform your marriage that is a viable option. However, let me ask you this, would you ask your brother or your cousin to photograph your wedding or do the flowers?

Here are a few reasons why I think you should hire a professional wedding officiant for your wedding ceremony:

1. A professional wedding officiant can add a level of experience to your celebration, being able to deliver the service with poise and grace. Performing a wedding ceremony is more than just reading words off a page, a professional will have the needed experience to get through any distraction and to remain calm. A recent wedding ceremony was held on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It was a beautiful spot until the wind kicked up. A professional will not get flustered in such cases and will know how to handle any situation that arises before, and during your ceremony.

2. Along with the benefit of experience, the professional wedding officiant brings a level of knowledge to help you create a service that is personal and memorable and offers guidance that an amateur cannot provide. Perhaps you wish to have a Unity Candle Ceremony, and your Ceremony is being held outside. A professional will know this is not a good idea due to the wind and the optics of the candle being blown out is not a nice one. A Professional Wedding Officiant can offer alternatives and add any elements you like in your ceremony.

3. Reliability is one of the most significant benefits a professional will bring to your wedding ceremony and your wedding planning. I have been contacted by numerous couples who have asked their cousin to perform their wedding or have hired a low priced officiant from Craigslist, only to have them back out at the last moment. Not using a professional can add a level of stress that you do not need during the planning process. A professional understands the commitment they are making to you, and if they are a real professional, they will use an Agreement for Services.

4. The day of your wedding requires an extraordinary amount of teamwork between the planner, DJ or band, photographer, and your officiant. A professional officiant is used to working as part of your wedding team to ensure that everything happens according to the plan. A professional understands that they are part of the team and not a solo act and will be willing to take direction to make your day special.

5. Working with a professional officiant will give you more control over the content of your ceremony. Part of my service is to tailor your ceremony to fit you, so it is personal and memorable. Sure, there are certain legal aspects of every ritual, but the majority of the content will be written with you in mind and with your total editorial control over the ceremony. It is your ceremony, not mine, and I value your input during the creative process. I want you to be able to remember the words you spoke not only the day after your wedding but on your 25th Anniversary.

6. Imagine after your big day you discover that the person you hired to perform your marriage was not legally able to perform your wedding. Believe it or not, this does happen. A professional wedding officiant is certified by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, or any other state, to perform your wedding and has the knowledge of the complicated marriage laws and filing procedures.

Whether you hire another professional wedding officiant or me, you will be happy that you made that choice. Working with a professional will make your planning much less stressful and your special day memorable.