Unitarians place great value on individual freedom of belief. We work towards honouring the beliefs of those participating in a Unitarian ceremony. We especially encourage couples being married to plan their own ceremonies. This booklet is intended to help you in that process.
The circumstances under which persons contemplate marriage vary considerably. A couple may each have been living with their own families until now, or may have been living some time entirely on their own before deciding to marry. One partner or both may have been through the disillusionment that accompanies separation and divorce, or through the delights of a happy marriage that ended by the death of a spouse. Whatever the circumstances, entering into a marriage is a serious step and is treated so in our denomination.
A wedding is usually a social occasion – a public recognition of a private relationship. It is traditionally a time for the gathering of families and clans, though in this age of mobility people are far more scattered than once was the case. Wherever possible it is desirable that a couple exchange their vows amid the good wishes of family and friends.
A Unitarian ceremony, based as it is upon the personal integrity of the participants rather than upon institutional forms, may provide a suitable meeting place for people coming from different religions, ethical or cultural traditions. We try to be inclusive rather than exclusive.
A marriage licence is required for a legally valid ceremony. Licenses are very easily obtained at the Department of Vital Statistics, 818 Fort Street, and at the following London Drugs stores: Colwood Corners, Sooke Road & Goldstream; Harris Green, Yates & Vancouver; Saanich Centre, Quadra & McKenzie; Tillicum Mall, Tillicum and Burnside.
Make sure to bring all your primary identification with you: birth certificates, passports and drivers’ licences. If either of you is recently divorced, you will need to show the court order which made that official. Please note: on the marriage licence you will need to provide the names of your parents (including your mother’s maiden name) and their place of birth. The licence does not mean that you are married, but that you may get married anytime within the following three-month term of the licence.
The fee for a BC Marriage Licence is $100. A licence is valid on the day the application is made, and is valid for three months from the date of issue. (Following the wedding the marriage certificate will be mailed to the residence of the person noted on the licence.)
Following the wedding service it is a part of the lay chaplain’s duty to ensure the delivery of the signed licence to BC Vital Statistics.
Once the registrar has processed the licence, the Province of British Columbia will mail a certificate of marriage to the address listed on the marriage licence. It usually takes at least two weeks for the certificate to be mailed.
B.C. Marriage Requirements:
Age: No marriage of any person under the age of nineteen years can take place without the prior consent of his or her parents or guardians.
Marital Status: Both parties to the marriage contract must be ‘free to marry’, which means that they can’t already be married to someone else. If either party has been divorced in the past few months, you must bring proof of your divorce when you apply for your marriage licence.
No members of the wedding party or ushers should drink alcohol before the service. By law, the service cannot proceed if, in the opinion of the person officiating, either party is under the influence of liquor or drugs. The officiant will not perform a ceremony where there is an open bar or if any person present seems intoxicated. IT IS BEST IF NO ALCOHOL IS SERVED PRIOR TO THE CEREMONY.
Frequently asked questions:
How long is a typical wedding?
A wedding usually lasts about 30 minutes. Generally if your friends and family are standing the service can be a little shorter, while if they are seated the ceremony could be longer.
My finance and I have been married before, is this a problem?
This is not a problem as long as you have paperwork to support your widowed or divorced status. You will be asked for this documentation when you obtain your Marriage Licence.
Can we be married anywhere?
Yes! On a beach, a boat, in a back garden or on top of a mountain.
I’d like my children to be involved with the ceremony, is this possible?
Yes! Much will depend on the ages of your children however they can participate in the processional and recessional (the walking up the aisle and back down after the service has finished). Your children can also take part in the ceremony.
(Excerpt from The Wedding Booklet) This day will be an important and emotional event in their lives too. To leave your children out gives them strong messages that may last for years as they try to work out their place in the new family relationship. Unitarian tradition urges you to include them and discuss their involvement in the service with them. However, age is a factor here; children under 4 may find it very hard to do what is required – being a flower girl or ring bearer could be too stressful for them (and you). Speak to your lay chaplain if you have young children whom you would like involved. For older children there are many options such as Best Woman, Best Man, Attendant, Usher, Flower Girl, and Ring Bearer. They could stand beside the Lay Chaplain, light a candle or read a poem.
Here are some words that could be used to include children in a wedding:
(Name(s) of child(ren), you are a part of this marriage. In becoming one family, your life, like those of your parents, has become enriched. We hope that together, we will all find ways to comfort and help one another. We will do our best to make our home a place of safety and caring. Will you agree to help us to create a joyful family home?
Reply: I/We will.
Can our pet be a part of the wedding?
Yes, please speak to me directly about your ideas.
Can friends and family read a poem or sing a song as part of the wedding?
Can we write our own vows?
Yes of course, I would be delighted to help you with this.
What are the legal requirements of a wedding ceremony?
The legal requirements of a marriage ceremony are: the greeting (identification of officiant & couple), the vows, the pronouncement, and the signing of the Marriage Licence and Registry.
The Art of a Good Marriage – by Attila Ovari
A good marriage must be created
In marriage the little things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands
It is never going to sleep angry
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives
It is standing together and facing the world
It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family
It is speaking words of appreciation
And demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful
It is not only marrying the right person, it is being the right partner.
May you find strength and the insight and the love to find the ways to sustain your
commitment to each other during the years that lie ahead.
Another favorite reading – read while couple is holding hands during the wedding service:
“Blessing of the Hands”
“These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you,
hands that hold yours on your wedding day as you promise to love each other today,
tomorrow, and forever. These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together
you build your future. These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish
you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.
These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind, when tears fall
from your eyes; tears of sorrow, or tears of joy. These are the hands that will tenderly
hold your children. These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one.
These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.
And lastly, these are the hands that when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for
yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.”
Further Wedding Reading
H. & C. Clinebell The Intimate Marriage
Carl Rogers Becoming Partners
J. Powell The Secret of Staying in Love
Herbert A. Otto More Joy in Your Marriage
G. M. Nelson & C. Witt Sacred Threshold
Daphne R Kingma Weddings from the Heart
Carl Seaburg Great Occasions
Koran Arisian The New Wedding