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You've decided to take the step of formalizing your love with a civil union, which became legal in New Jersey on February 19, 2007. Congratulations! Follow these six steps to designing your ceremony.
Step One. The first step to planning your civil union ceremony is to decide what kind of ceremony you are looking for-religious, non-religious, spiritual-and then to book an appropriate officiant, whether it be the pastor at your church, a mayor who does ceremonies (some mayors have a "no weddings" policy and don't do them for anyone), or an independent wedding officiant. Independent wedding officiants can be found who will be flexible in giving you the ceremony you want.
Step Two. Determine what kind of feeling you want your guests to walk away with-what mood do you want to set for yourselves and for the guests? This may be solemn, joyous, introspective, profound, lighthearted. Your ceremony sets the tone for your reception, so take time with your partner to discuss your dreams and your ideas here.
Step Three. Decide what kind of vows you want to make. These vows, the legal promises you make to each other, articulate how you feel and what you will do for each other. For many seeking civil unions, these vows may be more like a vow renewal, coming on the heels of a former commitment ceremony. Others may feel like they need to acknowledge the years they have already spent together.
Step Four. Establish how you want your guests to participate in your ceremony-are they passive listeners? Will they all be called upon to bless the union or participate in choral readings? Many of your guests will be honored to participate in these ways. In addition to honor attendants, if you choose to have them, you may choose to have special guests give readings at your ceremony. Depending on who is performing your ceremony, you can incorporate secular readings that speak to you or that share the message you seek to give your guests. An independent wedding officiant can help guide you in making your selections and often can make suggestions of readings you had not considered and which fit well with the mood and overall feeling your are establishing. Remember that some clergy have rules governing music selection and check before planning your music.
Step Five. Stop to consider the place of music in your ceremony-will you have a DJ play traditional wedding or classical music? Will you choose a single harpist or guitar player to play more contemporary choices? Fit your music to the overall mood of the day to add dimension and underline the feeling you want your guests to share with you.
Step Six. Integrate wedding traditions, if it suits you. Unity candles, sand ceremonies, hand ceremonies, and wine ceremonies are all popular ways to symbolically join you and your partner in a non-religious ceremony. Many traditions reflect certain cultures or religious beliefs. If you want to include these, make sure your wedding officiant agrees.
A civil union ceremony is your opportunity to express your love for your partner in a way that reflects who you are both as individuals and together. Show your guests what you love about each other. Feel free to modify wedding traditions to suit your preferences, whether it be the processional, the choice of honor attendants, or the rituals you include.
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