A queer wedding ceremony script with a ring warming ceremony

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 | Photography by Andrew and Melanie Mishler

We recently published JP and Scott's beautiful wedding in California. When they shared their queer wedding ceremony script with us, we were moved by the humor, personality, and interactive guest opportunities. This nontraditional queer ceremony script included readings from Neil Gaiman, Obergefell v Hodges, and one of the most unique ring-warming ceremonies we've ever seen… featuring plush toys of Dolly Parton and Skeletor!

The ceremony was officiated by Jason Michael Snow, a Broadway and film/TV actor. JP and Scott appreciated how Jason used humor and charm to keep the ceremony moving along, while still taking great care to make sure the moments of earnest connection could land and be appreciated by all. There's even a sweet moment where guests are asked to share memories of the couple.

Also, how cool is it that they called their wedding party “Fellow Travelers”? We love a good alternative wedding party name! This queer ceremony script was almost a performance in itself, which is so fitting of a couple who loves Broadway and RuPaul's Drag Race.

If you're looking for nontraditional wedding ceremony ideas, this is a fantastic jumping-off point. Get inspired and use it as inspiration for your own for your celebration!

Queer wedding ceremony script

OPENING

JASON:
Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the summer event of the season! Just a few announcements before we get started. 

A quick check-in– this is the Barnhardt/Karliak wedding. If either of those names sound unfamiliar… you are in the wrong place. Thank you for coming but we only have so much fish.

The grooms have asked that you be as present as possible for the ceremony. So– rather than switching your phones to silent, they ask that you turn them off until everything up here is finished! Then you can turn them back on and record all the influencer content you desire. (beat) Hashtag Drag Race UK.

And if you didn’t get that joke, again, this is the Barnhardt/Karliak wedding.

They also ask that you do not stand for their entrances. Both grooms would like to keep the mood as convention-free as possible.  One of them is very “standing ovation.”  And the other is Scott.

And with that… I think we are ready to start! SO quick review:

  • Cell phones off.
  • Stay seated for the groom’s entrance.

And let’s get this shindig started! Ladies and gentlemen, friends and neighbors, humans and all others, it is my pleasure to introduce The Barnhardt and Karliak Liturgical Flower Dancers.

Queer Wedding Dolly Parton Skeletor Photos by Andrew and Melanie Mishler Photography18 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)

ENTRANCES/PROCESSIONAL   

TOM & WENDY (who introduced Scott + JP) come dancing down the aisle to “I Love You, Always Forever” by Betty Who.

FAMILY PROCESSIONAL

[“I Love You, Always Forever” by Betty Who continues] 

[The FELLOW TRAVELERS process down the aisle.]

SCOTT BARNHARDT

[Enters to “Yes” by Judy Garland]

JP KARLIAK

[Enters to “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” (cover) by Allie Sherlock]

[JP surprises Scott by signing some of the lyrics in ASL]

GREETINGS

Jason Michael Snow: 

Mawwage…

Dearly belovéd… and beliked. Favorite cousins and just-barely-made-the-cut friends. We are gathered here, under these beautiful trees, next to this gorgeous house to witness the joining of two incredible human beings: JP Karliak and… JP’s fiancé.

For those of you I have not met, I am Jason Snow– Scott’s former dressing roommate/trench-warfare-survivor from The Book of Mormon. I’m also JP’s evil twin when it comes to quoting anything from Roz Russell to the movie Clue. Except my quotes are, you know… accurate.

In the front row here we have all the lovely members of the two families! Hi everybody.

In the second row we have our Fellow Travelers! That's what they’re called. Not a wedding party, no! Anybody can have a wedding party. But JP Karliak and Scott Barnhardt must have “Fellow. Travelers.” These are people who have walked with JP or Scotty through very formative moments in their lives and they will be up here soon to share those moments with all of us.

And speaking of travelers we have two other companions joining us for some traveling today. Lil Dolly Parton and Lil Skeletor (introduce plush dolls of Dolly & Skeletor with couple’s rings tied around their necks). Now, in traditional Celtic weddings, the rings are passed from guest to guest with each guest holding a ring and offering a silent wish, prayer, or positive vibe for the couple.

This is called the “Ring Warming Ceremony” and it’s been done for hundreds of years. The idea is that by the time these bands reach the front they’ve been touched, held, and wished on by the entire community and all that energy stays in the rings forever. So when Lil Dolly Parton or Lil Skeletor come to you, take a second, touch the ring, imbue it with something good, something hopeful, something loving and pass it on. And I believe Kelly and Heather will start that right now. (attendants pass dolls through rows).

Queer Wedding Dolly Parton Skeletor Photos by Andrew and Melanie Mishler Photography22 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)

We also can’t forget to introduce the most important member of this wedding: you all. We hear all the time that weddings cannot happen without the community and it takes a village blah blah blah but I actually want to take a second to reflect on that and to bring everyone’s attention to why we’re all here.

Scotty and JP could have very easily run down to city hall, signed a piece of paper, and been legally married without too much fanfare. Although I’m sure even that would have incorporated some kind of musical number. So why do it in front of you guys? Why force us to come to THOUSAND OAKS… in front of the Meet Me In St Louie-est of houses to watch these two knuckle heads stare at each other and say “eh, for the next 80 years you’ll do.”?

Because we are nothing without a community. We are nothing without our families, biological and chosen. And these guys need you. We are living in a moment where a lot of our civil liberties seem… up for interpretation. Where something as simple as marriage could very quickly, once again, be reserved for only a certain class of people. This is why you are here. Yes, to share in the great times, and the jokes, and the bits… but also to share in the hard times, to have the hard conversations, and maybe at some point down the line to stand beside them should any more civil liberties be in jeopardy.

So on behalf of Scott and JP thank you for being here. Your presence is not taken for granted and thank you for sharing in this moment. And to the people who may be here that we… might not be able to see… thank you for being here as well. There are also some people who could actually be here and have just elected not to because “work.” And I don’t want to name names but his initials are Kevin Duda.

So in a true Wendy Williams Emotional 180 let’s get this wedding started, dawling! To kick things off it is my pleasure to introduce JP’s sister Molly.

Queer Wedding Dolly Parton Skeletor Photos by Andrew and Melanie Mishler Photography21 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)

READINGS

JP’s sister MOLLY STONE reading Neil Gaiman’s “All I Know About Love”

This is everything I have to tell you about love: nothing.

This is everything I've learned about marriage: nothing.

Only that the world out there is complicated,

and there are beasts in the night, and delight and pain,

and the only thing that makes it okay, sometimes,

is to reach out a hand in the darkness and find another hand to squeeze,

and not to be alone.

It's not the kisses, or never just the kisses: it's what they mean.

Somebody's got your back.

Somebody knows your worst self and somehow doesn't want to rescue you

or send for the army to rescue them.

It's not two broken halves becoming one.

It's the light from a distant lighthouse bringing you both safely home

because home is wherever you are both together.

So this is everything I have to tell you about love and marriage: nothing,

like a book without pages or a forest without trees.

Because there are things you cannot know before you experience them.

Because no study can prepare you for the joys or the trials.

Because nobody else's love, nobody else's marriage, is like yours,

and it's a road you can only learn by walking it,

a dance you cannot be taught,

a song that did not exist before you began, together, to sing.

And because in the darkness you will reach out a hand,

not knowing for certain if someone else is even there.

And your hands will meet,

and then neither of you will ever need to be alone again.

And that's all I know about love.

And now we will hear from JP’s other sister, Jessica Stone.

JP’s sister JESSICA STONE 

An Excerpt from the Majority Opinion, as authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the Ruling for the United States Supreme Court Case “Obergefell v Hodges,” requiring all states to grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.”

Queer Wedding Dolly Parton Skeletor Photos by Andrew and Melanie Mishler Photography17 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)


THE FELLOW TRAVELERS

By now Lil Dolly Parton and Lil Skeletor have made their way to the front and it’s time to hear from our Fellow Travelers. They will introduce themselves and will share with us a memory of meeting Scott or JP. And they have all promised to stick to the agreed upon time limit of 30 seconds, right Jared Gertner?

[each Traveler passes their respective doll to each other, and when they do so, tell a story about their experience meeting/knowing one of the two intendeds]

We’ll start with Scott’s side.

 [Scott’s Fellow Travelers share.]

[JP's Fellow Travelers share.]

SONG

Thank you, Fellow Travelers, you may have a seat. And now we’d like to invite Scott’s performing arts high school friends, Lindsey Mendez and Krysta Rodriguez, to sing a song they have prepared accompanied by Christopher W Smith on keyboard and Scott’s brother, Frank, on guitar.

Singing “Carry Me With You”  

by Brandi Carlisle (from the Pixar movie “Onward”)

Vocalists: Krysta Rodriguez and Lindsey Mendez

Guitar: Frank Barnhardt

Keyboard: Christopher W Smith

Thank you everyone. Scott and JP have prepared their own vows and would like to say them now.

Queer Wedding Dolly Parton Skeletor Photos by Andrew and Melanie Mishler Photography23 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)

VOWS

An excerpt from Scott’s Vows:

JP you are the human, above all others… who can just sit with me, hold space, and allow me to feel whole. You hold space for all the mess: The up, the nervous, the sensitive, the down, the WEIRD, the empowered. You’re the person who sees ALL of me.

You are the human who inspired me with your vision, and commitment to make the world better. From the political, to the environmental, to identity… which is ALL, in fact, political… you blaze a trail in a puft of fabulously colorful hair… and inspire myself and countless others. You make me… you make us better.

A few excerpts from JP’s Vows:

Somebody asked me if I was nervous and I said yes, and went on about COVID and air travel and centerpieces, and they said, “No, I mean do you have cold feet?” And it felt like the weirdest question. Because it’s never been a question. You’re my person. You’ve been my person probably from day 1, definitely by month 3, and so much so, that we didn’t even think we needed to do this.

In most senses, we didn’t need to get married… I don’t need to “lock you down,” I don’t need promises of richer or poorer, sickness and health, (I don’t need them, but I will happily make them) because we know each other’s history, we know who the other person is down to their bones, and we don’t need to swear something we know in our hearts is a fact.

Finally… I do promise to love you… for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health… but not till death do us part… because my love for you can’t be contained in this one body, in this one lifetime. But science tells us that matter and energy cannot be destroyed, only change form. So many years from now… long after we’re gone… someone will find an old image of this wedding. Of us. And they’ll see who we were. How we felt in this moment. And the energy of this day will return once again. So I can love you for one more second in time.

Queer Wedding Dolly Parton Skeletor Photos by Andrew and Melanie Mishler Photography25 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)

PRONOUNCEMENT

And now, Dolly and Skeletor… to your purpose. Scott, will you take the ring that was on Lil Dolly and place it on JP’s finger?

Scott Barnhardt, do you take JP to be your lawfully wedded partner, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad, when he’s in good voice or when it’s a scratchy day and he’s out of throat coat, for richer or poorer, for as long as you both shall live? matter exists?

SCOTT: I do.

JP will you take the ring from ____ and place it on Scott’s finger?

JP Karliak, do you take Scott to be your lawfully wedded partner, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad, for his insanely obscure broadway references that you do know and for the insanely obscure ones that you will never know, for richer or poorer, for as long as you both shall live? matter exists?

JP: I do.

Now boys, turn and face everybody.

Family, biological and chosen, do you– And at the end of this you can respond with a “we do” and I know like a third of you are fancy voiceover people and a third of you are Broadway stars so I wanna hear an exuberant “we do!”

Do you, family, promise to encourage them, to laugh with them, cry with them, to give guidance when needed, and support when necessary, do you promise to keep in touch and to listen attentively when they retell that same vacation story for like the third time, do you promise have fun with them, do you promise to love them, and do you promise support the commitment that they are making to each other today?

GUESTS: “We do!!”

Well gosh guys… here we are… with your high starched collars and your high-topped shoes and your hair piled high upon your heads… I guess there’s not much else to say except:

By the power I invested in me by the Church of the Internet… I pronounce you married….

GO AHEAD AND KISS!!!!

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