Roger and Ross - 21st December 2005

Text of our ceremony

Ross and Roger

CIVIL PARTNERSHIP REGISTRATION

Addington Palace, Croydon, 21st December 2005


Our ceremony was in the following parts:

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Introduction

Registrar: Good afternoon everyone and welcome to Addington Palace, which is being used today, for the very first time, for the registration of a civil partnership. My name is Richard Edwards and I am the Deputy Superintendent Registrar for the London Borough of Croydon. May I please remind you to have your mobile phones turned off.

We've come here to witness Ross and Roger register as civil partners. They have been together for nearly eight years. Three years ago they registered their partnership with the Greater London Authority, at City Hall. On that occasion their Celebrant said:

“Registration has no legal status. It will not give them the rights or protection of married couples, but the fact that it is now possible to register their relationship at all is a cause for real celebration for them.”

Today’s ceremony is different; the change in the law means that civil partnership will at last give them those legal and civil rights and duties, and that’s why Roger and Ross decided to hold this smaller celebration today. I know how much the participation in this special day, of each and every one of you, means to them both.

Societies have always had ceremonies to recognise partnerships, because partnerships involve family and society as well as the couple. And this ceremony has drawn from many different sources and traditions, some of them very old.

For Ross and Roger, this is not just a twenty-first century invention. They have celebrated the centuries when same-sex couples could make public vows and enter a publicly recognised “sworn brotherhood” or “sworn kinship” with legal rights and duties.

Our ceremony today falls into three parts:

  • first an exchange of vows following the traditional pattern and symbolised in an exchange of rings,
  • second the signing of the register, which will bring their civil partnership into being,
  • and finally I will invite you all to be the witnesses of Ross and Roger's vows, and to express your support for their commitment to each other.

But first I'd like to invite Chris to come and read a poem. This was written at a bleak time when gay relationships were against the law, but the author’s own experience of same-sex partnerships seems to have echoes of that “sworn kinship” that had been celebrated in past centuries.

 


First Reading:

Brotherhood

by J. J. W, 1888

We must not sever, you and I,

The world is cruel, friends are few;

Let us be steadfast faithfully,

I and you.

For we have heard the midnight wind

Whisper the weary world to sleep

And felt the stars upon mankind

Gently weep.

The quivering wonder of the morn

Has been to us a sudden birth,

When all the world was overworn

And its mirth.

The stillness of the silent stream

Has cried like some loud clarion

Within our souls, wrapped in a dream

Two alone.

And then we knew what seers have told

In some half meaning mystic song,

And heard their cadences unfold

Right and wrong,

Till all the world grew bright again,

And our new manhood too was free,

And each one clasped his friend again

Tenderly,

Knowing that he would never die.

Thus is our kinship sweetly true

And we are brothers you and I,

I and you.

 


Part 1: The Vows

Registrar: Roger and Ross will now read some words that they wrote, independently, about their feelings for each other, for their commitment ceremony three years ago.

Roger: To me, you are a wonderful person. You've been good to be with when things are going well; you’re always interesting and knowledgeable, and wonderful to share things with.

You're kind and supportive, and help to keep me on track when things are bad. You give me stability, strength and direction when I'm distressed. I need that.

We do so much together and have such good times when things are going well, and with you I can achieve much more.

And I can relate to you better than to anyone else, and just can't believe how lucky I am.

Ross: When I first met you, you impressed me with your honesty, your integrity, and your concern for other people. Since we became a family you've willingly taken on far more than your fair share of the family responsibilities.

Being with you during the day is always a joy, even when we're doing the simplest tasks together, and I love holding you at night.

I know you'll never let me down, and I hope I can live up to you in all the years ahead.

Registrar: Roger and Ross, will you seek to recognise and accept each other’s strengths and weaknesses; to offer your love without conditions, and to trust its ebbs and flows, understanding that its nature may change?

Ross and Roger: We will.

Registrar: Roger, will you have Ross as your life partner; will you love him, support him and stand by him through good times and through bad?

Roger: I will.

Registrar: Ross, will you have Roger as your life partner; will you love him, support him and stand by him through good times and through bad?

Ross: I will.

Roger (taking Ross by the right hand): Ross, I promise to share my life with you, to love you, care for you, be honest and open with you, support you in times of joy and trouble, and never let anything or anyone come between us.

Ross (taking Roger by the right hand): Roger, I promise to share my life with you, to love you, care for you, be honest and open with you, support you in times of joy and trouble, and never let anything or anyone come between us.

 


The exchange of rings

Registrar: Ross and Roger will now exchange rings in token of their love and commitment.

These rings which you will give and receive serve as a symbol of the vows you have just taken. They are outward and visible signs of the inward and visible love which binds your hearts together. As rings are without edge or seams, have no beginning and no end, so they symbolise your enduring love and commitment.

Roger (putting a ring on Ross’s finger): All that I am I give to you, all that I have I share with you. Take this ring in token of our love. Wear it always, and when I am not with you, look upon it and think of me.

Ross (putting a ring on Roger’s finger): All that I am I give to you, all that I have I share with you. Take this ring in token of our love. Wear it always, and when I am not with you, look upon it and think of me.

Registrar: I would like to ask Corinne and Stephanie to read a poem.

 


Second Reading:

A Walled Garden

“Your marriage,” he said, “should have within it, a secret and protected place open to you alone.

“Imagine it to be a walled garden, entered by a door to which you only hold the key.

“Within this garden you will cease to be a mother, father, employee, homemaker or any other of the roles which you fulfil in daily life.

“Here you are yourselves – two people, who love each other.

“Here you can concentrate on one another's needs.”

And so we made our walled garden.

Time that was kept for us alone.

At first we went there often, enjoying each other's company, sharing secrets, growing closer.

But now our days are packed with plans and people.

Conversation has become a message scribbled on a pad.

The door into our garden is almost hidden by rank weeds of busy-ness.

We claim we have no time because we have forgotten.

Forgotten that love grows if it is tended, and if neglected, dies.

But we can always make the time for what is most important in our lives.

So take my hand and let us go back to our garden.

The time we spend together is not wasted but invested.

Invested in our future and the nurture of our love.

Anon

 


Part 2: The Registration

Registrar: The next part of the ceremony is the actual formation of the civil partnership.

I shall invite Roger and Ross to sign the document, which will then be signed by two witnesses and authenticated by me as Registrar. By putting their signatures to the registration document today, Roger and Ross will be bound together in law, and will enter a new civil status, with important legal duties and responsibilities towards each other.

Roger: I Roger, declare that I know of no legal reason why I may not form a civil partnership with Ross. I understand that on signing this document we will be forming a civil partnership with each other.

Ross: I Ross, declare that I know of no legal reason why I may not form a civil partnership with Roger. I understad that on signing this document we will be forming a civil partnership with each other.

Registrar: Ross and Roger, will you please step forward, along with your witnesses, Olive and Isobel, to sign the Civil Partnership Register.

They all sign

Registrar: For many centuries in this country, when a couple (including a same-sex couple) pledged to each other as life partners, they would make their vows in public, at the church door, and seal them with a kiss.

Inasmuch as Roger and Ross have consented to live together in love, mutual respect and understanding, and taken their vows and exchanged rings, and have signed the Register in the presence of their witnesses, I now pronounce them civil partners.

They embrace and kiss

Registrar: With their faith in each other

Let them be devoted to each other.

May the warmth of their love, in the kindness of their home

Allow them to be charitable to others.

As the years go by, may they learn

How great is the joy that comes from sharing

And how deep the love that grows from giving.

 


Part 3: Support of the witnesses

Registrar: Many people have reservations about the completeness and value of a relationship between people of the same sex. So this final part of the ceremony is the opportunity for those who sincerely wish to support Roger and Ross in their partnership to say so.

Partnerships are not just about romance and mutual support. Partnerships are a part of families and of communities. They bring families together: they are part of the cement that binds society together. So Roger and Ross have invited you, as family and friends, to be witnesses to their vows and to the registration.

And partnerships in turn need support from both family and the community. Partnerships are too often under pressure – illness, disability, unemployment, and stress – not least gay partnerships. And when things get difficult for Roger and Ross it will be to you, the family and friends who came to support them here today, that they will turn for help, advice and support.

So this is your opportunity to take your part in Ross and Roger’s commitment in the words that follow. Please stand and repeat each line after me:

Registrar: We witness here the registration of this partnership

Guests: We witness here the registration of this partnership

Registrar: The promises that Ross and Roger made

Guests: The promises that Ross and Roger made

Registrar: We share their joy in their relationship

Guests: We share their joy in their relationship

Registrar: As they are joined in law today.

Guests: As they are joined in law today.

Registrar: And will you, as close family and friends, support Ross and Roger in their relationship, as they love, support and serve each other, their families and the community, and will you be there for them, in times of stress, if they need someone to turn to for help and counsel?

Guests: We will.

 


Conclusion

Registrar: Ladies and Gentlemen, this concludes the formal part of the proceedings here today. In a few moments the celebrations will begin! – but finally it is my pleasure and privilege to present Roger and Ross with the certificate that shows they are now civil partners.

Roger and Ross, you have made a solemn commitment to each other; you are registered as civil partners; and your family and friends have come here today to witness your vows and the registration, to support you and to express their good wishes.

Remember this day, those who came to wish you well, the words you have spoken, the emotions you feel, and the rings that symbolise all the meaning of this occasion. Go forward in your life together with the good wishes of those who love you ringing in your ears, go forward to a life of joy and fulfillment and peace.

 

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