Chief Judge Smith Camp’s wedding “script”

My earlier post today highlighted Chief Judge Smith Camp’s “pretty good wedding gig.”  Laurie has been kind enough to share her “script” with me and she has allowed me to publish it with names and such redacted.  Incidentally, while Laurie does not perform many weddings, she prepares individual remarks for each one.  Thus, each “script” is for one “performance” only.

I publish the script because other judges may find it useful. From my perspective, it beautifully written and thankfully short.  Moreover, it makes clear that a judge is presiding and, as you will see, that makes a very nice difference.

In any event, here it is:


Dear friends, and beloved family – welcome to the celebration of the marriage of _____ and ______, who are about to promise each other their love, loyalty, and friendship from this day forward.

We are privileged to share their happiness as they make this commitment, creating a union based on mutual respect, admiration, trust, and a sense of humor. We are also here to support their marriage, and the beginning of a new family in the community.

When a priest or minister officiates at a wedding, it is traditional to hear a passage from First Corinthians, the letter in which Saint Paul described the characteristics of love. But, today, the officiant is a judge. And judges cite court cases. So I have selected a few excerpts from court decisions to celebrate and consecrate the wedding of ______ and _______.

“The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness . . . .” “[It] is fundamental to our very existence and survival.” (United States Supreme Court, 1967)

“The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support: it brings stability to our society. [M]arriage . . . [is] . . . one of our community’s most rewarding and cherished institutions.” “[J]oy and solemnity . . . attend marriage.” (Supreme Court of Massachusetts 2003)

“Marriage has been characterized as intimate to the degree of being sacred.” “[It] is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family.” “[Marriage] fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, . . .” (Supreme Court of Connecticut, 2008)

“[M]arriage is at once the most socially productive and individually fulfilling relationship that one can enjoy in the course of a lifetime.” “Marriage is the foundation of the family and of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.” “[It] provides the foundation upon which our society is built and through which its most cherished values are best transmitted.” “The ability of an individual to join in a committed, long-term, officially recognized family relationship with the person of his or her choice is . . . of crucial significance to the individual’s happiness and well-being.” (Supreme Court of California 2008)

“Many have noted the symbolic or spiritual significance of the marital relation. . . . The State’s interest in extending official recognition and legal protection to the professed commitment of two individuals to a lasting relationship of mutual affection is predicated on the belief that legal support of a couple’s commitment provides stability for the individuals, their family, and the broader community. [A couple’s] interest in seeking state recognition and protection of their mutual commitment may – in view of divorce statistics, – represent ‘the triumph of hope over experience.’” (Supreme Court of Vermont 1999)

______ and ______’s mutual commitment, expressed through their marriage, is a triumph of hope, a triumph of faith, and a triumph of love. And as St. Paul so eloquently said in First Corinthians: “The greatest of these is love.”

______ are you prepared to make your commitment in marriage to _______?

_______ are you prepared to make your commitment in marriage to ______?


_______, do you have a ring you would like to give to ______ as a token of your love?

Please repeat after me: I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and my friendship, my trust and my loyalty, and with this ring I thee wed.

______, do you have a ring you would like to give to _____ as a token of your love?

Please repeat after me: I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and my friendship, my trust and my loyalty, and with this ring I thee wed.

You now have taken upon yourselves the sacred alliance of marriage. You are, and I quote: “conferred” with “a dignity and status of immense import”! (United States Supreme Court, 2013)

May you always love one another as you do today, and may your love guide you through a long and happy life together.

And now, by the power vested in me by the law of the state of _____, I present ________ and _______. (You may kiss.)

[by Laurie Smith Camp, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, District of Nebraska, September 2013]


Caveat for new federal judges: Make sure to check the applicable state law before you perform a wedding to make sure you are authorized under state law to do so.

11 responses

  1. Very nicely done. My daughter’s wedding a few weeks back, officiated by a New York City judge who was a law school housemate of my wife’s almost 40 years ago, was quite similar.
    I find it intriguing that some of the most eloquent prose about the nature and importance of the marital state, so far as court decisions are concerned, is in the opinions (several of which your colleague quotes) affirming or protecting the equal right to same-sex marriage. As Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority in Windsor: “It seems fair to conclude that, until recent years, many citizens had not even considered the possibility that two persons of the same sex might aspire to occupy the same status and dignity as that of a man and woman in lawful marriage. For marriage between a man and a woman no doubt had been thought of by most people as essential to the very definition of that term and to its role and function throughout the history of civilization. That belief, for many who long have held it, became even more urgent, more cherished when challenged. For others, however, came the beginnings of a new perspective, a new insight. Accordingly some States concluded that same-sex marriage ought to be given recognition and validity in the law for those same-sex couples who wish to define themselves by their commitment to each other.” Like your colleague, and like Justice Kennedy, I thank the proponents of same-sex marriage for reminding us all, both straight and gay, about what is important in marriage, as underlined by the aspiration — and demand — of these couples to share equally in those tangible and intangible benefits.

  2. Judge, very lovely. I especially enjoyed the quote: ” [M]arriage . . . [is] . . . one of our community’s most rewarding and cherished institutions.”

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    For myself, I am hoping tomorrow’s blog topic will return to the more traditional subjects, namely our community’s second most cherished institution: prison. (Indeed in some marriages both institutions go hand in hand.)

    With cheek in tongue,

  3. Dyslexic correction: With tongue in check. My wife says occasionally I should be committed to an institution. I have always thought she meant marriage, but I may have to rethink that….

  4. pdgpa,

    I don’t know, but I would guess that LSC selected the cases and quotations with great care and a full appreciation of the irony which you point out. But what the hell do I know.

    All the best.


  5. Judge,

    LSC’s words, JFB’s decision, (most of) the Nebraska Law faculty, and my peers—both in the legal field and outside of it—all give me hope that someday I’ll be able to share such a moment with my family in my home state. But really, it isn’t marriage that matters the most to me, it is having it not matter at all.

    Thanks, for sharing, Judge.

  6. What a lovely script, maybe I should have let you direct our ceremony after all! I wrote my law school note on the topic of marriage, essentially exploring whether or not the legal entity is useful now that we have contracts and so many legal substitutes. I was surprised by some of the wonderful insights I found in court opinions on that topic. In case you were wondering, I did not end up answering that question. I combined the insights with Kierkegaard and ended up asking far more questions than I answered.

    Thanks again, Judge, for officiating our wedding last weekend. It made the whole thing extra special for both of us. Many people also said they were glad you were officiating because your perfect touches of humor helped keep the floodgates of tears at bay.

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