In European weddings of yesteryear, the wedding “ceremony” was synonymous with the bride and groom making their way to the appropriate government office and signing the wedding registry. While there were parties to celebrate the special day, the ritual of signing one’s name on a legal document was the centerpiece of concretizing their union.
In contemporary ceremonies, the “signing of the registry” is considered an administrative function comprised of applying for the marriage license at the Clerk’s office and signing the document after the ceremony. From time-to-time I will work with a couple, typically with a European bride and/or groom, which will want to bring this ritual front and center by signing the license (or a decorative replica) during the wedding ceremony. I think this is a dignified and elegant opportunity to underscore life-long promises through the written word. Just as a unity candle, hand fasting, or sand ceremony symbolize the coming together of two individuals and two families, the license signing is a potent recognition of the seriousness of the wedding vows.
Even for those who do not include a signing in the actual ceremony, I insist on making this “administrative” task a special photo opportunity! Enjoy a few photos of my couples signing those all important papers.
Note: The familiar painting above is “Signing the Register” by Edmund Blair Leighton