Introduction to Charlieís Wedding Packet

The following is a small collection of resources that I feel everyone thinking of getting married should review. Perhaps you feel that there is no reason for further discussion of your commitment. You should be talking about forever here. As such, itís worth your while to find some hours of quiet time with each other, enjoy a nice bottle of wine (or coffee) and discuss the following.

Feel free to use all our part the following or any other resource in choosing your vows. I literally once said (upon request) "Poof your married" but most people want a bit more ceremony. Ceremonies usually last 10 minutes or less but seem much longer to the participants. So long as I feel that both participants understand and agree to the commitment, Iím open to most any location, degree of formality and clothing style for a ceremony. It is your day.

While I am a very spiritual person, you should know that my ministerís license is mail order from the Universal Life Church. I first obtained it to establish my conscientious objector status for the draft while in high school. My license is legal and registered in the Virgin Islands and a few states. I have performed about 50 marriages. I take this very seriously.

As you plan your ceremony, understand that I am perfectly comfortable asking God to do things for you but do not feel comfortable doing things in Godís name. I.E. "May God bless this union" is fine. "(By the power) or (In the name) of God I now pronounce youÖ" is not.

In the Virgin Islands, Marriage Licenses are obtained at the Territorial Court. There is a seven day waiting period that is occasionally waived. The fees are about 50 dollars. There are no required blood or other tests. Even so, if you are thinking of having kids I suggest that you have a doctor discuss what your blood types may mean. At the Territorial Court, you are asked to swear that all you tell to the marriage clerk is true but they donít even ask for an ID.

I do not accept money for wedding ceremonies for several reasons. First, I do this from my heart and it is truly an honor to join two souls in marriage. Second, I feel that there are at least two types of coin, material and spiritual. I donít like mixing the material kind with the spiritual kind. All I require is that you both inform me that you have discussed and agreed upon the absolute significance of your decision to commit to each other. While Iím happy to discuss your relationship with you, I understand that it may be very private and donít need to.

Charles Balch
North Star Village
St. Thomas, USVI 00802
Voice/Fax (340) 774-2975,,

First is a sample wedding ceremony adapted from a ceremony that my friend Phronda Smith shared with me. Many people have further adapted the ceremony to their mutual desires.


Sample Wedding Ceremony

We are joyfully assembled to witness and celebrate the joining of lives in marriage. BRIDE and GROOM have asked us to be with them in the making of this important commitment. The essence of this commitment is the taking of another person in his or her entirety as lover companion and friend. It is therefore a decision that is not entered into lightly, but rather entered into with great consideration and respect, uncompromisingly with reverence for each other's individuality.

BRIDE and GROOM have come together in the hope that the love which brought them to this union may go beyond itself into the lives of others. Yet, they know it is not easy to build a deep personal relationship based on the honoring of respective individual needs.

We ask that the promise and the hopes of this union be realized. May God grant you the patience to listen, the capacity to understand, the compassion to accept, and the joy of tolerance and good humor. Let your marriage make a home where neither person is a stranger. Let it enhance growth. Let it be large enough to endure any times of shadows or silences. May discomfort never bring despair but only a return to the essential joy of the rightness of all things.

May you always remember that love is patient and kind, rejoicing in the rightness of all things. May you employ the spirit of inquiry when the need arises to adjust differing perceptions, keeping in mind always a deep respect for each other's boundaries. Endure nothing, but persevere in everything with a sense of self-love that rises to being able to see yourself through the other's eyes, without judgement of either yourself or the other.

Search then for the truth together, equally unafraid of the personal responsibility of unfolding your potentials in the presence of each other. Such aspiration goes beyond expanding into each other in mutual support and dependency. Abide in hope, faith, and love, the greatest of these three being love. Let the challenge and the goal of clarity and joy excite your lives to their fullest realities.

Who gives this women to be married?

"I do."

Groom and bride join hands.

As you reach to each other, may it be symbolic of your reach towards your future life through this marriage. May this grasp be as lasting as the love that brings you together. In this, may you find strength and courage if you are weak or tired, and warmth if you feel cold or uncertain. Lean on each other for your support, never assuming that you will be carried. If you first speak in frustration, be first in willing to speak in reconciliation. Rejoice in your differences as you do in the similarities that brought you together. This is the union of love brought into the completion of flowering.

If anyone can show just cause why BRIDE and GROOM may not be joined together, let him now speak, or forever hold his peace.

We all feel deeply privileged to share in your joyous celebration on this day, and to offer a prayer on the part of all who love you. As you trust in each other's love, may we all trust in the great love and understanding of our Divine guidance.

GROOM, do you take BRIDE to be your wedded wife, will you share your life openly with her and strive to love, cherish, and stand beside her, in times of celebration and in times of difficulty, in times of good health and in times of changing health, in times of joy and in times of conflict, from this day forth?

Groom answers, "I do"

BRIDE, do you take GROOM to be your wedded husband, will you share your life openly with him and strive to love, cherish, and stand beside him, in times of celebration and in times of difficulty, in times of good health and in times of changing health, in times of joy and in times of conflict, from this day forth?

Bride answers "I do."

Please BRIDE and GROOM receive the rings (from the best man and the maid of honor).

These rings are a circle, the symbol of the earth, the universe, and eternity. Like circles, your rings have no beginning and ending, they are tokens of the growing relationship you have come here to celebrate and confirm. Let your love, your strength, and your responsibility radiate outwards from you, strengthening your community by example.

BRIDE and GROOM please face each other.

GROOM place the ring on BRIDE's left hand and repeat after me:

With this ring I thee wed

And with it I bestow upon thee

All the treasures of my heart, mind and life.

BRIDE place the ring on GROOMS's left hand and repeat after me:

With this ring I thee wed

And with it I bestow upon thee

All the treasures of my heart, mind and life.

Please join hands.

You shall not be hurt by rain, for each of you will be as shelter for the other. You shall not suffer form any coldness, for each of you will be as warmth to the other. Nor will you be bereft of companionship, for though you are two individuals, you have a life together before you. You have joined together, and together you shall go forth. As you go forth let there be spaces in your togetherness. Let the spirit of heaven dance between you and within you, loving one another without striving to manage or possess. Let your love be as a sea moving between the shores of your souls. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be separate as the strings of a lute are, though they quiver together with the same song. Stand as apart as the pillars of a temple, yet together as they do, serving but one purpose, supporting the unity which is above.


By your commitment to each other and

the power vested in my by the territory of the Virgin Islands

I now pronounce you husband and wife,

And what God has joined together, let no man set apart

Go in peace, as two, yet one. May your unity last through all trials and triumphs that lie ahead. Go then, in peace and love, and live more and more in the presence of that love, which in it's beauty extends beyond the past and future.

You may kiss each other.

Iíve never met Sonja but I think she has some great questions that all couples getting married should ask each other. Be sure discuss and at least "agree to disagree" to all the issues Sonja brings up. The source is at


Sonja's Compatibility Questions

What follows is a list of questions I came up with to think about when trying to decide if you and your partner are compatible. While this isn't really directly wedding-related, the question does seem to come up in every now and again.

I don't mean to imply that you need to be compatible in all of these ways, but I think you should be aware of your differences and have an idea of how you will overcome them.

Last Modified: December 21, 1994

Sonja Kueppers (

This is another great set of things to think about. The perspective is slightly different in that the author (a lawyer) looks at the usual reasons he has observed marriages to fail. The original is at


Divorce Avoidance Hints:
Things That Can Go Wrong In A Marriage

FAMILY LAW Article by Richard Crouch, Attorney at Law, Crouch & Crouch, 2111 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 550, Arlington, Virginia 22201; (703) 528-6700;

Disclaimer: Items are not to be considered legal advice or to create any lawyer-client relationship. Most articles include some obsolete information. In addition, taking any legal information out of context, i.e., using it in a different court or a subtly different kind of case, or without the training to understand all of what it means or doing research to verify it, usually has disastrous consequences.

Your editor, having sat through approximately 2,987 initial interviews with all sorts and conditions of actual and potential and divorce litigants, will hazard a beginning at this endeavor with a few random and subjective observations of specific behaviors that have proved highly destructive to marriages in more cases than one. It is hoped that readers will supplement these with far more useful observations in the future.

Competing For The Child's Loyalty/Affection: This is a poisonous type of behavior which should be avoided for the sake of the child, the marriage, and society, although the surrounding conditions of society today assure that avoidance is something easier said than done. As the condition feeds upon itself and things get worse by a geometric progression, the parents say increasingly vicious things to one another in front of the child -- which they probably would never have said without an audience in the grandstand. Demonstration that one parent loves the child so much that he or she is willing to alienate and sacrifice a marriage partner for the child is perversely empowering and yet also very frightening to the child. To witness the destruction and dehumanization of a parent deprives a child of one of the major props holding up its sense of security. Yet the easy availability of divorce today and the perceived inevitability of custody fights leaves each parent wanting to assure that the child's loyalty will stick with him or her when the marriage dissolves.

Chivalry: Males in Virginia are especially liable to the misconception that they can cure all social problems and serve society best by striving to play the old-fashioned gentleman in all things, even to a degree that defies logic. As the concept of the gentleman is informed by certain quaint notions dating from Medieval times, as articulated especially in Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine's games of courtly love, some Virginia gentlemen firmly believe that a lady must have her every whim catered to in all things, great and small. Believing that the only way to correct socially unacceptable behavior in a female is to set a better example, these men deal with a mate's inappropriate behavior, extreme selfishness, and illogical perceptions of the marital or parenting relationship simply by saying "Yes dear." Of course they hope that the wife will see the folly of her ways when it reaches a point of grotesque exaggeration, but with some wives that is not so. It is a vain hope that the wife will some day see the light and say "My God, look what I almost became! Nobody ought to live like this," and turn her behavior completely around. Thus the behavior that the husband was taught by his father and grandfather to believe is strong is only perceived as weakness and taken advantage of to redefine the thresholds of acceptable selfishness in a cumulative way. Better this poor dolt should have adopted the whining truculence of the assertiveness-course graduate and started arguing with his wife over the pettiest matters from the first day of the honeymoon. Behavioristically it makes more sense. Otherwise, in a marriage where a very giving person is teamed up with a very taking person there will just be a whole lot of taking going on. Unseemly scrapping over trifles is better than the cumulative process whereby his perverse idea of etiquette will turn out to have created a monster.

Having Some Money Of Your Own: Although at times it probably generates divorce for one spouse to build up funds that he or she won't share, one spouse's control of absolutely all the money in a family is usually a recipe for disaster. Marriage counselors often urge that each spouse should have at least some independent funds. Perhaps this will turn out to be a luxury that most families cannot afford as we move into a scarcity economy and saving money becomes impossible anyway. Generally, though, a spouse feels more secure in the marriage, more relaxed, and more able to be decent and friendly to the other, if he or she has some money to spend without having to answer to the other spouse. Also --

One Spouse Keeping The Checkbook is generally an unhealthy situation. Often marriages gravitate toward a division of labor whereby one spouse writes all the checks and pays all the bills. It will be the spouse who has less distaste for this kind of work, and perhaps more of a taste for the power and control that it represents. The other spouse will become infantilized as a kept man or woman, given pocket money upon sufficiently humble request, but the empowered spouse exhibits no gratitude nor gratification for having the power of the purse. Instead she will resent the extra work it represents, which the other spouse does not offer to share. She will talk about it as an example not only of her partner's incompetence in worldly matters, but of his selfish laziness.

Not Knowing How To Fight Fair
: It should be easy enough to curse and abuse a spouse over some point in dispute while still restricting the criticism to the act rather than the person, but in some marriages it never happens that way. Even pointing out your spouse's despicable deficiencies can be done without saying horrible things that can never be taken back, screaming obscenities that reverberate through the neighborhood, pitching a shrieking fit in front of your spouse's employees or co-workers, etc. -- but in some marriages there seems to be no inhibition against going overboard, no matter how slight the triggering event. Some spouses instinctively know how to take that crucial next step which will cause everything to spiral downward and they feel that every argument has to go that way. It is of course very difficult for one spouse to talk to the other about the rules of fair fighting, but sometimes an outsider such as a minister, marriage counselor or friend can do it. All married couples fight, but some of them know how to make up. However, there are certain unnecessarily cruel words and acts that cross some kind of line and become impossible to forgive. Most spouses know instinctively how to avoid these, but some either don't know, or think they can indulge themselves freely and still stay married. Both these types need education on the subject.

Infinite Magnification And Politicization Of Every Petty Slight: Contrary to some married persons' cosmological assumptions, blame cannot be assigned for absolutely every historical event. Some things just happen. Yet some marriage partners will not accept this. They must construct elaborate theories of causation and blame which inevitably center in upon hateful resentment of the spouse. Perhaps this mode of analysis is bred into the person and cannot be changed, but it is also possible that an intelligent person can see the folly of taking a marriage in this direction.

Also, not every act in a marriage is a political act. Many thoughtless and inconsiderate delicts are committed during the course of married life which would normally be apologized for and the apology accepted, either with grace or with a gloating smugness, and the "crime" forgotten. But in some marriages this does not happen. Every act is part of a larger pattern of conspiratorial oppression and a sign of a fatal character flaw. People who think this way will not take yes for an answer. No apology is sufficiently abject for the cap left off the toothpaste, because it is but a symbol of all the larger issues. Once all these larger issues and illogical accusations are dragged in, the petty delict cannot be admitted and apologized for, because the spouse would be admitting a lot more than is true. Responding indignantly to unjustified charges, the spouse naturally turns it into a general fight, and things go downhill from there. Sometimes third-party advice can bring into such a marriage a sense of perspective.

Buying Into Demeaning Characterizations: A husband who has somehow come to believe that a wife to be lovable must be stupid, can do domineering and degrading things and not even seem to know what he is doing. If wife is too polite to rebel against this treatment early on, the result may be terrible. A wife may deal with this characterization by confirming it, and become infantile indeed. Childishness becomes increasingly irresponsible. The selfish behavior of a spoiled child in a grown woman can take the forms of promiscuity, public nudity, drunkenness, repeated homicidal attacks, and finally, aggressive litigation -- all resulting in horrendous damage to the parties' children. It is difficult to see where such mistaken ideas of how to conduct married life come from sometimes. We assume that one spouse's notion that a condescending attitude toward the other spouse is proper could only have come from his own parents' living patterns, but occasionally that cannot be the source. Perhaps it can be blamed on the baneful influence of bad television.

Unwise Adultery: This is not the place for a general sermon for or against adultery, but it is more often than not destructive of a marriage. The exceptional situations are usually when there is tremendous guilt and true repentance on one side, combined with a mature and practical magnanimity on the other side, or there is some equality to the situation (both have minor affairs which they enjoy, get over with and decisively abandon for reasons of common sense or the good of the marriage), rather than an oppressive inequality. Perhaps everyone is entitled to at least one adultery before becoming too old to enjoy it, and perhaps some married persons do deserve to be rescued from a hopeless marital situation by a new sex partner. But the fact remains that most adulterers unerringly seek out the worst new partners and relationships. Far too often it seems that even a moment's calm and deliberate thought before tumbling into this particular adulterous affair would have prevented it. Certainly it is difficult for people who are crazy in love to reason clearly, but perhaps that is where the fear of God, the priest, hellfire and the pillory used to come in. Fear used to create at least some hesitancy and some interval for calm deliberation. Nowadays at least some foreknowledge of what a divorce itself can do to the kids should impose some caution as well. Another sobering truth observed by divorce attorneys -- but not by adulterers -- is that when the time for remarriage comes, the new significant other is usually no longer there.

Failure To Communicate: Considering the poisonous tripe that gets communicated these days -- at least when two spouses sit down to Communicate with a capital C -- it is perhaps just as well that people don't. But the problem is that Failure to Communicate is one of the primary things that spouses know to cite as an excuse for divorce today, and one that a lawyer or marriage counselor will be duty-bound to nod gravely at when it is invoked. (Of course wise old divorce lawyers instinctively know when "The problem in our marriage is lack of communication" really translates directly into something simpler like "I have a girl friend.") So spouses should not let it ever be said of them that they "refused to communicate." And certainly it is true that many husbands and wives are handicapped by an inability to have a serious discussion about anything intimate or painful or difficult that arises in the course of trying to get along in married life. Perhaps the non-communication handicap is an inability to discuss serious matters in any manner but the insulting and abusive, or tearfully self-righteous, mode that was learned from the parent of the same sex. In any event, serious marriage counseling gets into the business of teaching how to have a serious discussion without all out war each time.

The Monolithic Marriage: One big mistake many young couples somehow make is to assume that their marriage is the whole world. When neither spouse is allowed to have any friends outside the marriage, and any attention paid to outside friendships is perceived as evidence of disloyalty, and the parties must spend 100% of their free time with each other, the effect is nearly always poisonous. Seeing no one else, the spouses quickly grow sick of each other. Human beings have evolved over the eons into social creatures, and they must generally be part of the larger society in order to stay sane. The longer a spouse is restricted from having healthy social interaction with others of the same sex and the opposite sex, the more likely it is that much-resented secret relationships will develop. Sometimes the very secrecy encourages these relationships to turn into adulterous ones.

Disclaimer: Items are not to be considered legal advice or to create any lawyer-client relationship. Most articles include some obsolete information. In addition, taking any legal information out of context, i.e., using it in a different court or a subtly different kind of case, or without the training to understand all of what it means or doing research to verify it, usually has disastrous consequences.

Hereís the vows that my wife and I wrote after asking ourselves all the above questions and reviewing hundreds of ceremonies, romantic prose, poems, etc. We keep a copy at our web site


Alex & Charlieís Vows

The following marriage ceremony occurred on Sunday, May 4th 1997 on our boat while anchored off Buck Island. Buck Island is a small island near St. Croix which is one of the US Virgin Islands. For the ceremony, about 20 large boats rafted up with us and about 500 friends joined us.
This is a unique ceremony. We wrote it and performed it without a third party (i.e. no minister or judge). Our love stands on its own and is based on very deep understandings of each other.
It is a legal marriage.
We are legally registered ministers in the territory of the Virgin Islands. Charlie was ordained and registered with the court many years ago. While he has officiated at many ceremonies, this is his first time on the receiving end. Alex registered for the purpose of performing the ceremony.

Marriage of
Alexandra "Alex" Lee Torrey and Charles "Charlie" Vickroy Balch


We joyfully welcome all present to witness and celebrate the joining of our lives in marriage. Here, with friends and family, we share the essence of our commitment. Today our union is formalized under the law of man. Each of us will speak words that belong to both. If we break down a little, give us a little time, our joy overflows. You'll know we're done when we kiss.


Today the promise and hopes of our union are expressed. This is the most important commitment of our lives. The essence of this commitment is the taking of each other, in entirety, as lover, partner, companion and friend. This is a decision we have made with great consideration and respect, uncompromisingly with reverence and honor for each other's individuality and needs. Knowing these things, we make this commitment. Our commitment will continue to grow and be renewed.


Our union goes beyond itself to enhance the lives of others. Let our marriage create a realm where no person is ever a stranger. We hope our love, our strength, and our responsibility will radiate outwards from us, enhancing growth and strengthening our community. Just as we are committed to each other we are committed to our community.


We know that we will not always perceive the world or our relationship as a joyful place. We also know that love is patient and kind. We seek to both understand and be understood. Together, through our understanding and commitment, we will overcome times of fear, discomfort, shadows, or silences. We will persevere through all difficulties with a love that rises from seeing through the other's eyes.


We promise to employ the spirit of inquiry when the need arises to adjust differing perceptions, always keeping in mind a deep respect for each other. May God grant us success in our efforts to maintain our faith in heaven's ways, our patience to listen, our capacity to understand, our compassion to accept, our joy of tolerance and our good humor. We live in joy, hope, faith, honor and love, the greatest of these being love.



We happily share our selves and have thus discovered a greater self. The spirit of heaven dances between us, allowing love without striving to manage or possess. We know that personal spaces in our togetherness create a stronger whole. These personal spaces give us room to grow as individuals. Individual growth is important to our growth together -- as we each grow, the entirety of our union grows.


We know that we are each unique individuals. We rejoice in our differences as we do in the similarities that brought us together. We will live together, sharing our potentials, joys, needs and goals. This goes beyond mutual support or dependency. We promise to always hold each others dreams as our own. The challenge of our mutual goals of faith, growth, responsibility, understanding and joy excite and direct our lives to their fullest.


We are partners in all things. Gladly we share our selves. This is a union of love. Through this love we find strength and courage when weak or tired, and warmth when cold or uncertain. When necessary, we will lean on each other for support. The combination of our individual strengths overcomes all weakness to create a greater whole.


Alexandra Lee Torrey, I love you. I promise to share all of my life openly with you, to love, cherish, and stand beside you, in times of celebration and in times of difficulty, in times of good health and in times of changing health, in times of joy and in times of conflict, for all our lives. Your smile is my most treasured possession; I will do all that is within my power to insure that I will always be fully worthy of it. With all of my heart, mind, body and soul I ask, will you be my wedded wife?




Charles Vickroy Balch, I love you. I promise as your wife to share all of my life openly with you, to love, cherish, and stand beside you, in times of celebration and in times of difficulty, in times of good health and in times of changing health, in times of joy and in times of conflict, for all our lives. With all of my heart, mind, body and soul I ask, will you be my wedded husband?




Rings are a circle, the symbol of the earth, the universe, and eternity. Like circles, our rings have no beginning or ending. They are tokens of the relationship we have come here to celebrate and confirm.


With the presentation of this ring which is also the symbol for your family I wed you. I give you all the treasures of my heart, mind, soul and life.


With the presentation of this ring and the sharing of my family name I wed you. I give you all the treasures of my heart, mind, soul and life.


By our commitment and love for each other and the power vested in us by the territory of the Virgin Islands we are now husband and wife.


We are now as two, yet one. Our unity will last through all trials and triumphs that lie ahead.


We will live more and more in the presence of our love, which in it's beauty extends beyond the past and future. We have joined together, and together we shall go forth.


Grow old along with me
The best is yet to be
The last of life for which the first was made


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