Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Ceremony is the Heart of a Wedding

There are as many ways to wed as there are couples.  Personally, I'm a fan of any variety of wedding that truly honors the couple's uniqueness, whether it's a big traditional wedding, a small informal one, or anything in between.  As a celebrant, though, what I'm not a fan of is how buried the actual ceremony can get under other details like the dress, the cake, and all the rest of it.  Those things can be beautiful and meaningful and fun, but are hollow if the ceremony itself is not held as the heart of the wedding.  And this is why the most meaningful weddings are sometimes the simplest.

I have had the great blessing of officiating a variety of wedding ceremonies now, and the ones that stand out most in my mind are those that incorporate words, gestures, family members, and objects of symbolic value in simple but meaningful ways.

Shannon & Rachel's wedding ceremony
Last week, for instance, I got to perform two handfastings.  Both of the couples made their own handfasting cords with materials and colors that were meaningful to them, and both had family members take turns winding the cord around their clasped hands.  The first couple, LisaAnn and Jeremy, were married under a huge cottonwood tree on their property, which we all climbed a hill to get to.  They included LisaAnn's young son in the ceremony by giving him a ring to symbolize his part in creating the new family structure.

Shannon and Rachel had their ceremony in the center of the labyrinth at Adobe & Pines Inn; the entire wedding party and I entered the labyrinth in procession after being smudged with sage by a family member.

Back in March, I officiated Dawn & Tiff's river-themed ceremony.  They wanted to get married on the Rio Grande, and in the couple questionnaire that I have all my couples fill out, they expressed their love of water and nature, especially rivers, so I created a ceremony that honored that.  If you think about it, rivers are, in fact, a wonderful metaphor for a good marriage.  One of the readings I included, written by author James Dillet Freeman, says it well:

Rivers hardly ever run in a straight line.
Rivers are willing to take ten thousand meanders
and enjoy every one
and grow from every one.
When they leave a meander,
they are always more
than when they entered it.
When rivers meet an obstacle,
they do not try to run over it.
They merely go around
but they always get to the other side.
Rivers accept things as they are,
conform to the shape they find the world in,
yet nothing changes things more than rivers.
Rivers move even mountains into the sea.
Rivers hardly ever are in a hurry
yet is there anything more likely
to reach the point it sets out for
than a river?

A marriage really is like the confluence of two great rivers, and the wedding ceremony is the point at which they converge.  And that is why I consider myself fortunate beyond measure to be a wedding celebrant, to stand at that confluence naming, honoring, and blessing, it with my couples.  The couples that I've married always recognize the gift of that moment with each other, but they may never know how very much it is also a gift to me.