IDEAS FOR YOUR WEDDING CEREMONY
Finding your theme for the ceremony lends a sense of cohesion and aesthetic focus to the proceedings. Allowing your own values, background, talents and passions to be the core around which the theme develops is the best way to create a satisfying ceremony.
Many of the couples I work with come from different faith backgrounds or have left religious traditions behind, but still want to incorporate some ideas that honor their history or ethnicity. Below are a few of the many ideas I've woven into ceremonies. Call me to discuss your particular situation and we'll find an elegant solution for your wedding!
The Jewish/Christian Wedding
A ceremony incorporating both Christian and Jewish wedding traditions can be not only beautiful, but can lay the groundwork for the respectful blending of two belief systems for the duration of the marriage.
Arising from the same cultural and historical matrix, Judaism and Christianity rituals have many elements in common. For a wedding ceremony, both include a welcoming of the guests, the exchange of vows and rings, a blessing of you as a couple, the pronouncement of your marriage, and a closing benediction. Some of the unique elements of a Jewish ceremony include the presence of a chuppah (the wedding canopy), prayers in Hebrew, the sharing and blessing of wine, the seven wedding blessings, the breaking of the glass, special dances following the nuptials. A Christian ceremony includes Old and New Testament readings, the lighting of a unity candle, the reading of the Lord's Prayer, and a declaration of intent.
For some couples, it may be necessary to have two, separate ceremonies in order to honor the integrity of the ritual as a whole, or to obtain the services of a rabbi or priest, who are sometimes bound by their religious orders to perform weddings only inside a temple or church of their own tradition. However, there are many liberal ministers and rabbis who are happy to officiate or co-officiate a ceremony that blends elements from both religions.
A wise rabbi once noted that in all streams of Jewish tradition there are two parts to any ritual, the "keva" and the "kavanna." The keva is the structure of the ritual, its actual components and words, and the kavanna is the intention and focus that makes it sacred. Thus, even if the “keva” is altered, it is possible to bring the “kevanna” that makes the ceremony a sacred one in the hearts and minds of those participating.
I hope you will find inspiration in the following readings and ideas for your own interfaith wedding! .Here is a ceremony for a couple in which one of Jewish and the other Catholic.
Pre-Ceremony: If a Ketubah (the Jewish wedding covenant) has been made, it is traditionally signed by the couple before the wedding, but may be included during the ceremony itself.
Processional: Joyful music alerts the guests that the wedding is about to begin. Under a wedding canopy, the minister awaits the arrival of the bride and groom, who appear, each walking between their parents down a different aisle. They arrive at the front of the room and are embraced by their parents, who are then seated. Then, traditionally, the bride circles the groom seven times. Alternatively, each circles the other three times and the final circle is made by the couple together. The music stops, the couple comes under the canopy and move forward to stand with the minister.
Opening Reading: From Songs of Songs
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away;
for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come,
the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
Set this as a seal upon your hearts,
for love is stronger than death,
Set these words as a seal upon your hearts:
* * * *
What is a Humanist Wedding?
All weddings are humanistic in the deepest sense ~ that is they are reflections of two human beings who are striving to live into a great covenant based on mutual love and respect. A Humanist wedding, in contrast to a religious wedding, is based on this purely human sense of integrity and does not call upon a supreme being to condone the "blessedness" of the marriage. For many people, especially that growing population who consider themselves "spiritual but not religious," this is an important distinction!
If you are one of those contemporary couples who want to define your relationship outside of the old traditions of God-ordained unions, then seeking a humanist or humanistic basis for your ceremony is a wise step. This does not mean that your ceremony will be lacking in a sense of reverence, elegance or wonder. It means that what is being "worshipped" - that is what is being given worth (the actual definition of that word) - is the Love that has brought two people together in a profound sense of joy and mutual aspiration.
When saying vows it is a beautiful opportunity to be clear that the foundation of your love is grounded in shared human values, the power of choice, mutual respect, etc.
I, ______, pledge to you, _____,
to continue the ways that brought us together,
to continue to grow with you,
to continue to learn from our differences,
to continue to be your soulmate in life,
to have faith in what brought us here,
and to be true and good to each other for eternity;
with these vows I have just said,
I promise my love to you.
*** *** ***
I, ____, take you, ____, to be my soulmate and best friend for life.
To love you always - both through our likenesses
and through our differences.
To grow in admiration and respect,
as we begin the story of our life together.
*** *** ***
I, _______, take you _________,
to be no other than yourself.
Loving what I know of you, trusting what I don't yet know;
With respect for your integrity and faith in your abiding love for me;
In all that life may bring us,
I pledge my love.
* * * *
How is a Gay Wedding different?
It isn't! A wedding is a wedding is a wedding, just as love is love! Love knows no boundaries of race, class, age or gender and it is a joy to be a wedding officiant at such a momentous time in our nation's evolution. There were many years when I did not think I would live to see that happy day when there would be no form of love "which dare not speak its name". Encouraged by the Unitarian church, I was officiating same-sex unions way back in the early 1990's and creating keepsake scrolls for my couples, in the hope that they might someday be used to validate their marriage. It was thrilling to be able to finally pronounce the marriage bans "by the power vested in me by church and by state."
The ritual of a Wedding fulfills both the deeply private need to feel more closely bonded with the beloved, and also satisfies the desire to share your joy with friends and family - to declare your love in a public forum and receive the embrace and support of your community. Becoming fully participatory and conscious of the inner meanings of the specific rituals you choose to use or discard at this important event can set the tone for years to come. Creating new forms for the universal desire to share one's life with another expands the minds and hearts of all who witness it, and ultimately overturns old prejudices and makes more room for the many faces of Love.
All the wedding examples on this site can be used for Gay Weddings, but if you are looking for some readings that may hold special significance for gay couples, please get in touch and I'll share some of my favorites. Here is one to get you started:
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
"Touched by an Angel" by Maya Angelou
* * * *
GREEN or Eco-Friendly Weddings
It's washing over the American consciousness like the light of a rosy-fingered dawn - only by treating Mother Nature kindly will we see many more tomorrows! Being true to your political and spiritual allegiance should not be neglected when designing your own wedding. In fact, it's the perfect place to make your statement. Here at the start of your new life together you can lay the foundations for making "green" the keynote of your new lifestyle.
There are many books and articles around that speak about ways to keep your wedding green - from recycled paper for invitations, to seed packets as party favors , to upcycled wedding dresses and sustainably-mined diamonds - and I have a blog post devoted to that topic - so ask me about some of my favorite readings for a Green ceremony.
As a part of the opening of closing of the ceremony, you may wish to include the ancient Greek tradition of offering a LIBATION to the earth in the form of a pitcher of water poured on to the ground, or a beaker of wine poured into the sand or waves. A flower from the bride's bouquet could be tossed into a fountain or the ocean with a thank you to the earth.
Here are some readings that show your respect for Nature and the role of ecology in guiding human values and relationships:
Our life reminds me
Of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
And in that opening a house,
An orchard and garden,
Comfortable shades, and flowers ...
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
To be made anew day after day, the dark
Richer than the light and more blessed,
Provided we stay brave
Enough to keep going in.
Like the water of a deep stream, love is always too much.
We did not make it. Though we drink till we burst
we cannot have it all, or want it all.
In its abundance it survives our thirst.
In the evening we come down to the shore
to drink our fill, and sleep, while it
flows through the regions of the dark.
It does not hold us, except we keep returning
to its rich waters thirsty. We enter,
willing to die, into the commonwealth of its joy.
from The Country of Marriage by Wendell Berry
Yes, yours, my love, is the right human face,
I in my mind had waited for this long.
Seeing the false and searching the true,
Then I found you as a traveller finds a place
Of welcome suddenly amid the wrong
Valleys and rocks and twisting roads.
But you, what shall I call you?
A fountain in a waste.
A well of water in a country dry.
Or anything that's honest and good, an eye
That makes the whole world bright.
Your open heart, simple with giving, gives the primal deed,
The first good world, the blossom, the blowing seed,
The hearth, the steadfast land, the wandering sea.
Not beautiful or rare in every part
But like yourself, as they were meant to be.
The Confirmationby Edwin Muir
Words for Rings & VOWS
Rings are an ancient symbol, blessed and simple - a Circle, for love that never ends, a circle for arms that embrace; round like the sun, like the eyes. These rings made from the metals drawn deep from the earth will remind you that your love is drawn from deep in your heart and remind you of the necessity of grounding your love in passion and compassion and the daily giving and forgiving that makes a marriage These rings, beautifully crafted, will remind you that your marriage must be carefully crafted, as a work of art. May the bright gold/silver of these rings remind you that your love, like the sun, is meant to illumine; that your love, like the eye, must see clearly, that your love, like arms that embrace, is a grace upon this world.
*** *** ***
Minister: May these rings that you exchange be a token of your love and a symbol of your pledge made here today.
*** *** ***
Minister: As the circle of the wedding ring embraces the finger of the beloved, so are we all held in the circle of love. Let us pause and rejoice in the beauty and the majesty of this love and give thanks.
Here are the traditional vows from the Book of Common Prayer - a good standby if you want to evoke the power of the familiar words!
I_________ take you_________to be my wedded wife/husband
to have and to hold,
for better or for worse,
in richer and in poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish you from this day forward, 'til death do us part.
*** *** ***
But if you want to go in a different direction, here are some ideas to get you started:
______, I choose now to stay this path with you,
wherever it leads, whatever the outcome;
To travel with you through the adventures of life,
loving you at my side; in all that we will find,
I pledge my friendship, my faith and my love.
*** *** ***
In the company of our dear family and friends
and with their love and support,
I, ___, take you, ___, to be my husband.
To love you and cherish you; to nurture and support you.
To stand by your side as we share life's joys and sorrows,
laughter and pain.
To respect the unique person that you are
and help you to become who you will be.
Throughout our lives and to the end that
our souls shall grow into harmony with the divine.
Thus do I covenant with you and with God. (or leave that bit out if you are not religious.)
*** *** ***
I, ______, take you, ______,
in all that I have learned of you
and all that I hope to know.
It is my desire to be by your side
through all of our days ahead,
as we continue our journey together.
In all that life brings us
may we always be friends.
If you want to try your hand at writing your own vows, please request my free, 20-page ebook on HOW TO WRITE YOUR OWN VOWS.