Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Ceremonial Elements’ Category

Beyond your basic ‘Wedding March’

Every once in a while, personal experience flows into my well of creative ideas for ceremonies. For instance: simply going to a concert. Yes, I do oodles of fun research and reading from myriad sources. I am also surrounded by an ever-growing ‘tribe’ of helpful and talented Life-Cycle Celebrants across the world. And often couples will send me newly delicious links or ideas, too. 🙂

What I’m sharing now is a tad more simple and mundane than all this good stuff.

Last night I went to see Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in concert. (Yes, they are way FUN to see live!) And it reminded me of how a couple I married last fall chose the song ‘Home’ (by this band) for their processional music. I loved it and got all choked up walking into the eden-like ceremonial space. The theme we wove throughout the ceremony was ‘coming home’ to each others’ hearts with thanksgiving. Soooo, the song fit the ceremony, the couple and the setting (a ranch along the Santa Cruz River) extremely well.

Since ‘Home’ has gained popularity, I’ve included it below, just in case you haven’t heard it yet. I’ve also included another song I think I might love even more. Especially for a ceremony with a theme of constant love. It is a sweet little acoustic song by Edward Sharpe called ‘Simplest Love’. It could be really fitting for and entrance into or prelude during a relaxed and meaningful wedding. The lyrics go:

This is a song for my simplest love

A simple song for a simplest love
Her eyes are green, her hair is brown
This is a song for my simplest love

A constant song for a constant love
No difficult chords, easy to play
A simple song for a simplest love

And here is ‘Home’ so you can give it a listen (sorry no video available!):

Spring Wedding at Stillwell House

Sometimes a wedding floods my heart with so much joy, I wish the whole world could feel it. This was one of those times. I do think everyone present had a fabulous time and surely did ‘feel the JOY!

Jen and Tyler held their wedding at the Stillwell House in downtown Tucson, last April. I was fortunate to be a part of their celebration and lead their ceremony. As you can see, they are quite a radiant couple. And their beauty goes much further than skin deep. When I work with young couples in love, often they are quite mature and have faced some hardships together. They appreciate their families beyond words. They savor life together. They frequently share a pretty wicked sense of humor, too. And naturally, they want me to impart their gratitude and love of laughter to their guests. With Jen and Tyler, I had the opportunity to do all of this. And man, did we ever have fun!

All Photos Generously from Amanda Rockafellow

Before we even walked into the ceremonial space, I had spent 20+ hours working with Jen and Tyler to create their wedding. So when I say we had fun, I am referencing our experience throughout the whole co-creative process. The ceremony itself is a big exclamation point, culminating our creative time together. After they completed their responses to my Sweetgrass Couple Reflections, the theme of their ceremony became clear: two hearts | one love. I opened their Love Story like this:

You may know this timeless saying from the I-Ching: “When two people are one in their innermost hearts, they shatter even the strength of iron or bronze.” And for this couple, they live with two hearts, one love. They are one in their deepest of hearts.

Jen & Tyler speak their hearts during their vows

After a good deal of laughter and some tears about their story, I concluded by saying, “May you surprise each other and grow together. And may you always be one in your innermost hearts, able to shatter any challenge that comes your way!”

Next, during their vows, we three stood closer for these most intimate of words to be spoken. As you can see, Jen has a bigger-than-life smile on her face, and Tyler has full-on adoration-beaming from his. For their last pledge they answered “We will” to my question, “Will you live together as one?”

After speaking their vows, they symbolized their joining with a Handfasting Ritual. With my guidance, Jen even made a beautiful handfasting-braid by way of her own creativity!

To introduce this portion of the ceremony I said, “To quote our groom, “Marriage is entering into a life with the one that has touched my soul. The one that I see myself with for the rest of my life.” Before I wrapped their hands and offered a blessing, I went on to say:

As this is a very transformational moment in your lives, Jennifer and Tyler, we will express your joining through a Unity Ritual, too. Together, you will bind your hands in a handfasting ritual. This is an ancient practice beginning in Celtic times and spans belief systems across many centuries. The cords you have made here are symbolic of how something within you, yet something greater than yourselves has joined you together.

Handfasting Ritual

After the Handfasting, the Ring Exchange was the final symbolic act of two hearts becoming one love. Next a closing blessing, a pronouncement as husband and wife – then HOORAY! – the moment everyone awaited: the Kiss. During the joyous celebration that is a recessional, everyone stood and cheered as “It’s a Beautiful Day” by U2 streamed into the air. Excellent choice on the music, Jen and Tyler. Because wow, was it ever!

Congratulations to a very Happy Couple!

P.S. My heartfelt thanks goes to Amanda Rockafellow, for contributing her gorgeous photos. I’ll soon be highlighting her here as a Tucson Wedding Gem. And my thanks also goes to Marc Summersett, Owner of CE Entertainment, who expertly managed the sound and music for this celebration.

Writing Vows You’ll Want to Repeat

Inevitably when I meet with couples, the ‘oh man, how do we do our vows?’ question surfaces. And it’s a good one. Would you agree wedding vows are pretty darn intimate words to share? The pressure of finding just the right promises – unique to who you are – can be daunting. Just today, I met with a mature couple who said they would be at a loss to write their own vows. “We really need your help there,” they said to me (cringing a bit).

And I’m happy to oblige! By using a couple’s very own words, in fact. I have a few keystone questions in my set of Sweetgrass Couple Reflections, which support me writing meaningful vows. When I work with couples, ceremony crafting is a co-creative process. They answer a good long set of questions individually. And I weave together the ceremony based on their stories, beliefs and values. (Yes, I do love reading heartfelt, emotional or even irreverent responses!)


(Photo credit: sirwiseowl)

I also leave open the option of couples writing their own vows to each other. Or we do a combination of both – they write a few lines and I write a few lines – by weaving their words into a cohesive whole as I mentioned above. Some of the best tips I’ve read for DIY vows are in this post at a Practical Wedding.

Here are some questions to ask yourself, too: do you want to have your Celebrant say the vows in a question form whereby you answer “I do” or “I will”? Or would you rather repeat whole phrases? Or memorize the lines?

This ought to be entirely up to you. And if you really want to remember and repeat these pledges of love to each other sometime in the future (anniversary? Valentine’s? vow renewal?) then the words are best spoken comfortably, reflecting who you truly are.

It is this delivery of vows that I encourage couples feeling really familiar with and comfortable  about. Whatever you write, or someone writes for you – make sure you read it aloud to each other before the ceremony! (Unless of course you plan to surprise each other.) See how the words feel while speaking them aloud individually at least, if not together.

And hopefully, you’ll have vows that well, you’ll love saying to each other again and again.

A Hand Blessing as Unity Ritual

This super creative Bride and Groom – the lovely Meg and dashing Joe – wanted to have their senses fully engaged in their wedding ceremony. They incorporated sensuous sights, acoustic sounds and uplifting scents . . . and they kept savory tastes for the reception! Their celebration occurred at the Arizona Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. An AMAZING venue for outdoor ceremonies.

Instead of the often used Unity Candle or Sand Blending rituals, I offered them a custom Blessing of the Hands Ritual with essential oils. They chose Bergamot and Lavendar oils, for the uplifting and reassuring scents those offer.

After I placed drops of oil into their palms and drew the infinity sign in each, Meg placed her palms on top of Joe’s open palms and I shared these words:

“Above you are the stars, below you is the earth, as time does pass, remember this:

Like the earth, should your love be firm, grounded in your humanity.

Like a star should your love be constant, imbued with pure light.

Let the powers of the mind and of the intellect guide you in your marriage.

Let the strength of your wills bind you together.

Let the power of love and desire make you joyful,

And the strength of your dedication make you inseparable.”

(Source: Rev. Susanna Stefanachi Macomb)

Ideas for Multi-Cultural Weddings

So last week I met with a couple who wants to pull Pagan and Buddhist elements into their wedding. How fun! They were relieved to find me. Plus, plain happy I would work with them to create the ceremony they envision. “This kind of non-traditional territory is where I love to be with couples,” I told them.

And yet, as I said those words, I wondered if we are emerging with new practices that stretch beyond ‘non-traditional’. When I say ‘we’ I mean: couples who want their ceremony to reflect their one-of-a-kind beliefs and a Celebrant like myself who helps guide them. Simply put: We are making ceremonies REAL. (Most definitely not rote and one size fits all!)

This story from CNN about interfaith and multicultural weddings supports this idea. I think this passage speaks to why:

Unlike prior generations, contemporary couples aren’t afraid to tinker with the order of a ceremony or the wedding traditions that have, in the past, seemed intractable. Also, many contemporary couples are older when they marry, so they’ve had more time to travel, work and become more educated.

These are the couples with whom I love to work: they are mature, they’ve traveled and they know themselves well. Whether or not two people come from different ethnic traditions, based upon various life experiences, they may hold vastly different beliefs. Judaism and Hinduism, for example. In these situations, another passage from the CNN article includes helpful ideas from Susanna Macomb, a widely known Officiant and Author:

Finding commonality between traditions can make a ceremony meaningful, but make sure to have someone explain the symbolism to the wedding guests, or most will be in the dark, says Macomb. Also, she advises intercultural weddings can seem more cohesive if an officiant and readers incorporate some native languages into the ceremony as a nod to family members who have traveled from another part of the world.

As a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant® who leads weddings, this is one of the things I do best: finding commonality between traditions – beliefs – values to make a ceremony meaningful. In our training as Celebrants, we delve deeply into symbolism. We consider and enact ways to bring universal explanation into the script, so guests may resonate with the message delivered. This is especially helpful during multicultural ceremonies, where guests may be unfamiliar with certain elements!

Enjoy the journey, if you are planning a multicultural or interfaith wedding! Feel free to leave comments or questions, too . . .