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Make Your Ceremony Yours

The dress. The place. The band. The flowers. Decisions that are fun… and frilly. Although there are serious choices here, nothing is as meaningful as the wedding ceremony itself. How do you make your ceremony personal, intimate, and significant?

* Look to your religion, if you have/are practicing one. Religious institutions may offer suggesting for vows and readings, and that’s a good place to start. But if your wedding is not a “religious” one, or your have two religions to celebrate, or even if yours is religious in nature, there are many choices for you. They are endowed with meaning, and they can be used as inspiration for creating a lasting memory of your own.

*Look at other cultures. “Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be a shelter for the other…” This begins a traditional Apache ceremony blessing, and it is just one of the popular ways that a couple can personalize their wedding ceremony. Another choice is a Cherokee prayer: “God in heaven above please protect the ones we love. We honor all you created as these two pledge their hearts and lives together… We honor the earth… we honor fire… we honor wind… we honor water…. With all the forces of the universe you created, we pray for harmony and true happiness as they forever grow young together.” And yet another option is a Yoruba Tasting ceremony, where the marriage tradition recognizes the various flavors of experience in a successful union. Here, the couple tastes four cups- lemon, vinegar, cayenne, and honey.

*Make something up! One couple created something unique that they called a Halter, the combination of the Jewish Chuppah and the Catholic Altar. They said, “The Chuppah is said to symbolize the home and life we will establish together. In spirit, the four sides are open to indicate all are welcome in our home and lives. The Alter is seen as endowed with great holiness and signifies sanctuary.”

*Do you have a special song? One couple chose Sarah McLachlan’s Push: “Every time I look at you the world just melts away, All my troubles, all my fears dissolve in your affections…”

*Poetry and literature are popular choices for readings and vows. William Shakespeare, Kahlil Gibran (“Love one another, but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls…”), Elizabeth Barrett Browning (“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”), Percy Bysshe Shelley, Walt Whitman, Lau Tzu, Joan Walsh Anglund and others have extraordinary words that fit the occasion. *Look to your heritage. There is the Irish Wedding Blessing: “May your mornings bring joy and your evenings bring peace. May your troubles grow few as your blessings increase…”   And there is also the choice of an Irish Hymn. A Hungarian couple even had a reading called Szaz Alakba by Sandor Petofi.

*Look to your family. A Bride had grandparents who had been married for over 50 years, and they wrote and then read about what they thought makes a good marriage. A moving moment! Another choice is to have the couple each present a rose to their mothers with a personal note as part of the ceremony. And, of course, if there are children from a prior marriage(s), there can be a presentation of gifts to the children.

*Create or use a special ceremony. A sand ceremony has two vessels filled with different colors of sand, and there is a third vessel that is empty. The participants each pour from their vessel into the third, where the grains of colored sand are mixed… A shared glass of wine has obvious but meaningful symbolism… A hand blessing has the couple holding hands and receiving a blessing: “These are the hands of your best friend, full of love for you…” … And there is the Flower Encircling, where someone scatters flowers around the couple right before they say their vows. It’s a way of keeping all of the good in and leaving the bad out.

*Write a letter to the officiant about how you met your spouse, what you love about that person, what made you decide to get married, and any other pertinent information. The officiant can take this and create something which will be using your own words. Or, the couple can read sections of the letter to each other as part of the ceremony.

*If you have lots of time and creativity, the couple can sit down and craft a ceremony of their own doing. Look for inspiration in the list above, and of course try the internet and bookstores for more ideas. It is a good idea to do this early in the planning process, when there will be less pressure to finish writing… and to finish all of the other details of wedding planning.   And, remember to keep a copy of the readings and vows. And read them again and again over the years!

photos- babich-tatum 017   I_0423   New York wedding photographer Sofia Negron wedding at the Kimmel Center rustic modern charm evantine design navy, green       Photos courtesy of Laura Novak, Phil Kramer, Nute Nicholson, and Sofia Negron.

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