From Control to Celebration

This morning I ran across something written by theologian Matthew Fox which made me think about the small but not insignificant role I see celebrants playing in the world today. Fox said,

We need the courage to leap from one edge to another – from contemplation to compassion; from I to We; from ladder to circle; from climbing to dancing; from control to celebration; from home as nation to home as global village.

Celebrants trained by the Celebrant Foundation and Institute approach each ceremony with a deep respect for the ones who have requested our services. Yes, we have the authority that accompanies training and experience. But an equal or even greater authority belongs to the individual, couple, family, or group for whom we are designing the ceremony. Working together we create a ceremony based on their needs, hopes, desires, and vision, not our own. The image of moving from a ladder model, where the officiant is always right, to a circle model, where the officiant/celebrant collaborates with people to create something meaningful , moves us from I to We; from control to celebration.

When I explain this to people, I am greeted with smiles and nods. So many of us have longed for these types of collaborations in order to celebrate life’s transitions, but we have not known how to do them or where to find them. Celebrants are helping people meet a very real need to create ceremonies to honor what they experience as sacred in their lives.

Sometimes the Best Things Come in Small Packages

Stephen and Christina looked over the list of favorite unity rituals used by many contemporary brides and grooms. They all looked pretty good, but none of the rituals seemed to fit them as well as they would have liked. Then, with a little searching online, they found just what they were looking for: The Wooden Wedding Box.

A tradition which has made its way from Holland to the United States, The Wooden Wedding Box can be a delightful addition to any wedding ceremony. It is about the size of a small tool box, just large enough to hold a bottle of wine, two glasses, and two love letters.

This is how it works: The bride and groom compose a love letter to each other sometime before the wedding day. In the letters they are asked to write about the good qualities of their partner and the reasons they have fallen in love. Then they put the letters into the box either before or during the wedding ceremony, but they are instructed not to show the letter they have written to their partner.

During the wedding ceremony after the rings have been exchanged, the wedding officiant explains to the guests what the box is all about. She or he describes the contents of the box and its purpose. If the couple should find their marriage enduring serious difficulties, before making any irrational decisions they should open the box together, drink a glass of the wine, and then read the letters they have written to one another. Of course the hope is that the couple does not ever encounter such serious difficulties and that they are able to open the box, read the letters, and drink the wine on a big anniversary, perhaps ten, fifteen, or twenty-five years from now!

When the explanation is finished, the couple walks over to the table where the box is waiting for them. There they each take a small nail and take turns hammering the nail into a pre-drilled hole. When finished, the rest of the ceremony continues.

At Stephen and Christina’s wedding, The Wooden Wedding Box Ceremony was acknowleged with smiles and nods of understanding by their guests. It seems that anyone who has ever been married understands the need to take time out now and then to remember and celebrate their love for one another.

If this sounds like a good option for your wedding ceremony, talk with your wedding minister or celebrant. For more information, see http://www.woodenweddingboxes.com .

Zoom! Zoom! Zoom!

OK, maybe an auto museum is not the first place you might think of when imagining your ideal setting for a wedding. It wasn’t the first choice for Beth and Steve, either. But when circumstances arranged themselves in unforeseen ways, the Kemp Auto Museum in Chesterfield was the best choice for their July 11 ceremony and reception.
On gleaming black floors, bathed in dramatic lighting, and surrounded by polished vintage autos, Beth and Steve enthusiastically pledged their love to one another in the company of family and friends. One of the perks they enjoyed by having their ceremony and reception at Kemp was the opportunity to pose for photos in some of the beautiful antiques. As you can see, ViewPlus Photo / Video captured the joy of their special day brilliantly.

The World Is Your Hometown

My husband Rocky and I just returned from the Festival of Nations. This is an annual weekend-long event in Tower Grove Park celebrating the wealth of ideas, cultures and traditions of St. Louis’s immigrants. I dearly love this celebration of the newer members of our community, such as our Bosnian, Vietnamese, and Cajun neighbors; as well as the cultures and traditions which have been a part of our community for more than a hundred years, like the Germans, Irish, and African Americans of St. Louis.

Our main goal when we stopped by the festival was to have some lunch. We made our way down the row of thirty-nine food booths, mouths watering at the difficult decisions to be made between Somalian or Kurdish, Peruvian or Polish, Haitian or Soul Food, and oh so many more options still to come! As we searched for our lunch I was amazed at the numbers of people along the path. We were part of a constantly moving and growing stream of people who came to enjoy the sights, sounds, and flavors of our immigrant brothers and sisters.

Viewing this event with the eyes of a Celebrant, I see an emerging society where people from different backgrounds and cultures will look for meaningful opportunities to share their strengths and to celebrate their rich traditions. This is never truer than when people from different cultures begin to intermarry. Celebrants are trained to make use of rituals from diverse traditions, honoring the heritages of both families whose next generation wants to build a life together.

As I eat my Iranian lentils and rice, I look forward to countless opportunities to co-create wedding ceremonies with couples from rich and varied backgrounds, to celebrate the beauty and joy of their traditions as they join their lives in marriage.

A Treasure Found

Some of the couples I work with choose to personalize their ceremonies by answering a series of questions about their relationship. This enables me to tell their story as a couple during their wedding or commitment ceremony. Each story is distinct, yet they all have something in common. At some point in the relationship, they discovered that they had found someone with whom they want to share love, and someone with whom they are willing to share their whole lives. And they are ready to take the chance that they will be able to live out those lofty marriage or commitment vows for the rest of their lives. No matter how many times I witness this, I find it absolutely stunning!

So, I figure I have one of the best jobs in the world. I have the privilege of learning a couple’s love story and then translating it into the ceremony so that all of their family and friends attending can celebrate that story with them. Each love story is unique, each love story is sacred. What a treasure human beings have found in one another when we commit ourselves to love.

Shall We Dance?

Wedding ceremony = serious business. Wedding reception = fun. Really!?

I have been thinking a little more about that wild and crazy dance entrance for Jill and Kevin’s wedding (see previous blog entry “You Can Dance Right Through Your Life”). I don’t know how hard they worked to put it all together, but one of the things that appeals to me about this dancing bridal party is that they make it look so effortless and like they are having a whole lot of fun. And why not have some fun at the ceremony, rather than saving it all the for the reception?

Something like a dancing entrance procession certainly doesn’t have to take away from the important and sacred event that is taking place in making marriage vows to one another. Marriage is both a serious commitment and an occasion of great joy that two people have decided to join their lives together to create this thing called “couple” and “family.” Isn’t it possible that many of our modern wedding ceremonies could benefit from a few more expressions of joy?

Of course, I realize that not every couple could or would want to have a dancing bridal party entrance for a variety of reasons, including the fact that many people are just too embarrassed to dance! But there are many other ways that you could introduce a little lightness and even playfulness to offer balance to the very serious business of making a lifetime commitment. This could include anything from warming up your guests with a sing-a-long of corny love songs before the ceremony begins, to blowing bubbles as the bride and groom take their walk down the aisle at the end of the ceremony as newlyweds. The possibilities are as endless as your creativity!

If something like this is appealing to you, talk with your celebrant about your interest in lightening up your wedding ceremony. Most will be eager to work with you to create just the right ceremony for you.

You Can Dance Right Through Your Life

A little dancing can go a long way. Like a lot of people, I recently became aware of a video on You Tube of a magnificent wedding ceremony entrance, danced by each and every member of the wedding party of Jill and Kevin. You can find other dancing wedding parties on You Tube, but this one has had so many hits that a little over a week ago the Today Show featured them recreating their dancing entrance live.

Whatever the reason for the video’s broad appeal, bride and groom Jill and Kevin have decided to share some of the positivity they have experienced as a result of their video’s popularity by encouraging viewers to donate to a cause close to their hearts. You can now see their dancing bridal party at http://www.jkweddingdance.com/ While there, the newlyweds ask you to consider donating to the Sheila Wellstone Institute which advocates and organizes efforts to end domestic violence in our communities.

I salute you, Jill and Kevin, as you share your joy with the world wide web and with those in need!

Afternoon Delight

Anne and Bryan wanted a small and simple wedding ceremony and that’s just what they got. I met with them and about sixteen family members in the courtyard of the Church of St. Michael and St. George under overcast skies late in the afternoon on July 4.

Thankfully we did not need the umbrellas which photographer Marcie Cobbaert of mar-Cshots had on stand-by, should the skies have opened up as predicted. The smiling bride and groom brightened the whole courtyard with their absolute delight in one another. We were the lucky ones to share in their joy!

Confronting Wedding Preparation Anxiety

I work with a lot of anxious brides, grooms, and other wedding stakeholders who are busily preparing for the BIG DAY. Or really, the BIG DAYS, as more and more wedding activities are packed into the days leading up to and following the actual day of the wedding itself. Dealing with the details and demands of such things is enough to make a grown person want to curl up in a ball and produce a high-pitched cry, at the very least!

I’m not a therapist, but my social worker husband is. Rock sees many clients who suffer from panic attacks. One of the first things he suggests they do when feeling anxiety closing in on them is to ask themselves one question about the situation: “Is this danger or discomfort?” It is a deceptively simple question, but one that often gets to the heart of the moment and helps them to regain perspective.

For example, when Trish learned three days before her wedding that her dress would not be finished in time for her wedding day, she could have done that curling up in a ball thing. Or started drinking heavily. Instead, recognizing that this was certainly an uncomfortable situation, but not one that endangered her life or anyone else’s, she chose to go to a concert that night with her fiancé and some friends who were in town for the wedding. Her mom and aunts went shopping for wedding dresses that night, picked out four dresses in her size and brought them home. The next day Trish tried them all on, chose the one she liked best, and went on with her other wedding preparations. Was it her ideal dress? No. Did she have a fantastic wedding day anyway? Yes, because she was able to keep her perspective.

Of course, many situations are more complicated than this example. But most of us can benefit from any tool that can help us to take a little time out to reconsider things from a new perspective, rather than the one that has thrown us into a panic.

So, the next time things aren’t going the way you had hoped and you feel the panic starting to rise up inside you, try asking yourself, “Is this danger or discomfort?” and see if the answer doesn’t shed some new light on the moment. This one little question can go a long way toward helping you deal with the inevitable stresses that accompany wedding preparations today.

Wed on the Fourth of July?

When I mentioned to a friend that I had a wedding scheduled for the Fourth of July, he joked that July 4, “Independence Day” seemed a better day for a divorce ceremony than for a wedding ceremony. I suppose on the surface that would appear to be true. But if you look again and consider some other angles on July 4 as a wedding day option, maybe it will make a little more sense.

For example, when someone marries, that person becomes independent from the tyranny of the modern dating scene. I’ll admit, I’ve been married more than a few years and I don’t know first-hand what it’s like out there these days. But the reports from friends who have dated or who have tried to date recently are not so good. When you marry a true friend and life partner, you are free to put all of that craziness of dating behind you!

OK, maybe that’s stretching it a bit.

On a more serious note, let’s consider for a moment the signers of the Declaration of Independence back on that hot summer day in 1776 Philadelphia. What they did that day took tremendous courage. They put it all on the line when they signed that document. If caught by the British, they could have been hung for treason. Yet they took that chance because they believed that their actions could eventually provide a better life for all Americans. Of course, there were no guarantees that the American experiment would succeed, but they took the chance anyway.

So, too, with marriage. There are no guarantees that the two people getting married so enthusiastically today are going to have a good marriage tomorrow. In fact, statistically speaking, there seems to be about as good a chance for an unsuccessful marriage as there is for a successful one. But every day people step up and proclaim in front of family and friends that they are going to love and honor this one other person for the rest of their lives. In making the choice for a committed relationship, a person can find a certain freedom to move forward in sharing their journey of life with another human being. Are they taking a chance? You bet. Is it worth it? Well, I guess you’ll have to ask them, for the answer will likely vary from person to person.

Then again, on a less serious note, for some couples, the choice to wed on the Fourth of July could be based on something as simple and delightful as my experience a few years ago while attending my cousin’s July Fourth wedding. The wedding ceremony was lovely, the dinner was delicious, and now as the sun was setting it was time to go out on the deck for the local fireworks display. We were served champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries as the fireworks exploded over our heads. For those of us at the wedding, the fireworks were a fantastic way to celebrate both the birthday of our country and the beginning of a marriage. Not a bad reason for having a July Fourth wedding, now is it?

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