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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
Choosing your wedding officiant can be a difficult job, one that many couples postpone as long as possible. Yet, if you are going to have a wedding that is personalized, customized, and reflects who you are as a couple, the choice of your officiant is key to making that happen. What follows is a list of questions to ask of your wedding officiant, suggested by the Celebrant Foundation and Institute, in order to make sure that the officiant you choose is a good fit.
How do you create the ceremony? Do we have final approval over the script? Ideally, the officiant should collaborate with you every step of the way so that the ceremony is tailor-made for you. Don’t let a boilerplate ceremony be imposed on you.
When will you arrive? The officiant should be available at least 45 minutes before the ceremony in order to run through any last minute changes, and to coordinate details with readers, musicians, photographers and videographers.
Does your fee include a full rehearsal at the wedding venue? Many officiants don’t rehearse, but a full rehearsal is important for a beautifully choreographed ceremony and for calming last-minute nerves.
Can we vary the traditional choreography of a wedding? You may wish to face your guests rather than the officiant, or have the officiant stand to the side instead of between you and your spouse. Make sure your officiant is open to these suggestions.
What training do you have in creating and officiating at ceremonies? Many officiants have no specific training. Look for those who have a sound background in the history of ritual and ceremony, knowledge of wedding traditions around the world, the ability to manage and choreograph a wedding party, and experience in public ceremonial speaking.
Will you work with our other wedding professionals? The officiant should coordinate as needed with musicians to provide music cues for the ceremony, with photographers and videographers to assist them in getting the best shots, and with the staff of your venue to ensure that the ceremony will not conflict in any way with their requirements.
Add your own questions to this list as you prepare to interview prospective officiants. When you find the answers you are looking for, you will have found someone you can trust to work with you to create a wedding ceremony that is just right for you!
These past few days yet another politician is publically apologizing for marital infidelity. Yikes! Between media coverage of celebrity marriages, divorces, and all the associated drama, and the many other images of struggling marriages in film and on TV, it would be easy to get the idea that real, live, healthy marriages don’t actually exist. Well, rumor has it, they do!
Recently I met with an engaged couple at a local coffee venue to talk about their wedding ceremony, as I do so often at the beginning of a collaboration with a bride and groom. In our conversation we covered a lot of territory. I took copious notes and after we had finished they left, only to turn around in the parking lot and promptly return. Oh, yeah, they said, “We want to include an acknowledgement and expression of gratitude to our parents for modeling what healthy marriages looks like.”
How cool is that? Not only that both sets of parents have been able to model healthy relationships for their children, but that their children, who are now adults planning to be married, recognize the powerful influence that their parents have been in their ability to choose marriage with confidence. “We can definitely work that into the ceremony!”, I told them.
Meanwhile, do you think we could get some media coverage? I suppose there’s always YouTube…
Wow, a lot of us are in a hurry these days! We rush from here to there and from there to someplace else, multi-tasking as we go along, hardly stopping to take a breath. A brief but important episode at Leah and Kyle’s recent wedding served to remind me of the value and gift of slowing down and, yes, waiting!
I was standing with Kyle as Leah and her father approached, walking down a beautiful long path through Rau Garden in St. Charles. Pachelbel’s Canon was being played by the musicians. When Leah and her dad arrived at the front, the musical piece was only about half finished. I recalled that we had briefly discussed this possibility at the rehearsal. At that time the bride and groom had agreed that the music should just run its course; they would be in no hurry.
And, so, here we were, waiting, waiting, and waiting for the music to end. Awkward giggles, sweat, sideways glances, and a few tears were shed. Although a little uncomfortable, this waiting, it also provided an opportunity for the wedding ceremony’s participants to soak in the moment, THIS MOMENT, and to be a little more aware of the momentous shift that was taking place in their own lives and in the lives of one another. Come to think of it, isn’t that one of the purposes of a ceremony in the first place?
When the music ended and Leah released her father’s arm to take Kyle’s hand, the symbolic moment of moving from one way of being as single people, to a new way of being as a married couple, was very likely more deeply appreciated because we had been required to wait for it. And it was definitely worth the wait!