Ceremony Matters

From 2006 to 2021 I wrote a column for the Pocono Record (and beyond). It feels like I must have covered everything about wedding ceremonies specifically and wedding-adjacent topics as well. But I haven’t written since the pandemic ended and as weddings come roaring back I do have a few observations to share.

I’ve been officiating 18 years now, and I’ve seen so much, but as I continue to grow in my practice as a celebrant, my clients, too, are growing. I am constantly reminded of the power of ritual, and that wedding customs extend far beyond walking down the aisle and exchanging  vows and rings.

lo_scot.jpgOn my recent trip to Scotland with my Celebrant colleagues, I picked up a few Celtic ritual variations, especially wonderful ways to perform handfasting, aka "tying the knot." Handfasting is an ancient symbolic act and, while coming from pagan or wiccan traditions, has entered the mainstream. And for good reason. It ties (pun inten
ded) to the past while moving the couple into their future. It’s a great action for the couple and visual for the guests. There are many ways to do it — one cord, two or three — I even have a wedding coming up with a four-cord handfasting. There also are different words that can be said to enhance the ritual. Cords can be plain or unique. Colors may represent different things, and different people can lay the cords on the couples joined hands. Not to mention the fabulous photo opportunity.

Quick story: Many years ago I ended a ceremony with "jumping the oak branch" — a more obscure Celtic tradition, not dissimilar to "jumping the broom." Some ten years later the couple told me that people still talk about that moment. Actions do speak louder than words.

Trust me, dear engaged people, when you add a unity ritual, especially something that resonates for you personally, it will create deeper meaning and lasting memories.

One final piece of advice: Don’t let others, whether family or friends, pressure you to conform. In our modern world marriage still resonates; it is meant to create a safe place to grow as individuals, partners and as a family if we so choose. And weddings are one of life’s biggest milestones, honoring the passage into your married life. Weddings are also still relevant but have also changed in many ways. Let the evolution continue!