What to Include in Your Wedding Ceremony

norman and gloriaA wed­ding cer­e­mony is the offi­cial start of your life together, a first rit­ual, a time of trans­for­ma­tion. This is the cer­e­mony that sets the foun­da­tion for your life together. Many cou­ples may have attended a wor­ship ser­vice together, or a fam­ily hol­i­day rit­ual. If you come from dif­fer­ent faiths, or the same back­ground, this will be your first cer­e­mony together – a cer­e­mony about your uni­fi­ca­tion and a cer­e­mony that unites your lives. Your wed­ding cer­e­mony is the first rit­ual that rep­re­sents who you are as a cou­ple, and speaks about you and the life you are cre­at­ing together.

Your wed­ding cer­e­mony is a time set aside for solid­i­fy­ing your rela­tion­ship and giv­ing your mar­riage a mean­ing­ful send off. The wed­ding cer­e­mony cre­ates the foun­da­tion for the new fam­ily being birthed by this mar­riage. Whether it’s a reli­gious or human­is­tic rit­ual, wed­dings are a sacred rite of pas­sage. As I say in many of my cer­e­monies, “Through the power of the spo­ken word, some­thing amaz­ing is going to hap­pen.” It is up to your officiate/minister to craft the sacred words, to hal­low the time, and add the spark. Your offi­ciant is the voice and the reflec­tion of your love and the love of the fam­ily and friends.

Elements of a Wedding Ceremony

Like all rit­u­als, wed­ding cer­e­monies con­tain many ele­ments. As I tell cou­ples, the law requires just three things:

1. Couples make a promise to one another of their own free will.

2. The cou­ple is pro­nounced hus­band and wife by some­one legally sanc­tioned to do so.

3. The cou­ple presents a valid license and it is prop­erly signed and returned to the county clerk.

The rest of the cer­e­mony is filler. But the filler is the stuff that makes the cer­e­mony spe­cial, unique to the cou­ple, and cre­ates sacred space.

img001A good cer­e­mony will help you set the tone for your lives together. The words that are said are the pub­lic state­ment about the lives you intend to lead together. It is a rit­ual that truly trans­forms you and your lives. And it is quite amaz­ing that a few words from you, the min­is­ter, are the cat­a­lyst that makes this all hap­pen!

Below is the basic order of a cer­e­mony. This is not etched in stone, but is offered here as a guide­line. As a wed­ding cel­e­brant, I cre­ate for you. The cer­e­monies I write for each cou­ple do not come straight from an ancient text or a book of prayer. These cer­e­monies are based on the cou­ples I serve. Your cer­e­mony will rep­re­sent you accu­rately on your spe­cial day and to give you a cer­e­mony that is authen­tic to you and your beliefs.

Order of a Wedding Ceremony

Below is the basic order of a wed­ding cer­e­mony. Know that this is not set in stone. Each cer­e­mony has its own flow, and I adjust the order as needed, par­tic­u­larly mov­ing around read­ings and rit­u­als as they make the most sense. I will some­times com­bine ele­ments such as per­sonal vows with ring exchange or can­dle light­ing with vows, etc.

Welcome – Welcome the bride and groom and acknowl­edg­ment to those

attend­ing.

Invocation – Calling in a higher pres­ence. Create sacred space.

Remembering Loved Ones Passed – Spiritually invit­ing those who have passed to the cer­e­mony, and/or men­tion­ing those who could not attend, but are very spe­cial to the bride and groom.

Reading or Sharing – Friend or fam­ily mem­ber shares a reflec­tion on the cou­ple, a read­ing on mar­riage or love.

Minister’s Address –A short ser­mon about mar­riage, love and/or a per­sonal story about the cou­ple.

Blessing

*The Intent – “I do.”

Personal Vows – Promises made to each other.

Blessing and Exchange of Rings

RitualsWine cer­e­mony, can­dle light­ing, Satapadi, incense, rose cer­e­mony.

*Pronouncement

Kiss

Benediction – Blessing the cou­ple.

*required by law

A Small Intimate Wedding — Lisa and Dave’s Fabulous Wedding at Ici, Brooklyn, NY

Slide Show Lisa SizeRender-4 copyOn a warm sum­mer evening in August, 2015 two amaz­ing peo­ple joined their lives in a small cel­e­bra­tion at ICI in Brooklyn NY. Parents were deservidly highly hon­ored in their cer­e­mony for the love and the role mod­els that they have been. Three adorable nieces served as flower girls in their white dresses with sparkling shoes, for­get­ting to throw the flower petals as the walked down the aisle. But all was per­fect for Lisa and Dave and wish­ing them great bless­ings for their life together.

A small restau­rant like ICI can be a great choice for an inti­mate wed­ding. The gar­den was the per­fect place for the cer­e­mony. The fresh sum­mer air enhanced the expe­ri­ence for bride, groom and every­one in atten­dance. And the love that was present for these two was pal­pa­ble. This is a good rea­son to have a wed­ding, rather than elope, Something amaz­ing hap­pens when you gather together every­one that you love. A sacred space is formed from that love and it per­me­ates the wed­ding rit­ual. This is usu­ally a once-in –a-life-time gath­er­ing and you can feel the excite­ment when fam­ily and friends unite to wish a cou­ple well.

Interfaith Wedding with Modern Jewish Elements

candlesThis Saturday past was a glo­ri­ous time for Michael and Emily from San Francisco as they gath­ered together their clos­est fam­ily and friends for a wed­ding cel­e­bra­tion at the The Gramercy Park Hotel.

The evening was a lovely 64 degrees allow­ing the roof to be opened to the autumn breezes that filled the room.

I offi­ci­ated their sim­ple, inter­faith, per­son­al­ized cer­e­mony along with the lovely voice of Cantor Irene Fallenborgen. Some cus­toms from the Jewish tra­di­tion were included; shar­ing wine , break­ing a glass and a mod­ern ver­sion of the seven bless­ings. Guests com­mented on the beauty of the cer­e­mony and were excited that Michael had finally taken the mar­riage plunge.

Modern Seven Blessings:

  1. May your mar­riage enrich your lives and the lives of every­one around you.
  2. May you work together to build a rela­tion­ship of sub­stance and qual­ity.
  3. May the hon­esty of your com­mu­ni­ca­tion build a foun­da­tion of under­stand­ing, con­nec­tion, and trust.
  4. May you respect each other’s indi­vid­ual per­son­al­ity and phi­los­o­phy, and give each other room to grow and ful­fill each other’s dreams.
  5. May your sense of humor and play­ful spirit con­tinue to enliven your rela­tion­ship.
  6. May you under­stand that nei­ther of you is per­fect: you are both sub­ject to human frail­ties: and may your love strengthen when you fall short of each other’s expec­ta­tions.
  7. May you be “best friends”, bet­ter together than either of you are apart.

Here are some of the ways we incor­po­rated the ancient and made it mod­ern. 

Silent Blessings

At this time I invite every­one to take a moment and to send your own silent bless­ings to the bride and groom, this sweet new fam­ily who stand before you. Each pray­ing in the way that is right for you.

And together we say Amen.

Sharing wine

There is a say­ing – “with­out wine there is no bless­ing” .

Wine is an essen­tial part of cel­e­brat­ing life’s most joy­ous moments and there­fore is a part of this joy­ous moment.

And so you have asked to share in the rit­ual of wine as a sym­bol of this occa­sion – to remind you as long as you live, may you

never be too busy to cel­e­brate what­ever great occa­sions come to your lives.

Modern version of the prayer over the wine

We praise you God, Creator of all we see, Creator of the fruit of the vine. This wine is a sym­bol of the co-cre­ation between humans and the Divine. God makes the grapes grow, pro­vides the sun shine, rain and fer­tile soil. Humans har­vest the grapes and cre­ate the wine. Bless you Beloved and bless all we see. Bless this bride and groom as they work together to co-cre­ate their mar­riage. And together we say Amen.

As you share the wine from a sin­gle cup, so may you share con­tent­ment, peace and ful­fill­ment from the cup of life.

May you find life’s joys height­ened, any bit­ter­ness sweet­ened and each of life’s moments enhanced by true com­pan­ion­ship and love. (Groom offers the bride a drink and then drinks him­self).