“I like the idea of using the traditions that my mother and grandmother used in their weddings, but I also want to keep my ceremony fresh and a little unexpected.”
Each of the elements in your ceremony, readings, rituals, and vows for example, plays an important role in defining your day. Like instruments in a symphony orchestra, when joined together in concert they should swell your heart. The officiant is the conductor. Be sure to have a conversation with him or her about what’s important to you so that it can be included in the score.
To get the conversation started, here are 3 fresh takes on some old traditions to consider for your ceremony.
1. The Community Candle: This riffs off the ritual of the Unity Candle, which has been used for generations: one large unlit candle sits on a table and two smaller candles, often tapers, are placed on either side of it. The parents of the couple come to light each of the candles of the bride and groom individually. Then together, the couple lights the large candle in the middle, symbolizing leaving their parents to begin their married life together.
With the Community Candle, the members of the bridal party and all the guests each receive a small candle. Like before, the couple lights the large candle together. But then, the bride lights the candle of her maid of honor and the groom lights the candle of his best man. Then, the maid of honor lights the candle of the first bridesmaid and the best man lights the candle of the first groomsman. This process repeats until the candles of each of the members of the bridal party and then, in turn, all the candles of the guests, are lit. At the end, there is a warm glow throughout the space to symbolize the love and support this community will give the couple in their married life.
2. Blessing of Rings: You may have attended weddings where, as a guest, you were invited to write your well-wishes, advice, and blessings for the couple in a guest book, on stones, or on note paper for them to read at a later time. The Blessing of the Rings is another way for guests to give blessings, but goes further, allowing everyone to be a part of the ceremony itself. In this ritual, the wedding rings are placed in a box together and passed around to each guest. Guests are invited to share their blessings for the couple aloud when the box reaches them. To avoid putting shy guests on the spot, the officiant may add that guests may choose to bless the rings silently and pass the box to the guest beside them when they’re done. I’ve found that this ritual serves more than one purpose. Not only does it remind the couple of the support of their loved ones each time they look at their rings, but it also creates a warm, intimate vibe in the space, making it feel more sacred for the exchange of rings to follow.
3. The Fight Box: Have you heard of the practice of writing a love letter to your spouse, locking it in a box at the ceremony, and opening the box at your first anniversary? The intention is for you to read the letters to each other, reminding you both of the love you felt for each other on your wedding day. Well, the Fight Box takes this practice a step further! Here, you will place the love letters you write to each other in a box, in a similar way. You may consider inviting guests to write their thoughts on note paper to place in the box as well. You will also place a bottle of wine or your favorite beverage in the box with the letters. At this time in the ceremony, you and your spouse will take turns hammering a nail into the box so that it is not easily opened. Either at the time of your first major fight, or milestone anniversary (fifth or tenth), you can break the box open. Pour yourselves a glass of wine and enjoy reading the letters. The intent is to wash away the reason for the fight and celebrate the love you have for each other (and that others have for you, if you include them). This is a ritual of perspective.
Whether you use traditions passed down from generation to generation, or create your own, the rituals you include in your ceremony should make your heart swell. Your officiant is an important resource; work together to craft the ceremony you’ve always dreamed of. This is your day.
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Cindy Dumont is a Justice of the Peace in North Hampton, New Hampshire.