Using wine as a symbol has deep roots, and I love incorporating a wine sharing into a wedding ceremony. But only if the couple actually likes wine, of course! There are countless ways to interpret the ritual and many reasons a couple may choose to ceremonially share wine.
When I’m officiating at a winery it’s just a natural fit. Weddings at vineyards are popular and here in the Poconos we have our own ‘wine trail,’ with eight vineyards (that I know of) and a few more in the extended region. Just recently a local vineyard added a new building and is offering weddings there: Mountain View Vineyard.
A little history is warranted! Going back to the Greeks we learn that Bacchus was the Roman God of wine, and Dionysus, the Greek God of wine. These two gave wine all the hallmarks of divinity, making it a drink of the Gods! Honey wine, or mead, is even called the ‘nectar of the gods.’
If we look to the bible we find lots to draw on as well. In the Christian tradition wine is a sacred rite, the Eucharist, which has its roots in the Gospel of Luke when Jesus shares bread and wine with his disciples. In Judaism wine is blessed during a Seder and is a used at regular Friday night dinner. So, whether it is Shabbat or Communion, wine is a strong spiritual symbol, a symbol of the earth’s bounty, of prosperity and joy, and an affirmation of life. That’s why I especially love using wine for an interfaith ceremony.
Noah, you may recall, planted a vineyard as soon as the flood receded. Wise man! Psalms refers to wine saying it gladdens the heart.
The connection of wine to the earth is profound. Growing the grapes, harvesting, and thinking of all the places grapes are grown and fine wine is made. Putting aside religious references a lot has been written about wine in every place and time. Thomas Jefferson wrote that “good wine is a necessity of life for me.” And good old Ben Franklin said “Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.” I’m giving wine the stamp of the USA, although we can also draw on Italian, French and many, many other cultures and countries for inspiration.
One could also look at the science of wine making – thinking about how the variety of chemicals, ferments, and enzymes contained in the wine, work together. The process of grapes becoming wine is like life and love, in that it is based on complex chemical interaction.
Then there is the ‘wine box’ – which is another interesting way to incorporate wine into your ceremony. This ritual involves putting a bottle of wine (along with other items if you wish) into a box at your wedding – to save and open in the future. You can open it on an anniversary, or perhaps if your marriage hits a bump in the road. The idea is to open the wine and recall your wedding and the love that brought you together on that day. That’s why it’s good to put something else into the box – such as a copy of your vows, or letters to each other.
Whenever way I talk about wine, it is ultimately about sharing the ‘cup of life,’ with your future spouse, as you promise to share all that the future brings, sweet or bitter. I prefer the couple share and drink from one glass, but two is ok as well. I had a couple who poured white and red together, the meaning is clear, but I know aficionados would probably be dismayed at mixing wines. As always – whatever works for the couple, works for me!
Given the many ways to interpret wine, I’m surprised it’s not used more often! Ernest Hemingway once said that “wine is the most civilized thing in the world.” That’s why you can’t go wrong using wine as a symbol in your wedding.