Rituals are Everywhere

What?? She’s writing about rituals again? Yes I am, because rituals are a way to express something without words. A ritual can certainly express what your marriage commitment means to you and be a way to honor your culture or family. It might connect with your interests and values. Religious ceremonies are full of rituals, which are specific to their faith traditions. The Stations of the Cross, Confession, Communion, Shabbat candles, as well as prayers or songs are all good examples.

There are secular rituals as well, such as raising the flag, pledging allegiance and Thanksgiving. We heard a lot of fireworks this week, and I’d definitely call that ritual. 

Shared rituals, the ones we are all familiar with, provide comfort and continuity. That is why funeral rituals are so important.

Every wedding has the rituals of exchanging rings and vows. Consider how at the ceremony simply walking in separately and walking out as a couple is a clear ritual representing the journey of two lives now joining together on the same path.

Moving on to a reception – first dances, bouquet tosses, cake cutting – you know these things – they are all rituals. One of my favorites is the toast – but it is not that easy. A good toast is quite the art.

The Toast! Photo: Rhinehart Photography

There are many specific cultural rituals, such as the Japanese tea ceremony, the eastern European bread and salt,  jumping the broom for the African-American tradition, or breaking the glass in the Jewish wedding.

Side note: breaking the glass has no real religious meaning, it is simply a popular Jewish custom. Nobody breaks a glass in any Jewish worship service, it’s only a wedding ritual.

I want to suggest a few more unique ideas you may want to incorporate no matter what your faith or background, because, if chosen thoughtfully, rituals add beauty and character to any ceremony.

Using pebbles or stones can be wonderful. There are many variations, one would be to simply have guests hold small smooth stones throughout the ceremony. They can write a wish, blessing or message on the stone itself, and then you collect and keep them for display, or skip the writing, just think of it as infusing them with the love they felt through the ceremony, and then placing them in a keep sake jar.

Their own little ritual.
Rhinehart Photography

Tossing pebbles or stones into water is another way to go, representing sending your wishes out into the universe. Having natural elements like plants, water, sand or stone feels just right for some people.

I believe as modern people we may borrow from cultures as long as we are not using the customs in inappropriate ways, which is called ‘cultural appropriation.’  According to Amita Roy Shah, Ed.D.‘To avoid cultural appropriation, we should learn about the diverse cultures that exist today. Don’t just borrow elements of a culture because “it is cool” or “exotic” but learn about the culture first and then decide if it is an element that makes sense to use in your life.’

Here is one I have borrowed from the Hindu tradition: The Seven Steps. This involves walking around a fire or in a circle while the officiant offers blessings or vows. These are loosely adapted by me, again, inspired from the Hindu Ceremony:

1. May this couple be blessed with an abundance of resources and comforts and be helpful to one another in all ways.

2. May this couple be strong and complement one another.

3. May this couple be blessed with prosperity and riches on all levels.

4. May this couple be eternally happy.

5. May this couple be blessed with a happy family life.

6. May this couple live in perfect harmony… true to their personal values and their joint promises.

7. May this couple always be the best of friends.

If you able to walk around the fire, you will toss small bits of puffed rice into the fire to indicate you agree. You can vary a tradition in many ways. Perhaps just walk around a candle. Traditionally the bride’s sari is tied to the groom’s clothing, but you can simply hold hands!

Blessing, invoking or addressing the Four Directions is a pagan ritual that is appealing to some. It is this belief, virtues are assigned to thedirections: East, South, West and North. Again, I have my own ‘take’ on this, a little too long for this column but keep in mind that the east represents air, the rising of the sun and a new day. South is for fire, energy and passion. West coordinates to water and emotion and true. And north is earth, providing sustenance, fertility and security. You can readily imagine how these characteristics relate to relationships and marriage.

Carrying the bride comes from way back when the groom carried his bride over the threshold of their new home.
Rhinehart Photography

Community vows, or support vows are a wonderful way to get everyone involved. This is a ritual where the officiate asks everyone to say an ‘I do,’ agreeing to support the couple. I simply adore this. What a great feeling to hear all your guests give voice to their support of this moment in your life.

Let your curiosity and creativity flow and borrow or invent traditions that work for you!

(find me on facebook – Lois Heckman, Celebrant, and Instagram – Lois Heckman)

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