How to use rituals at your wedding

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Using Ritual at your Wedding

Hundreds of thousands of years of human experience give you a wonderful treasure trove of resources to express your love.

One of the best things about a celebrant led wedding is the ability to mix and match all sorts of traditions, both ancient and modern, to express exactly what you want to say about your union. Millennia of human evolution has given us an incredibly rich toolbox full of different kinds of rituals that all capture something special about the experience of two lives coming together and connect with your own unique story.

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Where do wedding rituals originate?

A fact of the human experience is that we are ritual beings; we create all sorts of rituals in our lives. As far as we know, we are the only species that is sufficiently aware of ourselves to want to tell stories about ourselves and ritual is a key part of that storytelling giving us a physical and tangible way of showing what matters to us to the world of friends and family.

What kinds of wedding rituals are there?

From the beautiful Jewish tradition of breaking a glass under foot that recognises that life contains pain and struggle as well as joy and can be particularly helpful if the couple have experienced bereavement or loss, through to the rainbow cords of a Hand-fasting or the beautiful ceremony of golden crowns from the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition, a celebrant can gather together rituals that work for you.

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Photo: Gemma Louise England

However, it’s really important that a ceremony tells a coherent story and isn’t just a hochpoch of pick ‘n mix ‘stuff’ that might be fun to do, but will leave those attending befuddled and confused. You need to be confident that your celebrant can handle ritual confidently and with a lightness of touch that comes from experience. The brilliant thing is that, once you’ve got a celebrant in whom you’re confident, then you’ll know that you can create a ceremony where attendees will probably remember the powerful ritual you use more that they remember any words spoken.

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Top tips for using rituals at a wedding

So if you think you’d like to dig into the mine of human experience to find rich and expressive ritual for your wedding, here are some top tips:

  1. Tell a simple story.
    Try to express the core definition of your relationship in a single sentence and then use ritual to simplify and clarify feelings and emotions rather than complicate and confuse.
  2. Keep it focused.
    Make sure your structure serves that single sentence definition. All stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. So a ceremony is dynamic and takes the attendees as well as the couple on a journey. Each part of the story needs to reinforce what you want to say about yourselves.
  3. Trust your celebrant.
    Once you’ve asked lots of questions and have confidence that your celebrant is well versed in the range of rituals you might find helpful, trust them and let them hold the space for you on the day so that you can relax and express your love with joy and a sense of fun that will put everyone at their ease and send them away feeling that they’ve been part of something really special!
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