Bright Path Ceremonies

News and Insight on Wedding Officiants

A Labyrinth Wedding Ceremony

Published 04/14/2015

My favorite piece of designing a wedding ceremony is having the opportunity of being creative. Once I meet with a couple and ask a few questions I begin to get ideas that they might not have thought about. I have always wanted to perform a Labyrinth ceremony. There is so much rich symbolism to a labyrinth. Labyrinth’s date back to the middle Ages and was used to substitute a pilgrimage that was too long to physically take. The labyrinth was constructed as a re-enactment of the idea of taking a pilgrimage. A labyrinth is not a maze but a winding path that leads to the center of a circle. The difference is: a maze is entered to loose yourself and a labyrinth is to find yourself. In today’s society the labyrinth is used as a walking meditation to help a person become fully present and relax into the moment. The walk becomes a sacred destination as you find the center. A marriage is similar with this idea. Two individuals each have their own path art they journey into their life but when they get married their paths become one as they find each other in the center.

A labyrinth most times has a circular shape with one or two openings. The ceremonial labyrinth has two openings. The couple enters from opposite sides and walks alone until they meet in the center. The center can represent their love. The center could be the spot the officiant performs the ceremony. The labyrinth represents the journey individually and the walking out together creates a new path, called marriage.

Chairs for guests can be set up around the labyrinth creating a circle of community. Once the couple finishes walking the path they would stand with their guests completing the circle. A special prayer, chant or good wish can be said here by the officiant to close the ceremony.

There are many ways to create a labyrinth. You can buy them online at different sizes and materials or make them with rocks, flowers or fabric. The process of making one can represent the beginning of the couples journey as they prepare to start their life together. The day of the ceremony can represent what they built together as they walk the winding path from the entrance to the center to the completed circle with their family and friends.

I would be honored one day to officiate a labyrinth ceremony for that special couple.


Backyard Wedding Ceremonies

Published 04/08/2015

Due to the changing trend of couples not having a house of worship 90% of my wedding ceremonies take place outside. Most wedding venues recognize this need and have dedicated a spot on their properties. If the weather isn’t co-operating the venues are prepared for this situation and have a back up -inside wedding ceremony spot. I always ask the couple if the venue has an inside back-up. I always feel a hesitation from the couple when I ask this question. The thought of inclement weather scares them and they don’t think it will happen to them. But we can’t fight mother nature and with all this crazy weather happening it has to be addressed. Logistically wedding venues have the back up which is always a relief to the couple and to me.

But what happens when the wedding ceremony is in someone’s childhood backyard or their own home?

Homes usually have lots of furniture inside and not much open space for a back-up. A few years ago I married an adorable couple who planned to get married at the grooms parents backyard. I did ask about back-up but they just said, “We won’t need it, it won’t rain”. I did warn them but it was their decision not to be prepared. I call it “The Denial Factor”. At the day of the wedding being a professional I showed up one hour before the ceremony time. The ceremony site was beautifully set-up to accommodate 80 guests and a tent was to the side for their reception. The weather forecast was predicting a fast moving storm to hit right about the time of their ceremony. I asked the couple again if they had a back-up. They assured me that it wasn’t needed and everything would be fine. The sky was getting darker and I knew it would hit within the next half hour. Well it did hit and blew everything down including the tent. Everyone ran into the garage and waited for the storm to pass. There was no way the ceremony or reception would take place outside.

Practicing meditation and yoga for 35 years I knew how to remain calm. I took a few deep breaths asked the grooms mother if I could access the house for a spot to accommodate 80 people. As I looked around every room was cluttered with furniture except the basement. As the bride and groom were getting dressed I gathered a few people to help me prepare the basement site. We moved the couch to the storage room. The TV was to heavy to move so we decorated it with the flowers that was salvage from the storm. We were also able to retrieve a few chairs. The ceremony site was created even with an aisle for the couple to walk down. 80 guests crammed in the basement as I conducted their ceremony. It didn’t bother this couple at all. They were just so happy to finally get married. It didn’t matter where it was as long as they were surrounded by the most important people in their life. The saving grace was the calmness of the couple and the grooms parents.

Their wedding was just as beautiful and special as if it was at a fancy wedding venue. No one noticed the TV behind me or the low basement ceiling. We only saw two people in love.

This was my first “Basement Wedding” and I will never forget it!

Interrupted Love

Published 03/25/2015

This past week end I went to my High School 40th reunion. I also just recently married a couple who met at there 45th High School reunion. So what does this have to do with wedding ceremonies, you might ask? As a wedding officiant I specialize in writing love stories about how my couples met and add that piece to their ceremony. So I started to think about can a first love be rekindled after 40 years of being apart?

High School reunions are like going into a time machine and being dropped off in a place and time when we were young. It’s like the movie, “Back to the Future”, but this movie is called, “Back to the Past”. I personally loved my high school experience. Of course there was all the insecurities everyone felt which developed into a lot of drama and heartache. It was a time of being old enough to make decisions but young enough to not realize the consequences or really care. I was innocent not jaded yet so there wasn’t much scaring.

For the couple that I just married their high school romance was interrupted with going off to different colleges, getting married to other people, each having children and finally both getting divorced to their spouses. Once single again they were curious about their first love in high school. The high school reunion and Facebook was a perfect opportunity to finish-unfinished business.

What I found fascinating about my own experience at my reunion was how most of us looked old and sometimes it was hard to recognize some people. But once I looked into their eyes and noticed their smile, the 17 year old I knew emerged. Some eyes told me they had been deeply hurt and it was hard for me to see the person I use to know.

The time of innocence is short lived and I think thats why we decide to go to our high school reunions. To capture that elixir of youth again and re-live for that evening a moment in time that we had forgotten.

For the couple I just married, I can understand how they needed to finish their love story that was interrupted. For me I grapped that elixir of youth and felt blessed I was able to touch it again.

Blending Traditions

Published 02/15/2015

Our modern life has brought many different types of couples together. Increasing percentages of couples getting married are: interfaith, multicultural, interracial, same gender, agnostic, and atheist. Some couples already have children or have children from other marriages. When couples get married outside any specific church or religious organization they are free to customize the ceremony to fit their needs, personalities and beliefs.

Wedding ceremonies are usually focused on the couple, but it is also about uniting their family customs and traditions. Coules can include family ritual or traditions and adapt and weave them to reflect their modern, current lives. Blending, modernizing, and personalizing, offers couples a way to create something that speaks to their unique partnership. It’s about combining the old with the new.

The question is: How do couples weave together elements of any religion or culture and make it inclusive to both sides?

Everything has a metaphorical meaning. Symbols such as shapes, sounds, colors and images have universal connections. Cultures which have no interactions with one another, neither shared religion, language or common political or economic views often end up with the same symbols to represent similar ideas. Using symbols in a ritual brings more meaning to the ceremony. You ae bringing a piece of yourself into it and starting a new tradition that can be passed down to the next generation.

Examples and ideas of these are:

1. A Huppah is a wedding canopy that is a fixture at Jewish weddings. Typically it consists of a prayer shawl attached to four poles, which is to signify the newlywed’s new home. It is purposely open-sided to welcome guests. But a couple doesn’t have to be Jewish to use a Huppah because the meaning of home is universal.

A couple can take this idea and include their children or parents and each hold a pole, signifying the importance of family and how they all need each other to keep the home sturdy. They could decorate with special fabric that has meaning to them and then hang the fabric in their home as a reminder of the day

2. At the end of a Catholic mass the congregation is asked to turn to each other, offer a handshake, a hug or kiss with the words, “Peace be with you.” This is a sign of love and unity and can easily be placed in a wedding ceremony to bring everyone together in this spirit.

3. Another element in the Catholic mass is the sharing of wine and bread. This idea of sharing food can be a beautiful unity ritual for a couple with children to share in their fist celebratory food together as a family. This works well with small children, especially if you have their favorite food to eat. Special plates and glasses could be used and then the family could use them for other special occasions.

4. The art of drinking and serving tea plays a major cultural role in China. Mutual love of tea cements lifelong friendships. A couple can honor their parents by sharing in the sipping of tea together. this would represent that the families accept this couple into their households. For this ceremony the couple could use special china that is given to them by their parents and then be handed down to their children for their weddings.

5. “Tying the Knot”, which is a Celtic tradition to symbolize a permanent union can be used for the couple to say their vows. This also can be used for couples with children to add them to the tying and adding vows for the children. Couples can bind using ribbon, cloth, rope, and any textile that has personal meaning. This then can be used to hang as an ornament and reminder of the day for the family.

The possibilities are endless. Before you build the bridge, clarify where everyone is coming from. Research your own customs and then broaden that to other traditions. Use metaphorically the symbols and make them your own.

The wording will be key in explaining the meaning of the ritual. Your wedding presents an opportunity for you to start designing a blueprint and laying the foundation for new traditions.

Writing your Own Vows

Published 02/05/2015

The heart of a wedding ceremony is when two people in love state their intentions. In today’s society there is no legal significance attached to marriage vows. The law requires a marriage license from the state the couple is getting married in. Also a compliant officiant has to witness the couple declare themselves “husband and wife” or “partners for life” in states that have legalized same-sex marriage. Marriage vows are not a legal requirement or necessary during a marriage ceremony.

The first recorded evidence of marriage contracts and ceremonies dates to 4000 years ago. In the ancient world marriage served as a means of preserving power, with Kings and other members of the ruling class marrying daughters to forge alliances, acquire land and produce legitimate heirs. Couples did not have a choice of whom they would marry. For most of history “love” did not play a role in matrimony. As our society progressed marriage became a personal contract between two equals seeking love, stability and happiness. The origins of most of the wedding traditions we see today are handed down from folklore. Our society is now seeing a big shift of how and who can marry. With couples leaving their house of worship and the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriages couples are free to decide who and what they want to include.

So why include the Vows?

As an officiant I feel the most moving moment of the ceremony is when a couple looks into each other’s eyes and state their intentions. It doesn’t matter if they are alone or if they have invited hundreds of guests. Words have meaning and when spoken from the heart creates emotion and motion. Vows are an intention of what a couple ways in their marriage. It becomes clear of why they are getting married and why they love each other. The vows become the mantra for their marriage.

There are so many ways of deciding on what vows to say. For some couples writing their own can be intimidating.

Here are a few pointers:

1. In the hurry and craziness of planning a wedding, take some quiet time either together or alone and re-visit your relationship, how you met, when you started to fall in love, how your partner makes you laugh, what you admire about them and especially what life would be like without them.

2. Think about the qualities you love about your partner.

3. What are your expectations being married, your dreams and hopes for the future also your fears and worries.

4. As you start to write don’t worry about being grammatically correct or even making sense to anyone else. Let go of your brain and let your heart direct the writing.

5. You might want to share what you both wrote before the ceremony or wait till the actually ceremony. (Which is my favorite).

Think of your vows as a love letter to each other. You might want to frame them and keep them near to read when the going gets tough. Life happens and we sometimes forget.

Last year I was honored to write a memorial for an 80 year-old man who had been married to his wife for 55 years. When I asked his wife if there was anything special she wanted me to share at his funeral, she gave me a tattered old piece of paper that was a love letter that he wrote to her the night before they got married. His tender, sweet words to her never lost their meaning and they brought her great comfort at his death.

Your vows will be the first words you way to each other as a married couple. Make them count and let them take you over many thresholds.