It was a classic wedding: stained-glassed windows coloring and diffusing the light, the priest commanding the audience with his noble presence, the flowers framing the scene, the bride and groom posing picturesquely.
And next to me in the pew was a fellow guest, bent over his cell phone, sending text messages to his friend.
Although texting is, by far, pretty high on the thermometer of wedding rudeness (up there with playing tic-tac-toe on the wedding program or having a thumb war with your date), his obvious disengagement left me wondering: How many people are equally bored with the ceremony but just too polite to do anything but look forward and smile blithely?
And to the ceremony’s credit, there was nothing explicitly wrong with it. There were readings and vows and a kiss—the things that make a wedding a wedding. But they were all the familiar things: With this ring, I thee wed. Love is patient, love is kind. To have and to hold from this day forward.
Once you’re in your twenties or thirties and have heard the clichéd phrases for the twentieth or thirtieth time, your brain loses focuses and starts to wonder, “How much longer until the reception starts?”
When it came time to plan my own wedding, I didn’t want to fall into the same trap. I didn’t want my guests sneaking Suduko into the ceremony.
I wanted a ceremony that engaged the audience—that inspired them to listen and reflect. I wanted them to think “Wow, that was great,” rather than, “Thank goodness that was short.”
That's why Matt and I decided to write our ceremony from scratch (you can read all about that process here). Basically, we invented our own symbolic gestures that were both more interesting because they were novel and were more representative of us and our lives.
- Quilt-Wrapping: Instead of signifying unity through a candle lighting ritual, we were wrapped in a quilt made from the fabric of friends and family to signify unification, the warmth and support of friends and family that are needed to sustain a healthy relationship, the comfort we bring to each other, and the bond between us that will continue to develop.
- Tree-Planting Ceremony: Instead of reading something about how love takes effort, we planted a resilient Live Oak sapling to represent the growth of our love and symbolize that marriage—like a tree—requires constant nurturing and nourishment.
Just today, for example, I got a message from one of our friends. He wrote: "The wedding was, without exception, the most personalized one I've ever been to (and I've been to 6 this summer alone). Simply fantastic."
Creating our own traditions was such a powerful experience. It's funny to me that people spend more time thinking about their dresses than they do their ceremonies. Case in point: 250 people have come to this blog looking for "wedding script" while 350 have come looking for "dress."
Dearest readers, we would love to hear your ideas for other symbolic ceremony rituals. Great topic!
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