As a marriage celebrant people often assume that I might have conservative notions about marriage, or that I am particularly religious. After I explain that many people use the services of a marriage celebrant because they want a secular civil ceremony, I also add that I do consider myself to be “spiritual”, and a great lover of ritual. My first experiences of ritual were through my participation in the Catholic faith. I loved the theatrical experience of watching the wine and bread being blessed and shared; I enjoyed saying “Peace Be with You” to strangers; I particularly loved my first communion, and the tradition of wearing the white veil. I thought I looked like a princess. I knew back then that I wanted these heightened theatrical and ritualistic experiences to be part of my life.
This inherent love of ritual, led me to study theatre. Theatre became a great passion of mine because of the live experiential nature of it, and similarly to ritual, all present during a performance, both performers and audience members alike, are taking part in something extraordinary together. They are bonded in this moment, in the Now. When watching theatre and exploring the big themes such as life, death, love and loss, we can forget that we are separate. These universal themes connect us in our shared humanity, in what Carl Jung termed the “collective unconscious.” This feeling of connectedness may happen in very small moments when someone is not distracted from another’s breathing/coughing/laughing, but it is possible to feel that sense of oneness with everyone in the room. We are all here together to take part in something that is bigger than the sum of our parts. My favourite sort of theatre taps into my Higher Self and reminds me of what my greatest values could be: peace, love, connection and compassion. Beneath the day–to day worries about paying the bills, finding or losing romance/weight/the career, underneath all those external concerns we are essentially all together here on earth right Now.
Marianne Williamson, internationally acclaimed author and lecturer often quotes the following line from “A Course in Miracles”, of which I am a student, “You only have one problem, and that problem is that you see yourself as separate from each other.” This is why I find theatre and ritual so comforting. It connects me back to that place where I know I am one with everyone and All That Is. Some say ritual is brushing your teeth everyday or having a cup of coffee at the same cafe. I don’t wholly agree with that. I see them more as habits. Habits can be very healthy, and through habits we can create a wonderful life, but for me intention and devotion must play a powerful role in rituals. Marriage ceremonies can be powerful rituals when we have shared intentions and a devotion to the Divine Power of Love. (You may wish to call this Divine Power our Higher Selves, Holy Spirit, Source, God or The Universe.) When the couple, the celebrant and all present share an intention for peace and love, and a devotion to the Divine Power, the wedding ceremony is a ritual of blessing for all.
A couple of weeks ago I had the honour of solemnising a marriage between a couple who had known each other for over ten years, and had produced three adorable young children. This wedding was held in the backyard of the bride’s mothers’ house, which had been styled so beautifully by The Wedding Designers (http://www.theweddingdesigner.com.au). Some may call it a simple wedding, as they were surrounded by a small group of family and long time friends, but I don’t believe there are any simple weddings. Weddings are rituals that we create to bond with the Beloved. They are soul agreements that we make with another to band together to create and to grow with one another. How can this possibly be simple? It is courageous, bold and magnificent, but certainly not simple. Yet it only takes a few words and moments and you are legally and spiritually bound. My favorite quote about marriage is from Marianne Williamson (1992, pp.172-173) in her book, “A Return to Love.”
Why is marriage a more profound commitment than other forms of relationship, such as a couple who are living together? Because it is an agreement that, while a whole lot of shaking and screaming might go on, no one’s going to leave the room. We are both safe to go through whatever emotion is called forth from deep within us- and whenever we are truthful, there are times when we are upset – but it is safe to do that here. No one is leaving. The commitment of a marriage is publicly declared. When guests are present at a wedding and the ceremony is a religious one, a ritual is performed in which collective prayers form a circle of light and protection around the relationship.
Though, in many cases the marriages I solemnise as a Civil Celebrant, are not religious. However, there is still a beautiful circle of love surrounding the wedding ritual as well as the bride and groom, as there was at the recent backyard wedding. As the bride and grooms’ family and friends surrounded this couple the love, blessings and good will was palpable. Even the waiters and staff who were strangers to this couple felt only happiness and wished them so much love and light on their journey together as husband and wife.
Marriane (1992, pp.173) goes on to state:
So it is that a marriage is meant to be a blessing on the world, because it is a context in which two people might become more than they would have been alone. The entire world is blessed by the presence of healed people…A partner’s support and forgiveness enables us to stand forth more magnificently in the world…Several years ago there was a popular song that included the refrain, “You and me against the world.” If any man ever said that to me, I’d tell him I was switching sides. We don’t get married to escape the world; we get married to heal it together.
Being a celebrant is an incredible honour and privilege. To be present as a witness, and to officiate the binding of two souls who intend on loving, healing and protecting each other whilst surrounded by people who wish only to love, heal and protect the couple, and their beautiful offspring, is a wonderful gift and blessing for me. The ritual of the wedding ceremony in its many different forms is present in almost every culture throughout history. As humans we have an inherent desire to see this ritual of love and to take part, as either a witness, a bride or a groom. Being present in a wedding ceremony causes us to forget the banal, and the worrisome and for a moment between the processional music and the last click of the photographer we are one, connected in appreciation, love and joy.
Williamson, M. (1992). A Return to Love. United State of America: Harper Perennial
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