Every time I officiate at a wedding ceremony I am awed by the extraordinary energy that becomes available when two people in love literally step up to commit themselves to sacred union. Because I am frequently called upon to solemnize marriage vows outside of traditional religious settings, I have seen time and again that a holy temple can be created anywhere love is present.
All weddings ceremonies have a rhythm, and a life, of their own. The energy comes alive as the bride makes her walk to the altar and builds like a symphony with each segment of the ceremony. By the time vows are exchange, it is as if the heavens open to rain love upon the gathering. Couples can seize the opportunity to unite not just their hearts, lives and families, but to unite their very beings.
Although many of us grew up attending traditional weddings, in churches, synagogues and temples, in recent years we have seen the emergence of a new type of wedding, where couples marry outside of a formal house of worship. They often opt for ceremonies that are non traditional, personal, unique. Whether they include religious traditions, or not, most every couples wants their ceremony to be sacred.
The concept of the sacred marriage or sacred love ceremony originated with the ancients, who typically enacted annual ceremonies to bring fertility and prosperity. Many cultures enacted or emulate sexual rites between God and Goddess, or between the Gods and a human who “impersonated” or energetically acted out the role of a deity. The Greeks called it Hieros Gamos. Many mythologies describe it as a marriage between heaven and earth. In ancient Egypt, the marriage between Isis and Osiris was considered sacred union of heaven and earth, of yin and yang, of the feminine and the masculine principles.
In the Hindu tradition, man and woman came to the wedding altar as God and Goddess in human form. To this day, in many parts of India, the bride is looked upon as Goddess Lakshmi (who rules abundance, prosperity and beauty) and the groom as Lakshmi’s consort, Lord Vishnu (the Great Preserver, and a God who incarnated as Krishna).
The Celtic tradition brought forth one of the most widely practiced forms of sacred ceremony today -- the hand fasting. It was once a form of “engagement” that committed couples for a year and day. If they found marriage suitable, they’d marry. It grew into a self-initiated ceremony couples would conduct in the days before there was such as thing as a wedding officiant. The custom is still widely practiced in the Pagan community, often presided over by a High Priestess and High Priest to represent male and female energies. (One of them has to be a clergy registered to perform legal marriages).
Many couples relish the idea of a memorable and special sacred ceremony – but they want to tread lightly on some of the traditions and trimmings that relatives with strong religious beliefs would find upsetting or offensive. They also want ceremonies that are welcoming to loved ones and can easily include the participation of friends and family.
The modern sacred love wedding ceremony is one that has to be crafted by and for each individual couple. It’s rarely something you can just pull out of a book. It’s personalized, and has to include elements that will help that couple truly seize on the energy of the moment – such as creating a sanctified space that is like a sacred container for their love and vows.
It doesn’t have to look like a Hindu ceremony or a Pagan ceremony or seem like a reenactment of the Celtic Holiday of Beltane when men and women took to the fields to make love in the name of the Goddess. It can be a groom in a tux and a bride in white who walks down the aisle, or a shoeless couple on a beach. It can contain elements or rituals of existing traditional or non-traditional ceremonies; it can include any religious, spiritual, cultural or family traditions the couple chooses. The main ingredient is their love and their conscious intent to express that love to one another – and share it with their community –in a way that is holy and sacred to them personally.
Some things to consider as you plan and prepare for your sacred love ceremony:
Select an auspicious the time and date
In the Eastern traditions such as Hinduism and Buddhism wedding dates are decided upon with the assistance of professional astrologer. It is firmly believed marriage rites should occur on a day that reflects the most astrologically favorable aspects for love and commitment for both the bride and groom. Many modern couples ask astrologers to suggest dates.
Selecting the venue
Love between a couple is what creates a temple – anywhere. Pick a place that is personally meaningful and sacred. Many couples are married in the same local as the ceremony – in a room or area set off from the reception Hall. Let it be a place that represents the spirit of your relationship, and that lends itself to the kind of celebration you would like to have.
Selecting your wedding officiant
Find a loving, caring, supportive clergy person that you feel a connection to. If your family clergy person is open-minded and game, by all means ask that person to officiate. There is also a growing profession of officiants and interfaith ministers who are trained to create any kind of personalized ceremony. Many of them are hip, open-minded and willing to co-create the ceremony you truly want.
Creating and speaking sacred vows
A couple’s expression of love and commitment can be expressed throughout the ceremony yet the exchange of vows is the hallmark of a sacred love ceremony. It’s important to really give the vows some thought, and be willing to speak from the heart and soul. Contained within those vows are the seeds of dreams to come true, intentions for a sacred marriage and deep declarations of love. It is particularly meaningful when the couple writes and reads their vows to one another.
In the End, the love you take…
In sacred love ceremonies, the emphasis is on an even greater spiritual connection between the couple. Rather than relying on “God or Goddess above” to create and strengthen their union, the couple is empowered to see their own divinity and the divine light within each other.
When two people come together and truly awaken to the depth and the power of their commitment, you can literally sense the Gods, Goddesses and the angels, the ancestors and the spirit guides filling the room. They are there to help the couple live the power of the moment and to bear witness to their promises … so they can guide and help this couple as the years go by. That’s why it is so important to fully utilize the wedding ceremony as not just the start of the big wedding celebration, but as a true rite of passage that takes bride and groom to the next level of their love and gives their relationship a strong foundation to build on over time.
Every wedding is a sacred event that holds profound meaning and potential for the two who come before Divine Spirit and witnesses to declare their love. The sacred love ceremony gives marriage an extraordinary start.
©2005, Reverend Laurie Sue Brockway
Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway regularly marries couples in love. New York Magazine and The New York Press have cited her as one of the City’s most creative and unique wedding officiants. She is also widely recognized as an expert in women’s empowerment, self-esteem and spirituality, devoted to helping brides-to-be tap into their inner power and poise. She runs the nationally acclaimed Bridal Survival Club for The New York Wedding Group and is author of WEDDING GODDESS: A Divine Guide To Transforming Wedding Stress into Wedding Bliss (Perigee Books, May 2005). Visit her at www.WeddingGoddess.com.
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