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Weddings from the Heart
Contemporary and Traditional Ceremonies for an Unforgettable Wedding
By DAPHNE ROSE KINGMA
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 1995 Daphne Rose Kingma
All rights reserved.
your UNFORGETTABLE WEDDING
This book is a compendium of weddings from the heart. It is designed especially for you if you desire above all to have a wedding that touches your heart and changes your life, a wedding you'll feel the profoundest sense of joy in recalling, long after the confetti and rose petals have been swept from the driveway.
A wedding from the heart is a ceremony that springs from your own deep feelings and arouses such feelings in all those who witness it. It is a sacred chalice for your love, an elegant frame for the portrait of you and your beloved as you are united by high hopes, profound emotion, and a desire to honor your relationship by expressing it as a commitment made in the presence of family and friends.
Not necessarily traditional, but more than a mere formality, a wedding from the heart is a truly emotional experience, one borne up on a flood of feeling rather than homogenized through the heavy handed application of familiar conventions. It has as its hallmark the beliefs that your relationship is a treasure and that your wedding day will be one of the most precious in your life. In creating a wedding from the heart, you recognize not only that your wedding is a symbol of your love, but also that it can be a deeply moving experience for everyone involved, even for you as you plan and organize it.
More than a major social event, a heartful wedding is more about what you say, do, and feel than what you wear or how many courses you serve at the reception dinner. It's about love and not about impressing people; it's about your love—what it means to you, where you want it to take you, and what hopes you have for it.
This isn't to say that your beautiful dress and the exquisite flowers aren't important, nor that you shouldn't have the traditional photo of you and your new spouse feeding each other a piece of wedding cake. What it does mean is that you will include these things only because they have meaning for you, because they genuinely reflect what you both feel, because they speak to your heart.
A ceremony is a special event that contains formal or ritualized components and which has as the purpose the setting apart and elevating of a particular person or event in our consciousness. We have ceremonies to acknowledge personal achievement, to celebrate national victories and heroes, even to mark our sorrows and losses; but of all our traditional ceremonies, the wedding is the sweetest, because it is a celebration of love. It celebrates possibilities; its attitude is joy; its mood is hope.
But, unfortunately, for all too many of us the beautiful possibilities of the marriage ceremony become gradually eclipsed by the demands of organizing the wedding itself. The endless phone calls, decisions, arrangements, and expenses involved in planning such an event can leave a bride and groom feeling like the frazzled producers of an off-Broadway musical about love and romance instead of participants in a sacred ceremony that celebrates the power of love and the meaning of their particular relationship.
Indeed, weddings can get so bogged down in the endless exigencies of organizing and planning that the experience itself, when it finally occurs, can seem as though it has very little to do with the love that inspired it in the first place. You can get so involved with the rehearsal dinner, the wedding bouquet, and the band at the reception that you forget that the most important part of the wedding is the ceremony itself—the words that are spoken, the promises you make to one another, the bond you create as you enter into marriage.
Everyone wants their wedding to be beautiful, and of course you also want your wedding to flow smoothly—and it will. But all this requires a great deal of effort. Don't lose the spirit of the day by getting so overwhelmed with endless details that you allow yourself to get disconnected from what your wedding is really about—the love you have for the person you're going to marry and the life you want to share in the future.
Keeping these deeper things in mind at every step of the process is what will make your wedding unforgettable, an occasion which, when you call it to mind in the future, or relive it through the photographs or videos, will remind you of the moving, exuberant, tender, passionate, and life-changing feelings that caused you to fall in love in the first place. For long after the champagne bottles have been taken away and you've polished off the last piece of frozen anniversary cake, it is the essence of your ceremony—the words that were spoken, the atmosphere you created through them, and the love and joy you generated through all its special moments—that will take root in your hearts and form the foundation of a love so strong that it can span your life.
Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years.
If you want your wedding to be unforgettable, you will want to fashion it in such a way that it truly reflects the uniqueness of your relationship. Because a wedding, whatever its form, symbolizes and celebrates an emotional and spiritual bond, you will want yours to reflect the love that has affected you so deeply that you have decided to change the whole color and texture of your life by getting married. For just as you love the person you're about to marry because he or she is in some way different from all others in your eyes, so you will want to make your wedding unforgettable by creating a ceremony that is as special as the two of you, one tailored to express not only the quality of your love, but also your wonderful quirks, your touchingly special attributes as individuals, and the feelings, wishes, and intentions that you share as a couple.
Thus, although the classic image of a traditional wedding—the bride in white and the groom in a tuxedo saying vows of "'til death do us part"—may be indelibly imprinted on your mind, it may neither fit your particular circumstances nor embrace the range of feelings you want to evoke as the memento of your love. You may want a wedding that resonates with tradition yet includes opportunities for departures from custom, a wedding that truly expresses your own uniqueness.
BUILDING ON TRADITION
Traditional weddings are generally based on the values of society and the church. In addition to honoring the bond between the bride and groom, they invite the new couple to surrender their union to the care and approbation of the larger community. In such ceremonies, marriage can be construed to be somehow at the service of society or the church. The bride and groom are saying, in effect, "through this ceremony we submit our relationship to a larger, more commonly held notion of what marriage is; we will live by society's or the church's definition of what's right."
Because you have purchased this book, you obviously want something other than the strictly traditional ceremony available through your church or synagogue. By providing you with a selection of elements both traditional and contemporary, this book is a gift to that purpose. It invites you to consciously create the wedding ceremony that will have the profoundest meaning for you. For in deciding to create a wedding from the heart, you're saying that you are interested in a more personalized definition of marriage, one that includes a very specific reflection of your love and of what your relationship means to you. You know that love is a feeling—it's what's brought you here; but you also know that marriage is an undertaking that will ask you to mature your love in a way that serves, delights, and challenges you; and it's this that you are wanting to express in your departure from tradition.
Weddings from the Heart encourages you to expand the definition of marriage by reshaping traditional elements in such a way that you can acknowledge time-honored values while creating a highly personalized wedding ceremony. By studying the various components of the ceremony, choosing those that suit you exactly and working together so that what you include reflects what both of you feel, you can create a truly beautiful wedding. Your wedding will be a personalized expression of your values and experiences, as well as of the hopes, dreams, and intentions that are so precious to both of you. Above all, it can become the blueprint for the life you intend to live when you are married.
USING THIS BOOK
The book opens with an essay, Reflections on Marriage, which is just that—a discussion of the meaning and attributes of marriage, its emotional and spiritual dimensions. Although this is meant to be a reflective meditation on the undertaking of marriage, a way for you to prepare yourself for creating your ceremony, a great many people have found it such an inspirational statement about the meaning of marriage that they have chosen to use it, virtually unmodified, as the "address" in their wedding ceremony. I have included the essay so that whether you're using it as inspiration for planning your wedding or as part of the wedding itself, its message it will open your heart to the deeper meanings of your marriage ceremony. The book then discusses the meaning of the various parts of the wedding ceremony so you can begin to determine which ones you wish to include.
It next offers five complete contemporary ceremonies, which reflect most accurately, I believe, what a wedding and marriage itself mean in the emotional and spiritual environment we are living in at the close of this twentieth century. They can be used by any couple who choose to honor their union by getting married, no matter what their sexual or lifestyle preference may be. Although none of the ceremonies has been written specifically for the gay or lesbian couple, all have been used, with slight variations, in gay and lesbian weddings. It is relationship itself that we are celebrating here, not the specific configuration of it. The focus is on the power of love to bind us together; to transcend the differences that all too often divide us, and I have chosen, therefore, not to "ghettoize" gay and lesbian relationships by creating a categorically different ceremony for them.
Although each ceremony stands complete in itself, as you study them all you may find that you'd like to use a single one in its entirety or combine selections from several. To assist you in the process, I also have included a civil ceremony, as well as an array of vows, benedictions, and readings from a wide variety of traditions. Those that bear no specific attribution have been written by me. These, too, you can use as is, or modify to accommodate your taste and circumstances. For example, you may want to use the traditional Methodist convocation, then move to selections from this book for the readings, consecration, address, vows, and exchanging of the rings, then perhaps conclude with the traditional benediction of your church. Or, you may want to begin with one of the convocations offered here, have your officiant give his or her own address, use the traditional broken glass of the Jewish faith, and conclude with the Catholic benediction. (In this regard you will note that I have chosen not to include either an entire Roman Catholic or Jewish ceremony, since these are readily available from your parish or synagogue, and they are always performed by a priest or rabbi, with very little room for variation.)
These selections are followed by Ceremonial Flourishes, personal touches that others have added to their weddings and that you may wish to include or adapt to add a special touch to your own.
And, finally, the book contains worksheets to help you formulate your ceremony. This is where you can work out the exact selections for the various parts of your ceremony by following the general format laid out in the worksheets, and inserting such portions as you select in the appropriate place.
Don't be afraid to be adventurous. One kind of mood will be created by relying on tradition, another by using something brandnew; the combination will be unique, inspiring. Certain feelings will be invoked by delving into family and religious traditions, but you are also making something new here—your own wedding. In so doing, you are creating a synthesis of all the traditions you hold dear, as well as an embodiment of the hopes and aspirations which, through your marriage, you hope to bring to fulfillment.
By hand-tailoring your wedding, you can create an occasion that will give you the greatest sense of joy in recalling. In choosing all the elements with care, and in saying words that come from your heart, you will touch the hearts of all those who share this precious day with you and make yours a truly unforgettable wedding.
REFLECTIONS on MARRIAGE
Marriage is the joining of two lives, the mystical, physical, and emotional union of two human beings who have separate families and histories, separate tragedies and destinies. It is the merging and intermeshing not only of two bodies and two personalities, but also of two life stories. Two individuals, each of whom has a unique and life-shaping past, willingly choose to set aside the solitary exploration of themselves to discover who they are in the presence of one another.
In marriage we marry a mystery, an other, a counterpart. In a sense the person we marry is a stranger about whom we have a magnificent hunch. The person we choose to marry is someone we love, but his depths, her intimate intricacies, we will come to know only in the long unraveling of time. We know enough about our beloved to know that we love him, to imagine that, as time goes on, we will come to enjoy her even more, become even more of ourselves in her presence. To our knowledge we add our willingness to embark on the journey of getting to know him, of coming to see her, ever so wonderfully more.
Swept up by attraction, attention, fantasy, hope, and a certain happy measure of recognition, we agree to come together for the mysterious future, to see where the journey will take us. This companionship on life's journey is the hallmark of marriage, its natural province, its sweetest and most primal gift. To be married means we belong with someone else, that we are no longer always alone, that we no longer must eat and sleep, dream, wake, walk, talk, think, and live alone. Instead there is a parallel presence and spirit in all that we undertake. We are bridled, connected, attended. We move in the midst of the aura, the welcoming soul-filling presence of another human being, no longer facing the troubling, heart-rending hurts of our lives in isolation. In marriage we are delivered from our most ancient aloneness, embraced in the nest of human company, so that the sharp teeth of the truth that we are born and die alone are blunted by the miracle of loving companionship.
Marriage is also the incubator of love, the protected environment in which a love that is personal and touching and real can grow and, as a consequence of that growth, develop in us our highest capabilities as loving human beings. We are each still and always becoming, and when we marry, we promise not only our own becoming but also our willingness to witness and withstand the ongoing becoming of another human being. That is because in marrying we promise to love not only as we feel right now, but also as we intend to feel. In marriage we say not only, "I love you today," but also, "I promise to love you tomorrow, the next day, and always."
In promising always, we promise each other time. We promise to exercise our love, to stretch it large enough to embrace the unforeseen realities of the future. We promise to learn to love beyond the level of our instincts and inclinations, to love in foul weather as well as good, in hard times as well as when we are exhilarated by the pleasures of romance.
We change because of these promises. We shape ourselves according to them; we live in their midst and live differently because of them. We feel protected because of them. We try some things and resist trying others because, having promised, we feel secure. Marriage, the bond, makes us free—to see, to be, to love. Our souls are protected; our hearts have come home.
Excerpted from Weddings from the Heart by DAPHNE ROSE KINGMA. Copyright © 1995 Daphne Rose Kingma. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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