Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wedding words, symbols and traditions

Music is usually used, to mark the beginning and end of a wedding ceremony. You may wish to add an opening and closing ritual as well. These rituals provide another way to include special people in the ceremony as honored assistants.

Water Ceremony
In some Native American communities, drinking from a goblet of water sanctifies the union. Water is a basic element, without which there would be no life. A two spouted water jug designed for this purpose may be used. The Wedding Jar is then displayed in the home as a reminder of one's vows.

Water may also be used in a ceremonial washing of hands to purify them, before uniting one's hands in marriage with another person. It's another way of saying "I wash away my past and begin 'clean' with you."

The Wedding Contract
In Biblical times, and in contemporary Judaism, as well, a wedding contract or "ketubah", is signed during the ceremony. Essentially, the contract is a written copy of the wedding vows. In Biblical times, it included the dowry and other family agreements, but contemporary ones are more spiritual/emotional and less practical. There are many on-line sources that offer both traditional and contemporary ketubahs, or you can make your own. Each partner signs the contract during the ceremony, and it is displayed in their home during their marriage.

The Tea Ceremony
Originating in the Orient, the tea ceremony represents a partner (traditionally the bride) honoring her new in-laws. The bride pours tea for the in-laws with a promise to honor them as she does her own family of origin. By serving them tea, she serves and honors their family.

Jumping The Broom
"Jumping the broom" is a charming African-American tradition reminiscent of the historical manner in which couples were united under slavery, when wedding ceremonies were not allowed. Partners jump over a broom to signify their new status as a married couple within their community of friends and family. The broom can be decorated for the wedding day, if you wish.

Breaking The Glass(es)
Another ancient Jewish custom that can be incorporated beautifully into interfaith weddings is the "Breaking of the Glass". At the end of a Jewish wedding, after the pronouncement of the new status as a married couple, the groom traditionally stomps on a wine glass wrapped in a cloth napkin or towel. It is said "Just as it would be impossible to return the glass to its original condition, the lives of the wedding couple are forever changed." The popping noise marks the end of the ceremony and the beginning of the new life together. Immediately afterward, the guests break out into a joyous chorus of "Mazel Tov" (Congratulations).

In traditional Jewish, Greek Orthodox, and Hindu traditions, there are customs where the bride circles her groom, or both partners circle each other. In the Hindu tradition, both partners circle the sacred fire.

Sand Ceremony
The Sand Ceremony represents the joining of two lives into a new dimension of unity. It is similar to the Unity Candle ceremony. Instead of each partner having their own candle, each partner has a vial of sand which represents their childhood and life before marriage. During the ceremony, each partner pours his or her sand into a larger vial to represent their new status as a married couple. Some couples use two different colors of sand, which make a third color when joined.

Unity Candle
Although this ceremony is not historically Christian, it has become very popular in contemporary Christian and Interfaith weddings. Three candles are placed on the altar. The two side candles are each lit (sometimes by the parents of each partner) representing the individual lives of each partner. The center candle is lit by both partners during the ceremony, signifying their new life together as "One"

The Veiling and Unveiling of the Bride
Traditional American Christian weddings include the unveiling of the bride after the father of the bride escorts her down the aisle and she is "given away" to her groom. The unveiling is reminiscent of the Biblical story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah. Jacob worked for Lavon for seven years to earn the right to marry Lavon's daughter Rachel. When it was time for the wedding, Rachel veiled herself as a sign of modesty, as was popular at the time. Lavon then veiled his other daughter Leah and tricked Jacob into marrying the wrong daughter. Jacob had to work another seven years before Lavon would agree to give him his other daughter Rachel. By unveiling the bride before she exchanges vows, the groom is sure to be marrying the correct woman!

You know the saying, "Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue” is a popular rhyme that has been used since Victorian times. The "something old" represents the bond to the bride's family and her old life; "something new" represents the couple's new life together and their future hope for happiness, prosperity and success; "something borrowed" from a happily married woman is meant to impart similar happiness to the bride; and "something blue" represents fidelity and constancy.

No matter what ritual you decide to include use a symbol that is meaningful to you both.


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