Shamans have long officiated at wedding ceremonies. As a shamanic practitioner I carry on this tradition. I listen to the spirits who provide information on how to create each particular ceremony in the best way for each couple. Within the sacredness of the ceremony there is still space to include the desires of the couple.
I typically meet with the wedding couple a month or so in advance of the ceremony to agree on details. Often the couple has only vague ideas about this part of the ceremony despite having spent months planning the wedding.
Unlike a typical church wedding, this format is not fixed. Although it is not necessary for the wedding couple to participate in the planning process, there is lots of room for variety. This blog is specifically to introduce some of the choices available to the perspective couple. I apologize for my transitions to first person where it seemed appropriate.
- Writing your own vows – You can select from several lovely prepared options I provide, or you can create your own vows. Beyond stating your unique declarations of love and commitment, you can honor what it took to get you to this wedding day by recognizing mileposts of your journey. You can recognize the strengths and gifts of each other, and/or welcome and recognizing attendees in special ways.
- Participation – One of the best ways to make a ceremony your own is to include participation by family and friends. They can do readings, participate in calling the directions, making offerings, sing songs and other of the elements listed below. I have seen tai chi and child and animal blessings as special parts of ceremonies.
The only limitation is the length of time it is appropriate to hold your guests attention. Weather and seating or standing comfort may require some last minute adjustments.
Type of ceremony – It can include traditional Christian elements or not. The traditional elements can be as simple as the use of a unity candle or religious songs and music.
Celtic ritual such as hand-fasting has become popular among neo-pagans and Wiccans. This is based on, but different from the traditional ritual which customarily involved binding the wedding couple’s hands together as a betrothal or trial marriage. They would then live together for a period of time (sometimes a year and a day) after which, if they found themselves to be compatible, they would remove the cord and the marriage would continue. I have used an adaptation of this in which couples who have lived together come into the ceremony with beautiful ribbons binding them. After exchanging vows, the ribbons are cut. A small piece of ribbon used in this, or other ceremony can be tied around the wrist of each of the attendees to remind them of the ceremony they have attended and their connection to the newlyweds.
Symbolic gifts – The couple can give each other symbolic gifts. These traditionally have been food offering, indicating their commitment to take care of each other but could also be keepsakes.
Location – Since I live in Capitola, many wedding happen at one of the many beautiful beaches near here. However, special locations can be accommodated. The farthest I have gone to perform a wedding, so far, in Vancouver Island, Canada.
I can recommend a photographer, musician, lodging, etc. if requested.
Attire – Celtic, Hawaiian, Renaissance, western, swimwear, or other costuming can be a part of the ceremony if the clothing has significance for the wedding couple.
In West African weddings the invitees are requested to wear garments of the colors the couple has selected for the ceremony. Friends and family of the bride may wear one color and a different color may be worn by the groom’s friends and family.
In other ceremony attendees are requested to dress in white or cream – symbolic of coming before the spirits clean, simple and at peace.
On some occasions I have worn the full costume of the Tibetan Tamong Bombo (Shamanic) tradition into which I have been initiated.
Shamanic elements – I often include:
Prior to the ceremony –
- A morning yoga, meditation, and/or fitness routine designed to clear the mind, body, and spirit. Or perhaps, you might like a power walk communing with nature spirits or a sweatlodge.
- Ceremonial energy cleansing and/or healing can be done for the wedding couple and/or anyone whom requests it.
During the ceremony:
- Drumming can replace and/or supplement other music.
- Smudging – Smudging is the burning of sage or sweet grass to create a cleansing smoke which is used to purify people, the ceremonial space, and ritual tools used in the ceremony.
- Calling in the six directions – Lighting candles to represent the four cardinal points (north, south, east and west), plus the earth, and father sky
- Gathering is a circle and possibly holding hands. This is the easiest way to unite those present in invoking sacred space.
- Calling in the presence of the spirits of the place and the helping spirits associated with the people present. Calling in the presence of specific spirits of deceased loved ones is possible.
- Wedding Despacho – this is a sacred and powerful prayer bundle from the tradition of the Andean Q’ero Medicine People with whom I have had the good fortune to study. A medicine bundle is a physical manifestation of the prayers in our hearts and a way to offer our gratitude to the Earth and Spirits, welcome them to the ceremony, and ask their blessings on the wedding couple.
- Barefoot – Being barefoot lets us be in close contact with Mother Earth and honor her. It may be appropriate for only the wedding party and not all guests.
- Floating flowers and/or candles on a local body of water and/or making rice offering to the spirits of the body of water.
- Rice, corn, and/or tobacco offerings can be made to the spirits.
- Prayer Shawl – the use of a prayer shawl is common in Native American and Jewish weddings. It is a head covering that is used in future ceremony and is a ritual reminder of the wedding day.
- Ritual meal – a variation on a traditional sacrament. The wedding couple or people they have selected circulate among attendees with trays of small servings of fruit at the end of the wedding ceremony. It is a form of communion and typically is the beginning of the more relaxed festivities. The bride and groom gather hugs from the well-wishers and this magical time transitions to a full-fledged party.
- Dancing can mark the beginning or end of the ceremony.
Dear friends, hopefully that gives you some things to think about. Please share other ideas and enjoy yourselves. I apologize for a few formating problems I have had in this post.