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As the sun re-emerges to warm our hearts and bodies, our horizons often turn to thoughts of joinings and unions of all kinds. Spring and summer have traditionally been the time for people to celebrate their commitment to each other but, of course, any season can be a good time to mark any kind of joining. Consider marking a new business venture, honouring a group partnership, or celebrating a shared vision or creative project. Creating a ceremony will focus your intentions and commitments, which in itself will contribute to the success of that partnership.
Where there's a separation of a couple or group, ceremony can be used in the same way to mark and honour what has been. To release each party into what is to come.
We are free to create whatever kind of event we need to make a heartfelt connection. To create a ceremony is to stand in stillness and declare our intention to honour a part of our lives. Developing our own rituals empowers us and all who come; opening many doorways into a world of possibilities for enhancing our lives and creating lasting treasured moments for all who take part.
When planning a joining ceremony, such as marriage or handfasting, it is the couples own intentions that must be kept central. Consider who is to be invited and where the event will be, as this will affect everything else. Remember to keep things simple - don't try to include too many different ceremonial activities - and ensure the couple don't have any responsibilities for running the ceremony on the day.
The shape of any joining ceremony includes certain key elements, with many different ways to explore each:
Mark out a circle with salt, petals, greenery, stones, candles and create sacred space. The couple make a ceremonial entrance - they could enter separately and come together into the centre of a circle of friends and family or they could enter together through an archway or bower. Guests could hold hoops of hazel decorated with greenery and flowers or willow withies could be bent into a structure fixed into the earth or in disguised bricks with holes in them.
Speak out the intention of this ceremony - this can be done by the couple or by the celebrant.
This is the pivotal part of any joining ceremony where the couple make a promise/intention out loud with the support of family and friends bearing witness to them. The couple can use vows from other traditions or write their own.
Vows can be led by a celebrant or friend or by the couple themselves.
Wrap a scarf, thread of ribbon around the couple's wrists and tie them together when they make their vows.
Drink from a goblet with arms entwined; break bread; share fruit.
Each light a candle separately as they make their vows, finishing by lighting one together.
Jump the broomstick; leap the fire calling out a pledge to each other.
Hold a special crystal whilst making the vows.
These can be rings or something else meaningful (scarves, garlands, necklaces, something made for each other) to symbolize their union.
Give each other a tree, plant them together and twist the trunks around each other.
Bury something together.
Anoint each other with earth, water, henna, powdered dye or oils.
Marriage needs the loving support of family and friends. Create space for them to include their hopes and blessings for the future.
Lead the group through a commitment promise (like a communal vow) for supporting the union.
Make a blessing book for everyone to write in.
Tie threads or ribbons onto the couple or a branch saying a blessing for them.
Bless any future children.
Include the children for any previous relationship - e.g. the parents and the children hold hands in a circle while the guests throw confetti on them.
We hope that you feel empowered to create your very own unique and wonderful ceremonies, joining with your community of family and friends to bring lasting and deepening connections into your lives.
Throughout history there have always been ceremonies and ritual connecting the lives of the people, the community they are part of and the land that sustains them. Much of this has now been lost to us and yet, uniquely, we are at a point when we can reclaim our right to create ceremony from our own hearts and wishes without the confines of organised religion or the restraints of tradition orchestrating these events for us.
making ceremony brings people together, uniting them in a common purpose. Having a sense of ourselves as part of the Earth and a community is a vital human need often lost to our modern hectic lifestyle. By creating the time and space to come together and mark special events an moments in our lives we cannot fail to experience out connections to each other.
No longer in the hands of the church we are free to name and welcome a baby in our community, to celebrate and witness a marriage or joining, to choose funeral rites which makes sense for us and empower us. Alongside these more common ceremonies there are many other occasions, which we can choose to acknowledge with our friends and family, helping us to mark or celebrate, give their blessings, offer their support. These might include a new home, a new job, group ventures, creative projects, business partnerships, retirement, divorce, puberty, menopause, adoption, blessing a new garden or orchard, planting and dedicating trees, marking the changing seasons, honouring any group, world or personal event.
When beginning to use ceremony in your life, start simple. You are creating something personal and unique, there are no rigid rules to follow and you will get better at it the more you do it. You can create ceremony on your own or with a group, with one or two people leading it or co=created by the whole group. You can choose to have a pre-planned running order or in the spirit of spontaneity, have very little planned beforehand.
There are many myths around who is entitles to lead a ceremony and how that person has to act. Anyone can lead a ceremony. Their job is to be clear about the intention of the ceremony and hold this as a focus. Ceremony does not have to be serious. The important thing is to make a connection for all that take part; this includes light hearted fun and plenty of laughter, as well as touchingly deep and meaningful moments.
Begin by creating a special atmosphere, which encourages all to slow down and connect with the intention of the ceremony. This can be achieved by clearing and cleansing the energy of the place using the four elements of air, fire, water and earth. these can be sprinkled, burnt or simply represented in each direction. Do whatever feels good; there are no right of wrong ways of doing it other than keeping a clear intention. Mark out the place where the ceremony will be - use any kind of natural material, flowers, stones, leaves, branches, clothes, candles, salt. Make the place beautiful and inspiring - you can have a lot of fun decorating inside or outdoor places, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.
During the ceremony aim to be as inclusive as possible, appealing to all including the children, encouraging everyone to participate. A handcrafted ceremony can include anything that takes your fancy - use music, percussion, singing, dancing, a procession, making crafts, visualisations, flying kites or prayer flags, lighting candles making vows, pledges, affirmations, blessings, offering healing, giving gifts. For more clues and details on how to put your ceremonies together see our book Creating Ceremony.