Create Your Own Wedding Vows

Scott & Lynsey vowsWhat could be more beautiful than making up your own, very personal, individual, vows of love for the person of your dreams, and proclaiming these vows in front of all your friends and family so that all might know how very much you love him or her?  This is a huge privilege and you can see from the face of the bride here how much it means to her to be able to do this.

Here are some of my thoughts…

It really is a fantastic idea – but it is also more difficult than it might seem! You will want whatever you say in public to feel real, sincere and important, so not just something different. And after all, there is something rather beautiful about using the traditional vows and making the same promises as your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents did before you.  (Allowing for the changed status of women these days, of course.)

A place to start might be with the traditional vows, here are some examples:

[In the presence of God and] before these witnesses I, [A]… give myself to you, [B]…, to be your wife/husband and take you now to be my husband/wife.  I promise to love you, to be faithful and loyal to you, for as long as we live.

These are simple vows (from the Church of Scotland ‘Common Order’), that briefly say it all, and for this reason, they are very popular.  You could use them with or without the statement ‘in the presence of God’.

GROOM/BRIDE: I, (name), take you, (name), for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part, according to God’s holy law.  In the presence of God I make this vow.

Again, these (from the Church of England ‘Common Worship’) are popular and familiar, and again could be used without the mention of ‘God’ for a style that is more humanist.

Handfasting, or traditional pagan vows are usually made in the form of questions by the celebrant followed by the response of bride and groom, as follows.

GROOM and BRIDE, will you be each other’s faithful partner for as long as love lasts?   Will you be to each other a constant friend and one true love?

GROOM and BRIDE respond

I will

The first cord is tied (and so on)…

So you could follow these formats and make similar vows with a few small changes that would be meaningful to you.

Otherwise, if creating your own vows from scratch, think about the following questions:

  • What do you love and appreciate most about your partner?
  • What would be important for you to promise to each other?
  • What are your hopes and dreams for your future together?

You will find you can come up with something like the following:

‘[NAME] I love you completely and without reservation, and especially I love your [QUALITIES].  You are like [BLANK EG NAPOLEON ] to my [BLANK EG JOSEPHINE].  I give myself to you today in the presence of [THESE WITNESSES / OUR FAMILIES AND FRIENDS / THE GODDESS] to be your [WIFE/HUSBAND/PARTNER].  I promise you my lifelong [LOVE, LOYALTY, SUPPORT AND/OR OTHER QUALITIES].  Together we will build a life of [HAPPINESS, SECURITY, ADVENTURE AND/OR OTHER QUALITIES].’

You could end with something like ‘I am happier today than I ever thought possible and my greatest hope is to make you happy too.’

If it seems too daunting to learn your vows off by heart you can write them on a small card and read them out, or you can hand-write them beautifully on expensive paper and tie it with a ribbon as a memento for your partner to keep for ever.

As an alternative to creating vows, you could, in addition to traditional vows, make a personal Declaration of Love to each other.  The advantage of this is that there is no pressure at all to make these the same, and the content can be a complete surprise to your partner, so they really are more individual.

Since your vows are a contract between you, as will be the case if your ceremony is a legal one held in Scotland, it would be desirable to make yourselves equals in your undertaking.  I should mention here that if you are planning to create your own vows with me as your celebrant in Scotland, I would need to see them in advance to ensure that legal requirements are met, and may require you to say some additional words after your own to make sure that this happens.  I also have quite a number of alternative versions of vows which you could choose from.

Here is a good website link which give more examples of vows to get you thinking about creating your own : http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/06/wedding-vow-examples/

Or try http://offbeatbride.com/how-to-write-your-wedding-vows/ for more ideas.

There are lots of ideas to be found, but you will need to strike a balance between something that feels real without being too personal in that ‘too much information’ sense.   Remember this is a solemn occasion and a test might be to ask yourself how you might feel about repeating these vows in 25 years’ time …  Good luck with this, and even if in the end you decide not to create your own vows you will find it a very interesting, illuminating and bonding exercise for you to have done together.

 

 

 

 

 

Handfasting

J-B HandfastingMany people are attracted to the idea of having a handfasting at their wedding. It was originally a pagan custom, so it predates Christianity, and is a lovely reminder that the custom of taking a partner for life is something that humans have done from time immemorial. Handfasting is the origin of the phrase ‘tying the knot’, which means ‘to get married’.

In the pagan ceremony seven cords are used along with seven vows. The original wording seems to me quite quaint and dated so I have adapted and modernized it. The couple in the photos here chose to use the traditional number of cords and used ribbons the colours of the rainbow. The nice thing about using 7 cords is that it is too difficult for me to manage to speak the words (holding my book) and tie the cords at the same time – so it is good to have a helper or helpers, and in the pictured example here the couple chose to have different family members come forward and tie a ribbon, thus giving their blessing to their union in a unique way. J-B Handfasting2Some accompanied the tying with words of their own, or just let the gesture speak for itself. This was a very beautiful ritual, although it took some time.

For this reason many couples choose to have just one cord. You could still have someone to ‘help’ with this and it is a lovely way of acknowledging someone special and including them in the ceremony, for example, a godparent.

There is no right or wrong style of handfasting cord, and they can be as elaborate or simple as you want them to be. I have conducted a number of handfastings now and people are very different in their choice of cords / materials. It really comes down to what seems best to represent your style, or just what is easiest for you, and people use strips of tartan, ribbons, or decorative trims (of the type you would use to make curtain tie-backs). Handfasting CordThe picture here shows some particularly nice handmade ones I found on Offbeat Bride.Com along with instructions as to how to make them. You can see that ribbons have been braided and then beads, tassels and charms attached. This way you have something lasting and decorative that you could display somewhere, maybe hanging on the wall, or just resting over a door or wardrobe handle.

Your cord or cords should be long enough to loop over both your arms/wrists two or three times as well as being able to make the knots, so about 3-4 ft.

Perhaps it is important for me to mention here that I myself am not a pagan celebrant as such, but I am offering this style of ceremony as one amongst the many other options you can choose from.

Your ceremony – what’s it worth?

Gold CoinsSometimes people ask me why a ceremony can be so expensive.  The short answer is that really it is priceless!  To create a thoughtful and meaningful event, uniquely personalised and tailored for you, takes time and requires particular skills – skill to read and understand you and your partner, and what ‘makes you tick’; skills of writing and creating the ceremony script itself; and, on the day, the skill of presenting and articulating, and also of being present – both to you, the couple being married, and to everyone there, so that the event also contains a measure of spontaneity.

The best ceremonies are created after spending a bit of time getting to know you, finding out about you and what your interests and values are.   And it also helps for us just to chat – that way you get to know a bit about me too, an atmosphere of trust is created and this sense of ease and mutual respect is subtly conveyed during the ceremony itself, making it feel much more personal and ‘real’.

It happens sometimes that couples have not really budgeted for the cost of a bespoke ceremony such as I am describing above, so for these cases I have devised a tool in the form of a questionnaire for couples with whom I am unable to meet in advance.  Perhaps the most important of these questions relates to whether your preferred style is ‘religious’ or ‘humanist.’  What this really boils down to is whether you would like to make your vows ‘in the presence of God and our families and friends, …’, or simply ‘in the presence of our families and friends’.  Some people’s style is clearly ‘religious’ – they may not be regular churchgoers but still consider themselves Christian; or they are not clear what exactly they believe in but feel that there is definitely ‘something’; while in other cases people are absolutely clear that they do not want any mention of God or any religious language at all.  In some cases one partner vows ‘in the presence of God’ and the other does not, and of course you might equally prefer to use other words or names than ‘God’ for the Divine.  Finding the right language for the important moments of the ceremony can be a very important part of our conversation, of course, if you choose to go for a more tailored version of your ceremony.  In particular, this can be something of huge importance where the couple are of different faiths or faith backgrounds.

Another important consideration is that of the qualities to be included in the blessing of the rings (for example, honesty, compassion, fairness), the qualities that are important to you.  Whether you go for a bespoke ceremony or one that is more straightforward, there is always a choice to be had in the reading/s, the form of Marriage Blessing, the form of vows, and options to offer your thanks to family members/friends, and to remember those who can’t be with you.  And with a little more personalisation you can choose something a little bit special in the form of a unity candle, a quaich or handfasting ceremony.  These all have options within them, for example, having family members to light the candles; what to drink from the quaich and who to include in this ceremony; or whether to make the handfasting a simple one with with one cord and one vow, or to include the traditional seven cords with seven blessings, perhaps with family and friends coming forward to give their blessing to your union by tying one of the cords.  All these might include further special blessings which relate the ceremony to you personally, to your values and to your hopes and plans for the future.

My aim for this blog is to give you a feel of what might be involved in creating your wedding ceremony, and I hope you will see that the ceremony is a work of love and commitment in itself and something to be valued as an integral part of the vows and promises made within it.

Romantic Wedding on Valentine’s Day

Diana Raven Wedding Celebrant

Sarah and Robert’s Valentine’s Day Wedding

What a wonderful day for a wedding!  Valentine’s Day 2016 was a date chosen by many romantic couples to celebrate their marriage at Gretna Green and indeed at many other locations in the area.  When I arrived for this my first wedding of the 2016 season, the Blacksmith’s Shop complex was buzzing with people, including a coachload of Japanese tourists enthralled by the piper.  There was a cameraman from the local news taking shots of all the couples coming and going. Altogether 16 weddings were held at this venue alone!

I was there to marry Sarah and Robert, seen here with one of their sons.  As they entered the old forge, traditional wedding spot for runaway couples from England, the piper played Amazing Grace.  They had also chosen a traditional Celtic blessing and a special blessing for their rings which were made of different colours of gold and encased with horsehair.  The horse had been a very special, loyal and longtime friend to Sarah and it was lovely to be able to commemorate her feelings for this beloved creature on this important occasion. They also celebrated by listening to a very touching and thoughtful reading by Bob Marley, the Jamaican reggae singer/songwriter.

Robert and Sarah, may your years be long and happy together!

 

Wedding Fayre at Gretna Green

IMG_0391This year’s wedding season kicked off yesterday for me with a visit to the Wedding Fayre at Smith’s Hotel at Gretna Green.  I knew it would be a great opportunity to connect with the wedding planners who work at Gretna Green.Com and to meet some of the other local people connected with the wedding business there.

I found Michelle in the exhibition room, and met Ashley who was welcoming people at the door.  She took me to have a little peek in the office where the ten wedding administrators work, headed up by Michelle, and there I met Heidi, Carly, Sophie and Lisa.  I talked to them a little about the different styles of ceremony I am able to offer and the different elements that can be incorporated to enhance a wedding ceremony, such as the unity candle, or the quaich ceremony, or handfasting.  (Please note, though, that there is not time to do any of this in the actual Blacksmith’s Shop due to the tight time allocations there.)

The important thing for you to know is that as a One Spirit Interfaith Minister I am able to be a lot more flexible and free to interpret and incorporate the individual requirements of the couples for whom I officiate as celebrant.

Once in the exhibition hall, I had the good fortune to meet some of the professional wedding planners who would organise your wedding at one of the other venues in and around the town which are not directly managed from Smith’s Hotel.  The Blacksmith’s Function Venue is situated in the blacksmiths complex alongside the restaurant open every day and the Anvil Hall on the outskirts of the town is a large, imposing historic venue. I would be delighted to conduct your personalised ceremony at either of these venues.

I met photographers Paul Taylor and Carrie Irving who would also be able to assist with planning and sourcing, Gavin Power, a photographer based in Carlisle who specialises in wedding and baby photography; and Jacqueline McHenry from Tantrum Events in Dumfries who specialises in venue decoration.

I also had a great conversation with Eileen Kane from Nevada Nights Fun Casino, based in Hamilton.  This is a pop-up casino playing with fun money to entertain your guests during the evening.

There was some lovely bridal wear, some beautiful non-flower bridal bouquets, and fabulous original wedding favours; and I was tempted by delicious canapes and a candy floss machine!  I had a great afternoon, and my only regret was that I missed the opportunity to have a chat with the Church of Scotland Minister who was doing exactly what I was doing – a bit of networking!

Thank you, Gretna Green.Com!

Unity Candle Ceremony

Unity Candle2I am currently creating a ceremony for a couple who want to include the lighting of a Unity Candle and this has become a very popular element in a wedding.  You can buy a special candle holder consisting of a central stand for a large pillar candle (the Unity Candle) with two arms for smaller taper candles.  The smaller candles are lit at the beginning of the ceremony and represent the bride and groom – or the two families – who are to be joined together.  Later in the ceremony the central candle is lit by bride and groom together from the smaller candles, signifying their union.

 

The couples could say something like this together, as part of their vows:

In the lighting of this candle together we bring the flame of love, warmth and energy to our relationship and to the life we now live as one.  As one, our desire is for a living flame of eternal love, and a warm glow of everlasting friendship, and we offer each other the constant presence of loving care and unconditional accpetance in our life together.

Or the celebrant might draw attention to the symbolism, allowing time for the couple to look into each others eyes, saying for example:

(Bride’s Name) and (Groom’s Name) entered this room as single individuals, each burning with individual energy and light …  The light, warmth and constant burning flame of this One Candle they now light together represents the love, warmth and energy that is now greater, warmer, stronger and  brighter in their new life as One. 

Usually the candle is white, symbolising the presence of spirit, the purity of your intentions, and new beginnings.  But it could also be red, symbolising the passion and strength of your love.

You can also have your candle specially decorated with the names of bride and groom, and the date, and maybe also a short prayer or inscription or even a picture.  The candle can be kept for the future and lit on special family occasions, perhaps on wedding anniversaries as an occasion of remembering the vows and promises made.

Some candles incorporate a small slot for a tealight which can be renewed, so that in this way the candle will last indefinitely.  Again, this symbolises beautifully the eternal love of the couple for one another and regularly lighting a candle together and meditating on your unity and your mutual love could be a very positive and creative spiritual practice for a you to share together, or individually at times when circumstances mean you have to be apart.

Another thought is that if you wanted to acknowledge more explicitly that it is the two families, or tribes, who are to be united you could use a large pillar candle surrounded by tealights on a large round candle plate.  This way smaller tealight candles could be lit by certain representatives of your family and friends.  Or if there are not too many guests at your ceremony, everyone present could light a candle at the beginning, representing the love, support and good wishes they bring with them to the occasion.

Well, I hope this gives you some ideas for your wedding day!  Love and blessings to you ….

Drink a Toast to Your Spouse in the Traditional Scottish Way

Quaich2Another popular wedding ceremony ritual is one where the couple drink to each other from a traditional Scottish quaich. The Scottish word ‘quaich’ comes from the Celtic word meaning ‘cup’. It is a wide, shallow two-handled bowl, and in very ancient times it was used to welcome guests, to establish trust, putting them at their ease about accepting food and drink from their hosts. And then in 1589 a quaich was given by King James VI of Scotland to his wife, Anne, from the royal house of Denmark, on the occasion of their marriage, and since then quaichs have often been used in wedding ceremonies. You can buy some lovely quaichs – the most usual ones are made of pewter, but they can be of silver, horn, pottery or even wood, and all these materials could of course be engraved with the names of the couple and the date.

When husband and wife share this cup, it clearly symbolises the sharing of their life together in the future. To give added depth to the symbolism I often create a mixture of whisky and water, where the mingling of the liquor and the water symbolises the coming together of husband and wife. As the water and the whisky in the mixture complement each other, so do the two persons in the partnership. Like the mixture, they too will be transformed into a new whole – something deeper, something richer and something bigger than the two separate beings they were before. And this has an alchemical significance when you consider the fire of the whisky and the cleansing, healing qualities of the water. In alchemy, the strong, dynamic qualities of fire are traditionally associated with the masculine and the receptive qualities of water with the feminine, although it should be said that there is no need to identify too closely these so-called masculine and feminine qualities with male and female, as in alchemy the male and the female are in themselves symbolic. It might be more helpful to talk here about the harmony of yin and yang, held in balance to create perfection. And as one husband-to-be confided to me, ‘Marriage is like whisky – and whisky is better with water’…

Each of the couple may drink from the quaich saying something like:
‘(Spouse’s Name), I drink to our marriage:
To our undying love, peace, joy and prosperity!’

But it is also possible to use the quaich in a more inclusive way by using Irn Bru or some other drink that is also suitable for children, so that if children are already present in the lives of the couple, they too can be included in this symbolic ritual.

A Hidden Heartfelt Thing

When you set about arranging your wedding, one of the first things you will think of booking is your photographer.  You will find there are lots of photographers out there, competing for your business.  They will show you beautiful photos of weddings they have done … amazing shots, natural poses, artful poses, clever effects with light, unusual angles… But don’t forget that to get the photos they show you, they have taken thousands of shots, many of them dud or just mediocre, and to do that they will have taken up a lot of your time and attention.

I have seen brides exhausted by the stress of an extended photo session before they even arrive for the ceremony, looking tired and drained, even through the joy and elation, from being relentlessly snapped by enthusiastic photographers.  Yet the best photo I had of my own wedding was not posed, it was taken by a friend just waiting patiently for that relaxed moment of intimacy shared between us.

As a celebrant, part of my job is to create a space where the magic can take place.  The magic is about you stepping over the threshold of a new life, into a new way of being, a transformed you, entering a new adventure.  It is an inner thing, a hidden heartfelt thing, and the space for your awareness of this is enhanced by the atmosphere of the venue, the fragrance of the flowers, the sweetness of the music, the ability of words to capture the imagination, and the presence of the celebrant and his or her intention to mediate a sense of the indwelling transformative otherness of the occasion.

This feeling and this sense cannot be captured by a photograph. Indeed the presence of photographers and equipment during the ceremony can spoil your inner process.  My advice to you would be to be very clear with your photographer about the number and style of photos you want, and how much time within the proceedings you wish to allow for this. Don’t allow your photographer to dominate your attention, issue instructions at unwelcome moments, or be an intrusive presence. Remember they are just doing their job, giving themselves the best chance they can to get some fabulous photos of you. That is their only concern.  But it is you who is in charge of your overall experience for this your special day.