Community of Love

A wedding ceremony is the formal time of transition for a couple into marriage, with all the legal and heart-led words and actions that go with it. It is also a time where people gather to celebrate the union of the couple who are preparing to spend a lifetime together.  For as much as marriage is about a commitment between two people, it is strengthened when nurtured by the community of family and friends surrounding them.

For some couples, acknowledging the importance of those around them, and the support they bring to their lives, is an aspect they want to specifically recognise in their ceremony and there are many ways you can do this.  Here are some examples my couples have chosen:

Love Notes

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Kathy and Aidan’s Fair Harvest wedding – Bo-Jangles was a super handsome ring bearer in his fancy bow. Photo by Zuzu.

Kathy and Aiden wanted to include their friends and family in the ceremony, and to feel that community of love and support as they made the transition to married life.  We discussed ways that this could be done effectively during the ceremony, incorporating the central idea of a time of wishing or blessing to the couple from everyone gathered.  What happened was this – As guests arrived they were asked to take a paper heart, and write on it just one word as a blessing or wish for the couple. At a special time in the ceremony a basket was placed on the ground in front of the couple. Guests were invited to come forward with their love note and read their word aloud to the couple as they placed the paper heart in the basket. As this process unfolded it became a wonderful time of connection, blessing and community as a myriad of beautiful single words were expressed to the couple.  You can read more about this beautiful wedding here – LOVE NOTES

Wishing StonesWendy Grace Hendry Celebrant wishing well ritual

In a similar way, the wishing stones concept was to bring a sense of community to the ceremony, and give everyone gathered an opportunity to be part of wishing them well in their future in a symbolic way.  As guests arrived at the ceremony they were handed a wishing stone and asked to hold it until a certain time in the ceremony.  And then after the couple exchanged vows and rings, a beautiful piece of music was played and the gathered community were invited to come forward with their stone and place it in a bowl, whilst making a wish or blessing to the couples future.  This simple act became a meaningful time for all involved, with an opportunity to share eye contact and a smile with each person, and to feel the love and support of the people around them.

These two ideas above can be easily incorporated into a ceremony, and adapted to suit the couple.  Depending on the size of the gathered guests it can add an extra 5-10 minutes to the ceremony, and takes gentle guidance from the Celebrant to ensure it runs smoothly, and is a meaningful time for all involved.

On a smaller scale, other ways to symbolise the importance of the community around you could be:

  • If you have a small number of guests, arrange the chairs in a semi circle instead of straight lines – it can feel more like a big hug 🙂
  • At the beginning of the ceremony I’m sometimes asked to have the parents stand to give their blessing to the marriage, usually in the form of a question with a ‘we do’ answer. This could be extended to inviting all the gathered guests to stand and express their support or blessing to the couple – imagine how loud the ‘we do’ could be!
  • In many ways, the showering of rose petals, or forming of an archway as the couple walk back up the aisle, can be a way of everyone showing them love and support as they take their first steps into marriage.
  • Alternatively, instead of walking back up the aisle, asking guests to come forward and congratulate them. They will soon find themselves surrounded by happy well-wishers – this can sometimes become quite the group hug!

These are just a few examples, and each couple is unique in what they want their ceremony to highlight.  I’m always happy to step outside the square, and work with my couples to find new ways of recognising the importance of their own community of love, or anything else for that matter!

More ideas of symbolic actions and ceremony ritual here – Wedding Ceremony Rituals

 

 

Handfasting Elopement

Chrissy and Shaz were married in the Boranup Forest in an elopement style ceremony which incorporated a special Handfasting ritual with beautiful rainbow ribbons.

When I sat down with Chrissy and Shaz over a cuppa to discuss their ceremony, there were some key things they wanted for their day.  It was to be small, intimate ceremony, and they really wanted to incorporate a Handfasting because the symbolism, and pagan origins of this ritual were important to them.

A traditional Handfasting was originally a betrothal ceremony marked by the tying of cords or ribbons around the couples joined hands to represent their union. It is a ritual commonly used in Celtic and Pagan ceremonies, and now also incorporated in both civil and religious ceremonies in various forms.   Having only watched a full Handfasting ceremony once before, I was excited for the challenge of incorporating this ritual in Chrissy and Shaz’s elopement in the Boranup Forest in a way that would be meaningful and unique to them.

There are many ways a handfasting can be performed. Some incorporate a single rope that is wrapped and tied around the couples joined hands, and others that incorporate ribbons, or a combination of both, ending with the pulling apart of the hands so the ribbon forms an infinity knot.  My approach with weddings is to always seek to reflect the couples wishes in all aspects of the ceremony, especially with something as personal as an elopement.  So after discussing a few options we settled on incorporating seven coloured ribbons, six of the rainbow colours, and a final gold ribbon to symbolise the sacred union and blessing.    Each colour represented an aspect of life and relationship, and after placing it over their joined hands, a promise was made between them.

After all seven ribbons were placed, they were then wrapped and tied around the joined hands, and I read the poem ‘Blessing of the Hands’.  Chrissy and Shaz then went on to exchange their vows, and the final moment of pulling their hands away and tying the infinity knot was made.

To complete the ceremony they then exchanged rings – a visible symbol of the promises made.  The infinity knot remains tied, and is now a beautiful keepsake for them to remember this day by.

It was such an honour to prepare and officiate this ceremony for Chrissy and Shaz, and to be with them in this special moment.  The ceremony was captured beautifully by Dian Sarah Photography.

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Sand Unity Ceremony

I have conducted several Sand Ceremonies since becoming a Celebrant and have found them a lovely symbolic act to include in a wedding ceremony, particularly where there are children involved.  So when it came to planning my own wedding ceremony my partner and I were considering ways to involve our four children. As we had a large range in ages we decided that a sand ceremony would work well, and would leave us with something nice to keep afterward to remember the moment by.  So I thought I’d share some of the preparation involved in preparing for the ritual.

The Sand – when it came to buying sand I had looked at the many online options.  IMG_0746There are an array of ebay and etsy stores that sell packets of sand.  However, as we had a rainbow theme, we had specific colours in mind, and liked the idea of involving the children in the creation of the sand.  We purchased a bag of white play sand (available from hardware stores) and a packet of chunky chalk.  To make the sand flow nicely we dried it out in the oven on baking trays and divided it into six containers.  We then grated the chalk into the sand using a fine grater and then mixed it well –  the more chalk you grate into the sand, the more intense the colour!

The Jars – There are some really nice sand ceremony kits you can buy online withSand Pouring Jars pouring jars and a central jar. Some of them even come with engraving or individual lettering on the jars. A quick web search will bring up some great options. However you can also go hunting for jars in craft and homewares stores. I came across these lovely pouring jars in Spotlight which were perfect for our ceremony.  I usually recommend the centre jar is one that comes with a lid or cork, however I chose one with a wide top (because I liked the jar and don’t follow my own advice) and it had the benefit of being easy to pour into.  I will then seal it so we can keep it on display at home.

The Ceremony – the sand jars were arranged on a table to the side of the ceremony.  At the right moment the children were called up to the front and we all gathered around the table.  As there were six of us, we poured the sand two at a time into the central jar creating a beautiful jar or blended rainbow sand, just like our beautiful rainbow family.  It was a simple, but effective way of representing the unity that our wedding was creating.  The children loved being a part of it, and so many people commented on what a special moment it was to witness.

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The beautiful moment where the sand is poured, captured by Kelly Harwood Photography

A Sand Unity Ceremony is a simple way of creating a symbolic act within your wedding ceremony. There are many other ways of involving children, or in creating something a little different for your ceremony to suit your personalities and situation.  You can read a few of these ideas on my Wedding Ceremony Rituals page.  Or talk to me about how we can add a little bit of creativity to your ceremony.

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Our Sand Unity Ceremony set up and ready – photo by Kelly Harwood Photography

Special thanks to Rev Elenie Poulos for guiding us through the ceremony so graciously.

 

Wendy x

River Stone Ceremony

There is a ritual inspired by Celtic traditions, said to be used by early settlers and convicts in Australia, where instead of exchanging rings, as they were far too expensive, the couple would cast a stone into the river as a symbol of the wedding promises made, ever strong and steady as the river of the water ebbs and flows around them.

Tiffany and Corinne were married in February 2018, in the beautiful natural setting of Nanga Bush Camp in Dwellingup, WA.  The chosen location for their ceremony was in a clearing alongside the Murray River.

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Tiff and Corinne’s Wedding Ceremony – photo by April Loves Arnold

There were many personalised elements to Tiff and Corinne’s ceremony, as they stood together, with their siblings by their side, ready to take the steps to marriage.  And although they were exchanging rings, a river stone ritual seemed like a natural choice for such a location, and was a perfect way to complete their wedding ceremony.

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Stone and Rings – photo by April Loves Arnold

After the main part of the ceremony had taken place, and the couple and witnesses had signed the marriage register, the bridal party made their way across the rocks alongside the water.  Their attendants, Brie and Daniel handed Tiffany and Corinne a special stone each, chosen for the occasion.

Tiffany and Corrine were asked to hold the stones in their hands to warm them, and feel the smooth, solid weight of them, before exchanging stones with each other.  They then turned, and cast them into the river water below, followed by these words of good wishes:

“From this day forward, may your relationship stay strong and solid, as life, like the river, ebbs and flows around you.”

They were then presented for the first time as ‘Mrs and Mrs’ to cheers and applause from friends and family – such a wonderful moment to celebrate!!

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Final Presentation to Family and Friends – Photo by April Loves Arnold

I love helping couples find new ways to express their relationship and personalities, and to include creative elements to their ceremony.  The river stone ritual worked so well in this setting by the Murray River, and could be adapted by to other locations as inspired. There are ideas for other rituals here.

The photos are by the talented Amy of April Loves Arnold. Many thanks to Tiffany and Corinne for sharing these photos, and their fabulous wedding day with me!

Wendy x 

Bagpipes Over Gnarabup Beach

If you were down at Gnarabup Beach, Margaret River on the afternoon of the 3rd March you may have been lucky enough to hear the sound of bagpipes across the waters of the bay.  This was the soundtrack to Charlotte and Luke’s wonderful wedding day!

Charlotte and Luke met in their birth country of Scotland, but now they call Western Australia home.  Their beach wedding, with sparkling waters of Gnarabup as the backdrop, so different to their homeland, had so many beautiful touches of their Scottish heritage.

As Charlotte, escorted by her Father and bridesmaids, made her way down the steps from the car park to the White Elephant Cafe, she was led by Ryan playing the ‘Highland Cathedral’ on the bagpipes.  It was a beautiful sight, that I’m pretty certain brought a tear to the eyes of everyone watching on.  The bagpiper continued from the balcony of the cafe as the bridal party made their way down onto the beach to the waiting Groom Luke and his groomsmen, dressed in traditional Scottish attire.

Charlotte and Luke Wedding Ceremony Wendy Hendry Celebrant - photo by Driftwood Photography

Luke and Charlotte’s ceremony was simple and intimate, shared by a close circle of family and friends.  Due to the wonders of technology, the ceremony was also live-streamed to their family in Scotland who were able to watch on as Luke and Charlotte exchanged vows and rings, some 14,000km’s away.  As they were pronounced married, the bagpipes once again sounded out over Gnarabup Beach, in celebration of Charlotte and Luke’s union.

Thanks to Luke and Charlotte for asking me to be a part of your wedding day, and sharing these photos with me to remember it by. A truly wonderful ceremony to be a part of!

Wendy x

Photos by Tom Pearsall, of Driftwood Photography.

Ceremony and Reception – Barefoot Beach Weddings