Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Once more with feeling

Oooops! We don't get to do a wedding ceremony over (not to this person on this day). When we're in it, this is IT!!

As much as I love the whole event of wedding ceremonies, moment to moment, from Good Afternoon to Ladies and Gentlemen, please greet the newlyweds, I hold the centerpiece as truly "all that there is". This centerpiece comprises the Asking, the Vows and the Ring Vows. These are traditional (but also very customizable) and are heard worldwide every day in all languages, and in both civic and religious customs.

It is here where we are the most intimate, where I tell my couples that I disappear (metaphorically) and where they alone generate the meaning, the presence and the depths of their words and gestures to each other. This is also the most nerve wracking part of the ceremony for some couples. Why?

The moment of saying these words reaches deep down to the soul and reverberates the gravity of a life long promise. It's tempting to cry (mostly it just cannot be avoided). Fear of crying, however, can destroy the beauty and feeling of this moment. Suppressing tears with all your might may not even work, but if it does it may give you unintended consequences, like rote, wooden reciting.

Tip: appreciate the depth of feeling. Let it be there. Ninety nine out of a hundred times the tears may be in the eyes and in the voice a tiny bit, but you will not have a meltdown in front of your beloved, your family and friends. I've never seen it. However, I have seen readers fall apart, loving friends or siblings who are simply overwhelmed and make it through half the reading, stop and cry and go on. It's not a problem. The joy of a wedding has to have tears in the background. These are not sad tears, but they come from a well of gratitude to have this gift in our midst. Let it happen; you can suck it up when your toasts happen at the reception.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Massachusetts Wedding Officiant - Elly Jackson: The lifetime road to love

Massachusetts Wedding Officiant - Elly Jackson: The lifetime road to love

The lifetime road to love

Yesterday I wrote out of the box for an upcoming ceremony. I actually remembered that I, too, have a marriage, a long one, and experience to draw upon directly. I withhold advice from my weddings in fear that it will sound too much like “elder” scolding.

I have had couples tell me of weddings they’ve seen where the preacher lectured the couple on the divorce rate, during their wedding ceremony. Thus, I have attempted to keep my words strictly upbeat. Who wants to be reminded of the risks on that special day?

But yesterday, when writing the concluding blessing and declaration of marriage, the last words I say before announcing the couple as newlyweds, I wrote something entirely new and completely true to what I know. It may be perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned in 33 years of marriage.

Remember this through the years, as love itself never changes, just the world around it to teach you over and over what love really is. What your particular love will come to mean is beyond predicting, but you will know, just as you somehow knew when you first loved each other. May you honor this adventure always.

What did this come from?  The subject of love is more written about than any subject on earth. What did I learn about love? I remember ten years ago when my husband told me that he didn’t feel any love for me anymore. I told him that love is not a feeling. Love is a choice. Feelings will follow if the choice is sincere. That’s why we make promises at the ceremony: in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, in joy and in sorrow are very real and will predictably happen, if only briefly in some cases.

And then we redefine what love is, out of having made a commitment and sticking with it. This is my road to myself, to awakening, to becoming the spiritual body of my ideals, to being fully human at last.

All adventures are risks. We can’t live without them. It’s all good.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cultural Customs

Some ceremonies are just that---ceremonial, as in austere, as in the processional for English monarchs. And some are less magisterial, more truly celebratory, and perhaps even a little raucous. 

A few weeks ago I officiated a wedding between two Russian born sweethearts and everyone's entrance, bridesmaids, flower girls and of course the bride and groom, was greeted with joyous and resounding applause. This actually had a calming effect on the couple. They were applauded upon their very entrance and well before the vows, so they didn't have to perform or prove themselves. Their family and friends were raving just at their sight. 

For all the preparation I promote between the couple before their ceremony, the one last thing I say to them (and specifically to this couple, who were forced to start 30 minutes late), is to just be "present" for each other, to be aware that they are living breathing beings, not performers attempting to fulfill some standard expectation. These two were front and center for each other.

Here they are: Tanya and Ilya:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Outdoor Ceremonies and PLAN B

I've written about this several times, but it bears a second say: Ensure that your Plan B is equally appropriate and valuable to your ceremony setting. If your venue shift to indoors is sketchy, if there is a compromise on guest comfort, sound or visual accommodation, do not book that venue. From April through November, on the East Coast, outdoors is a 50/50 gamble, particularly in the summer months. Garden weddings are lovely ideas, but the indoor wedding ceremony has creature comforts that trump the wonderful gifts of nature: bugs, wind, rain, scalding hot sun, stultifying humidity, dangerous lightning.

I'm not sour on outdoor ceremonies. When the stars align, they provide an extraordinary atmosphere. My own wedding, over thirty years ago, was outdoors in June. We got all the way to the authority I hold from the State of New York...and the sky opened up. We were truly lucky. Last June I officiated a wedding where we completed the vows, but not the ring exchange, when serious lightning and thunderstorms rolled in from nowhere, and we had to run 500 feet to the reception "barn" to complete the ceremony.

It's a very hard call when the weather looks like it could go either way, but bottom line: love your plan B to make the decision easier on you on a day already filled with extraordinary tension and anticipation.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Different Vows

In developing wedding scripts with couples, I send each partner a questionnaire so I can draft their love story, and I recently added a piece at the bottom where they tell me what vows they want from the dozen I sent them. Since they fill out the questionnaires separately and are asked not to work on them together, I've gotten back different vows selections from each party.

This means if I honor their wishes, each will speak their own choice of vows to the other. So, please repeat after me will not be the same. I'm perplexed right now since I used to have them consult on this, but with the new questionnaire, their choices are divergent.

Frankly, I like the unique vows, since couples who compose their own vows almost always write something unique to them. Last fall I even had one groom who whispered his vows to his bride.

I'm curious how this will finally play out in the coming months. We get used to hearing fairly standard vows and the same ones for each partner, but that assumes we all think homogeneously. We don't. Feel free to comment. What do you think?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Same Sex Marriage is The Same

Well, here I am in Massachusetts where this civi right has been legal since May 17th, 2004. My next two weddings are between two men, one couple coming in next week from Melbourne, Australia, and the other two coming up in late March from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

There's one thing very important that many of my same sex couples have taught me, and surely without their even knowing it: they are no different, not in their need to follow tradition, not in their need to have their love front and center, not in their need to express gratitude for the nurturing and values given them from friends and family.

But most palpable in the sameness to opposite sex marriages is their knowing the privilege of their commitment, the seriousness of their vows, and the confidence of having the institution of marriage provide a platform of trust for each of them to grow and flourish throughout their lives. Even the intention to have children is a big part of many same sex couples' intentional future.

We're all still working on the language: I now pronounce you husband and husband/wife and wife/spouses? But that's just fooling around with the word search: the center of it all is the honor it is to be so included and so respected. I can't for the life of me picture a state in the union without s-s marriage in another ten years. May I never lose my rose-colored glasses.