Today’s lovely guest post comes to us from Peter Boruchowitz of Our Wedding Officiant NYC! Enjoy:
An article I recently read about Millenials’ biggest wedding regrets quoted a young bride saying that her regret was that she didn’t pay more attention to the ceremony. This made me sad to read, because no professional wedding officiant should allow that to happen. The ceremony is the reason for the celebration that follows. That’s why my motto is: Your perfect wedding starts with your perfect ceremony. Weddings go by so fast, and you want to be sure that you’re making a memory together that will last a lifetime. Even if you’re not interested in planning the text or details of the ceremony, the best of us will make sure that you’re focused and present during the ceremony.
Read the full post after the cut!
Last year, my average couple hired me 17 weeks before their wedding date. That means that by the time of their first phone call or email to me, the couple had chosen the venue, the caterer, the photographer, and often the menu, the florist, the dress and the rings. That’s dozens of decisions made, and it doesn’t even include the guest list! It’s no surprise then that when I ask couples what kind of ceremony they were thinking about, I often get a quizzical look followed by a bashful “I dunno.” These couples have wedding decision fatigue! And, there have never been more ceremony choices available to couples than there are today.
In New York State, all that is legally required in a wedding ceremony is that a couple verbally consent to enter into the marriage, but most couples want more than that. They want a deeply meaningful and personal expression of their love.
Photo Credit: Steve Worth Photography
Choosing A Ceremony Type
The first choice a couple has to make is whether the ceremony will be civil, spiritual or religious. A civil ceremony is completely secular. It acknowledges only the legal authority of the state in sanctioning marriage and the love of the couple in the formation of a family. A spiritual ceremony builds on this by including sacred influences in the lives of the couple, like the presence of a diety, the power of fate, the randomness of chance, or the bond that unites humanity both together and with all living beings. Even an atheist wedding can be spiritual! A religious ceremony will incorporate prayers or elements from specific religious practices, such as the Seven Blessings for Jews, the Lord’s Prayer for Christians, and the lighting of the sacred fire for Hindus, among others.
Interfaith weddings can complicate matters. Your religious feelings might be stronger your than your partners, yet you don’t want your beliefs to overshadow theirs. It can get tricky striking a balance between the two faiths being represented, but the solution could be as simple as which prayers or rituals you choose to include in your ceremony. With the guidance of a knowledgeable officiant, the melding of two religious traditions can often be a seamless and truly beautiful experience for everyone involved.
Photo Credit: The Glenmar Studio
Choosing the Rituals
The second choice is whether to include rituals in your ceremony. Humans have been performing rituals since we emerged on earth. Baptisms and brisses, bat-mitzvahs and confimations, quinceañeras and sweet-sixteens, graduations and weddings are all rituals that mark the cycle of life. I urge my couples to include unity rituals in their ceremonies, because they are tangible, symbolic expressions of two lives coming together as one. A 2010 study in the Journal of Cognition and Culture suggests that performing emotional rituals enhances memory of the event. The act of participating in such a rite can often be a profound experience for those involved.
Rituals that endure across generations to become traditions have often proven their value, even though it might not be immediately apparent, and performing them binds one generation to another. The ring exchange, for example, is one of the oldest and most common wedding ceremony rituals, although it is recent in Asia.
A couple need look no further than their own culture when choosing a ceremony ritual. Buddhist couples share sips from 3 cups of sake in the San San Kudo ritual. Some African-American couples “jump the broom.” And, no Jewish ceremony ends without the breaking of a glass. Some rituals are so similar between cultures that performing them together resonates with both sides of a multicultural family. “Tying the knot,” for example, is literally a ritual performed by Celts as Handfasting, by Mexicans as El Laso, and by Filipinos as The Cord.
Couples shouldn’t feel bound by tradition, faith or culture in choosing rituals, though. Modern rituals are no less poignant than ancient ones. The Unity Candle ceremony, where couples use individual tapers to light together a single pillar candle, representing their union, is one of the most popular modern rituals. A Sand Ceremony, in which couples combine individual measures of sand in a common vessel representing the immutable blending of two lives, scales up easily to include children in a ceremony marking the establishment of a new family. It also creates a beautiful keepsake of the ceremony itself. Even though everyone fully understands the impact a wedding will have on their lives, often the reality of it doesn’t register until they are participating in the actual custom of physically joining elements together, whether it be sand, water, wine, or flame.
Modern rituals like these or a Ring Warming Ceremony, where the rings are passed among the guests to “warm” them with love or silent prayers, are perfect ways to invite family or special friends, especially those who might not be comfortable performing readings in public, to participate in the ceremony.
Choosing the Vows
Most importantly, a couple must choose their vows, the promises they make to each other during the exchanging of rings. Here the choices are limitless, because in addition to traditional or contemporary vows, a couple may choose to write their own.
Traditional vows are the words we all know by heart from every movie or TV wedding we’ve ever seen: “To cherish and to honor, to have and to hold…” While they are familiar, their simplicity is deeply meaningful and the reason they have been used for hundreds of years.
Contemporary vows use more modern language. “For better or for worse” can become “To support you through times of trouble, and to rejoice with you in times of happiness” for those who don’t want to stray too far from tradition. Or, they can offer different promises, like “to become a family together” or “to support your ambitions,” which reflect the changing roles of partners in a marriage.
Finally, a couple may choose to write their own vows, which highlight their unique relationship. A couple may write words that are very moving, and often have everyone reaching for their hankies. Alternatively, they may write something very funny that has most of their guests laughing, especially at “inside jokes” which help everyone share a connection with them. Brides and grooms don’t have to be poets or comedians to write their own vows, though. I once had a groom use his vows to describe all the roles that he hoped to play in their marriage: provider, protector, lover, and ultimately father. There was not a dry eye in the house, as he spoke from his heart, which is all that matters.
Whatever ceremony choices a couple makes, I always try emphasize that they need to make themselves happy with the specifics. If this should include making their parents and families happy, that’s wonderful. A couple should always put their own values and beliefs first, though, in order to be satisfied when their wedding day has passed.
Peter Boruchowitz is a professional NYC Wedding Officiant. He writes and performs custom wedding ceremonies throughout the NYC metropolitan region and specializes in intercultural and interfaith ceremonies and Central Park weddings. Peter is a speaker at Wedding MBA, America’s largest conference of wedding professionals, and he was the celebrant on Season 2 of Married at First Sight. Peter loves meeting NYC Destination Wedding couples, as he enjoys sharing his vast knowledge of all that New York City has to offer. The city has been his home for over 40 years. When not presiding over weddings, Peter is a passionate fan of Broadway, and he can probably tell you which theater your favorite show was performed in. To learn more about Our Wedding Officiant NYC, please visit his WeddingLovely Vendor Guide profile or head straight to his website.