Creating Your Own Ceremony
by Pam Fichtner
When I first met Sarah and Simon at the local cafe, their excitement was palpable. They wanted to have a commitment ceremony without any legal ties because Sarah’s divorce was not final. However, they weren’t sure if there was anyone who would do that for them in the community. They found me when they stumbled upon our Saskatoon Unitarians’ website and were thrilled at the opportunity to connect on this level. They were clear that they wanted to work with me to find meaningful words that would reflect their unique relationship and deep love for each other. Sarah and Simon shared their ideas and vision for a ceremony with me. They wanted to incorporate some elements of a traditional wedding such as sharing of the vows and a ring exchange, without the religious underpinnings that usually go with that. They wanted their ceremony to have meaning, to resonate with their spiritual beliefs and values. I suggested various resources that they could choose from such as readings, music, poetry, and rituals, and with their input I crafted a ceremony to fit their vision. We were all pleased and confident with the choices. The end result of this creative collaboration was a unique ceremony that perfectly reflected their relationship and hopes for the future.
The ceremony took place outdoors on a sunny summer’s day. Simon and Sarah were both happy, thankful, connected, and calm. They could relax in the knowledge that all the details were taken care of and focus on fully celebrating the love that unites them. It warmed my heart to be able to provide such a simple, yet profound, service for them, with feelings of gratitude coming from both myself and the newly committed couple.
It is the time of year when the ground is fertile, new shoots are coming up, flowers are beginning to blossom, there is energy and excitement in the air for new possibilities, new beginnings to take shape and form. It is also the time when many couples—gay, straight, young, and older—want to celebrate their commitment. They have an idea, deep down inside their relationship, that takes root and somehow wants to flourish. They want to have their union, the essence of their connection, their promises to each other be acknowledged, and witnessed in front of each other and a respected officiant like myself. It is also important to have the support and validation of their relationship from family and friends. A couple’s commitment can be honoured through many different types of ceremonies such as a wedding, a handfasting, a commitment ceremony, a blessing, and a vow renewal, to name a few.
“We didn’t want anything conventional, and really felt
WE were able to shine through the whole thing.”
What do you do if you are one of those couples that want to have a ceremony? Are you clear on what you would like to create? Do you need support to see your initial ideas manifest into reality? Do you want to give life to a ritual for your relationship with your beloved?
If you would like some guidance in planning and preparing a ceremony to celebrate your love and commitment, a lay chaplain with the Saskatoon Unitarians can help you with that process. Unitarian lay chaplains provide a service that is meaningful, expressive, creative, and specific as to what you and your partner may need. The lay chaplain provides a space for you to delve into what your common beliefs are, whether that be from a spiritual place or not. We draw from various sources—secular, Pagan, Native American, Buddhist, Sufi, Jewish, Taoist, Hebrew, or Christian—which can be poetry, quotes, phrases, songs, and writings. We determine the themes or symbols that have meaning for you, from the beginning intention to possibly adding in the element of remembering those who are not present in body but in spirit for the ceremony. We can choose opening words that invoke the power of nature and silence, use prayers of invocation, and share in the teachings of interfaith or traditional spiritual practices. When sharing rings in the ceremony, the symbolism of the rings can be addressed, as well as blessings, prayers, or poetry and various ways to exchange them. Also, if children are part of the family, there are ways they can be recognized and included in a wedding or commitment ceremony.
“She honoured our process and ideas with the
handfasting. We were so blessed to have Pam marry us.”
What symbols can be used in a ceremony to make it special for the couple? There are countless ways that each of these ceremonies can evolve. Creativity and imagination are the key to allowing yourself to connect into what you really want for yourselves at this time of honouring your relationship. Some examples are a unity candle; sharing of the wine cup; using sand, water, salt, roses, and wine; a wedding vase; wine, love letter, and a box; hands and the tying of ribbons, cords, or ropes for a handfasting.
Whatever you decide to do to honour your relationship, know that I am here for you. I am confident, knowledgeable, easy-going, and passionate. It’s important, too, that it is Your Ceremony, Your Way.
Pam Fichtner is a lay chaplain with the Saskatoon Unitarians. She enjoys creating rituals that leave people feeling joyful, engaged with their hearts at a deep level and connected to each other. She can be reached at 306-230-7407. Our website: ucsaskatoon.org. Fb: Saskatoon Unitarians.