Today is the one year anniversary of our wedding! I figured in honor of the day, I’d post the script from the ceremony for your reading pleasure…

SETTING: summit of Sunrise Mounain, Stokes State Forest, Western New Jersey (the beautiful part of the state)…

1pm, sun shining, dark rain clouds in the distance, thunder in the background throughout

People will be milling around meeting each other and chatting until we show up at the top of the mountain. The band will be playing, and when Jeff emerges, the bandleader will stop the music and explain that Jeff is going to hide among the guests until Kate finds him (a Nigerian tradition). Band will then continue playing. When Kate finds him (and is able to touch him, not just see him in the crowd), the ceremony will begin. Tony will have the job of encouraging people to find their seats so that we can begin.

Juniper will start everything off by standing and explaining her role as “smudger”, and then she’ll light a sage smudge stick and walk around the circle while Faith and Moose play “Give Yourself to Love”.

JUNIPER: In ceremonies of all kinds, it is common to cleanse and purify the people and the space at the beginning of the ritual. My favorite word for this is the Native American practice called “SMUDGING”… My name is Juniper, and * I * am your SMUDGER!

It is believed that the smoke of sacred herbs wards off evil spirits or unwanted energy. I really want my Dad and Kate to have a nice wedding, so I’m going to burn a bundle of sage to protect the sacred space.

When the song is over and the smudging is done, Juniper will ding the chime. Tony will stand and begin.

TONY: Welcome to Jeff and Kate’s wedding ceremony! I’m Tony, Jeff’s brother, and I’m honored to be your Master of Ceremonies this afternoon. We’re here to celebrate the partnership that Kate and Jeff have chosen to pursue together, as well as to honor the human capacity for love.

Love knows no boundaries, no borders, no time zones. People all over the world love each other and celebrate partnership. Throughout their lives, both Jeff and Kate have been influenced by the cultural traditions and spiritual beliefs of people around the world, and they’ve created a wedding ceremony that reflects and honors many of these traditions.

With our help, Kate and Jeff will take part in several tasks that couples engage in during wedding ceremonies in different cultures. Some of the customs are playful, some are practical, and some are sacred. All of them are meant to celebrate the experience of joining in marriage.

We’ll start off with a task from here in North America, from the Navajo people of the Southwest.

CHRISTY: My name is Christy, I’m Jeffrey’s sister. In the Navaho tradition, a bride and groom would begin a marriage ritual by washing each other’s hands. A Marriage is the beginning of a new life. The individuals known as Kate and Jeffrey are washed away by the cleansing waters, no longer just individuals, but also bound as one.

Wash hands in wooden bowl…

AYDEN: I’m Ayden, and Jeff is my Dad. We now set forth to honor the parents of the bride and groom. It is not simply the gift of birth which makes it possible for Kate and my Dad to be here today, but the years of love, dedication and nurturing required to raise them. We witness today that wisdom has been

passed on as well, for how else could such great love come to manifest itself?

In both Chinese and Tibetan cultures, it is traditional for the bride and groom to hold a tea ceremony for the parents. The task given to Kate and my Dad is to properly honor their parents with such a ritual. The ingredients used in the tea symbolize fertility, and the tea is sweet to foster sweet relations with their new in-laws.

Serve tea to parents…

TALLY: I’m Tally, Kate’s aunt on her mother’s side of the family. My father’s parents came from Norway in the late 1800’s, and Faith and I grew up in a household that was rich with Norwegian influences, from lefsa to legends about trolls. The solier (sol-ee-ay) that Kate is wearing is a piece of traditional Norwegian wedding jewelry, passed down from our father to Faith, who gave it to Kate to wear today.

There’s a folk tradition in Norwegian weddings that typically happens on day four of the six-day wedding celebration, on Skaaledagjen – The Day of Toasts. Since a lot of us have traveled a long way to be here, we’re not going to wait around for three more days! Kate and Jeff, your task from Norway is to dance together on the top of a stump, so we can all see how well you work together in difficult circumstances!

Dance!

DANELE: I’m Danele. I’m Ayden’s mother and a close friend of both Jeff and Kate. I’m going to describe one of the most well known traditions from Africa: “jumping the broom”. This tradition originated in Ghana, where the broom was used symbolically to sweep away past wrongs. In America, the tradition of jumping over a broom became used among slaves, who weren’t permitted to marry legally. “Jumping the broom” was used by slaves to declare marriage to their friends and family, proclaiming a commitment to each other despite legal prohibitions.

Many sources say that jumping the broom symbolized the wife’s commitment to keeping a clean house, but since both people do the jumping, I’m sure it’s not just one person’s responsibility! It’s also used as a test to see who will be the leader of the household; whoever jumps the highest gets that reward.

Let’s have the kids come up to hold the broom, a few on each end.

So, Kate and Jeff, sweep away past wrongs, and let’s see your commitment to a clean house! And remember, whoever jumps the highest is the decision-maker in your home…

Take turns jumping broom…

WESLEY: I’m Wesley, Kate’s uncle on her dad’s side of the family. There’s another tradition that determines who is going to be the head of the household, so there’s still a chance to get even! This tradition is from Russia, where Orthodox weddings included a race between the bride and groom to be the first to step on a white rug at the other end of the church. The rug symbolized wishes that the newly wed couple should have wealth and prosperity and never need to face poverty standing on a bare earthen floor.

Kate and Jeff hope for wealth and prosperity, and also for an earthen floor someday! Instead of a rug, I’m going to lay down this circle of rope for them to race to. Whoever steps inside first will be the head of the household. On your mark, get set, GO!

Race… (whoever won broom jumping looses this time)

DAVID: In the Pygmie tribes of Africa, the groom has only one obligation to the bride’s family: to find a female in his family who is willing to marry a brother or male cousin of the bride. I’m David, Kate’s only brother, so I guess that means that Jeff is supposed to find me a girl! I’m just reading what’s written here on the card – this wasn’t my idea! Just so you know, I’m not really ready to marry anyone yet, so a hug or a kiss on the cheek will do just fine.

Free finds volunteer…

THEA: Hello. My name is Thea, and both Kate and Jeffrey are good friends of mine. One of the most common folk traditions is known as handfasting. Among the most ancient handfasting rituals are those of the Druidic tradition, where it was believed that the bride and groom embodied the Goddess and the God. I now call forth the divine in Kate and Jeffrey. Listen well and answer truly!

Hail, Goddess, Lady of the Earth! Holding in your secret heart the promise of plenty within the endless cycle of time’s stately dance, we salute you! Hail, mistress of abundance and wholesome, healthy life. Hail, Sister of us all.

Are you, our divine Sister Who Is All, prepared to open the abundance of your love and whatever crops you may harvest, be they physical, emotional or spiritual, to your Brother Who Is All to tend to his needs and seek his greatest growth in the richness of your soul’s richest soil?

KATE: As the Sister Who Is All Sisters, may it be so!

THEA: Hail, God, Master of the Fire! Purifying all within the bright, clean flame of passion, and the light of truth, we salute you. Hail, master of prosperity and good works! Hail, Brother of us all.

Are you, our divine Brother Who Is All, prepared to focus the flame of your desire for love and light, your passion for truth and right, on the well-being of your Sister Who Is All, casting out the shadows of the unwanted and unwholesome past and using your heat to warm, not burn and your light to guide, not blind your beloved?

JEFFREY: As the Brother Who Is All Brothers, may it be so!

Thea takes the handfasting cord and wraps it around our hands…

BETH: I’m Beth, one of Kate’s good friends. I know that both Kate and Jeff have been significantly influenced by Buddhist wisdom. One of the most important traditions in a Buddhist wedding in Thailand is the water ceremony, known as ROD NAM.

During the ceremony, the bride and groom kneel together. They are connected by a holy string around their shoulders or hands, symbolizing their spiritual union. One by one, guests walk up and pour water over the couple’s hands while offering a blessing or marital advice.

The water ceremony is usually performed by all guests older than the couple. Today, everyone here is invited to participate! You may speak your blessings and advice out loud, or participate silently. I’ll begin, the person to my right will go next, and we’ll just follow each other around the circle.

Water ceremony…

DAN: My name is Dan, and I’m a friend of Kate.

Perhaps the greatest gift that Jesus brought to the world was the message of Love. Your task, Kate and Jeffrey, is to hear these verses from the Bible, take them into your heart and Soul, so that they may always sustain and nourish your marriage.

1 Corinthians 13:1-12

I may speak in tongues of men or of angels, but if I am without love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. I may have the gift of prophecy, and know every hidden truth; I may have faith strong enough to move mountains; but if I have no love, I am nothing. I may dole out all I possess, or even give my body to be burnt, but if I have no love, I am none the better.

Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, not quick to take offence. Love keeps no score of wrongs; does not gloat over other men’s sins but delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance.

Love will never come to an end. Are there prophets? Their work will be over. Is there knowledge? It will vanish away; for our knowledge and our prophecy alike are partial, and the partial vanishes when wholeness comes. Now we see only puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we shall see face to face.

TONY: The ring bearer may now step forward with the rings.

Ruis gives rings to Kate and Jeff

TONY: Kate and Jeff have completed many tasks, from many cultures, symbolizing the power of the partnership we’re celebrating today. Now it’s time for them each to share individually about what this wedding means to them.

Jeff and Kate, as you speak, you’ll hold your partner’s ring in your hand. Let the power of your words fill the ring, so that as your partner wears it for the rest of their life, it will echo the words you speak today. Kate, we’ll start with you.

Kate speaks!

TONY: (pause) Jeff, now it’s your turn.

Jeff speaks!

TONY: (pause) Now it’s time for us to take these intentions that you’ve just spoken, and seal them with sacred vows. God has called us to live in union with the Holy Spirit and in communion with each other. The gift of marriage cultivates our ability to share happiness and sorrow, to give and receive, to understand and forgive, so that we may carry these lessons into all that we do in the world. In the presence of God and these witnesses, I ask you, Jeffrey, will you have Kate, who stands here before you, to be your wife? Will you love, honor, and be true to her, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, for all of your lives?

JEFFREY: Yes, I will.

TONY: Likewise I ask you, Kate, will you have Jeffrey, who stands at your side, to be your husband? Will you love, honor, and be true to him, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, for all of your lives?

KATE: Yes, I will.

TONY: I now invite everyone to stand.

(CONGREGATION STANDS)

TONY: Jeffrey and Kate have invited you here because they want to share this day with you, and because they desire your support and encouragement. You all have a role to play in their relationship. I now ask you as family, friends, and congregation, will you do everything in your power to support them in their marriage and give it your blessing? If so, please respond by saying loudly, “Yes, we will!”

CONGREGATION: Yes, we will!

TONY: Kate and Jeffrey, you have declared your intention to share with each other your joys and sorrows and all that the years will bring. Now it’s time for you to accept these promises from each other, by accepting the rings onto your fingers.

(rings on fingers and kiss!)

TONY: And so it is done! Let the whole world celebrate the partnership of Jeff and Kate!

Juniper dings chime!

TONY: The most universal of all wedding traditions is eating and drinking together! You are all invited to the reception at the Kittle Field Picnic area at the bottom of the mountain, which will begin as soon as we’re done with photos up here.

*************

Then the rain came while evryone drove down the mountain, and soon dissipated in time for dancing to great Klezmer music by the Vulgar Bulgars. After the reception, the more daring guests stripped down to skinny dip in a beautiful mountain stream (my favorite part of the whole day.

Tonight we celebrated by jumping over the broom again, this time with a baby in my arms…

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