Category: marriage

anarchy ring

An anarchist friend who knows I officiate weddings asked if I could sign their wedding paperwork, and adamantly specified that they don’t want any of the standard assumptions of what marriage means.  They’re in a non-monogamous romantic partnership and are having a child together. They mostly want to get legally married to simplify the logistics of paternity (in VA, a father only goes on the birth certificate if he’s legally married to the mother, or does extra paperwork after the fact), and also to make it easier for him to travel internationally to the country of which she is a dual citizen.

There are only two necessary pieces to do a legal wedding. First, I have to ask the people getting married to answer affirmatively to a “statement of intent”, which essentially just means “do you want to marry this person?”.  The only other legal part is the “pronouncement”: “I now pronounce you married”.  Everything else, I tell all my couples, is there for you to feel married at the end of the process… whether it’s the traditional format of white dress and bridal party and having your dad walk you down the aisle, or creating your own unique ceremony from scratch, or cobbling together different wedding traditions from around the world.

But this couple wanted the opposite.   They didn’t want to feel married at the end of it. To the contrary, they wanted to feel not married. So we had an un-wedding. She wore pants, suspenders, and a hat. He wore a white flowy skirt and a white blouse. For the statement of intent, I wrote some Anarchist Wedding Vows:

Do you agree to enter into a legal contract of marriage with this person? Do you pledge that this legal status of marriage will only be used for the practical logistics of raising a child and travelling internationally together, while continuing to undermine the system from which this status is provided?

Do you agree that this legal status creates no new expectations for your relationship, no new rights or responsibilities in each others’ lives, and no assumptions of either monogamy or gender roles in your relationship?

They both said the requisite “I do”, and then for the pronouncement, I said:

“I now pronounce you legally married, and personally autonomous.”

At the end they shook hands, high-fived, and then tore up their fancy “Certificate of Marriage” (which many couples get calligraphied but doesn’t have any official purpose), and threw the pieces in the river.

This wedding confirmed for me that what it takes to make a great wedding (or any ritual) is being clear on what the purpose is. This couple was clearly grounded in their love for each other, expressed through being really specific about what their commitments to each other are, and aren’t. They honor each other with clarity and autonomy, and it was an honor for me to create a wedding that celebrated that.


Rituals are for honoring or creating change.  We don’t have rituals for things staying the same, because a stream tends to follow its path once it’s been created.  And really, what stays the same anyway?  Change is constant…

So I’ll re-state: ritual is for honoring or celebrating intentional change.  In a wedding, of course, we’re honoring a change in a relationship.  We can dress it up with flowers and music and fancy clothes, but what a wedding is really about is the change in relationship — and that is marked by the vows.

Vows honor what is new with the label of “married”.  What commitments didn’t we have before, that we are making to each other now?  What has been vague or implied before, that is now ready to be stated concretely?

Vows are about more than “I love you to the moon and back”.  I had a partner who used to ask “What do you mean?” whenever I said “I love you”.  Annoying as that was, it kept me honest.  It kept me from using vague words for communicating something specific.  Wedding vows get to the meaning of this marriage — not anyone else’s marriage, or generic Marriage.  What are you committing to your partner?  What does it mean to you that you are going to be that person’s married partner?

Some couples like to make individual vows to each other (often as a surprise to the other person), and then have a common vow that they’ve agreed on ahead of time.  This allows for each person to do their own thinking about what they are committing to their partner, and also have a clear understanding with each other about what this marriage means.

Couples looking to write their marriage vows often find looking at samples helpful, even if just to get a sense of what you know you don’t want!  Here are several links, and of course a web search will bring you many many more examples… just remember, your wedding is yours to create, so you get the intentional change you want out of the ritual!

Huffington Post: 10 Honest Marriage Vows You Never Hear

Bridal Guide: 30 Examples from Different Traditions (including non-religious)

A Practical Wedding: Tips for (Successfully) Writing Your Wedding Vows

Monkey Mind on the Ego Vine


Fighting with my husband last night, I noticed the moment when I thought “I don’t want to be fighting like this”.  And then, rather than pursuing self-righteous resentment towards him for the fact that we were fighting, instead I let go into a deep knowing that I could stop the fight.  How?  What words did I need to say?  I didn’t know.  I sat with that thought for a little while, alone and naked in the dark living room after having stormed out of our bedroom screaming “You’re delusional!”.  I sat in the purgatory of releasing my claim on rightness, without knowing how to move forward.

That limbo of the unknown was uncomfortable, but not scary, like it used to be.  I’d been there enough times before that I had faith that we’d get through it, that a way would open and we’d get to the other side on a different path than one of us winning and the other losing.  That faith is different than “knowing”.  I still couldn’t see the answer, the right thing to do or say that would clearly solve the problem.  But I felt a release from the fear that we wouldn’t solve it, or that we’d only solve it if I gave up and gave in.  And with that release from fear, I felt peaceful, and strong, and capable of moving forward.

I got up and walked back to our dark bedroom, and climbed in under the covers next to him.  I didn’t have a plan for what to say, and I wasn’t worried about that.  I put my head on his shoulder and my hand on his chest, and we lay there silently.   In the dark, in the silence, in the beingness of just being together, an understanding rose up in me of what I hadn’t seen before of what was true for him in all of this, what my ego defensiveness and need to be right had blocked me from seeing.

I opened my mouth and spoke before the thought was even fully formed, letting it unfold from my heart instead of my from my mind.  He responded gently, and we started saying what we had been trying to say all along that had gotten lost in the act of fighting.  We worked through it easily and compassionately, and went to sleep in the bliss of love.

We’re 9 years in to our relationship.  We’ve been working this out a long time.  And we still go to that place of complete separation and ultimate frustration and not knowing how to move forward.  I still scream and run out of the bedroom.  The magic, though, is that we know there’s a net to catch us if we let go of that ego vine we’ve been swinging on like screaming monkeys.  Instead of ME ME ME ME I’M RIGHT YOU’RE WRONG, we drop into noticing each other and ourselves on equal footing, as part of a complicated and connected web of experience.  We let go of that vine, and realize we’re supported by an unseen power.  We’re Indiana Jones on the invisible bridge.

invisible bridge

Our egos keep us separate, when what we really want is to be connected, but we hold on because we think they keep us safe, powerful, and strong.  I’m learning that faith is letting go of the ego without fear of loosing the fight.  Faith is knowing that I win when we win together, when we enter into the experience of love that we can only access when we let go of our individual power, and surrender to the power of (insert your word for the connectedness of all things here).

I’m applying for admission to an Interfaith Seminary, to get ordained as a generic spiritual leader and spiritual counselor.  Part of the application asks for a 2-3 page essay on my spiritual journey.  I was daunted at first, wondering how to put it into words and make it that SHORT.   A friend suggested to just write, and then edit it down later.  I got up early for the several days, before anyone else in the house, and this is what came… (and it comes in at exactly 3 pages!):

My early childhood was mostly non-religious.  We went to a Methodist church as a family until my parents divorced when I was six, then both parents stopped attending and religion was no longer a part of our lives.

Early in High School I got involved in the Christian youth group, Young Life, because a close friend invited me to go with her.  I felt compelled by the social acceptance and sense of community I felt there, and then started believing what was said about Jesus, the Bible, and God.  I found power and meaning especially in the Bible verses that glorified the power of God, emphasizing the works and laws of the spirit as greater than the works and laws of people.

I dove in, and attended all the weekly Bible studies, social evenings, and regional gatherings with other high schools.  I started dating a boy who identified strongly as a Christian, as did his whole family.  I attended church with them regularly, and we spent a summer teaching Vacation Bible School together.

Around this time, my mom started attending a Unity Church of “New Thought” Christianity.  At first, going with her to Unity felt like an extension of my new Christian identity, and I enthusiastically got involved in the high school group there.   The teachings of Unity about “Christ within” gave me an enriched understanding of Christianity that felt powerful and personal to me.  It brought all the history of the Bible into a new and relevant context.  Through new practices of meditation and guided self-reflection, I began to experience a connection with the sacred energy within me.

When my Christian boyfriend came to church with me, he was appalled by the blasphemy of the idea that all people have the same potential as Christ.  He said if I believed that, I wasn’t a real Christian.  After long hours of tearful debate, I conceded that I believed in “Christ within” more than the concepts of sin and salvation that we taught in Vacation Bible School.  He said he couldn’t date a non-Christian, and we ended our relationship.  His family, who had taken me in as a “third daughter”, told me they were very sad I was going to hell.

My new identity as a “non-Christian” was powerful to me, because it was a choice to go against what was socially acceptable for the sake of following my truth.  Looking for truth within me became my spiritual path.

For the rest of high school, I continued attending Unity and developing my understanding of the sacred flowing through all things, including through me.  I experienced deep self-acceptance, unconditional love with my peers, and respect from adults in the congregation.  The summer I graduated, I attended an international conference at Unity Village, where I participated in a long meditation to connect with my purpose in life.  When asked in the meditation “what are you here to do?”, the answer rose clear and strong from deep within me: “to help people learn to love”.   That was the first time I remember hearing the voice of spirit so clearly, and the message has been an important mantra of purpose throughout my life.

That same summer after graduating, we took a family vacation to Moab, Utah.  We camped out in the desert, and slept under a sky of stars that left me speechless.  Driving with my mom and her sister in an open Jeep through the wild canyons, laughing and singing, a new sense of inner freedom rooted in me.   We were “wild women”, full of power and potential, loving ourselves and each other and the amazing Earth that embraced us.

On the drive back to Denver, we stopped at a tiny truck stop on the side of the highway.  I took a walk through the woods to stretch my legs, and walked around a bend to witness a magnificent vista of a grand mountain rising above and reflected in a clear lake.  I stood in awe and gratitude, feeling my connection with the Earth and the spirit flowing through all things.  I got back into the car a changed person, devoted to the Earth on a spiritual level.

That moment marked the beginning of my exploration of Pagan spirituality.  I was fascinated by the practice of honoring the cycles of the seasons and using the elements of air, fire, water, and earth and the four directions for their different qualities.  In college I took weekly walks in the forest for “church”, learning to intentionally tap into that sense of connection.

My mother recently told me that she thought I had given up on spirituality while I was in college.  She didn’t know about those walks in the woods, and she also didn’t know the spiritual side of my academic work.  I majored in Religion, because those were the classes to which I felt most drawn. I studied “Myth and Symbol”, “Use of Dance in Aboriginal Rituals”, and “Images of the Divine in German Literature”. I eagerly explored the Bible as historical document, comparative analysis of Judaism and Christianity, the philosophy of religion, Confucianism, and Zen and Taoism.  These classes enlivened me.  Schoolwork wasn’t tedious – it was spiritual exploration.  In all my classes, I tried to weave the essence of the different teachings and doctrines into my spiritual understanding, and through that practice I developed a multifaceted sense of the sacred that transcended any one religion.  Since then, I’ve found it difficult to identify with any one religious category.

In parallel to my classes in Religion, I found myself passionate about the study of society and culture, and chose to also major in Sociology.  I loved wrapping my mind around all the ways that reality is filtered and obscured by the social meanings that we learn through our culture.  Learning to identify and disarm the social assumptions in my perception and understanding of the world around me became yet another spiritual practice.

My studies in Sociology led me to a determined belief that there must be a different way for people to live together, a culture that intentionally combats destructive social assumptions like racism, sexism, and classism, honors the Earth, and celebrates our connectedness instead of dividing people through economic competition.  A year after graduating from college, I learned about Twin Oaks, an “intentional community” (aka commune) in Virginia that had started in the 1960s and was still thriving.  I visited, loved it, and made it my home for 4 years.

At Twin Oaks I found a group of 100 people who were creating the life I had envisioned.  Working together, sharing, and cooperating were at the center of all social systems there.  I found myself connecting more deeply with people on a daily basis – in celebration and in conflict, but it was the depth of relationship that compelled me.  Our inherent connection with each other was undeniable.  So too was our connection with the Earth, as we lived rurally and ate from the garden, heated with wood from the forest, and worked and played outside most of the time.

At Twin Oaks I practiced the art of having integrity in relationships with others, and with myself – life on a commune doesn’t work, otherwise.  Through observation, mentorship, and trial and error, I learned how to be lovingly honest, compassionate, and accepting of hard truths.  This became a deeply spiritual practice of stepping beyond the layer of emotions and ego, learning to open my heart in the face of fear, developing a faith that what lay underneath my ego was far more powerful, and would lead me where I needed to go.  I attended, and eventually taught, workshops and retreats focused on various practices for creating healthy relationships based on these principles.  This became the bedrock of my current spiritual beliefs and practice.

I left Twin Oaks when I fell in love with a man who didn’t want to live there.  I knew deeply that he was my partner in life, and left the life I loved to marry him and create a life together.  I felt like I stepped off a cliff.  I stumbled through 4 years of early marriage and creating a life in mainstream culture.  My husband and I got tangled up in our differences and shut down to each other.  I sank quickly into the darkness of fear, self-judgment, and blame.  I didn’t recognize myself anymore, and I was so caught in the darkness that the idea of doing anything about it felt overwhelming.  I felt alone, ashamed, and hopeless, lost in the realm of ego.

After our daughter was born, I felt a spark inside me to get my life back on track, a refusal to raise my child in the life I was living.  I slowly recommitted to my practices of self-reflection and opening (writing, tarot, meditation), knowing I had to go through the painful process of looking at my life and facing what I had created, so I could change it.  I knew that the alternative of staying shut down and hopeless would ultimately be even more painful, for me and for the child who was looking to me for love and truth.

I began with the determined belief that a better life was possible, and stubbornly searched until new possibilities emerged.  My husband and I came back to conversations we had ignored because they created too much conflict.  We started to find the magic we had forgotten, the beauty of our differences working in tandem, and the joy of surrendering as individuals to the spirit of partnership between us.

Early in the process of recreating my life, I felt compelled to find a church.   After visiting the Quaker Meeting and the Unitarian Church several times and not finding what I wanted, I gave Unity a try again.  I immediately felt at home.  I cried through the service, and prayed with a chaplain afterwards to remember my strength and connection with spirit.

I started attending regularly.  Though the language didn’t match with what I had come to use for my spiritual experience, the message behind the words rang true.  I felt embraced by the congregation, supported lovingly in my process of coming back to myself.

I committed myself to my spiritual practice again, and the voice of spirit within me came clearer and stronger.  Listening and accepting became easier, and exciting. The teachings of Unity reminded me of the beauty and magic that unfold when I act in alignment with Spirit. My spiritual practice began to expand beyond self-reflection and contemplation, into the realm of action and creation, moving out of my mind and into my body.  I committed to the practice of following my inspirations, even when I didn’t understand them.

This has brought me to a new way of living in the world.  I tap into the web of energy that connects all things, and look to find my place in it, to feel inspiration.   I feel it as a tug within me, calling me forward.   When I struggle to feel the pull, I open again through writing, dancing, tarot, and meditation, listening for the distinct voice of spirit, the now familiar sense of knowing.

My current sense of this Divine Spirit is that it is the energy that composes all that is, the substance of the Universe.  It has a resonance and a movement that is growth, opening, and union.  Any sense of separateness is an illusion that distorts our perception, and this illusion is the source of fear, pain, and struggle.  When I release that illusion, surrender the ego to the flow of Spirit, my life aligns and resonates with all existence.  From that place, I know what is mine to do.

Moment by moment, again and again; this is the work of Living.

When I left Twin Oaks, my partner and I were clear about our mutual desire to live in community.  I imagined he and I would quickly gather a group of people and start the process of forming a new community together.  A week or two after I left, I asked him when we should organize the first meeting and see who was interested.  “Meeting?  It’s gotta happen organically…”

A prime example of our different styles, and beyond that, a source of vital frustration for me as I struggled to align my yearning for community with our isolated nuclear family life.  I resented his lack of focus on creating a life we both said we wanted.  He thought I was impatient and unsatisfiable.   We’ve grown, though, and over the last 6 years something has indeed unfolded as we merged organic and intentional…  we’ve welcomed friends to live in our home for months, sharing tiny spaces with multiple adults, toddlers, and teenagers.  We’ve deepened connections with friends from around the country who gather for festivals a few times a year.  We’ve found ourselves as part of a “tribe” of freaky circus performers who get together several times a week to either practice or socialize (or both) — while our kids of all ages play together.

(Edited after a night of sleeping on it: It’s not just that we now have friends and deeper connections — it’s what we do together, and how we do it.  We cook group meals, help each other move, watch each others’ kids, celebrate birthdays and holidays, share the often chaotic waves of our lives… not just as friends one-on-one, but as a group, as a collective.)

Even though it doesn’t look like I thought it would, it’s working… in a different way than the systems and Bylaws of Twin Oaks does.  There’s a lot about those systems that I miss (like income-sharing… especially when our rent is due!), but I’m being challenged to translate the lessons from the commune into life in the larger world… and it’s working in beautiful ways.

This, I think, is the new direction this blog is finally taking — reporting to you live from Bohemia with my adventures in and reflection on cooperation for the masses.

working together

figuring it out...

Partner Dance

After a conversation with new friends last night, I woke up with a revelation about the evolution of my relationship with my husband — I had been trying to describe the tricky balance we’re walking of each being on our own paths, and sharing our lives at the same time.   When I woke up next to him this morning and I wanted to roll over to be more comfortable, I realized the core of it.  In the past, when I wanted something and he was “in the way” (if I felt resistance from him, or he didn’t want the same thing), I’d give it up.

I quickly built up resentment and blamed him for my life not being what I wanted it to be.  I felt powerless and depressed, believing I had gotten stuck in a life that wouldn’t ever be what I wanted it to be.  At some point two summers ago, I reached a breaking point.  I knew I needed a life that worked for me, and if Free was in my way, I would have to push past him.  I traveled for a month with our 2 yr old daughter, to the Rainbow Gathering in PA, to a week-long personal/cultural transformation workshop, to my mom’s wedding in OH.  Somewhere along that journey, I remembered that I’m the one that creates my life.  In some story about what it meant to be married, I had imagined that we were going to be creating our life together, and had let go of my own sense of agency (there’s vocab from my sociology background… “agency” is one’s ability to act autonomously and make independent choices).  On that mother/daughter month out in the world, I rediscovered my independent spirit, and a confidence and strength that helped me remember myself.

Putting this into practice over the last year and a half has been easier than I thought it would be.  Free *wants* me to be happy and thriving (surprise!?).  And, believe it or not, we get along so much better when I’m not blaming him for the ways my life isn’t what I want it to be. When I have an inspiration, I don’t let myself drop it if he’s “in the way”.  I ask him to move, or find a way to go around.  It’s a partner dance, and he’s not leading.  I dance my dance, he dances his, and because we want to, we dance together.

So this morning in bed, I asked him to scootch so I could roll over.  He sleepily did, and we snuggled in to go back to sleep.

hi you,

This morning I remembered being with you at Ethan and Veeka’s wedding, the combination of feeling strong and independent AND completely connected with you.  I remember how it felt in my body and my heart… the electric magic of the spiritual balance.  I remember coming together periodically to check in, needing nothing from each other except to hear wants and desires, and then figure out how they fit together.  We walked by the river that night, exploring the unknown city and each other in tandem — excited about being in the world together.

THIS is what I want to cultivate more in us.  It’s a different sort of balance now that our lives our intertwined with interdependence of money, children, home, car… it’s the work of marriage, I think, to keep finding the balance in ever-increasing interdependence.  Most couples get to do it gradually as the children grow up — but we leaped right in.  Sometimes I get stuck in resentment that it’s so hard, that our situation is so complex… and those are the times I get caught in despair and blame.  I want to remember that we’re both exceptionally strong, smart, and creative, and that we have all that we need to work with the complexity of our lives.

I see us exploring the world, exploring what it is to be US… from that strong balanced place of independent connectedness.  I know I’m more able to relax into my independence when I have total faith in the strength of our connection — and I imagine that you’re more able to relax into our connection when you feel strong in your independence.  I get clingy to reassure myself, and you withdraw to reassure yourself.  (That’s oversimplifying it, I know — but there seems to be a general truth to it, yes?)

I want to step more fully into my faith in our connection so that I can meet you from a place of strong independence.  It’s tricky with a baby — independence — because I AM dependent on you now in ways I wasn’t before we had a baby together.  Grrr… fucking nuclear family structure!  That’s a big part of our move to the city, I think… stepping more into "community" life, finding ways to get my needs met by a larger collective, not just you.

(Another piece of it that I just realized is that I have a fear that you are loving me less as you see more of who I am.  I’m not as bright and shining as I was 4 years ago.  I’m darker, sadder, more confused.  I get angry more easily, and I’m not treating you as lovingly as I used to.  My fear that you don’t love me as much increases my clingyness, decreasing my independence.)

So — FAITHFUL LOVE is the phrase I’m using to describe this balance that I’m seeking.  The FAITH is the lack of neediness, the trust that the other is going to meet me with their truth, and faith in the truth of love between all people, at the core — that faith keeps me centered in myself.  The LOVE, of course, is the connectedness, giving ourselves over to the experience of "us".  I want to give myself over to love AND be strong in myself — it’s the paradox of orgasm yet again… seeking without attachment, being active and surrendered… the same lessons again and again!  Ah, life.

Thanks for being with me on the journey.  I know I can be stubborn and heavy-headed sometimes.  Thanks for your compassionate patience and your insistent challenges.

see you in the forest of faithful love,


Yesterday Jeffrey and I woke up stressed and anxious.  "What are we going to get the kids? We have no presents, and no money, and Solstice is tomorrow!"  We took turns calming each other down by listing the few presents we had acquired already, and the ideas we had for other gifts.  One day loomed before us — to drive an hour and a half away for a good deal on a ping pong table, to come up with better ideas for smaller presents, to see if last-minute online purchases actually got delivered, to get treats for stockings… not to mention attending a school play, making mashed potatoes for the class party, and wrapping all the gifts (whatever they might be).  We spent the early morning tense and frustrated with ourselves for not having it all together ahead of time.

At one point, I asked him, "What do we need to do to be less stressed about this?  Should we just move Solstice?  Celebrate on Sunday?  Or Christmas Eve?  Or really buckle down and do it today, just figure it out and go with it?"  We decided to go for it, to make the best of it and stop being stressed about what we hadn’t done beforehand.  We talked by phone every hour, bouncing ideas off of each other and me searching Craigslist while he drove around town.  And it worked!  This morning was full of suprises for the kids (including a ping pong ball wrapped in a big box… just enough of a clue to send them running to find the table in the back room, where we had forbidden them from entering all yesterday evening).  Best of all, Jeffrey and I worked as a team to make it happen, stepping out of blame and anger ("Why didn’t you think of that earlier?") and into acceptance of the reality we were dealing with… and dealing with it together.

Today I’m resting in the awareness that marriage and family are about persistence and patience, not perfection.  It matters less what our lives look like right now — instead, it’s the direction we’re headed in together.  This is my training ground for keeping faith, for stepping forward even when I feel lazy or scared, for breathing through challenges with the belief that deeper strength and connection lie on the other side.  These life partners (Jeffrey and all the kids) are the perfect motivation to push myself to be more loving, more patient, more understanding, more aware.  And then I’m more of who I want to be.

The Wedding…

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!


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.


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…

It’s been a long while since I’ve written here, and this isn’t going to be a long post.  I’m working on wedding invitations instead of studying for this afternoon’s statistics exam, both of which I’ve been procrastinating on.
I’m just waiting for a phone call back from the stationery store to see if they’ve got the color of envelopes we want.  I didn’t think I’d be this kind of bride…

This can’t really be an “update of all the things that have happened since I wrote last” kind of post, because so much has happened and, at the same time, so little.  I have less than a month left in the semester, and I’m so looking forward to the end that I’m not working on the papers I need to be writing now.  I’m OVER grad school. The allure and mystique have evaporated and I’m realizing that it’s really only going to be what I want to make of it, and I don’t want to make much of it.  And yet, I’m still coming back for one more year.  Only two classes left, and writing my thesis, and I’ve got my Master’s Degree, I’ve finished what I’ve started, even if it isn’t what I wanted it to be.  I’ll take one class next semester, TA for one class, and teach part-time in a local alternative high school.  And be an apprentice to a friend who is a massage therapist… trying to find a way to support my life in a way that makes sense to me (it ISN’T academia, I now realize).

The stationery store called — they have what I want.  Off I go, the not-so-merry consumer.  More later…