Creating a Sacred & Secular Wedding Ceremony

The best ceremonies, and indeed the best weddings, reflect both the unique individuals involved and the pair as a unified whole.

So, what do you do when you have a faith or spirituality that needs to be expressed but your guests or your partner are firmly secular in their beliefs?

You hire a Celebrant of course!

A Bride and Groom stand before a large stone fireplace. The Celebrant Keli Tomlin is standing behind them, laughing at something the bride has said. The couple's hands are tied with a purple and gold handfasting cord.
© Steve Selby

Honouring Yourself

Both of you should feel fully seen and represented by your wedding ceremony; if the content reflects only one person’s beliefs or ideas there will be a sense of unbalance and an inherent lack of connection.

There is no generosity or chivalry in setting aside your personal beliefs for the other; do not be afraid to own your truth!

Openness and honesty are key in the ceremony planning stages. Sharing your unique ideas, beliefs and what you are and aren’t comfortable saying/doing, with one another and with your wedding Celebrant, ensures the resulting plans reflect your shared ideals, whilst being peppered with your individuality.

 

2019 Lucys Wed 18
© Jof

Honouring Your Beliefs

For those who have a spiritual approach to life but are not following a specific path or tradition, options can seem limited when it comes to finding marriage rituals and traditions that fully reflect how you feel about life and love.

When your partner doesn’t share the same need for an element of the sacred within your wedding ceremony, it can seem easier to just put the spiritual parts aside to honour their atheism or to keep things easier and more ‘normal’.

But disregarding a part of you that is so deeply woven into who you are and the journey of life can leave its own sour taste.

Take time alone, and with your Celebrant, to research wedding rituals that speak to you; perhaps a Handfasting or the honouring in of Ancestors or the use of blessings from your particular culture or tradition. Then discuss with your Celebrant and your partner how these elements might be adapted to resonate with both your beliefs. There are many ways to incorporate the sacred without alienating those who are more comfortable with the mundane.

 

Emma-and-Robert-160
© Matt Thompson

Careful Words

The language used in a wedding ceremony is often what sets the tone and quality of the whole thing. Formal or informal, light-hearted or solemn; a good wedding Celebrant weaves together a mixture of tones and atmospheres to reflect the various energies of your life and of the commitment you are making.

If the tone isn’t handled carefully or given this depth it can seem flat, lifeless or even trigger unwanted or uncomfortable associations, linked to our personal experience.

Choose words that suit both the intention and the individual/s involved. For example, you may refer to a blessing as a “wish” or describe someone’s sacred vow as a “heartfelt promise” to encapsulate the same intentions whilst avoiding overtly spiritual language.

Alternatively, if it is important to use words of an inherently spiritual nature, the Celebrant can set the scene by describing the intentions behind the words and acknowledging the reason why those particular ones have been chosen.

This builds a bridge of understanding between the guests and the couple that allows a wide range of both secular and sacred language and ritual to then be used.

 

handfasting
© Matt Thompson

Ritual Action

Ritual is the perfect tool for conveying ideas that are both sacred and secular.

Performing ritual is a human act, one that we have utilised since prehistory to mark important events and to make sense of the World around us. Ritual reaches us on an instinctive level; it communicates to us without our needing to fully understand the what or the why. So even if your guests or partner don’t fully understand your unique beliefs, the intention behind a successful ritual will still reach them on an emotional, human level.

An experienced Celebrant will help you to tailor existing rituals or devise new ones that embody sacred intentions whilst communicating in a secular language.

For example, to create a sacred space in which to speak wedding vows, you might ask your Bridesmaids to sprinkle flower petals around you both, while the guests are instructed to imagine a golden bubble of light covering you and the Celebrant speaks a Druidic verse, blessing the space.

The intention here is embodied in three separate acts: one purely physical, one imaginative and one sacred. This three-fold approach ensures everyone will understand and appreciate the significance of at least one, if not all of them. It also involves everyone in the doing, which is a powerful way of building connection and encouraging acceptance.

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Champion

Don’t be afraid to stand up for your beliefs and to request space for them to be honoured during your wedding day. Find the words and rituals that encompass both of your hearts and trust that they will reach your loved ones, even if they don’t fully understand or expect them.

Part of a Celebrant’s role is to embody and express both of your beliefs and desires with confidence and conviction. This does not mean your Celebrant needs to share your beliefs (though it can help!) only that she is willing, for the duration of your working relationship, to champion your preferences and needs and to give you the confidence to stand by them too.

Your Celebrant is your biggest fan and the most determined supporter of your ceremony choices, both in the lead up and on the day. Trust her to facilitate the coming together of your sacred and secular selves and to celebrate with you when those two become one!

 

happy celebrant
© Matt Thompson

Do you have the same beliefs as your partner? Do you worry about your guests understanding your spirituality or faith?

Let me know if I can help bring some clarity and connection on your special day.