Michigan Celebrant, Nick Neima published story in Spring 2009 Awakenings Magazine

Most of us have our share of awful wedding stories. Almost everything about the event was predictable and formulaic- from the music in the ceremony, to the round tables and hors d’oeuvres of cheese and fruit -at the reception. The love of the couple for each other and the love and support for them by the attendees was not reflected in the time together. We leave feeling that we fulfilled a social obligation. And often had no meaningful connection to the other attendees. Often even (or especially for) the bride and groom (or partners) themselves, it was event they survived, and were glad to have it now behind them.

Weddings can be enjoyable and uplifting for all in attendance. The analogy of building a new home applies here. A good architect will ask questions that will clarify the purpose and use of the spaces in the house. The final design will often be beyond the initial imagination of the clients. So too with weddings. Most of us have been conditioned by our previous experiences. As a result we have no clear sense of what is possible and can’t imagine any thing different. It does not seem possible that a ceremony and wedding experience could be created that will meet our needs completely.

Personalized ceremonies are the specialty of Celebrants. Trained to offer unique ceremonies, Celebrants are now available in most states. In Australia for example , Celebrants officiate more that sixty per cent of all weddings and funerals ( also personalized funeral or memorial ceremonies and services).Celebrancy began in Australia in 1973 , in response to the growing need for folks getting married, who were stepping in to relationships from different ethnic and religious backgrounds , or sexual orientations- and could ”not be met” in the traditional ways.

A simple totally private ceremony can be created just for the bride and groom to the most elaborate of ceremonies with several hundred guests. Each deserves a thoughtful, creative, personal process that reflects the personalities, philosophy, beliefs, and family backgrounds. One way or another we are the products of and the members of a social context of family , friends, culture, history, values and visions.

Since most of us have not lived where weddings (and funerals and other rituals and ceremonies) involved everyone in the “village” , we don’t have a shared experience of really coming together to celebrate a new relationship, an new partnership ,that appropriately and inevitably connects to all of the other people that are involved in the social fabric of our lives. A ceremony (and the reception as well) can be created such that a sense of “us-ness”, a real sense connection, relatedness, of camaraderie will be there.

With growing frequency people all over the world that are getting married come from varied backgrounds or beliefs, often very different from parents or grandparents. One client said, “We don’t want the cookie-cutter ceremony- we want something that is personal to us, written and created just for us”. So they begin looking for help from someone other than a traditional clergyperson. A Celebrant is trained to meet the needs from the most traditional to the most avent garde. The setting can be as simple as a living room to the most exotic settings. Whether it is on the water, on land, or in the air – no matter what the vehicle or venue- the key is to use all of the creativity, resources and experience that a Celebrant can bring, to create a memorable ceremony that truly fits the particular wishes of the clients.

For most couples, there is the desire to have the experience of their official union be a noteworthy, memorable occasion. Not just the flowers, the gowns etc., but an event that unites the people in attendance as well. To bring people together. Many clients say that what they heard from the guests about their wedding experience as a result of working with a Celebrant was:,”.. It felt like something happened for everybody, that each person was touched by the experience, that so many people left feeling so much more connected in a particular way”.

The Celebrant is important in listening, following, at times coaching and guiding but always with the goal of achieving the result most desired by the couple. At times there may seem to be competing or contradictory views, perspectives, or expectations from the two being married. There are also the unseen, but certainly present, views of the parents, grandparents, or important friends. One of the formative ritual scholars said in relating to this: All rites of passages are gestures swelling up out of a sea of relationships into a momentary ceremonial event”

The Celebrant will hold all of these, in a collaborative and empowering process , and will navigate to the place where the final design will reflect effective and creative use of symbols, music, literature, personal stories, ritual and the energy and wisdom of those most important to the couple. In the end it is about choosing the way that will most satisfy the client in making and marking one of the most meaningful of life’s transitions.

The process of creating the final “design” typically takes several “drafts”. The final approval rests with the clients. The ceremony is always tailored to completely meet their vision and needs.

Rituals and ceremonies can be powerful events if done well and help each person ( or couple), and a community of relatives and friends. To quote Maya Angelou:” I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Helen Keller from the depth of her unique perspective of her life offered the following :” The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” A meaningful, rich wedding experience reminds each and all of us that open heartedness or love, is the singular force that calls us together and holds us all together.

Author Nick Meima is a Celebrant who lives in Ann Arbor and has always been interested in community and ritual .Website: weddingforyou.net or 734-476-6555