I will be the first to admit that I am a bit of a cynic when it comes to marriage. A marriage break-up will do that. So I thought I would tell you the story of the nicest wedding I have ever been too. But first, let’s talk about many of the others I have been to, starting with my own. And let’s talk about the reasons rituals exist in the first place.
My wedding was a very pretty one, but it wasn’t mine. I didn’t want the fancy expensive hotel reception, the arguments over the specific colours of the roses (who gives a sh*t, really?) or the feeling that I had gone to sleep and woken up in someone else’s life. All I ever wanted was to go to Vegas and get married by an Elvis impersonator. Tacky, but true. I also didn’t want the Catholic ceremony I ended up getting. I was pretty sure on the day that the vows I was repeating were not the ones I had agreed to, but the haze of nerves, exhaustion and hunger (I got very skinny from the wedding stress) meant my mind wasn’t functioning at optimum.
So many weddings I have been to have mirrored my experience somewhat: the ceremony seems a little empty, often because the bride and groom are not actually religious; they are Christians, Hindus, Jews or whatever by culture rather than faith. Which means there is a lack of belief in the power of the ritual, and often the priest or officiator doesn’t know the couple very well, if at all. So it’s a bit rote-like and lacks intimacy.
My understanding of rituals is that they are ceremonies – often associated with faith or religion – performed to mark rites of passage: from childhood to adulthood, from single to committed, at birth, at death. Done well, rituals provide a road map for life. Done without faith and intimacy, they are basically pointless.
I have felt for a long time that something essential is missing from our inherited, materialistic rituals: I remember going to a run of baby showers six or seven years ago and being so bored by the ridiculous inanity, and the mountains of gifts being opened, that I would generally drink too much wine just to get through the afternoon. Now, I just avoid going if I possibly can. But this weekend, I went to a birth blessing. There was a circle of women, there was palpable love, there were poems and food and sharing of experiences. We all took along a piece of fabric to sew into a quilt for the bub. And we brought our energy, our love, our blessings into the home that will so soon receive a new life. It was amazing. I was on the verge of tears several times. No drinking of fizzy apple juice out of a pottty or the making the mama wear a giant nappy. Thank God(dess).
At the Mark Whitwell retreat in Fiji in December, a couple were so moved by Mark’s teachings that they decided to renew their wedding vows. Mark knew enough about them that he could personalise the ceremony to them, and it contained elements of the yoga tradition that is so meaningful to those of us who practice in it.
We all practiced our asana together, with the couple at the centre of the space, then we went into savasana. After a while, we sat up and formed a circle around the couple, who stayed in savasana. Mark walked in a circle around them, unifying them. He chanted over each individually, then while touching them both, ancients vedic chants of power. We chanted, we sang together, the couple sat up and repeated simple, powerful vows to one another. Nobody wore shoes or makeup. I cried almost the whole way through. It was the most beautiful wedding I have ever been to. There was love, faith, and intimacy. There were flowers too, rustled up by the staff at Daku Island Resort, and by one of the girls on the retreat, who acted as maid of honour. But they were just what was available. So special, but nothing special, if you get my drift.
Afterwards, we all had some wine and toasted the happy couple, then we all went and shared food. It was that simple. If I ever marry again, it will be like this.