Excerpted from THE BOOK OF CEREMONY: Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred in Everyday Life, by Sandra Ingerman. Sounds True, October 2018. Reprinted with permission.
Our culture puts a lot of pressure on couples to plan a “perfect” wedding to honor their love. Creating a big wedding can put a couple or family under financial stress. Issues come up about whom to invite, what to serve, what to wear, and the list goes on. Many people are choosing simpler wedding ceremonies today that focus on the true meaning of marriage instead of lavish celebrations that can lead to financial debt and rifts in families.
My husband, Woods, and I lived together for years before getting married. We wanted to perform our own shamanic wedding and leave out the legalities. We felt that the commitment of getting married with spirit as our witness was more binding than a legal document.
We live in the country, and we went out onto our land. It was a snowy, cold winter’s day. Wearing snow boots, we hiked down to an artesian spring covered with snow. The white snow next to the green pine, juniper, and ponderosa trees created a magical atmosphere along with complete silence on the land.
I rattled to call in, greet, and welcome the spirit of the land, the helping ancestors, the spirit of Santa Fe, our helping spirits, and our own ancestors. I stated my invocation out loud, thanking the elements of earth, air, water, and fire (as the sun), and all the beings in nature for witnessing our commitment ceremony. Woods and I took turns expressing our love for each other and then exchanged wedding rings. We left two red roses on the snow covering the spring. We thanked the spirits and closed our ceremony. It was a precious experience for both of us, and we felt truly committed to each other.
We took some photos of each other and of the trees witnessing this sacred event. The photos showed luminous blue orbs in the juniper trees. This was a sign that we were truly blessed and supported.
Years later, we wanted to make our marriage legal. I asked a friend who embraced the practice of shamanism to be our minister. We invited a small group of dear friends to come and be part of the rite of passage of getting legally married.
Once again, we chose winter as the time to perform our ceremony. And it was again snowing, so we asked our guests to dress for the snow and the cold.
Katherine, our minister, did a lovely job invoking the spirits. We stood in a circle on our snow-covered deck, appreciating the beauty of the bright sunlight making the snow shimmer. Katherine asked each person to recount a funny or touching experience about me and Woods. There was a lot of laughter. Our friends reached into their hearts and shared stories that expressed their love and support.
After everyone shared a memorable story, Woods and I spoke to each other from our heart about our love and what our relationship meant to us. We then exchanged the same rings again, and Katherine pronounced us husband and wife.
After Katherine closed the ceremony, we all shared food and drink together.
It was such a sweet and intimate ceremony. Everyone left feeling that they had participated in a spiritual experience that had deep meaning for all.
I am sharing my experience with you to give you some ideas of how you can improvise a wedding ceremony if you don’t go the traditional route of creating a huge event where you have a hundred or more guests.
There are couples and families who do want to have a large celebration of people witnessing their love and commitment to each other. You can certainly create a sacred ceremony at a large wedding by greeting the compassionate spirits and bringing everyone together with the correct focus. Be clear that the wedding is more than a party — it is a sacred event that has deep meaning. Whether a ceremony is used to honor the sacred marriage of a heterosexual relationship or a same-sex relationship would not change a shamanic marriage ceremony.
Weddings honor love and commitment. It is beautiful when a couple stands in the presence of loved ones, the helping spirits, and the divine, all witnessing and supporting the intention of the ceremony.
Inviting a minister with a shamanic background can provide a powerful way to weave through spiritual words that are an invocation inviting the divine to bear witness. Ask guests to step into a place of honor and respect for the couple during the invocation and ceremony. Ask them to feed wishes for good health and continued love through both good and challenging times. These steps bring a spiritual aspect to any wedding ceremony you wish to design.
Invite close friends and relatives to share short, funny stories in an honoring way. The entire wealth of guests can join in with blessings, love, and laughter.
Place a bowl of crystal hearts on a table and ask all the guests to blow wishes for the couple into the crystals. In this way, the bowl of crystals can sit in the new couple’s home radiating beneficial wishes for the goodness of life. Instead of crystals, you can collect stones or place rose petals in a bowl. Ask everyone to state out loud a one-word blessing that surrounds and “rains down” on a couple while they drink their favorite drink together toasting their love. These are simple, sacred ways of adding to the usual toasts given at a wedding.
When performing a wedding outside, such as in a park or at a beach, consider including an arbor in the ceremony. These can be simply built and lined with candles, decorations, vines, and flowers. Perform an invocation, and then invite the couple to walk through the arbor from a place of separation to togetherness. This is a powerful ceremonial element that can fit into any marriage, large or small.
The key is to weave in spiritual phrases, invocations, and acts to honor and bless the couple. You can easily transform any wedding ceremony from a party into a true spiritual celebration.
It is never too late to perform a “recommitment” ceremony with your spouse if you felt that your initial wedding celebration did not carry a strong sacred energy. You can even perform such a recommitment ceremony on an anniversary. This can revitalize a marriage and refuel the depth of your commitment and love for each other.
About the Author:
Sandra Ingerman, MA, is an award winning author of twelve books, including The Book of Ceremony: Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred in Everyday Life (October 2018; Sounds True). She is a world-renowned teacher of shamanism and has been teaching for more than 30 years. Sandra is recognized for bridging ancient cross-cultural healing methods into our modern culture, addressing the needs of our times. For more information, please visit https://sandraingermanbooks.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.