Every time I officiate at a wedding ceremony, I am awed by the extraordinary energy that becomes available when two people in love literally step up to commit themselves to sacred union. Because I am frequently called upon to solemnize marriage vows outside of traditional religious settings, I have seen time and again that a holy temple can be created anywhere love is present.
All wedding ceremonies have a rhythm, and a life, of their own. The energy comes alive as the bride makes her walk to the altar, and it builds like a symphony with each segment. By the time vows are exchanged, it is as if the heavens open to rain love upon the gathering. Couples can seize the opportunity to unite not just their hearts, lives and families, but to unite their very beings.
Although many of us grew up attending traditional weddings, in churches, synagogues and temples, in recent years we have seen the emergence of a new type of wedding, where couples marry outside of a formal house of worship. They often opt for ceremonies that are non-traditional, personal, unique. Whether they include religious traditions or not, most couples want their ceremony to be sacred.
The concept of the sacred marriage or sacred love ceremony originated with the ancients, who typically enacted annual ceremonies to bring fertility and prosperity. Many cultures enact or emulate sexual rites between God and Goddess, or between the Gods and a human who "impersonated" or energetically acted out the role of a deity. The Greeks called it Hieros Gamos. Many mythologies describe it as a marriage between heaven and earth. In ancient Egypt, the marriage between Isis and Osiris was considered a sacred union of heaven and earth, of yin and yang, of the feminine and the masculine principles.
In the Hindu tradition, man and woman come to the wedding altar as God and Goddess in human form. To this day, in many parts of India, the bride is looked upon as Goddess Lakshmi (who rules abundance, prosperity and beauty) and the groom as Lakshmi’s consort, Lord Vishnu.
The Celtic tradition brought forth one of the most widely practiced forms of sacred ceremony today – the hand fasting. It was once a form of "engagement" that committed couples for a year and day. If they found marriage suitable, they’d marry. It grew into a self-initiated ceremony couples would conduct in the days before there was such as thing as a wedding officiant. The custom is still widely practiced in the Pagan community, often presided over by a High Priestess and High Priest to represent male and female energies. (One of them has to be a clergy registered to perform legal marriages).
Many couples relish the idea of a memorable and special sacred ceremony – but they want to tread lightly on some of the traditions and trimmings that relatives with strong religious beliefs would find upsetting or offensive. They also want ceremonies that are welcoming to loved ones and can easily include the participation of friends and family.
The modern, sacred love wedding ceremony is one that has to be crafted by and for each individual couple. It’s rarely something you can just pull out of a book. It’s personalized, and has to include elements that will help that couple truly seize on the energy of the moment, such as creating a sanctified space that is like a sacred container for their love and vows.
It doesn’t have to look like a Hindu ceremony or a Pagan ceremony or seem like a reenactment of the Celtic Holiday of Beltane when men and women took to the fields to make love in honor of the Goddess. It can be a groom in a tux and a bride in white who walks down the aisle, or a shoeless couple on a beach. It can contain elements or rituals of existing traditional or non-traditional ceremonies; it can include any religious, spiritual, cultural or family traditions the couple chooses. The main ingredient is their love and their conscious intent to express that love to one another – and share it with their community – in a way that is holy and sacred to them personally.
Things to consider as you plan:
- An auspicious time and date. In the Eastern traditions wedding dates are selected with the assistance of professional astrologers. Many modern couples ask astrologers to suggest dates.
- The venue. Love between a couple is what creates a temple – anywhere. Pick a place that is personally meaningful and sacred.
- Your wedding officiant. Find a loving, caring, supportive clergy person with whom you feel a connection.
- Creating and speaking sacred vows. A couple’s expression of love and commitment can be expressed throughout the ceremony, yet the exchange of vows is the hallmark of a sacred love ceremony.
- In sacred love ceremonies, the emphasis is on an even greater spiritual connection between the couple. The couple is empowered to see the divinity within, as well as the divine light within each other.