anticipated this question. Here are
a few items that people may be inclined to ask, “What does it mean?”
The Wedding Ceremony
When people find out that we are not having a
‘normal’ wedding, their next question is usually, “What kind of wedding is
it?” It seems that weddings are
classified several ways: by religion (a Catholic Wedding), by continent (an
African Wedding), by nation or nationality (a French Wedding), by location (a
Church Wedding), and sometimes by an arbitrary type (a White Wedding or a
Shotgun Wedding). Our wedding does
not fit readily into any of the predefined types.
Since it does not follow the cookie cutter pattern, and wasn’t pulled,
ready-made, out of a box, I suppose the best way to identify it is as a
With Andrea’s help, I wrote the wedding ceremony
myself. Some people consider this
unusual, but we wanted something special and something meaningful.
Many conventional wedding scenes involve things that have become,
frankly, boring. The commonly read
‘Love does not…’ scripture in 1 Corinthians is an excellent scripture, but
we’ve all heard it fifty million times.
Realizing this, the goal became to create something
interesting and unique. We decided to incorporate props and sub-ceremonies, such
as the use of bells by the audience, from various cultures to make the play more
interesting and encourage those in the audience to be participants rather than
spectators. Sometimes we even
created something original to fill a niche.
I wrote the Declaration of Intent in the Buddhist style,
reviewed it with Andrea, and ran with it from there. There is usually a prayer in a wedding, so I added one of
those too – but a different kind of prayer.
Most people know what a prayer is – ‘Our father who art in
heaven…’ – but if they would stop and think about it, they would realize
that there are many kinds of prayers. The
prayer of sounds is literally a ‘joyful noise unto the lord.’
Using ideas collected over a lifetime of religious and
philosophical study, I built a different set of scriptural lessons around the
traditional framework, merging similar ideas from separate philosophies.
It is amazing to me that the ‘Big Three’ (Jesus, Mohammed, and
Buddha) led similar lives and preached nearly identical ideas.
Each message was customized to the thought process of the people
receiving it, but in each instance truth is easily recognized.
Love, compassion, brotherhood (and sisterhood), and moderation were the
major themes - only later did dogma and doctrine complicate the simple messages
these men proclaimed. There are
those who will argue for and against the idea of interfaith; some arguing that
their faith or church is the only true one, others arguing that we are all
children of god. I have heard all the arguments, but it seems to me that the
original message of brotherhood is the most important one. None of the ‘Big
Three’ preached religion; rather they emphasized a personal relationship with
God. I think that in the modern
era, more and more people are realizing this, and, as Lenny Bruce said, “More
and more people are leaving the Church and going back to God.”
What does a supreme being see when he looks down on us and sees us
felling his trees and piling up his stones into what we think are magnificent
structures? Can he think anything
but, “Look! The children are
playing in the dirt again!”?
The Scriptural Lessons were written with this idea in
mind. Capturing the early essential
truths, through distillation rather than dilution, was the goal.
The vows were born after many tries and retries. A vow is
an oath, and we wanted ours to be a strong one. Traditional vows are very straight forward, and we I wanted
to maintain that simplicity and avoid being too elaborate.
In the end, I think we found the right mix.
Andrea added the Apache Blessing, which I think fits
We invite you to listen and participate.
April Fool’s Day
has been a running laugh since the date was first set as our wedding date.
Most people, however, don’t know the origin of ‘April Fool’s
Day’. April first is the original
‘New Year’ before the calendar we currently use came into effect.
Those who still observed April first as the New Year were called,
we planned our wedding, Shane and I knew we wanted our loved ones to participate
in creating a sacred space with us. The gathering was important, but we also needed a focal point
to gather around. Traditionally,
weddings commence at some sort of altar, but since our wedding is outdoors, we
had to create our own altar. When
a person hears the word altar, it usually calls to mind images of pagan rituals,
or of churches, synagogues and other places of communal worship or meditation.
It hints at divine offerings and religions doctrines whose traditional
meanings have long since become like white noise to us.
Rarely does one think of what the word might mean on a personally
spiritual level. I prefer Peg Streep’s
description of an altar as a sacred space; a personal place of prayer, ritual
and meditation. She feels altars do
not ‘make’ space sacred. Rather,
they work by showing us what has been there all along.
For me, a sacred space is any space that calls my soul to join in
communion with the universe. Such
spaces speak to me of connection, rejuvenation and hope.
They encourage me to ask hard questions and to become still enough to
hear the answers. They call me to
participate and to share.
I visit the sea with my mother we gather treasure and bounty along the shore.
We place shells, stones, driftwood, and seed pods on the deck outside.
Holding hands we turn our gazes to the ocean, to the sunset, or to the
stars. The waves sing with us as we
stand together in silence, or speak softly to one another about our lives. In
our hearts we join with God as surely as we join hands with one another and add
our voices to the sound of the sea. Thus
we create a sacred space and our own ‘altar’ at which we ‘pray’.
simple open air structure of the pavilion lends itself perfectly to the creation
of a sacred space. Its circular
nature inspires an intimate gathering in which each participant can enjoy the
play of expressions and emotions felt throughout the ceremony.
At the center we will have a table which will hold water bowls, elements
and sacred sounds, all of which are described elsewhere.
These are the visible props of the ‘altar’ which we will create
together. Of much greater
importance is the spiritual element each of us will bring by being a supportive
member of our gathering. Your personal thoughts and meditations throughout the
ceremony are in many ways more important than the ceremony itself. These
combined with the ceremony will serve to create a living altar; a sort of
interactive sacred space. We hope
the words, sights and sounds of our wedding will inspire in each of you that
feeling of connection and spirituality.
Wells wrote a fictional novel called (amusingly enough) Little Altars
Everywhere. There is a section, written from a child’s point of view, that
speaks richly to me about the subject of altars: “Sometime during the summer, I have this dream about Edythe
Spevey and me. We’re on the swing
that hangs from the pecan tree in our backyard.
And while we’re swinging, its like Edythe’s body is in my body.
Her legs kick out from my legs, and her head leans forward out of mine.
When I move my arms forward, her arms come out of them.
We are swinging in this just right rhythm. We are swinging high, flying way up, higher than in real
life. And when I look down, I see
all the ordinary stuff – our brick house, the porch, the tool shed, the back
windows, the oil-drum bar-b-q pit, the clothesline, the China Berry tree.
But they are all lit up from inside so their everyday selves have holy
sparks in them, and if people could only see those sparks, they’d go and kneel
in front of them and pray and just feel good.
Somehow the whole world looks like little altars everywhere.
And every time Edythe and me fly up into the air and then dive down to
earth, it’s like we’re bowing our heads at those altars and we are praying
and playing all at the same time.”
us create together a sacred space, one which shows us what has been there all
along: a gathering of people who
are all lit up inside and whose everyday selves have holy sparks in them.
Let us join in contemplation, celebration and hope as Shane and I are
wed. Let the words and sounds
encourage questions and answers. Come, let us pray and play all at the same time. – Andrea
|Bells & Their Use
It is customary in some remote parts of Mongolia to use
bells as a sort of signaling device – calling everyone to dinner for instance.
In these areas, everyone brings bells to wedding ceremonies and ring them
at the conclusion of the ceremony to indicate their support for the new couple.
took this tradition and expanded upon it, but the basic idea is to encourage the
audience to be participants rather than spectators – and, we like
Since Andrea said we had to wear clothes, we compromised
and agreed to go barefoot. While
this may seem like an elaborate excuse to save money on shoes, being barefoot is
symbolic for being well grounded. When
standing upon the earth, you are standing between heaven and earth.
Earth is always earth; it is just as it is.
The Earth will let anyone stand on it.
It never lets you down – you can’t fall off the Earth.
In the same way, heaven is always heaven; the stars are always overhead
– even if you are upside down. We
will face the earth – and the sky – with ourselves just as we are, with no
interposing masks. We feel that
this simple honesty is more important that any article of clothing.
"What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot
recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more
beautiful that the garment with which it is clothed?"
‘Chinese bells’ is a term used to describe many
different types of musical bells. These
bells, probably of Nepalese manufacture, date from the turn of the century.
Each one is embossed with the symbol of the garuda, a legendary Tibetan
bird who is traditionally referred to as the king of birds.
The garuda hatches full-grown from its egg and soars into outer space,
expanding and stretching its wings beyond any limits – sort of like the sound
of a bell.
purple dress with embroidered violet flowers; Lavender veil with royal blue
satin trim, placed on the head with a wreath of yellow, red, and orange flowers.
I approached the decision of wedding garb, I had a very non-traditional idea in
mind. The colors needed to be rich
and beautiful. The veil needed to
have a sort of renaissance flair, and I knew I wanted to approach my life as
Shane’s wife with flowers in my hair and my bare feet touching the earth.
thoroughly enjoyed designing my veil, although I think my seamstress was even
more gleeful than I was with the results. She
was tired of making the same white frilly creations over and over again.
not assume my desire for flowers in my hair and bare feet has some elusive pagan
meaning. Those of you who know and
love me understand that I have a deep connection with the earth.
I love nothing better than encouraging plants and trees to grow.
It speaks to the part of me that needs to nurture.
Thus I will wear the bounty of the earth in my hair.
As for bare feet – I hate shoes; unless of course you bring me
to Macy’s shoe department when I suddenly NEED to have a new pair.
(Must be a woman thing.) It
is true however, that I like the idea of feeling the connection between myself
and the solid earth which supports and nurtures me.
colors I chose carry wonderful symbolic meanings in a variety of cultures.
Purple is associated with taking a deliberate, well thought out action.
As a blend of red and blue, it is a color of passion and reason and of
the balance of heaven and earth. Blue,
the color of the sky and the water, is often associated with the intellect as
well as the spirit. It symbolizes
the balance of masculinity and femininity, and is often considered to be a
protective color. In Tibetan
Buddhism, it symbolizes both potentiality and emptiness at once.
Yellow is associated with both the sun and the riches of the earth.
It symbolized enlightenment, intellect, and reproduction, growth and
Tewe prayer takes into consideration the importance of cloth as a symbol of
interconnection of life and the thread that bring us all together.
It sums up the power and beauty of woven things:
O our Mother the Earth, O our Father the Sky
Your children are we and with tired backs
We bring you the gifts you love.
Weave for us a garment of brightness
May the warp be the white light of morning
That we may walk fittingly where the grass is green
May the weft be the red light of evening
May the fringes be the falling rain
May the border be the standing rainbow
Thus weave for us a garment of brightness
O our Mother the Earth, O our Father the Sky
Kimono with embroidered Dragon. Red
Silk Brocade Obi (Belt) w/Dragons
the early stages of planning this wedding, I declared, “I am not wearing a
tuxedo.” I feel that the things
are absolutely ridiculous, and very few people wear them for anything at all.
The ‘suit and tie’ have replaced the ultra-formal tuxedo in most
cases. Since I hate ties too, this
was somewhat distressing. All the
traditional advice seemed to be, “You must wear a suit.”
Rather than conform, I decided to be clever.
Since a Kimono is considered formal dress in Japan, I could wear one and
be both comfortable and properly attired. The
Japanese are just so clever…
picked this Kimono, after much searching, for its color, its composition, and
the embroidered dragons. I pieced
the obi (belt) together from silk brocade by hand, which took many hours.
color of blood, symbolic of life, red is perhaps the most sacred of colors.
From the blood of Christ to war paint, it has been part of the religious
and spiritual symbolism across the world. Red
is energy, strength, and sometimes healing.
Associated with love, passion, combat, fire, and the planet mars, red
seemed like a good color to get married in.
silk is very comfortable – more comfortable than any wool suit could ever be
and comfort was very important to me.
dragon is a symbol of inscrutability. The
dragon is energetic, powerful, and unwavering.
The state of inscrutability is based on fearlessness.
This is unlike the conventional concept of inscrutability, which is
deviousness or a blank-wall. For
the dragon of inscrutable, fearlessness has been achieved.
From fearlessness is developed gentleness and sympathy.
Gifts to the Wedding Party
Traditionally, engraved mementos or store bought items
are given to members of the wedding party so that they can feel appreciated and
also remember the ‘Big Event’. Since
we love to give presents we approached this phase of the planning with
enthusiasm. A trip to Toys-R-Us was
strongly considered with a great deal of amusement and glee, but was
subsequently squashed as we began to realize that this event is our wedding, not
Christmas, a Birthday, or Just Because. We
wanted our gifts to be personal, inclusive, and, like our wedding, somewhat
interactive. (The proverbial gift
that keeps on giving, so to speak.) We
settled on two gifts.
first gift is the rehearsal dinner itself.
Rather than force everyone to dress formally and sit stiffly at some gala
affair, we delighted in the idea of giving our friends and our loved ones the
gift of play. The Celebration
Station was the perfect environment for this, so we arranged for pizza, Coke™,
and unlimited use of bumper boats, go carts, miniature golf, and video games.
We hope that everyone there age regresses to somewhere between age 5 and
10, and allows themselves to relax into having a great time.
It is always a gift to remember that it is OK to play at any age.
second gift is one that I have been nurturing all winter long and up to the
wedding itself. That is, all the
plants used at the Pavilion and the Foundation Center. These plants aren’t merely decorations. Each one has its own particular meaning for Shane and I, and
was something I could do for people that required my direct ongoing attention.
We put our love and good wishes into these living gifts and hope they
provide pleasure to all who receive them. In
the pavilion are large pots containing Kumquat trees.
This may seem strange, but in China the tree’s small orange fruit is a
symbol of prosperity and good fortune. These
young trees have already borne fruit and will continue to do so over their life
span, thus showering their owners with prosperity, good fortune, and a wonderful
the foundation center are small pots with two types of impatiens in them.
When Shane and I were planning our first date, he scoured the city for
impatiens to show how impatient he was for our date to begin.
Unfortunately, it was August, and there were none to be found.
On our wedding day there will be lots of them everywhere and they will go
home with people we love.
Gifts to the Parents
mother gave all of her children a framed saying by some unknown author that
speaks of my family’s strong belief in the haven a family can provide.
It reads as follows:
modern times this is possible, but, sadly, often this is not so.
Families of origin can be scattered and dysfunctional.
As a result many people recreate ‘family’ with a combination of blood
relatives and close friends.
and I are lucky to have had the experience of being raised by two parents who
love and support us. We wanted to
do something that expresses our own deep gratitude and love.
We chose a medallion made by the artist Cynthia Webb which expresses what
we wanted to say beautifully. The
outer circle of the medallion meets at the bottom and twines together up the
center to form the trunk of a tree covered in fruit and new growth.
Two doves sit in the tree’s branches facing each other. The piece is entitled Perfect
Union, and has an inscription on the back which says, “Some things, when
together, are more complete than when standing alone.”
We thank you our mothers and fathers for the gifts of your son and your
daughter, and for accepting us, as a married couple, into the circle of your
In modern times, the person performing a wedding service
is often paid a fee. Seeing that
weddings have become an economic event, this is not surprising.
Ed Goldman never asked for any payment, and he has been very gracious
throughout this process. We were keen to find some way to convey our thanks and
Our gift is the
Sound of the Universe, a genuine antique singing bowl from Tibet.
This one was carefully selected from many being sold by a street vendor
in Nepal, brought back to the U.S. by the purchaser, and subsequently sold to
us. We were even given a photograph
of the vendor and his stand.
idea of a living gift, this gift is alive in its own way. Its voice is always available – the proverbial gift that
keeps on giving.
Ed was gracious enough to allow the use of his gong.
This gong is of modern manufacture.
Ed made the wooden stand that holds the gong.
Gongs have been used throughout antiquity as a signal and a meditation
Have you seen the cost of flowers lately?
Ouch! Andrea and I came up
with the idea of using prayer flags instead of flowers, and Andrea decided to
make pots of live trees, flowers, and plants to set the stage of our wedding.
Not only did we buy traditional ‘wind horse’ flags to use as a
meaningful decoration, we also asked all of our close friends and family to
create one of their own. Andrea
wrote the prayer flag instruction sheet, which follows:
Dear Family and Friends,
With joy in our hearts, we anticipate the celebration of
our marriage. In honor of this
occasion, we have chosen to use the tradition of prayer flags, as celebrated in
Tibet and among other eastern cultures. Custom
requires that a family consult a local lama (priest) preceding an auspicious
event or occasion. Through
meditation and fasting, the lama creates an individualized blessing, often
accompanied by a symbol, which is then drawn upon a prayer flag. This
flag is given to the family, who then hangs it on the occasion of the event.
It is believed that as the wind blows through the flag, the prayers are
released and the blessings are carried to the family on the breeze.
Enclosed you will find a cloth prayer flag.
We would like you to give us your blessings, advice, or wishes by writing
them on this prayer flag, along with a symbol related to that blessing, or
commemorative of your relationship to us. For
example, if you wrote, “May the love in your hearts be long and lasting,”
then you could draw a simple heart shape for the symbol.
If you advised, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” you might
draw an apple, a tree, a doctor, or an apple tree falling on a doctor.
On the other hand, you may wish to give a blessing related to qualities
we have that are familiar and loved by you, such as a sense of humor.
You may then choose to create or copy something symbolizing the good
times we have shared together. Alternatively,
you could choose to create a design or pattern that simply pleases you, or copy
a favorite quote or saying. Please
write your name somewhere on the flag so we will know who it is from.
We will follow tradition and hang the flags during our
ceremony. This will allow your
blessings to be released in the new spring air as we say our vows to one
another. Later, a friend will piece
the flags together to make a combined mural.
We hope to bring this mural with us as we visit family and friends
throughout the coming years. Everyone can then share and receive the blessings.
We have enclosed a stamped envelope in which you can
return your completed flag. We ask
that you return the flags no later than March 24, 2000. If you would rather not participate with us in this way,
perhaps you can send us a prayer in your hearts on the day we marry.
We feel the wind will carry these blessings our way as well.
The souvenir program guide is a feature in many theaters,
ballparks, and festivals. It is
also customary in some cultures for the bride and groom to give gifts to each
person in attendance at the wedding. We
decided to kill the two proverbial birds with one stone and provide a lasting
memento of our marriage. There is a
page in the back where you can paste a photo from our wedding.
has been a joint effort between both of us, each one writing and collaborating
on different sections. We have
prepared this program with the idea of explaining and documenting this unique
show. We hope you enjoy it.
you plant crops in a field, it is not the ground that benefits, but you
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