Reflecting on Ceremony, Celebration, and Weddings

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Kat Seltzer and I got married a couple weeks ago (be sure to check out the slide show at the bottom!!)… it seems like a long time ago, and yet the whole event is still very fresh in my mind. There is some reflection that needs to happen in regards to our event and as to how we decided to include and celebrate with the community. How does one envision a wedding as a community transforming event? How do two people hold space for a celebration out of deep authenticity and steer clear of the “shoulds” and appropriate ways to do a wedding?  My Foundations in Community are hardwired in my mind and always effect how I hold space for such occasions.

First, I should say that Kat and I already considered ourselves married. When does marriage really happen? Is it a legal commitment, a religious event, a spiritual decision before God, or a community ceremony? I have heard all of the above… and before September 18 Kat and I had gone through all but the legal. Not much really changes for us. No name changes, no living changes, no job changes. But now “it’s official.” The world knows it and we have said “I do” for our lives… and we can have babies!

So… community, ceremony, celebration… and weddings. Kat had to keep reminding me that this event was about us, something that was a bit difficult for me to hang on to. I revel in getting so many beautiful people together. In the planning, we were insistent on a few things. We had to be married by the ocean (Kat), the ceremony had to be small (Kat) and very personal (both). We also had to have an open invitation to ALL of our community (Nate) and maximize the involvement of as many, if not all, individuals as we could (Nate).

So we had our “Pre-ception” before. We partied before the ceremony and all were invited. No sense in sending out invitations when Facebook, email, and personal invites would work just fine. Potluck, live music, beer… maximize involvement.

Then a few of us went to the coast. The whole schedule was very laid back and “organic.” I say organic because time, weather, and how people chose to spend the time they had was not something that could be controlled. And really can we control these things? With plenty of space, people were able to slow down enough to be themselves, reflect, and experience the community. It rained all day, which allowed us the opportunity to reconsider the location in the last hours. This was not a problem (to some of us), because whether it was outside or inside was irrelevant. We were together.

I could go on, and I a very open to questions. But it is important for me to note that when we are seeking to build and transform community, every event, every aspect of our lives, has to be considered with the community in mind. EVERY aspect… especially ceremony and celebration.

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3 thoughts on “Reflecting on Ceremony, Celebration, and Weddings”

  1. Nate,

    I applaud the way you chose to not worry about the “shoulds” of wedding planning. I have seen too many people make choices because “that’s how weddings are done,” and they have a miserable day because of it (not to mention all the debt they incur from hosting a lavish event).

    At the same time, I am curious to know what place (if any) you think tradition has in the concept of community. Communities are constantly changing—people come and go, they age, structures are built and torn down, etc.—but perhaps ceremonies (weddings, graduations, national anthems sung before ball games, etc.) play an important role in maintaining a steady hand amid all the flux. Certainly, there are plenty of ways to have a wedding, but at what point is a wedding no longer a wedding and becomes something else? Is it OK if it becomes something else entirely? How does that affect the community? Are certain communities more adaptable to change and, if so, is that adaptability something that can be intentionally developed or does it just happen?

    Sorry to throw all these questions at you, but you really got my mind moving this morning! I am currently working toward a Master’s in Public Administration, so I am so eager to hear your thoughts about tradition, change, and how communities can address the two. (Government is infamously slow to change, but I think the public’s longing for tradition can play a big role in that.)

    Oh yeah, and congratulations! Good luck with the babies. 😉

    Marc

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  2. Marc,
    Thanks for all your great questions. These are things that I have thought a lot about over the last 4 or 5 years as I have been fully “in it.”

    There is a huge place for tradition, ceremony, and ritual in community. As you said, communities are constantly changing and yes, government has been slow in adapting… I would say, to an extent, religion has as well. Tradition helps us stay grounded in history which is absolutely essential if we are to adapt to change well. It’s kind of a paradox actually. Adapt yet ground in history. So we as a community must know and celebrate (or even lament) our history, and yet we must continue to build new ways of doing ceremony and ritual.

    Tradition often gets developed unintentionally, but ritual and ceremony MUST be developed intentionally. I would say that for ALL ceremony and ritual, there must be an intention to form them in a way that is true to a community’s way of being together. This is where churches have missed the mark, I think. Many church communities, do not have their OWN rituals. They are borrowing from others… and often this is because they do not spend enough time together to really have a “way” they do things.

    Many traditions are meaningless to those who participate in them. People get “good vibes” because they feel comfortable and secure knowing “this is the way we’ve always done it.” A truly community forming ritual demands involvement, challenge, and reflection. With our community here in Bend, I had to keep in mind who we are. Many do not have weddings (some have done it already and been divorced, some don’t see marriage as necessary to partner in life), most are not religious, many have a strong earth-based spirituality, we do potlucks, we share the work, and the joy of just being together is the biggest reward. And yet, Kat and I have Christian backgrounds, we both love Celtic spirituality, and we have been in a committed cohabiting relationship for a year and a half (with the intention of spending our lives together). Of course, there are a lot of layers here, but all of these factors went into our considering our ceremony.

    Oh yah, I should also say that I don’t think that government is going to be the ones who answer the community’s longing for tradition and need for change. Local community led by true elders is the answer. Government is notoriously adolescent and ego-centric.

    I love the dialog so ask away!

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