Religious and Interfaith Weddings, Civil Ceremonies and Blessings ~ Part 2
In Part 2 of my blog posts about different types of wedding ceremonies, I would like to talk about my own interfaith wedding to Robert in 2008.
I am a Buddhist and Robert is a Christian. Technically there isn’t a wedding ceremony in my tradition of Buddhism so it wasn’t a case of doing a Christian service and then a Buddhist ceremony, so we had to find a way to bring them together that we would both feel comfortable with and find meaningful in terms of the words we were planning to say to each other.
Robert attends St Mark’s Church in Broomhill, Sheffield, so we approached the Vicar there and he agreed that we could have the traditional Christian church wedding ceremony but also try to bring some Buddhist elements into the service. We incorporated these particularly in the music and we found Bible readings and hymns that had words that would also resonate with someone of the Buddhist faith.
We chose ‘wisdom’ as our theme as this was common to both faith traditions and all of the hymns were about love and community, again important values that we share. We asked a friend of ours who is the Director of Yorkshire and Humber Faiths Forum to deliver our wedding address as we knew he would say something relevant not just to us both, but also to our guests who were from many different faiths.
As Robert is very familiar with Church liturgy he knew what legal elements of the traditional church wedding service had to be kept in and he re-wrote the other sections to make them more relevant to us both (believe me, we spent hours debating this!).
After I had walked down the aisle, the choir sang a chant called ‘Praise to Wisdom’ written by the 11th century Christian writer and composer Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). Even though this was a Christian song, these words are also very familiar to a Buddhist and very similar to some Buddhist texts, so it is often the case that readings or songs can be found that sit comfortably with the faiths of both bride and groom.
Here are the words to O VIRTUS SAPIENTIAE (Praise to Wisdom) by Hildegard of Bingen:
“YOU POWER OF WISDOM
THAT CIRCLED CIRCLING
AND EMBRACING ALL
IN A COURSE THAT IS FILLED WITH LIFE
YOU HAVE THREE WINGS
ONE SOARS INTO THE HEIGHTS
ANOTHER HAS MOISTURE FROM THE EARTH
THE THIRD FLIES ALL AROUND
ALL PRAISE TO YOU, WISDOM, AS IS YOUR DUE.”
During the signing of the register we had a piece of music, based on a Buddhist wisdom text about Emptiness, played on a Japanese flute.
Although Robert and I wanted the ceremony to reflect our faiths, we also wanted our wedding to reflect other aspects of our lives such as our shared British culture and traditions. We filled the church with candles, seasonal flowers and sweet-smelling herbs and had some traditional fiddle music to play me down the aisle and during our garden reception. I also made ribbon sticks for the children to carry.
After the ceremony we walked from the church to the church green through a very wide aisle of happy guests throwing yellow marigold petals at us. I chose the colour yellow as it symbolises wisdom in Buddhism.
Our reception was a picnic on the church green, complete with bunting, ribbons and an elegantly decorated bridal frame which we posed in for photographs. I also incorporated some old wedding traditions and made my own wedding bouquet following the Victorian language of flowers ~ particularly using Sage which symbolises ‘wisdom’.
It was an amazing day and our guests included our friends and family from all walks of life and faiths!
Of course, being into ‘vintage’ I wore a French lace wedding dress and used my mother’s vintage crockery collection for the flower arrangements. My bridesmaids wore traditional wrist corsages and carried vintage handbags. I also added some art deco sparkle!
Robert influenced the design of the wedding cake - hundreds of Galaxy minstrels (though I of course insisted that some of them be covered in edible gold!)
I’d like to end our wedding story with a photo of our ushers - my two step-sons, Robert’s godson and my step-son’s friend. Just because you have a ‘faith’ wedding doesn’t mean you can’t add your own twist on things. We insisted that the ushers wore what they felt reflected them - in this case they chose rock t-shirts and shades!
Our wedding really was a true reflection of all the different aspects of our personalities!
Are you an interfaith couple? Are you finding it difficult to decide whether to have a religious ceremony, a civil ceremony, a blessing or a Humanist ceremony? If you think it would be helpful to talk it through with someone, Robert is available for a free initial consultation. If you wish, he can then help you with writing and developing your ceremony or vows and/or by officiating at your wedding. Robert is a former Church of England vicar and now a Equalities and Diversity trainer specialising in Religion and Belief. He works for a national charity and is involved in interfaith work at local, regional and national level. He also conducts religious ceremonies and blessings. Feel free to contact us for more information.
Wedding photographs by our wonderful guests!