We want to have a wedding, but we don’t want anything traditional, anything clichéd. Plus I was raised Catholic, but my husband is an atheist. How can we have a meaningful service? . . . My sister didn’t believe in God, but I think we need to have a memorial. She wouldn’t want prayers, but the rest of our family members are pretty religious. What can we do?
In a traditional culture or family, it’s easy to figure out how to mark the important occasions of our lives: we do what “our people” have always done, whether we pin money on the bride’s dress, cover the mirrors after a death, or blow out candles on a cake.
As an interfaith minister, I’m happy to be the celebrant at traditional religious rituals: weddings, memorial services, baby or new home blessings, etc. But I feel I am especially called to situations that require more creative solutions. My own life has been unconventional in many ways, and I have seen the power that ritual can play in my own psychospiritual development.Rituals can be used to mark endings and beginnings, chosen and unchosen transitions, as well as the in-between, “nether-times.” A creative ceremony can be helpful in acknowledging and transforming our feelings about divorce or loss of relationship; job loss, change of career, or retirement; the purchase or sale of a house; moving to a new environment or leaving town to move away; the death of a beloved pet or addition of a new one to the family; the discovery of a health problem, or the healing of one; 12-step birthdays—the list is endless.
A ritual can include words, such as blessings or poetry, spoken by me and/or the participants; music; dance or sacred movement; the four elements/four directions; participation by supporters, planned or extemporaneous; and symbolic actions. Rituals can be held outdoors, indoors, in a traditional setting such as a temple, or in a secular one (skating rink, ski lift, nightclub, botanical garden). Our presence and our intention make the chosen site, time and activity sacred. Solemnity has its place, but so, too, do laughter, joy and tears.
What has changed—or what is changing—or what do you hope to change—in your life? Together we’ll design a ritual event to fulfill your spiritual and emotional needs.