Who would have thought that over a decade of travelling the world, while living off of cucumber sandwiches, would be my training ground for becoming the multi-cultural and multi-faith officiant, The Marrying Lady?
As couples are increasingly opting out of traditional church settings and moving toward non-denominational venues, it increases their options for customizing their wedding ceremonies. As a wedding officiant, it is a creative challenge to craft ceremonies that beautifully incorporate important aspects of a couple’s family traditions. And, more often than not, there are two or more different cultures to blend into that ceremony, which doubles the exciting challenge to create an authentic but new approach to old world traditions.
Experiencing ceremonial rites all around the world taught me to be adaptable in meeting the customized needs of people from all religious and cultural backgrounds. My spiritual journey started as a young teen exploring every type of faith available in small-town Saskatchewan and expanded immensely as my world opened up with a passport and a backpack.
In India, it was a blessing to be embraced as part of the family and learn the wedding traditions and customs during the month-long preparations. Today, I post what I’ve learned on my website and share my ceremony scripts for the seven steps taken as blessings in Indian ceremonies with other officiants. I can speak to the Persian, sofreh aghd and the honey ceremony. I have combined the traditional veil and cord rite into the paper-signing for Filipino weddings. I have learned that approaches to tea ceremonies vary greatly between families, even within those of the same background. When introducing the chuppah, I often invite Jewish family members to read about this beautifully symbolic structure and invite them to bring the glass to be broken at the end of the ritual. I then speak to the ancient symbolism of this act.
I originally became a Toronto wedding officiant after experiencing pre-Christian, Celtic, wedding ceremonies called handfastings. Being raised Protestant, but serving in the Catholic Church as a teen, I came to understand which parts are important to Christians when creating religious ceremonies. As I travelled around the world, I attended many Orthodox Churches, and also fell in love with Buddhist Traditions. My Saskatchewan prairie roots have given me insight into performing matedness and blanket ceremonies, in honouring First Nations couples.
Even though the wedding industry is rife with cultural norms and misogynistic traditions, our world is becoming a place where love breaks down old boundaries of marrying within colours, creeds or genders. Who would have thought that a girl growing up in a village of 48 people, in the often heteronormative and homogenous Canadian flat lands, would one day officiate the largest wedding ceremony in North America for World Pride?
Love has no boundaries. Exploring creative ways to celebrate love and commitment beyond cultural and religious boundaries is the new wedding tradition. Love is the one and only theme that truly binds us together in this world.
As I continue to learn and explore more, I am grateful for the fellow Officiants and Celebrants I follow on Instagram from around the world:
USA: James Chun in Hawaii @oahuminister
France: Michelle Wahila @ruffledbygrace
UK: Deborah Page @truetoyoucelebrancy, Alexandra Harrison @alexandra.celebrant,Yvonne Beck @celebrant_yvonne, Tanya Jones @perfect_promises.uk
Ireland: Niamh Callery @anucelebrancy