Ceremonies have been a part of our social structure since early recorded history. The number of ceremonies in our society seems to be increasing. The famous American anthropologist Joseph Campbell has suggested the level of civilization of a society is directly proportional to the number of ceremonies practiced in that society. Ours is a highly developed society.
We hold a lot of small celebrations but whenever a larger event is held or there is an occasion of more lasting importance we inevitably include a ceremony as part of the celebration. We remember the ceremony long after our memory of the celebrations has faded.
These days ever increasing numbers of couples are turning to civil marriage celebrants to conduct their marriage ceremony for a whole range of reasons. Because marriage is a legal act in Australia all people who perform marriage ceremonies have to be Authorised by the Federal Attorney General’s Department.
The aim is to provide a beautiful and memorable ceremony that is enjoyed by the bridal couple and their guests alike.
Because of the legal nature of marriage in Australia there are certain things that by law must be included in the ceremony. These are, however, minimal offering ample opportunity to individualise the ceremony.
I like to take it one step further. I ask the couples for a personal story which we include in the ceremony. Their ceremony is then truly unique.
RENEWAL OF VOWS
Renewal (or reaffirmation) of vows ceremonies probably originated from couples who had difficulties, overcame them then wanted to start afresh. While that still happens it is no longer the main reason for couples renewing their vows.
Often it is a couple who married in a small ceremony with a handful of people present. They subsequently decide they want to celebrate their love for each other in a far more exuberant way in front of a wide range of their family and friends.
Then there are those couples who choose a reaffirmation of vows ceremony to celebrate an important wedding anniversary thereby recapturing the excitement and emotion of their wedding day.
Whatever the reason the reaffirmation of vows ceremonies are always very touching ceremonies.
Commitment ceremonies are usually requested by people who for one reason or another can’t or don’t want to legally marry. In such cases the ceremony usually takes the form of a marriage ceremony without the legal component.
Of course some people choose a commitment ceremony for totally different reasons. A commitment ceremony is probably the most flexible of all ceremonies and so can be written to suit almost any situation.
One of the most inspiring commitment ceremonies I have conducted was for a couple who had a large wedding in a cathedral with all the bells and whistles. For their 10th wedding anniversary they had a private ceremony where they made their commitment to each other in the presence of their young children.
In Western society we tend to think naming ceremonies started with christenings. However most of the great religions of man have a naming ceremony of one sort or another. In fact naming ceremonies go back to antiquity.
Naming ceremonies were and still are conducted to welcome a person, usually a child, into the family and/or the community. Great importance has often been placed on this. Under Roman law you were not a member of the family until you had been named in a naming ceremony. Today, it can be conducted at any age with the most popular time being the child’s first birthday.
Often other children in the family who have not had such a ceremony will be included and named at the same time.
There are no limits to who can be named in a naming ceremony. It is not unusual to hold such a ceremony for an adult. One particularly moving ceremony is that used to announce the blending of children from two families.
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