Friday, February 15, 2013

Ethnic and Rituals of Nationality or religious Origin

The Most Reverend Charles E. Million
This week I want to review the Ethnic Rituals or Rituals that are peculiar to particular nationalities or religions. There is a lot of nice symbolism in these rituals. If you like one of them we can adapt them nicely into your ceremony, even if you are not from that particular nationality or ethnic group. I have covered many rituals that I am familiar with. There are many more to be discovered on the "net."


Jumping the Broom

From the movie "Jumping the Boom"

An African-American tradition that has its roots in slavery times when slaves couldn't marry. Typically the family places the broom on the ground, and the bride and groom jump over it together. The broom can then decorate a place of honor in their home.

In ancient days, the broom was the first thing brought into the home of a newlywed couple after bread and salt, and it was used to sweep their path so as to symbolize the sweeping away of obstacles. Newly wedded couples would jump over the broom for luck, fortune, fertility of family and lands, and also to show that they would accept the ordinary domestic tasks of the house together. 

This ritual can be done during the ceremony or at the reception.

Native American

Indian Salt Ritual

 Indian weddings often include a salt ceremony, where the bride passes a handful of salt to her groom without spilling any. He then passes it back to her and the exchange is repeated three times. She then performs the salt exchange with all the members of the groom's family, symbolizing her blending in with her new family.


Arras Ritual

The Arras Ritual is prevalent in Hispanic ceremonies. In this ritual the mother of the Groom steps up during the ceremony and gives 13 coins (sometimes this is specified as gold coins....pretty expensive at today's gold prices) to the Groom who in turn gives the 13 coins to the Bride, signifying that he places all of his goods into her care. The ritual is a symbol of his trust and confidence in her as his partner in life. 

The coins represent fidelity and prosperity for the new couple. There are 13 coins to honor Jesus and his twelve disciples.

In another alternative to this ritual after the Groom gives the coins to the Bride she gives them back and then he gives her half in return.
This Hispanic Ritual is more common in Mexican and Filipino ceremonies. In this ritual a lasso or cord is placed, generally by relatives, on the shoulders (or around the wrists of couple) while we talk about the joining of the two on a shared path. Sometimes this lasso/cord is made up of rosaries which have been attached to each other.  

Veil Ritual 
In this ritual relatives place a veil over the couple pinned to the grooms right shoulder and the left side of the brides veil, covering both their heads. The veil symbolizes the faithful love that the couple has for each other.


A parade to the church led by musicians is a custom at Norwegian weddings. The custom of walking to the wedding is also a custom in some Italian weddings.

In some Italian weddings the Bride and Groom break a vase, trying to reduce it to as many pieces as possible, as the number of pieces represent the number of years the couple will be happily married.


Although Persia (Iran) is currently a predominately Muslim country, their wedding customs date back pre-Islam to Zoroastrian times. Where the presentation of the Bride is common in American weddings, in a Persian wedding both families present their children for the ceremony.
Persian Wedding Ritual Sofreh Aghd

Sofreh Aghd

During the ceremony, chairs are brought to the bride and groom by the best man and maid of honor and they sit facing the Sofreh Aghd (a banquet table set in front of a mirror.) A third chair is placed by the minister at the right side of the Sofreh Aghd and he sits. During the part of the ceremony a scarf is held over the heads of Bride and Groom.  The groom's mother grinds (Kalleh Ghand crystallized sugar ) over their heads during the readings, to sweeten the couple's life.

During the vows the bride is asked three times whether she takes the groom to be her husband. The first two times she says nothing and gifts are brought from the grooms family that she reviews before answering. It is only after she has been asked the third time that she responds.


 Bread, Wine and Coin 

In this ritual the minister first gives the bride bread. She takes a bite and hands it to the groom who also takes a bite. The first part of this ritual symbolizes the wish that the couple never goes hungry.

In the second part of the ritual the minister hands a chalice of wine to Bride . She takes a drink and passes the chalice to Groom, who also takes a drink. This is to symbolize the wish of all that the couple overcome the bitterness in life.

In the third part of the ritual the minister holds out a silver coin.  Bride and Groom hold a silver coin between their right hands together to symbolize that they be wealthy and never be in financial distress.

Groom puts silver coin into his pocket, as the ceremony proceeds.


Sake-Sharing Ceremony

Most Japanese also include a cultural sake-sharing tradition at the wedding, popularly called san-san-kudo -- san means "three," ku means "to deliver," and do means "nine." This ritual dates back to a time when sharing sake created a formal bond as strongly as a handshake did in Victorian times. Using three flat sake cups stacked atop one another, the bride and groom take three sips each from the cups. Then their parents also take sips (for a total of nine sips), cementing the bond between the families.


Near the beginning of the ceremony the Bride and Groom sign the marriage contract or Ketubah.
The wedding ceremony begins with a procession of the wedding party members. At the wedding site, both sets of parents escort the bride and groom down the aisle. The marriage ceremony is performed under a special canopy, called a huppah, which represents God's presence, shelter and protection. 

After exchanging wedding vows, seven marriage blessings are read. The groom then steps on a wine glass, to symbolize the fragility of human happiness, a hallmark of Jewish history. It is also traditional for the bride and groom to be alone together for a few moments immediately after the ceremony. This tradition, called yichud, originated so that the marriage could be consummated, but now it is observed as a lovely time to be together before the reception. There is rarely, therefore, a receiving line at a Jewish wedding. 

This is not a complete list of customs, there are many more to be found with some exploration. I haven't decided yet whether to continue next week with more ethnic traditions or to move on to other types of rituals.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Joining Rituals

The Joining Rituals
Groom gets congratulated. He is holding bound copy of text.
This week continues our discussion of wedding rituals with our exploration of what I refer to as the Joining Rituals. These rituals symbolize the joining of two lives on separate paths into one path, and generally appear early in the service before the vows.

Unity Candle
The first of the Joining Rituals is the Unity Candle, the most used ritual in weddings. A staple in Catholic weddings it can be done several ways and the text varies a little based on which way you pick. This is a very pretty ritual and text. My only objection to this ritual is that it is used so much.

The Basics
The basic ritual text talks about the joining of the two lives and that the candles represent the divine light that lives in us all. The Bride and Groom light their individual tapers from the altar candles as I talk about how the candles represent them as individuals. Then as I talk about the joining of their lives the Bride and Groom take their taper candles and light the pillar candle.

Here there are two ways to go and vary the text. IN the first way we leave the tapers burning and I talk about maintaining your individual strengths. In the second way each of you blow out the other's taper as I talk about the closing of each individual's life as they embark on the shared path.

There are several ways of incorporating family in the ritual
Unity Candle Ritual

For couples without children in the Family Unity Candle Ritual the mothers step up to the altar and light the altar candles right after they come down the aisle in the processional. Later during the actual ritual the Bride and Groom light their tapers from the altar candles which their mothers lit.

For couples with children, if the children are old enough, you change the arrangement of candles. Instead of two long tapers and one pillar you add smaller candles, one for each child. Then the Bride and Groom and the children all put their candles in to light the pillar candle. I can't stress enough that the children need to old enough and mature enough to be included in the ritual.

All Guests
This is an add-on to whichever Unity Candle Ritual you choose from above. With this version you have small candles on each seat at the ceremony. What seems to work pretty well and inexpensively is to get some tapers and cut them into three inch candles. Take a cupcake holder and cut a slit in it to slide the candle through. This keeps lit candle wax from dropping on people's hands during this part of the ceremony.

When it is time for the ritual the ushers go from row to row lighting the candle held by the person sitting on the aisle and they pass the flame to the next person and so on until the everyone has a lit candle (I don't suggest this with small children.)

The text in this version talks about how each lit candle signifies that the attendees support the path that the Bride and Groom are about to take.

Sand Ritual
Sand Ritual
The Sand Ritual is very visual and pretty. I've read that it is derived from a Native American ritual but I can't confirm that.

In the Sand Ritual the Bride and Groom have small glass containers each with a different color sand. At the appropriate time in the ritual the couple pours the sand into the larger container. The text in the ritual talks about how the fact that you can still see the individual colors is symbolic of the couple being able to maintain their individuality and the blended sand shows that their marriage will be a blend of both their strengths.

This ritual can also be done to incorporate the children if they are old enough. In the family version there are three sizes of glass containers and each container has a different color of sand. Text in this version talks about the strength that is brought by the combination of all of the family members.

A quick note. Some companies sell a heart shaped large container for this ritual that has a very narrow opening at the top. I would avoid this product as the narrow opening makes it very difficult for you to both pour the sand at the same time and still get it into the large container.

Salt Ritual
The Salt Ritual is essentially the same ritual as the Sand Ritual. This ritual was designed for folks who have issues with using the Sand Ritual because it supposedly comes to us from Native American ceremonies. The Salt Ritual is supposedly more Christian.

Wine Ritual

This is a very pretty ritual both visually and in the text. Toasts have long been part of the wedding traditions. With more and more weddings being done at wineries this ritual has grown in popularity.

 We have prepared on the altar two bottles of wine, one red and one white and two glasses. It is hard to find a red wine and a white wine that taste good when blended so I suggest you get two bottles of a white wine and put red food coloring in one.

The text talks about each glass of wine representing you as individuals. Each of you pours a glass of wine for the other and we have a toast to the person that you met, fell in love with and decided to marry. After the toast I ask each of you to pour the other half of your glass into a chalice that I provide. Then the two of you hold the chalice and drink of the blended wine with a toast to your life together as husband and wife.

This ritual stands on its own or can be combined with the Time Capsule below.

A kiss overlooking the Arch
Time Capsule
The Time Capsule can be tied in with the Wine Ritual above if you desire. After the toasts we take the wine glasses and put them in a box or other container along with a bottle of "blush" wine. In advance I ask each of you to prepare a letter to the other detailing a little about what lead you to this point, why you want to marry this person and perhaps a little of your dreams for the future. I ask that you not show these to each other. We put these letters into the time capsule with the wine and glasses and seal it up to be opened on your 1 year, five year or ten year anniversary.

These are the primary Joining Rituals. Next week we will talk about other possible rituals for your ceremony.


Reverend Million