Today is Earth Day, so it seemed like an appropriate time to recognize a custom that I adopted several years ago, following the first wedding I officiated. After I graduated from the Celebrancy Foundation, one of my young co-workers graciously invited me to participate in the development of her wedding ceremony. Jennifer and David were unusually creative in their ideas—open to numerous rituals and readings. To honor the groom’s parents, who had passed, they incorporated a butterfly release during the celebration. Their wedding was at Snug Harbor, the lovely public garden in Staten Island, a perfect backdrop to witness butterflies emerging from a net-covered basket, flying away. In describing the custom in the ceremony script, I offered thoughts from America’s First People: “Native Americans believe that if you whisper a wish to a butterfly and release it, the prayers go the Heaven.”
I was so touched by the experience that I decided to informally include it in “my” wedding celebrations by giving each bride a butterfly pin by which to remember our time together. Butterflies are universally loved, it seems, and I take the opportunity to mention the wisdom of the Natives, as I had in that very first wedding. I also remind her of the butterfly’s powerful symbolism of metamorphosis. After all, isn’t marriage among the most transformative rites of passage in life?
Each butterfly is unique, just like the woman receiving it. And with every offering, I mention David and Jennifer’s celebration and the sweet remembrance of his parents. The photograph above is the butterfly given to Debra, the recent bride of Rolf. They are a lovely Southern couple who found love “the second time around.”
See other butterflies I’ve gifted to couples, in these lovely photos by Laura Pennace.