This year, I am fortunate to be on faculty at the Celebrant Foundation, USA. The Celebrant Foundation & Institute, the wonderful organization which trains individuals, in America and elsewhere, to perform weddings and other celebrations. This week’s class module was about the vital role of storytelling in the lives of individuals and communities. As I prepared for class, I was struck by the fact that there is a noticeable disconnect between our natural tendency to tell personal stories and the inclusion of these narratives in typical wedding ceremonies.
I believe that most people have a great desire to have their voices “heard.” The goal, I imagine, is enhanced self-awareness and a greater connection with loved ones. These seemingly ethereal goals can be met in simple ways such as updates on Facebook, Twitter, or postings in the blogosphere. Sharing about wedding plans is no different, as many couples create websites and blogs to chronicle impending nuptials or commitment ceremonies, facilitating virtual conversations with family and friends and heightening anticipation for the special day.
The wonderful writer Christina Baldwin adds that storytelling not only serves the individual but it functions as a connector to a broader community and shared history. Like that need to be heard, men and women hold a similar drive to know “where they come from.” The enthusiastic pursuit of genealogical projects and the popularity of newly-developed personal DNA tests, literally mapping our history, are but two tools that people use to link with original homelands and past generations.
My underlying question in this rambling essay is this…..In standard union ceremonies, where do we find this passion for storytelling? I would argue that, to a large degree, it is simply not there! What a shame that the couple’s story is not highlighted during this profound rite of passage.
Celebrants know that offering such a narrative is the heart and soul of a day’s events. Our unique essays are written around simple, but wonderful, questions like “How did you meet?”……. “Tell me about your first date”…… “How does your partner show that he/she loves you?”………. “When did you know this partnership was forever?”……. “What are your dreams for the future?” The couple’s journey is reflected with all of the gravity and levity that it deserves, while recognizing their personalities and sensibilities. The narrative also offers the occasion to honor family members and ethnic ties. The storytelling, in my experience, establishes an obvious intimacy between and among the couple and guests, whether the guest list is 20 or 200. So, as you think about your wedding, I invite you to ponder the unique gifts of a ceremony that tells your story. Celebrants know that it makes all the difference on your wedding day.