Weaving religious rituals into personalized ceremonies

Guest post by Maria Pereyra, Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant®, Florida USA
There are three things that I consider key for a ceremony: What tone does the couple wish for their ceremony, what are their colors and whether they want to include religious elements. The tone is for the words I use and how I say them, the colors to make sure that what I wear blends with their choices and the religious elements to help them include special readings and traditions.
Being raised Catholic it comes easy to me to include religiosity, be it, Catholic, Jewish or any religion that calls for a sacred moment. Though as Celebrants we are told that our ceremonies will be mostly non-denominational, in my case, I have married many couples in which I incorporate religion, making sure of course, not to cross boundaries.
When I am asked to help with a bilingual ceremony, my aim is to not translate word by word but to let things flow, so that guests enjoy all words be it in their language or not. For example, I suggest that the couple exchange their rings in the language they use for each other.  I add Spanish endearing words here and there such as: “señorita”, ”Que Dios Los bendiga” “Y que lleguen a viejitos tomados de la mano”.  I always offer to declare them married in their native language be it whichever it may be. The couple and their guests are grateful for this and love it!  For myself, it has certainly been fun learning Creole, French, Italian, Slovakian!
The day of the ceremony My day begins with a meditation in which the aim is to let go of tensions and thoughts, looking for an inner silence and inner peace. Once I am silent I include a prayer in which I visualize the couple I will marry and wish them well, I ask myself to give my best.
Two hours before the ceremony I get ready, drink a little coffee and head on out, with enough time to arrive 30 minutes before the ceremony. As I drive, I let go of any physical tensions, listening to relaxing music. When I arrive to the venue, I take the time to collect and ground myself in the bathroom stall (about five minutes 😊) Afterwards, I make sure that l look decent and ready to go, then…I walk lightly, say hello to the coordinator, bride, DJ and photographer giving them each a cue sheet and my business card (except for the bride) Then, I take a seat: Another opportunity to relax, close my eyes and follow my breathing for a few minutes. I look at nature, keep looking, sense my feet on the ground and forget about my ego and how I may or may not look, what people may or may not think of me. I remember “you are here for them”. Surrendering to the moment is of utmost importance to me. Once the music begins, I listen to the music, feel my eyes, I accompany the groom, bride or bridegroom, next to their side, offering them silent strength, silent company. As their partner walks, I smile at them and then we are ready to continue. I strive that every word has an intention, a feeling, a meaning. I am not reading out of a menu, I am reading words that capture their love and with each question, with each comma, with each exclamation there is a feeling. That feeling is felt by the couple, their guests, the photographer, everyone. We are all together in this, thanks to the wonder of love and to the joy of caring.
The welcome begins with a moment of inviting all to relax and to live in the moment. I ask everyone to sense their feet on the ground, their heads towards the sky, to silence our minds and open our hearts, to breathe. I do this with them, helping the couple relax and connect with their present,a present that they have been looking forward to. To help them cherish that moment is an honor and something I take to heart.

Bio: Maria Pereyra was born and raised in Lima, Peru. She is 1 of 11 siblings, her mom was a housewife and in her later years loved working at a children’s day care. Her father was a civil and consulting engineer, who wrote two novels when he retired. She went to elementary and high school in Peru, at The American School of Lima, moved to Florida in 1984 to study at Valencia Community College and has a major in Communications from The University of Central Florida. She worked in marketing, advertising, was her dad’s caregiver until his last breath, and found her path as a Life Cycle Celebrant and Ordained Minister in 2014.

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