Updated: Sep 1
In a multi-cultural, multi-faith society such as South Africa, many people now wish to have a spiritual wedding ceremony, rather than one that follows a particular religious tradition. A spiritual ceremony can be made appropriate for the couple and their community, no matter what religious or faith-based background they are from, or indeed, if they do not subscribe to any religion.
People are marrying across religious groups and also wish to have a ceremony that represents who they are today, rather than the religious tradition (if any) they were born into. A spiritual ceremony can also be a way to bring traditions from each couple’s religious background into the ceremony, and weave them together into something as unique as the couple themselves.
Most traditions include contemplation or moments of quiet, in order to allow our sense of self to release, and connect with the present moment, or the higher power that we believe in. A ceremony can therefore be started in this way:
To begin, let’s first connect with this moment, so that we are fully present and can recognise the sacred nature of this special ceremony for ___________ and _________. When we become more mindful of the present moment, it can feel like slowing down time, giving us the opportunity to savour it fully.
Bringing your hands to your lap, and your feet onto the earth.
Taking a deep breath in, and allowing it to flow out, relaxing your face, and shoulders and body.
Connecting with this beautiful place, the sounds, sights and smells, the earth beneath, the warmth of the sun, and the vast space above you.
We can think of spirituality as an individual’s search for meaning in life, for wholeness, peace and harmony. It is a biological and integral aspect of being human. Spirituality is also described as a way of being; an energizing force that propels individuals to become the best that they can be.
Most faiths, religions or spiritual traditions, rely on three pillars of support to help individuals reach their highest potential:
Teacher – someone who inspires us, or who we aspire to be like, whether they are living or dead.
Teachings – the guidelines or agreed rules by which we conduct ourselves, so that we can benefit from the experience of others, rather than making the same mistakes.
Community of support to share the joys and sorrows of this human life, and this is why we gather to witness the marriage of ___________ and ___________.
At first, our spiritual growth is a solo journey where we get to know our own unique qualities and talents and realise that we can use them to bring benefit to the world around us. Later on, love itself is a spiritual practice, and a marriage provides the framework within which we can evolve.
The couple can choose quotations or poems that are particularly meaningful for them as individuals and in partnership. These can be read by the celebrant, family members or friends. The ceremony can also incorporate rituals, either taken from the couple’s different traditions, or created for the day to represent their unique union. In a marriage that unites couples of different cultures, a spiritual ceremony can be a way of honouring each person’s ancestry, without feeling constrained by the past.
1. There are as many African wedding traditions as there are African ethnic groups, so if the couple are from different traditions, and do not wish to, or are unable to, have a traditional wedding ceremony, then aspects of their tradition can be acknowledged and included. Or in the situation where are couple have been born and raised in Africa, but have different cultural roots, they may like to acknowledge common traditions, such as offering wire cattle to the bride’s parents, in order to represent the payment of lobola.
2. If one of the partners has Scottish origins, the couple may like to place their hands on an Oathing Stone while reciting their wedding vows. The couple can then keep the stone to remind them of their marriage commitment, and guests may like to offer small stones, or even paint them to offer to the couple during or after the ceremony.
3. If the couple are drawn to teachings from the Eastern wisdom traditions, they may like to include reference to the Elements (earth, water, fire etc). Or maybe they feel that the symbolism of yin and yang helps them to find their own inner balance, and create a sense of balance between the two partners. They may also like to have black and white silk scarves draped over their shoulders, and quotations from the Tao Te Ching can be recited.
4. If one of the partners was born into a Catholic family, they may like to include the lighting of a Unity Candle to symbolise the joining of the couple and their two families. Members of the audience may also like to light and hold up a candle as a symbol of the light they promise to give to the couple, especially when they are experiencing times of difficulty.
5. A couple, where one of the partners are Jewish, may wish to be married under a chuppah (canopy held by four male family members), where the bride walks around the groom seven times. The couple may also like to include breaking of the glass as a symbolic ritual.
6. If the couple feel drawn to Celtic customs, then they can go through the ritual of ‘handfasting’, which gives us the commonly used term ‘tying the knot’.
Vows and Exchanging of the Rings
It can be a very special process to write your own vows. For suggestions, have a look at this link.
According to the South African Civil Union Act (2006):
Do you, ______________, declare that as far as you know there is no lawful impediment to your proposed marriage with ______________ here present, and that you call all here present to witness that you take ______________ as your lawful wife?
Do you, ______________ declare that as far as you know there is no lawful impediment to your proposed marriage with ______________ here present, and that you call all here present to witness that you take ______________ as your lawful husband?
______________ and ______________, please take each other’s right hand. I declare that ______________ and ______________ here present have been lawfully joined in a marriage.
You may now kiss each other!
By the power vested in me through the wishes of __________ and __________, I now pronounce you Husband and Wife/Life Partners.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in congratulating Mr/Ms __________ and Mr/Mrs/Ms _______ _________________________________________________________________________________
Lucy Draper-Clarke has been authorised as a Marriage Officer (by the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa) to offer marriages under the Civil Union Act (2006).
For spiritual ceremonies, please email lucyheartmind[at]gmail.com