Rites of Passage: Weddings

By its nature, a rite of passage is a ceremony intentionally practiced and witnessed by a group whose members affirm that the person who completed the actions of the rite has been irrevocably changed.

Thinking about the elements of today’s weddings and funerals, I can see why writer Ronald L. Grimes says ritual may have been the original multimedia performance. That doesn’t mean you need to include all those elements. Other than a few legal requirements, what you choose to include is up to you.

Here’s an outline of the elements I incorporate in a wedding ceremony. Use the outline as a guide. What matters in the end is that the ceremony or service is personal and meaningful to you.


The bride and groom enter the ceremony space separately. Doing so affirms that they are single. During the ceremony, they make their vows to each other. An officiant declares them married. At the end of the ceremony, the couple leaves the ceremony space as a married couple. The ceremony itself can be as short as three minutes, as long as three days or more.

Here’s the general outline I use to craft a ceremony. You can revise as needed. Please note I’m using the terms “bride” and “groom” only for ease of explanation.

    • Processional
    • Entrance of the Bride
    • Celebrant’s Welcome
    • Family Blessing
    • Gifting Ritual
    • The Love Story
  • Exchange of Vows
    • Exchange of Rings
    • Handfasting
    • Closing Blessing
  • Pronouncement of Marriage
    • Recessional

Check the legal requirements for your state. In Connecticut, where I live, the two items in bold are the only legal requirements. Everything else on that list is to honor tradition and/or personalize the ceremony.

Family Blessing:

The purpose of this ritual is to show acceptance and support by the families of the bride and groom.

A representative from each family, usually the moms, joins me in the ceremony space. They say a sentence or two of wedding wisdom (written down), then pour wine into one of two glasses. The bride’s mother gives a glass to the groom. The groom’s mother gives a glass to the bride.

I invite the couple to drink once to honor the past, drink again to acknowledge the present, and drink one final time to celebrate the future.

The ritual can be adapted in many ways. Instead of the moms, I have had both moms and dads join me. I’ve had grandparents, or grown children, or best friends. Instead of wine, I’ve used sparkling water, coffee, even beet juice.

Gifting Ritual:

The purpose of this ritual is to provide a meaningful way to involve four to six special guests in the ceremony. (I don’t believe serving as an usher or passing out programs to be meaningful roles.)

Wedding guests have a purpose:

  1. To witness a legal ceremony
  2. To celebrate the marriage
  3. To affirm the couple’s new identity
  4. To welcome the new couple into the community.

Keep the role of your guests in mind as you plan the event. It is precisely for those guests that I created a variety of gifting rituals. The concept is simple.

  • Identify an activity or something physical that has meaning to the couple. For example: sailing, hiking, herbs, trees, butterflies, moths, crystals, even Giant Pandas.
  • Identify four special guests the couple wants to participate in the gifting ritual.
  • You’ll need a physical representation of the gift. For “Gifts from the Garden,” use a jar of dried herbs.
  • Meet with the special guests prior to the ceremony. Explain their role: Come up when called. Hold the gift so everyone can see it. Place the gift on the altar. Return to their seat. Note: the special guest does not speak.
  • For each special guest, write a sentence or two about the positive qualities of the activity or physical thing that represents the couple. The Celebrant –not the special guest– reads the qualities of the gift.
  • Phrase the sentences to showcase the positive qualities as gifts for the marriage. For example:
  • PROSPERITY, FOCUS, TRUST – The Gifts of Cinnamon

Cinnamon is believed to work magic with a person’s mind. Holding a curl of cinnamon bark is believed to help a person make decisions when trust is an issue. This quality, along with cinnamon’s ability to enhance focus, makes cinnamon an ally on the path to prosperity. Please accept the gifts of cinnamon for your marriage.

The Family Blessing and the Gifting Ritual provide ways for a couple to truly personalize their ceremony.

The Gifting Ritual can also be adapted for use at a bridal shower, birthday party, retirement – any gift-giving occasion.


Zita Christian

I create rites of passage as well as seasonal and Goddess-inspired rituals for spiritually minded women.

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