Often when I talk with people after their ceremony, whether it is a union, a remembrance or a rite of passage, they tell me they are surprised at how powerfully moved they were by the ceremony we created together. Sure, it was beautiful, but it was more than that - it was deeply moving and it strengthened their connections in ways they had no idea ceremony could provide.
Our culture has lost most of our ceremonies and the ones that do remain are often just something to get through before the party starts. Most of us have no idea how much ceremony can enrich our lives.
So here are five ways that we can expect ceremony to help us live more powerful and connected lives:
1. Ceremony enables us to express ourselves, our desires and our intentions creatively and authentically. When we take the opportunity to mark a transition with a personal ceremony we get to bring our creativity and imagination to the process. We can include beautiful objects as well as favorite songs, poems and readings. We can bring our sense of humor and our sense of the sacred. We can decorate, dance and dress up! Or we can simply share with others what this transition means and how much we appreciate the ways they’ve contributed to our journey.
2. Ceremony can provide comfort and support. Life is Change. Whether we are excited about events and circumstances that bring change to our lives or devastated by them, ceremony and ritual help us attend to the big changes in our lives fully — spiritually, psychologically and socially. The ceremonial arts have stood the test of deep time as the most effective means of deriving peace, positive energy and resolve from the changes and trials that come with being a human among other humans.
3. Ceremony says “this is who we are” as a family or community. Humans are social creatures and meaning-making beings. We decide what we value by sharing it with other people. Ceremonies, particularly those we return to such as Renewals of Vows or annual gatherings, allow us to re-connect with those shared values and create a sense of continuity and stability in an ever-changing world.
4. Ceremony helps us shape our present and mold our future. Even the most eagerly anticipated transitions, like weddings, graduations, the welcoming of a baby or the launch of a business include uncertainty and a shifting of roles and responsibilities. Studies have shown that meaningful rituals are associated with increased marital satisfaction and a heightened sense of personal identity among adolescents. Ceremony provides elders a meaningful opportunity to pass down traditions and to give children a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves.
5. Ceremony allows us to model authentic living to those who look to us for guidance. We’ve got a world to save, people. I believe it will be saved by people who have consciously declared who and how we want to be in the world, then gone out and lived that declaration. With ceremony we can share these intentions with our community and gain support for them. Furthermore, we encourage others to declare their intentions as well. Whether a change in our life is joyous or solemn, planned or unexpected, when we mark the transition in ways that are authentic and meaningful to us we not only help ourselves respond to the change with intention, we help our families and community respond intentionally as well.
Simply put, ceremony connects us and reminds us what we share. It was my passion for seeing all re-awaken to our connectedness that lead me to become a professional Celebrant and an Interfaith minister in the first place.
In this blog I will be sharing ideas for personal ceremonies and rituals that can help you build lasting connections in your family and community. I’ll give insights from my experience and training in ceremony structure and theory to help you as you work with a Celebrant to create ceremony for the milestone transitions of your life.
And I’ll share some of my impressions from some of the ceremonies I’ve performed or observed that might reveal some of the wonderful, sometimes surprising,ways those ceremonies have forged connections for people.
From my heart,
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Michelle Smith is the founder of Asheville Celebrant. She is an ordained Inter-Faith Minister and Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant who helps people experience deeper, more meaningful connections in their families and communities. Whether helping people create personal ceremonies for life’s big changes or leading public ceremonies that build community, Michelle honors all philosophies, beliefs and traditions--religious, secular, spiritual, inter-faith and multi-cultural. To explore the possibilities for honoring your own life’s transitions email Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a no-obligation Explore the Possibilities call.