Wendy and Roger’s celebration 2008

In 2008, my partner and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary of being together. If you’re curious, there is no rhyme or reason for celebrating 11 not 10 years as is the custom in our western culture!

Having been a celebrant for all of these years I had come to know what I most valued in ceremony. Strange as it may seem to some, I’m a quiet person and knew I wanted a small celebration. My partner, Roger felt the same way.  As with any celebration planning, it took more than a few shared discussions about how it was to look. Our first big agreement was to hold one ceremony for our close friends and then another, a few months later, over Easter, for our intimate family.

So, it was that we gathered 13 friends, for a weekend in February, renting two holiday homes at a beautiful remote seaside village in northern NSW. The three days gave us lots of time for talking, laughing, swimming, eating sumptuous food and being together.

We had contacted everyone prior to the event with an outline of what the weekend would include as this was not to be your usual ‘wedding’ celebration.

After a beautiful meal on Friday evening we sat in the lounge room bringing to light our ideas on ‘what is love, marriage, sacred union?’ This was a great discussion with many inspiring insights beyond the legal definition, ‘the union of two people to the exclusion of all others voluntarily entered into for life’. I will share those precious thoughts in another blog.

On Saturday, the women came together in one of the houses and opened the circle reflecting upon what qualities, as women, do we bring into our relationships. The men were in the other house doing the same, ‘what qualities, as men, do we bring into our relationships’.  We were to bring the understandings back to the main ceremony in the afternoon. This was insightful around gender roles we take, natural instincts, needs that were unmet and needs that were fulfilled.

Then the women pampered me in preparation for the afternoon’s ceremony. The ceremony started with an acknowledgement of the groups connection; the insights from the morning gathering and very simply, a sharing of all that we loved and appreciated about each other and honouring our journey, the ups and the downs. Everyone got to speak, if they chose to, about what they appreciated about our relationship – how it had touched them, what they had witnessed and celebrated. It was funny, heartbreaking (one of our friends had a few years prior, become widowed so there was also space for her grief as we had shared holidays together with her husband). The ceremony was loosely structured to allow for spontaneity.

Roger and I had been sharing a practice for the last few months of sitting with each other daily and expressing gratitude and reflections of ‘being together’.  We used this same practice to speak our vows to each other in a way that reflected what was alive for us in the moment. We sat facing each other and, as is our custom, did a short meditation, aware of the breath (the heart racing) and opened to clearing the mind rather than rehearsing what might be said. We took our time and listened deeply as we each spoke our truths in the moment.
We didn’t exchange rings however we did have a funny ditty that we read out instead. Again, another blog post for that treat. We are both English so have that strain of humour running through our veins.
We shared, yet again some more delicious food and followed this with a ‘cabaret concert’ since we have lots of talent in our small group. There was theatre and song… and there was laughter.

Sunday was for walking along the beach, sharing a yummy lunch and music. Our friends wrote and played a beautiful song for us at our closing gathering before we drove home.

We were moved and nourished with the depth of feeling it invoked in all of us. To come together and celebrate sacred union – in all its guises, colours and feelings. Relationship is always changing and moving in and out of rhythm and form. We wanted to celebrate our difficult and joyful  times, and appreciate the enormous Grace we have both felt holds us in its arms; as we’ve journeyed some steep valleys and rocky roads; and climbed some amazing mountains together, literally and metaphorically speaking.