I got dressed up
to meet you today
as if we had a date.
A hot shower -
Then sweet-smelling moisturizer,
plucking eye brows,
trimming and filing nails,
And finally, makeup -
a touch of concealer under the eyes,
a little blush,
a hint of eyeliner,
a dash of mascara...
Then I felt I'd given
your impending arrival
its proper due.
No matter that it would all be sweated
and washed and wiped away
And who knows if today is the day
The following is an interview with Maggie Reyes,
published on her site, Modern Married.
Dear Modern Married Family,
One of the unexpected blessings of starting this blog has been getting to meet amazing, inspiring people (like you!) and today’s featured guest, Rev. Hannah Grace from GraceCeremonies.com
She has such a deeply heart-felt approach to helping couples celebrate their wedding, I thought she was the perfect guide to teach us what to do if we are writing marriage vows for a wedding, vow renewal or just want to recommit to each other with a sacred ceremony of two.
In this interview, she shares her approach to helping couples discover what their hearts want to say and how our wedding vows can establish the foundation for the choices we make as a couple for years to come.
MM: Tell us about yourself and Grace Ceremonies in 5 sentences.
REV. HANNAH: After 10 years working in retail (specifically handcrafts and fine jewelry) I experienced a very unexpected calling to become a minister. I listened to the call and decided to attend an Interfaith Seminary, even though I had no idea where this new path would lead! During my training it became clear that I wanted to minister (literally, to serve) people during major life transitions like birth, death and marriage. It’s an amazing honor to be with people during these times…every day I’m grateful I heeded the call to do such meaningful and fulfilling work.
MM: You perform wedding ceremonies all the time. What advice do you find yourself giving to couples over and over again?
REV. HANNAH: I’m consistently reminding couples to be themselves.
For instance, almost every couple I meet with starts by saying they have no idea what kind of wedding ceremony they want. But, without fail, within an hour of conversation we have the whole ceremony sketched out.
They thank me for figuring it out when all I’ve done is make space for them to tell me who they are…and from that place their desires and preferences, their visions and hopes become clear.
It comes up again and again and again, especially when it comes to writing their wedding vows. I remind couples, “This is your wedding. This is your life partner. Don’t worry about what other people think. What do you need to say?”
I feel like sometimes people just need permission; to be told that who they are is perfect.
MM: Why are ceremonies so powerful?
REV. HANNAH: We’re all here on the journey of a lifetime, passing through various milestones that change and shape our identities.
Ceremonies help define and sanctify the chapters of our life, providing an important opportunity to nurture our connection to each other, our families, communities and ourselves.
Sadly, many people think ceremonies only belong to religions, but that’s not true at all! I’m consistently amazed to see how ceremonies, even something as customary as a wedding ceremony, create a potent container within which the meaning of life passages can be experienced, witnessed and honored.
MM: Tell us about modern wedding vows. How are they different? The same? Are there some popular ones you use over and over again?
REV. HANNAH: As modern weddings have gotten more unique and personal, so have the vows.
Couples no longer feel like they “have” to do it a certain way, or that they must use the same vows.
Many of my couples don’t even share their vows with one another until the actual wedding. (And then there’s my husband, who spoke his from the heart, on the spot!!)
I’ve had a few couples that initially said they wanted to use traditional wedding vows (“For better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…”) but once I provide them with samples of alternative vows, they all have chosen to either write their own or personalize one of the samples.
I have yet to have two couples use the same vows.
One thing that’s stayed the same, I think, is that the vows are the most intimate part of the wedding. Looking into your partner’s eyes, pledging yourself to them for life…it doesn’t get much better than that!
MM: Most of our readers are already married and might want to renew their vows – what is your advice for them?
REV. HANNAH: If a couple had a traditional ceremony, they likely used standard wedding vows.
Renewing your vows is the perfect time to speak from the heart, from knowing each other so deeply, and from staying together through good times and bad. It’s easier to allow for honesty (Yeah, there were some hard times in there!) and for humor.
Sometimes couples can be challenged by how to encapsulate their feelings about their partner in wedding vows. I’ve found this simple, 5-minute exercise is a great way to help them get started:
For the first minute of the five, find a spot – preferably outside or somewhere you feel relaxed, undistracted and grounded – and simply breathe.
For the second minute, ask yourself, “What 10 things do I appreciate and admire most about this incredible human being I am about to marry/I am married to”?
Breathe some more.
For the third minute, write them down, smiling with a full heart.
For the fourth minute, look at that list and see if there’s anything else that comes to mind. Offer gratitude. You’re both so lucky!
For the fifth minute, let go of the list and surrender to the moment. Breathe.
Okay, you’re done!
MM: Why do you think the vows we declare are so important?
REV. HANNAH: The wedding vows are truly the heart of the ceremony. Sure, everyone the couple loves is there and I get to say important things about marriage and there are beautiful poems and music and great clothes and flowers and hair… But if you take all that away and leave only the vows, it’s still a wedding. Even with my formal blessing and their family and friends as witnesses, it’s really about the exchange between those two people.
I tell couples that when they take their wedding vows, they actually marry each other.
It’s where they take ownership of the marriage they will create together.
The vows are the foundation of the choices the couple will make, every day for the rest of their lives, to stay married.
Today Peter, my stepfather, begins his pilgrimage along El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, The Way of St. James. (Some of you may be familiar with the Camino from the 2010 Martin Sheen movie, The Way.) One of the world's oldest pilgrimage routes, Peter's 600 mile, two-month journey starts in Pamplona (famous for their running of the bulls), and ends at Cape Finisterre, a name which means "the end of the earth."
Peter asked "The Rev," as he calls me, to prepare
a blessing ceremony for his pilgrimage.
Peter sees the Divine in the face of the Goddess; I knew he made this pilgrimage to open himself to her wisdom and guidance in this, his 70th year. I also knew he wanted a simple ceremony - nothing complicated or fussy...only to receive the blessings of the Goddess through me, one of her daughters (and at 9 months pregnant, fully embodying The Mother herself!).
I mulled over ideas for the ceremony during the week leading up to their visit, when I'd have to chance to see Peter off on his journey. Finally, on the morning of their arrival, the ceremony came to me fully formed and scripted. I had only to write it out and gather the supplies.
After lighting the candle, ringing the singing bowl and smudging with sage, we began:
The appointed time draws near
When you will walk the pilgrim’s path
Now fully ready
To receive whatever the Goddess wills for you.
I, Hannah Grace,
Daughter of the Goddess,
Offer the Lady’s blessings for your journey.
Next, I anointed his heart, third eye and hands with oil:
On this walk, may your heart be opened once again, knowing it is safely held
in her bosom.
On this walk, may you see clearly, as if through new eyes, her world of
beauty and grace.
On this walk, may you know you are ever in her hands, and may all you touch
and feel be so blessed.
One of my favorite parts of the ceremony was the despacho I made for Peter to carry on his journey. A sacred Andean tradition, meaning "dispatch" in Spanish, I carefully chose small, symbolic items to convey prayers, blessings, gratitudes and love. I then wrapped these in handmade paper, tied it with silk string and sealed the bundle with wax.
Despachos are burned rather than opened, releasing the energy and blessings back into the earth. Only I know the magic woven within its contents.
Take with you this despacho,
Made by my hand and with my prayers,
That you may walk with the blessings of those you love.
Child of the Goddess,
You are her beloved son.
From the mother you came into this world
And to her you shall return.
Every day between now and then is her gift to you.
Use them well,
And ever in her service.
My mother offered the final element for Peter's blessing ceremony: a handmade leather pouch, traditionally carried by pilgrims, bearing a scallop shell, the emblem of St. James and the Camino. Peter takes with him no phone, no camera, no book...only the despacho and pouch, a few changes of clothes and money for meals and the albergues where he'll be staying each night.
We're both embarking on a journey, both physical and spiritual. When Peter returns I will have given birth to my first child. I can't wait to hear what is birthed from within him.
Poetry and Musings of an Interfaith Minister on the Journey of a Lifetime.