When I work with couples to craft their wedding ceremony, I always ask if there are family members - living or deceased - they wish to be honored. There are many ways to do this including special readings, offering parents and grandparents flowers or letters, and lighting a candle or pausing for a moment of silence in remembrance of those who've passed.
I knew honoring our ancestors and family members would be an important part of our wedding ceremony. Not only do I feel strongly connected to our families, I felt awed by the generations of people who had to meet and fall in love for our marriage to be possible. My engagement ring - a pearl and diamond beauty that belonged to my fiancé's great grandmother - was an everyday reminder of this wonderful mystery.
We asked family members to bring photographs of our ancestors to include in the ceremony. As people arrived in the days leading up to the wedding, I delighted in unwrapping the carefully protected photos they'd chosen, marveling once more at our long lineage made manifest.
On our wedding day we assembled the photographs along a lichen-covered stone wall in a spot each guest would pass on their way to the ceremony. Giant, gnarled sugar maples flanked the path and a crumbling old cemetery sprawled on the other side of the wall. Time hung heavy in the air.
My first tears of the afternoon were shed as Alexander and I paused there on our entrance, feeling the magnitude of history and future uniting. Many guests commented on the photographs, too, later telling us how much they enjoyed stopping to admire them, guessing who was who and thinking back to their own ancestors.
However you go about it, honoring family members in your wedding ceremony brings everyone together in a deeply shared human experience - that of being part of the cycle of generations - as well as helping tune into the significant and sacred ritual taking place.