Monday, August 8, 2011

Pneuma Center: Pets in Weddings

Pneuma Center: Pets in Weddings: "We recently officiated a delightful backyard wedding ceremony where the ring bearer was the couple’s well-behaved Jack Russell terrier, Sam...."

Pets in Weddings

We recently officiated a delightful backyard wedding ceremony where the ring bearer was the couple’s well-behaved Jack Russell terrier, Sam. There’s something about this small breed of dog that exudes joy and vivacity—a blend of emotions that would be welcome at most any wedding! It was almost as though Sam understood he had a special role to perform and was determined to live up to everyone’s expectations.  And who are we to argue?  According to an interesting study out of the UK, dogs have the unique ability among animals (of the non-human kind) to detect human moods and read body language.

More and more we encounter couples who express interest in involving a pet in their wedding ceremony.  Some ask about it but elect not to follow through with involving their pet because they are concerned about how their family members will perceive it or they are not confident the pet will behave well in front of an audience.  In the end, it comes down to a tradeoff between how much factors such as these matter to you versus how important it is to you to involve your pet in the ceremony—and that’s a personal decision.

One ceremony in particular stands out in our minds where the decision to involve pets was a no-brainer.  From the moment when we first met Maria and James we knew there was something special about them, though it was about half way into our initial meeting with them before we learned what that “special something” was.  They shared with us that they were very much in love—that part was obvious—and that they wanted to have a small poolside ceremony at James’s parent’s home, but there was one special requirement: the ceremony absolutely must include Maria’s two dogs—Max and Rosie.  In fact, the entire wedding party would consist of no more than Maria and James, the two dogs, and the officiant—Lon in this case.   It was also important to them that the person they chose to officiate their ceremony was a dog lover and was not hung up about having animals in a wedding ceremony.  When they felt comfortable that we met both criteria they then shared the “why” behind their wish to involve Rosie and Max in the ceremony. 

As tears welled up in their eyes Maria and James told us that their decision to get married was a bittersweet moment in their lives.  A couple of years prior to when we first met them Maria had been diagnosed with bone cancer.  Her prognosis at the time was not encouraging, but there was a ray of hope.  Maria was able to obtain two specially-trained “service dogs”—Rosie and Max—that would be with her as constant companions, giving her comfort and aid in doing certain simple tasks that would eventually become harder and harder for her to do on her own.  By the time she and James met, Maria and the dogs had become inseparable.

At the ceremony, Rosie and Max took their positions and—like Sam—played out their roles to perfection.  Thanks to a close friend who was in the costume business, Rosie was dressed in a maid of honor outfit and Max was dressed in a best man tux.  Rosie and Max were an essential part of the ceremony and everyone present at the ceremony knew it—including Max and Rosie!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Goldfish Unity Bowl

One of the things we enjoy about what we do is working with couples who are jointly involved in planning their wedding ceremony.  Since many of these couples want their vows to have a personal touch, we delight in helping them come up with something that is deeply meaningful to both of them—something that speaks to who they are and what they value.  The story that follows is one such example.

When Cindy and Matt met with us to discuss their wedding ceremony, they mentioned (somewhat sheepishly) that they would like to somehow involve goldfish in the wedding.  We learned that Cindy is a lover of goldfish and Matt had come up with a couple of ideas about how goldfish might be included.  They had considered having a bowl with one goldfish as a centerpiece at each reception table and then letting a guest from each table take the bowl and goldfish home with her or him when the reception was over.  But this posed some problems.  First of all, they couldn’t be sure any of the guests would want to be responsible for taking care of a goldfish.  And though she loved goldfish, Cindy wasn’t keen on the idea of taking care of 15 to 20 fish and fish bowls—especially at the outset of their honeymoon.  After a bit of brainstorming, we helped them come up with a solution that was perfect for them and their situation: The Goldfish Unity Bowl.

So, what is a Goldfish Unity Bowl and how did it turn out for Cindy and Matt?  First, I should explain that we had never seen or heard of such a thing as a Goldfish Unity Bowl, but the label hints at what it involves.  In a nutshell, it is a variation of the Unity Candle ceremony, but with fish and fishbowls rather than flames and candles.

If you’ve been to more than a few weddings you have likely been to at least one where a Unity Candle was lit by the bride and groom to signify the blending of their separate lives and families.  There are variations, but typically the Unity Candle is lit near the middle of the ceremony from two taper candles that were lit by the mothers when they are escorted in.  In terms of wedding history it is a fairly recent ritual.  It is thought to have originated in the 1930s and was controversial at the time since it did not fit with tradition. 

On a small table behind the arch, Cindy and Matt each had a single goldfish and fishbowl to represent their individual lives and also a larger bowl in the middle between the two smaller bowls.  When it came time for blending fish into the center bowl, the officiant (Lon in this case) gave a brief introduction to the ritual by sharing Cindy and Matt’s story.  Before they were asked to blend their fish into the larger bowl, Lon described the symbolism of the ritual using language he wrote especially for the occasion.  Here is a portion of what he wrote and read:

“By blending their goldfish into the Unity Bowl, Cindy and Matt are symbolizing the blending of their separate lives from this day forward.  Once the bowls are blended, each goldfish will continue to retain its individual identity, however something new will be created from the blending—a partnership, a companionship, and a soul-mate relationship that in the tiny, beating heart of each goldfish lets it know that it will never swim alone from this day forward.”

Based on the laudatory comments we received from many of guests after the ceremony, the Goldfish Unity Bowl was a big hit.  It was certainly a hit with Cindy and Matt, and from our perspective, they are the ones who matter most!