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!

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