One thing that was really important in planning our wedding was to make our guests feel involved. We didn’t want them to just be people who were there to watch, and we didn’t invite anyone who would want to just come and watch. We wanted people there because they have been important in our lives individually, and we hope they continue to be important in our lives as a family. We wanted these people to be present, intentional witnesses to our union, and to actively acknowledge and support us. A huge part of this was the ring ceremony.
We had been to a couple of weddings in the year before ours in which the rings were passed around to each guest for them to hold and bless. A few months before our wedding, one of our friends lost her wedding ring; she looked down one day and the ring was gone. As a gift, her wife had her own wedding ring melted down and divided into two rings, and the two of them celebrated still having rings that had been warmed by their family and friends. This story made the blessing of the rings so much bigger for me, and I realized that there is power even in the small blessings that we bestow on small things.
After the first two poems, our minister took the rings from my brother, who had been keeping them safely (and nervously) in his pocket. Note: giving your wedding rings to a sixteen year old boy and making him stand in front of 50 strangers in nice clothes can be really, really intimidating.
First, Ellen talked a little bit about the significance of the rings, and then she read a Celtic explanation that Turtle had found and loved:
May the element of Air bless these rings. Air is at the beginning of all things, the direction of East, and the dawning of a new day. May your lives through the reminder of these rings be blessed with continuing renewal of love.
May the element of Fire bless these rings. Fire is the passion within your love, the spark of love itself, the heat of anger, and the warmth of compassion. It is the direction of South, the heat of midday. May your lives through the reminder of these rings be blessed with continual warmth.
May the element of Water bless these rings. Water nourishes and replenishes us, the waters of emotion and harmony pour vitality into our lives. It is the direction of West, the afternoon and evening. May your lives through the reminder of these rings be blessed with fulfillment and contentment.
May the element of Earth bless these rings. All life springs from the earth and returns to the earth, the direction of North, the nighttime. May your lives through the reminder of these rings be blessed with strength and solidity.
She finished with, “And now, Bird and Turtle invite all of you to pass the rings between one another, pausing to say a prayer, a blessing, a best wish for the future, or simply warm them with your love, before passing them along,” and the rings were off:
As the rings traveled, my other bridesman read e. e. cummings’ i carry your heart. To be honest, Turtle really wanted this poem, but at first I didn’t; I thought it was too cliche, too overused. Who doesn’t have this poem as part of their relationship? And then she told me that it’s our wedding, it doesn’t matter what other people do in their relationships, this is a poem that is important and authentic for us. And it seemed like the perfect poem for Ean to read, so that’s what happened.
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)
i am never without it (anywhere i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet)
i want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
The rings were still moving, and our minister had everyone say something about how they promised to affirm and support us. I don’t really remember what she said, but I do remember that we spent an enormous amount of time picking out the words from various places and editing them excessively before giving them to her… and now I have no idea what they were. Funny how that works. So our community affirmed our relationship, and then my sister gave a reading:
Messenger, by Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
As the rings continued to pass from hand to hand among our family and friends, we prepared to say our vows…