Recently, I had the privilege of officiating my twin sister’s wedding ceremony. I was deeply moved by this invitation, and also compelled to truly reflect on the deeper ‘why’s’ of my role as officiant and the marriage ceremony itself. Why the pomp and circumstance? Why gather as we do? What does the whole day really have to say about love, commitment, and marriage?
The ‘aha’ for me was in the word ceremony. From plant medicine and psychedelic ceremonies, breath ceremonies, yoga classes, vision fasts, sweat lodges, or even a 1-year old’s birthday party - I realized that ceremony is an integral part of my work and life.
My approach to ketamine-assisted therapy incorporates a great deal of ceremony, and could be more accurately described as a series of personal healing ceremonies than a “ketamine-assisted therapy session.” While it can be easy to confuse ceremony with dogma, the underlying aim of almost all ceremonies is to function as a container for deep exploration, feeling, and expression. In a sense, the ceremony is a vessel that gives us permission and safety to step into a non-ordinary state and touch something sacred.
As I began to distill my intentions for my sister’s wedding ceremony, it became clear to me that I wanted to invoke the underlying elements that are common to all ceremonies - regardless of the overlaying form they may take. In this reflection I realized that no matter the form ceremony took in my life - from my psychedelic journeys to my experience of church as a young child; from annual holiday traditions to day-to-day celebrations; from indigenous rites of passage to new-age yogic and healing workshops - they all share a few fundamental commonalities.
These commonalities, dubbed here as “The 3 Elements of Ceremony”, are integral to my work as a ketamine-assisted therapist, and just happened to serve as a perfect roadmap for my sister’s wedding ceremony. The text below is a transcript of the ceremony speech, but I hope it may also serve as a reflection on the unique opportunities we have with psychedelic assisted therapy, or even your next family gathering. Enjoy!
Welcome, friends and family, to the wedding ceremony of Kristen and Jordi. Let us begin by reflecting on why we gather in ceremony. Ceremony is a way of marking significant transitions - birth, coming of age, marriage, death - but more importantly, ceremony offers us a way of stepping outside the realm of our day-to-day lives and into the realm of the transcendent. Whether you know it as Spirit, Source, God, The Universe, your Higher Self, or simply Love - ceremony is a way of touching that in us which is sacred.
But what exactly makes a moment sacred? No matter what form a ceremony takes, there are 3 elements that universally mark the passage from the ordinary into the extra-ordinary.
1ST ELEMENT - COMMUNITY
The first of these elements is community. There is a reason that all ceremonies are performed in the presence of community. Something simply magical occurs when we gather together for a shared purpose. There is a creativity, vibrancy, and depth that emerges through relationship that is far greater than the sum of any of the individuals present.
You are all here today for a reason.
Kristen and Jordi wish to honor and thank you for the countless ways in which you have shaped the lives and the love that we celebrate today. Whether you are a mother, father, brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle or friend - all of you have played crucial roles in shaping the two individuals standing before you today, and in so doing you have shaped the very expression of the love between them. Without you, this day would not be possible.
2ND ELEMENT - ATTENTION & CHOICE
The second element is a combination of attention and choice. The quality of your attention and how you choose to use it are the single greatest resources that you have to give. When we step into ritual and ceremony, we consciously call forth the sacred through the focused application of our attention and choice in the present moment. How you show up truly matters.
3RD ELEMENT - HEART
The third element common to almost all ceremonies is that they function in some way to return us to our hearts, and into a heartfelt participation with life. In our daily lives it is all too easy to lose touch with our heart - to feel isolated, separate, or numb. To forget the profound depth that is available to us in any given moment.
Perhaps this is why the wedding ceremony is held above all others. Why we travel from all corners of the world to be here, why we dress in our finest clothes, and why we anticipate and plan this moment for months of even years. The marriage ceremony is, at its heart, a celebration of love. While the wedding ceremony honors the romantic love between two people, it also serves to remind us on a deeper level of the love that we all are.
Today is an opportunity to return to your heart, to remember that in you which is loving, and to marvel at the tremendous possibilities of the human heart.
Let us pause for a moment to invoke these 3 elements. First, take a moment to honor the entire web of relationships that have made this day possible. Think of the generations that have gone before Kristen and Jordi and have bravely stood together, as these two do now, and said ‘I do’ to the commitments of family, union, and love.
Think of your own relationships with Jordi and Kristen - all of the memories, joys, and sorrows that you have shared throughout your lives. Honor your self for your presence, for it is only through your heartfelt participation that this ritual gains meaning.
Ceremony reminds us that creation is a participatory process and calls you to be an active participant in this process. Choose to participate fully by bringing your attention within and allowing yourself to actually feel the enormity of this moment.
Focus your attention on your heart. Actually bring your awareness to the physical space in the center of your chest. Just notice the part of you that loves. The part of you that is most fully alive. The part of you that is truly and deeply moved by the significance of two families, two individuals, and two lives joining together in the creative expression of love and marriage.
Breathe deeply. Let your chest and heart expand, and allow your awareness to embrace the eternal beauty of this moment.
4TH ELEMENT - THE BRIDE & GROOM
Most importantly, let us honor the bride and groom. The 4th element that they add to this ceremony is the unique texture and flavor of their relationship. Any of you who know Kristen and Jordi as individuals know that they are two of the most kind, cheerful, playful, and loving individuals on the face of the planet.
Together, this enthusiasm and radiance is only magnified. May their love serve as a reminder to all of us that life is a joyful celebration.
The moon has become a dancer
at this festival of love.
This dance of light,
This sacred blessing,
This divine love,
to a world beyond
only lovers can see
with their eyes of fiery passion.
They are the chosen ones
who have surrendered.
Once they were particles of light
now they are the radiant sun.
They have left behind
the world of deceitful games.
They are the privileged lovers
who create a new world
with their eyes of fiery passion.
[Sharing of vows and exchange of rings]
If there is anything we can learn from Jordi and Kristen it is that life is meant to be enjoyed. This is particularly true tonight. While we tend to draw boundaries between ceremony and celebration, I am going to ask you to do something a bit different tonight. Rather than separating the two, consider that the celebration is a continuation of the ceremony. This entire day is a ceremony and a celebration - a party - honoring the love of Jordi and Kristen. So by all means eat, drink, and be merry - and as you do, may your hearts stay open and may we all remember why we are here.
Jordi and Kristen, no one but you can declare yourselves married. You have begun it here today in speaking your vows before your family and friends, and you will do it again in the days and years to come - standing by each other, sharing all that is sweet and bitter in life. Each tender act, each loving word, will be the declaration of what was made here today.
Therefore, as the only person in this room who has known Kristen since before she was born, and as a loving member of your community, it is my distinct honor and joyful responsibility to officially acknowledge your union as husband and wife. You may seal your marriage with a kiss!
I have one final request for all of you - in a moment I will announce this couple for the first time. When I do, I want all of you to imagine that the way you greet them may actually imbue their marriage for years to come with all of the joy and love that is available in your hearts. Ladies and gentleman, for the first time ever, let’s hear it like you mean it for Mr. and Mrs. Betts!