January 18, 2011

On Holy Ground : Sacred Ceremonies

One thing we love about Enchanted Brides Magazine is that we can read the entire issue online!  Just click here to enjoy flipping through pages of luxurious wedding fashions, real wedding features, wedding tips and articles.  We were invited by Enchanted Brides to guest write for the latest issue, and thought you might enjoy reading ways some Cedarwood couples included Sacred personal elements in their wedding ceremonies.

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Starting your marriage on HOLY GROUND
Honoring the sacred in your ceremony

To marry in your church, or not?  That’s a delicate question. A decade or so ago, churches dominated the venue choices for exchanging vows. Today, historic properties, public gardens, vineyards and farms have become popular options for couples wanting nature to play a supporting role in their wedding. A wedding venue is a lifestyle statement, a location that expresses a bride and groom’s sense of style and social sensibilities. Guiding couples’ location choices are often a love of fresh open spaces, photographic versatility of non-traditional sites and commitments to eco-friendly practices. 56% of engaged couples opt to have their ceremony and reception at the same location, and 63% of those are outdoor weddings – both top rated ways to go green. Still, most couples consider marriage a holy union and want to include faith in their commitment to each other. Here are ways a few couples have honored the sacred in their vows.

Bring the ‘church’ outdoors.

So what do you do when you love the outdoors but want to get married in a church? You bring the church outdoors! Nature can be a noble and serene setting for love’s holiest union. Incorporating church rituals of prayer, praise and song in an epic natural environment can establish the presence of the sacred.

Megan and Brett Wiendenhoeft arranged for their outdoor ceremony to have the ‘feel’ of a church wedding. A stunning Outdoor Cathedral erected with ten foot Gothic church windows and antique carved church pews in a green summer meadow was a site to make everyone pause at the beauty of God’s handiwork. Add the love of a beautiful young couple, united in holy matrimony by a minister complete with communion for everyone, and you have a setting and ceremony to evoke a spiritual experience. As guests approached the altar one by one to receive communion from the Doctor-Reverend Lenoir Culbertson in a moving moment of interaction with the bride and groom, there was no doubt they were in a sacred space.

Megan reflects, “With the ceremony, we wanted it to be an intimate, joyous occasion and that every guest was not there merely to act as a witness but that they were also involved. This is when we decided to have Holy Communion incorporated into our service. Brett and I had the rare privilege to serve each one of our closest family members and friends such a sacred meal. It is a moment I personally will never forget. Also I wanted a special way to remember those loved ones who had passed on, which I chose to do with writing each of their names on a dove cutout I made and hung them from the floral arrangements in each of the windows.”

Add your voice to your vows.

The simple requirements for including the scared in your ceremony are intention and format. Advance planning with your pastor or officiant to personalize the service is paramount. Don’t assume that an ordained minister will automatically deliver an inspiring message relevant to your relationship.

Tennessee Wedding Minister Ralph Griggs helps couples personalize their ceremony through preferences of traditional or contemporary worded vows and a religious or romantic emphasis.  “Adding a unique element of expression like a “rose ceremony” or “hand ceremony,” are alternatives to the traditional unity ceremony incorporated in wedding vows, and can elevate the emotional connection between bride and groom,” says Ralph.  His “A Ceremony to Remember” planner helps couples help him make their wedding ceremony as personal and meaningful as possible.

Some couples even choose to write their own vows so that they express their specific intentions to each other.

Originally, Katie and JD Douglas planed to use traditional vows their Pastor provided, until a friend confided that sharing personally written vows with his wife was his most precious wedding memory. Katie recalls, “JD was on top of it; he carried his vows in his pocket and wrote down little notes here and there, eventually coming up with amazing vows in his own voice. I, on the other hand, finished mine the morning of our wedding! But when my mom read them and cried, I knew they were the perfect message for my husband-to-be.” She and JD say they will always cherish the intimate way they promised their lives and our hearts to each other.

Involve your heritage and spiritual community.

Family and guest involvement at a wedding ceremony makes everyone a sacred part of the vows between husband and wife.

To honor their union, Matt and Chandra Dudley had family bring sand from their respective East and West Coast childhood homes for a unity sand ceremony. Chandra and Matt’s ceremony was deeply personal as selected friends and family members shared “photo blessings” during the ceremony and were invited to add photos and notes to a photo blessing album afterward. As their close friend officiated the ceremony, Chandra and Matt’s wedding rings circulated the crowd to be touched and “blessed” by the hands of their guests. Chandra says, “It was beautiful in every sense of the word and VERY memorable.”

Focus on family and faith.

Kaitlin and Jared Carlson were drawn to rustic-elegant design and elected to have a relaxed, natural wedding at a historic farm. Although their wedding ceremony took place outside their church, their focus remained rooted there. One of the most cherished and sacred parts of their ceremony was their family “prayer circle,” with the bride, groom and their parents linked together as Kaitlin’s father Greg Carnes led a prayer and blessing. Kaitlin says, “Family and faith are very important to me and Jared, and we wanted to incorporate these priorities into our wedding vows. This was one of our most memorable and spiritual moments of the day.”

Marriage builds the foundation for a new life between a man and woman, and when a ceremony and celebration includes bonds of faith, family and love, it is personal and strong. A marriage built on holy ground is rock solid.

Written by Linda Wright
Linda is a partner/owner of Cedarwood, a historic farm estate and wedding venue in Nashville, Tennessee, where their Outdoor Cathedral is a ceremony option. For more information, visit

Article photos by Justin Wright Photography and Ace Photography.

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