[Wedding ceremony] Anatomy of a ring exchange

Fire #1 via guybo's Flickr

By Rose

As you may have read in an earlier post, we took a very practical approach to what we would say during the ring exchange. Some couples seek out inspiration together and let ideas simmer.

Not us. We’re writers trained to write on deadline, and that’s what we did. We did poke around online to see the typical structure of the ring exchange portion of the wedding ceremony. Most were too sentimental for our tastes, but we found this one:

This is the point in the ceremony where we usually talk about the wedding bands being a perfect circle, with no beginning and no end.  But we all know that these rings do have a beginning.  Rock is dug up from the earth.  Metal is liquefied in a furnace at a thousand degrees, then molded, cooled, and painstakingly polished.  Something beautiful is made from raw elements.  Love is like that.  It’s hot, dirty work.  It comes from humble beginnings, made by imperfect beings.  It’s the process of making something beautiful where there was once nothing at all. This ring is my promise to accept your imperfections and recognize your beauty.

While we liked it, it wasn’t perfect.

We loved the idea of the laborious — and hopelessly unglamorous — journey that metal takes to become a ring. So we used that as the seed of our exchange. Sitting on our couch with our MacBook trading laps as we tried out various concepts and turns of phrases, we came up with this:

This is the point in the ceremony where we could choose to talk about the wedding bands as having no beginning and no end — symbols of wholeness. And indeed, they are that.

But what if we, for a moment, viewed these rings as having a beginning, and having a journey? Metal is liquefied in a raging furnace, then molded, cooled, and polished. Something beautiful is coaxed out of elements of the earth. A ring is strong, and beautiful — something to protect, and treasure.

But we were stilling missing the true parallel to a marriage. So we wrote:

A marriage can be like that. Two individuals go through a process of spiritual alchemy — of transmuting one thing into another through the kindling of a vital transformative energy. A friendship can be channeled into a lifelong marital commitment based on love, respect and devotion to create something strong, and beautiful. It is something to protect, and treasure.

A special note about this phrase: ” . . . transmuting one thing into another through the kindling of a vital transformative energy.” It’s taken straight from an essay called “The Alchemy of Yoga” by Tim Miller, one of my Ashtanga yoga teachers. It’s one of the most inspirational essays about yoga I’ve ever read. In any case, here’s the context that phrase was lifted from:

Over twenty years ago I walked into my first Ashtanga yoga class, a fairly stressed-out, exhausted, toxic, and depressed individual. An hour and a half later, I walked out, feeling relaxed, energized, happy, and cleansed from the inside out. Ever since that first class I’ve been fascinated by this transformative power of the practice, what I call the alchemy of Ashtanga yoga.

The word alchemy evokes an image of a medieval conjurer murmuring incantations over a boiling cauldron, attempting to turn lead into gold. In a broader sense, alchemy refers to the process of transmuting one thing into another through the kindling of a vital transformative energy, known as Mercurius in the alchemical tradition. Turning lead into gold is a metaphor for the liberation of spirit from matter, which is the primary goal of both alchemy and yoga.

Transmuting, transforming, liberating through change . . . these are all words I could accurately use to describe how I feel about being in a relationship with Scott. It seems like our relationship brings out our individuality even more, allowing us to be more creatively inspired, allowing us to more fully experience the things we enjoy, and allowing us to more fully engage with the world around us.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that the last part — the “repeat after me” part — looked like this on our screen: “_________, I give you this ring as my commitment to support you on your journeys, to cherish our shared adventures, and above all, to love you for who you are.”

(Photo credit: “Fire #1 via guybo’s Flickr photostream

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