This is one of those questions which can have a different answer depending on which expert you ask. As a former College Lecturer I am confident I can explain the answer in a generic kind of way, I’ll do my best to keep it as short and simple as possible!
If you don’t agree with my explanations – that’s wonderful too, as it shows you are a free-thinker proudly exercising your own free will to decide what you believe for yourself based on your own life experience and what you believe is right, rather than taking any advice and information provided to you by others.
At the very least you will have some more food for thought, and further understanding about what a Spiritual Ceremony means for the majority of people here in Ireland who have some form of Spiritual belief but who would not necessarily classify themselves as being Religious.
If we are to go back to basics and define ceremony into it’s most basic form, you would have two ceremony types:
- Spiritual or
The reason I placed Spiritual first at No.1 is not that it is any more important than a non-Spiritual ceremony but that a Spiritual ceremony is believed to be the first and oldest form of ceremony which has existed since the oldest original of ancient times. Ancient times when the world was at peace and everyone lived in harmony with nature and the land with their creation stories, which became the blueprint for modern Spirituality as we know it.
The original reason for holding ceremony in such ancient times, was to create a Spiritual connection to the Divine Creator and bring about a Divine blessing for a certain intention and/or outcome to occur.
For example in ancient Ireland there were annual ceremonies on the Celtic Calendar celebrate the seasons and invoke a Divine blessing from the Creator for example for an abundant harvest of crops along with various blessings on the people and their lives at certain times of the year.
Many people around the world have revived those ancient traditions and they are celebrated to this day. Here in Ireland for many families and communities, those spiritual ceremonies of the Celtic Calendar never stopped and have continued since time began.
In the case of a marriage ceremony, the Spiritual intention of the original ancient marriage ceremony was to create a connection to the Divine Creator (or Great Spirit) in order to invoke a Divine blessing of good wishes for the couple and good luck for their marriage.
Whereas others here in Ireland and around the world, who don’t believe anything unseen or magical is possible will refer to ceremonial traditions simply as “superstitions” – and that’s OK too because in modern times we are all encouraged to have our own free will.
The abolition and hijacking of indigenous Spirituality which occurred during the Middle Ages when Religions were introduced, meant that indigenous Spirituality including ceremonies became an essential part of Religious doctrines, which required that ceremonies had to be conducted a certain way.
In the modern times we are in now going back full circle – people living in Ireland are no longer required to follow a Religion in order to exist in society. Instead people are encouraged to have their own free will and beliefs about what Spirituality and the meaning of life is for them.
Because of this we now see the wonderful introduction of the non-denominational and non-Religious legal marriage ceremonies, along with completely non-Spiritual ceremonies for those who don’t have any Religious beliefs or any belief in Spirituality of any kind. Along with mixed faith and unique personalised ceremonies to suit the couples own wishes.
So in a nutshell – a Spiritual ceremony is any non-Religious ceremony created to suit the free will and Spirituality of the couple, rather than the Spiritual beliefs and rules of a Religion.
In its most basic form – a Spiritual marriage ceremony is a non-Religious ceremony with Spiritual elements included to suit the beliefs and wishes of the couple. Most often departed loved ones are welcomed to the sacred space of the ceremony along with the wedding guests and made to feel very much part of the celebrations.
There may also be a memorial candle lit and placed either on the ceremony table itself or on a nearby smaller table placed to the side of the ceremony table. Any such memorial candle may also be accompanied by cherished photograph of the departed.
Depending on the wishes of the couple, a Spiritual ceremony can also be designed with a Religious feel. This can be done by including Religious elements of the couples choosing, which can also include mentioning God where appropriate – which can be really wonderful for a Religious family, where their adult children don’t wish to be married in a Church.
As a non-denominational Holistic Minster, I am not required to wear vestments or robes or be addressed with a Religious Title during a ceremony unless the couple request it. Every marriage ceremony I create and conduct is designed to be unique and special to suit the beliefs and wishes of the couple every time.