As mentioned before, I am a Baha’i. Mr. T leans Unitarian but doesn’t actively practice. And our ceremony was officiated by my father, who’s ordained in the Community of Christ. As with most “mixed” marriages, this raised questions about how to structure our wedding ceremony to meet everyone’s needs.
(The 9-pointed-star lantern from my previous post, in action at the reception)
Mr. T didn’t have any specific requirements of his own — he just wanted to be happy with whatever we chose — so we planned our ceremony around the Baha’i wedding requirements. There are 3 requirements for a Baha’i wedding:**
1. Consent of the couple’s parents. Although parents may not arrange a marriage partner for their children, they must consent to the child’s choice of partner before the marriage can take place. This honors one’s parents and helps to unite the families.
2. A one-sentence vow: “We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God.” This simple vow encompasses all others because, as the teachings of any religion will tell you, to live by God’s Will includes cultivating such virtues as honor, love, and fidelity.
3. Two witnesses to the marriage vow. My grandparents, who have been married for 65 years(!!), served as our witnesses.
Because the Baha’i Faith does not have clergy, the local administrative body handles the details of ensuring that all civil and religious marriage requirements are met. (Note to any Baha’i readers planning your wedding — these details are handled by the Local Spiritual Assembly of the locale where you will hold your marriage
ceremony, which may be different than your home community.)
There are no other specific marriage rites. Most couples design a service to accompany the vows, but Baha’is are free to choose any readings, music, dance, food, dress, etc., that has special meaning to them. In fact, the most memorable wedding I’ve attended was between a woman from Tonga and a man from Samoa — they used traditional dances in their ceremony, including a group of men doing the Hakka!
Alas, our own wedding had no Hakka. We followed the usual American format of a couple of readings, a short speech by the officiant, and an exchange of vows and rings.
We opened with a Baha’i marriage prayer read by my mother. For readings, if left to my own choosing, we would have used excerpts from the “Baha’i Marriage Tablet” (which may be a talk instead of a Tablet, by one of the Central Figures of our Faith, unless it’s by someone else). But Mr. T found the language too “flowery,” so we went with something secular. Specifically, Marriage Joins Two People in the Circle of Its Love, by Edmund O’Neill, and a Hindu Marriage Blessing after our vows.
For vows, we chose the traditional “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, etc.” We considered some more modern vows (the “hippie vows,” as Mr. T called them), but the language or grammar of those versions bugged us for one reason or another. Also, we figured the traditional vows might mean more to us precisely because we’ve heard them so many times before. Immediately after exchanging those vows, we said the Baha’i vow.
We chose to include the witnesses’ signing of the marriage certificate as part of our ceremony. After the vows, we had a musical interlude where we led my grandparents from their seats to a small table in the front and waited while they signed. I love my grandparents tremendously and am in awe of both the length and strength of their marriage, so it means the world that they played this important role in our own marriage.
(Escorting Grandma and Grandpa back to their seats) (Photos by Punam Bean)
What unique religious or cultural traditions will be a part of your ceremony? How will you mix your traditions with those of your partner?