WHY HAVE A CEREMONY?
It is more important than ever to create and engage in meaningful ceremonies that mark the passing of status-changing events. As human beings, we are thirsty for meaning and quality. Yet, we live in a time when quantity, technological expediency, and factual knowledge are erroneously deemed more valuable than our instincts, our intuition, and our true wisdom. Our relationships are often a series of text messages and our “friends” are on Facebook. Our gift-giving is perpetually reduced to a simple point and click. We are, as a culture, in danger of losing our real connections and moreover, our ability to connect.
It is paramount that we slow down and listen up — that we find and develop ways to better process and prepare ourselves for change, grieve what is over, celebrate newness, maintain fellowship in our communities, and on a very basic level, meet our own personal and ever-changing needs. Rituals help us do that by connecting us with our own spirituality. They empower us to cultivate profound meaning in simple actions and they aid in shifting our focus from our future plans back to the present moment; from our heads back to our hearts. In form, function, and intention, rituals lift us from an experience that is ordinary to one that is extraordinary.
“Thank you! It was magical wedding for us and you were the fairy godmother -
thanks for a heartfelt and moving oration.” ~Evey and Greg, Brooklyn
I cherish the role of Officiant and consider it an honor to be present at some of the most special times in a family’s life. I enter the process of creating and officiating a ceremony without any assumptions. Using a “coach approach” both liberates and empowers my clients because nothing is imposed on them. I like to describe it as doing a ceremony with them, versus doing a ceremony to them.
The process is quite simple: I guide people in articulating what’s most important to them – what is sacred, what is poignant, what is authentic, and what is in their hearts. Then, together we find and create the words, symbols, and actions to make it real on their important day.
“Your pure curiosity surrounding both of us and our relationship to each other really allowed us to open up and verbalize our feelings. Neither of us had ever put such deep feelings into words, and your way of asking us to elaborate really made it flow effortlessly, without forcing it, and without any preconceived notions getting in our way. The way in which you then translated those words into ceremony created a congruous atmosphere that went WAY beyond our expectations.”
-Jo and Joshua, Brooklyn
“Thank you, Mary. To be truthful, we are Roman Catholic and we had our doubts about not having a priest, or at least a minister, do the ceremony. However, when we heard the beautiful ceremony you performed, we were very pleased. You were great!” ~A father-of-the-groom, North Dakota
WEDDINGS AND COMMITMENT CEREMONIES OF ALL KINDS
- legal & non-legal
- same sex unions
- opposite sex unions
- blending of families
- renewal of vows
Your wedding day is one to be cherished and remembered and your wedding ceremony should be personal and full of meaning. In our collaborative process, couples are invited to put the act of committing to each other front and center by engaging in the co-creation of a ritual that aims to honor and celebrate their specific relationship, and to express the conscious commitment they want to make together.
The resulting ceremony intends to highlight the unique story of the individuals making the commitment, consecrate the vows and intentions expressed, share the spirit of community, consciously end what is ending, and begin what is beginning, and imbue the life of their future couplehood with its own doctrines and sensibilities.
This often includes:
- personal stories of each individual and of life as a couple
- cultural traditions that celebrate the heritage of the bride and groom
- anecdotes, wishes, and sentiments from close family and friends
- the couple’s unique sense of spirituality
- significant symbols, adornments, practices, and writings
- borrowed riches from existing wedding customs from around the world
- wild and crazy ideas that have never been tried before
“My husband and I are spiritual people, but we don’t ascribe to a specific religion or church. We knew we wanted the ceremony to feel meaningful and to reflect not only how much we love each other, but the values that are woven into our relationship, and for the people we invited to feel and understand our commitment on all of these levels. Mary was amazing. From our initial phone consultation, to the two meetings arranged to get us acquainted, to the last minute details that we confirmed over email–it was clear that she was invested in the ceremony as much as we were. In the end, it really showed. We have received tons of comments about how personal our ceremony felt, and how spiritually meaningful it was to many of our guests. What more can you ask for in a celebrant? Mary is a beautiful, peaceful spirit, who doesn’t hesitate to celebrate the unique spirit of a person–and with that sort of energy, other people can’t help celebrating it either!” ~ Lauren and Brian, Brooklyn
BABY BLESSINGS AND BABY NAMINGS
It is traditional in most world cultures to conduct some form of sacred rite after a new member of the family is born. This first ritual is important as it is not only the first time a child is introduced as a new family member and community member, but also, often, it is the baby’s first introduction to the sacred realm* (*Sacred, here, is defined broadly as “the presence of powerful, unifying energies” and/or “entitled to reverence or respect.”)
I offer an opportunity for any family, regardless of religious affiliation, to publicly and sacredly welcome their baby into the world in a unique way. These rituals range in their complexity and tone but all of them have in common that they arepersonally derived and original. I work with each family individually to create a baby blessing that meaningfully reflects their needs, desires, chosen language, and beliefs.
Some baby blessings include:
- designation of G/goddess or G/god parents
- the giving of an additional name, i.e. a Hebrew name, a nature symbol, an ancestor’s name
- a symbolic act that invites the baby into the world as a conscious, soulful human being
- an entering of a covenant between the parents and the child or the parents and their community
- offerings from or special roles for other significant family members including other siblings, grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, friends
- inclusion of symbols, objects, and words pertaining to the child’s birth date and any other significant tradition (i.e. astrological symbols, religious and cultural symbols, birth stones, gems, flowers)
- the planting of a Birth Tree
“We just wanted to express again our gratitude for your role in Saturday’s ceremony. It was perfect, and there is no other word to describe it. It was even better than we imagined. Thank you for your keen attention to detail, as well as your thoughtfulness, sensitivity, and eloquence. We received so many compliments about your graceful facilitation. Please know how much we appreciate all you did to make our day one we will remember always.” ~ Christine, Jason (and baby Eve), Connecticut
“We knew we wanted to have some kind of baby blessing for our friends and families, but having strayed from the Christian religion, a traditional Baptism just wasn’t the right thing. Well…seek and ye shall find — we are SO glad we found you, Mary, because you truly helped us create the perfect welcoming ceremony for our little girl. We are so grateful.” ~Carrie, Justin, (and baby Riley), Brooklyn
COMING OF AGE CEREMONIES
Coming of Age typically refers to a young person’s transition from adolescence to adulthood — around the time when Jewish families host Bat Mitzvahs and Christians are confirmed in the church. It’s not a coincidence that the members of these religions chose the ripe age of 13 for these ceremonies, as human beings have been ritualizing the age of sexual maturity for centuries.
I work with families of adolescents who seek to commemorate this sacred and special time of crossing over into a new phase. Together we co-create a unique initiation ritual that aims to honor and embrace the physical and psychological changes that are happening (for girls-becoming-women this is often called a New Moon Ceremony). Using words, symbols, actions, cultural traditions, and connection, these rituals often address age-specific emotions, adult responsibilities, the forging of new identity, and other topics associated with this important rite of passage.
- An all-women multi-generational New Moon Ceremony and Feast — honoring one girl, or many in the same phase. (often followed by a slumber party!)
- A father-son “Being Men Together” Initiation Ritual (cook-out and camp-out!)
- A coed ceremony and celebration in honor of one adolescent that includes family and friends, letters and stories, exploration of personal spirituality, acknowledgment of the end of childhood, defining new roles, etc. (a twist on the more conventional classics)
- A community of parents and their homosexual adolescents come together for a Be Free, Be Out Ritual and Celebration
“When I turned 60, I worked with Mary to design a coming-of-age ritual celebration with 15 close women friends. From our first conversation, Mary was the perfect partner — listening wholeheartedly to what I was wanting, adding her sparkling ideas to how it could happen, and being fully present and wonderfully intuitive as a ritual leader. She elicited, and then resonated and rejoiced with us as we remembered our shared past, savored the present moment, and wished for the future. Mary’s creative ritual held me, literally and emotionally, at the center of a web of life, love and joy.” - Deborah, New Jersey
Important Note: While a common time to have a Coming of Age Ritual is around age 13, in truth, we are individuals who are constantly changing and growing. We cancome of age just about anytime — when we are 21, 35, 60 or 97! Contact me with your idea about how you want to come of age, and let’s plan something unique and special for you.
The memorials I lead have three specific and collaborating agendas:
- To offer the community of the deceased a sacred and safe opportunity to truly grieve and let go of the human being who has passed.
- To engage the community of the deceased in an opportunity to truly celebrate, memorialize, and honor the human being who played an important role in their lives.
- To honor the wishes and beliefs of the deceased in his/her final ritual.
“I am having trouble finding words adequate to thank you for the role you played in my mom’s memorial, and for your support leading up to and after her death. This small note, nor the check enclosed seem like enough as I am aware of the enormous value of your talent and efforts. Thank you so much for your help in creating such a memorable and important occasion for me and my family.” Dani, Illinois