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Lions Roar : March 2016
they are concerned about the expecta- tions of non-Buddhist family members who will attend the wedding. This means, more often than not, creating a custom wedding service. The single most important thing to remember is that the heart of the wed- ding service are promises made between the couple. Without these there is no wedding, and no marriage. With that clearly understood, the rest can be worked out. Whether your wedding has Buddhist elements or not, there are some common ways to frame these promises in a wedding in the Western tradition. These include: • A good wedding has elements of the- ater. There’s an arc to it, with a clear beginning and a relentless move to a clear conclusion. • It starts with a tone-setting preamble from the minister. Then the minister asks questions that the couple gives assent to with a simple “yes” or “I will.” This sets the stage for what follows. • As the service continues the couple takes charge, making their vows to each other. These can be traditional or composed personally by the couple. • There’s a reading or two, maybe a song. • Near the conclusion there’s an exchange of rings, a pronouncement, a kiss. Without these elements present, peo- ple will likely come away from the cer- emony with the sense that something was missing, probably without being able to say exactly what. So I always recommend that this broad structure be retained. It will make the service recognizable to everyone present, and can easily be enriched and personalized. Within that framework, here are some simple ways you can bring dharma into your wedding: • Finding Buddhist or Buddhist-friendly readings can be very important. In Zen-informed ceremonies I’ve offici- ated at, I often find myself sharing an abridgment of Dogen’s Dharma Blos- soms Turning Dharma Blossoms and Wendy Egyoku Nakao’s lovely A Blessing for the Journey. A good reading supports the promises that are at the heart of the wedding. They speak to love, kindness, and mutual respect. However, because of Buddhism’s renun- ciant tradition, finding such readings can be difficult. But if you search for phrases such as “Buddhist wedding reading” on the Internet you will find some. • Add into your vows, or into the minis- ter’s preamble, an acknowledgment of Buddhism’s three treasures—the Bud- dha, dharma, and sangha. Recognize the role the teacher, the teachings, and the community play in your lives as individuals and as a couple. • Some reference to the Buddhist pre- cepts is a common element in Buddhist weddings. I recommend simply affirm- ing the five that are shared by Buddhists of all schools: not killing, not taking that which is not given, not misusing sexuality, not speaking falsely, and not intoxicating or clouding the mind. Of course, as meaningful as any of these gestures might be, don’t be discour- aged if you can’t make them fit into your special day. Ultimately, in a wedding, just as in a marriage, kindness, compassion, and the promises made between two peo- ple for a life together are the secret elixir. Live up to the promises you make to each other on your wedding day and your mar- riage will be a blessing in this world. ♦ FOR ALL OUR DAYS Along with traditional texts such as the Metta Sutta, The Book of Love by Rumi, and the Psalms, I often recommend this poem by Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao as a reading for Buddhist-inspired weddings. —James Ishmael Ford A BLESSING FOR THE JOURNEY Let us vow to bear witness to the wholeness of life, realizing the completeness of each and every thing. Embracing our differences, I shall know myself as you, and you as myself. May we serve each other for all our days, here, there, and everywhere. Let us vow to open ourselves to the abundance of life. Freely giving and receiving, I shall care for you, for the trees and stars, as treasures of my very own. May we be grateful for all our days, here, there, and everywhere. Let us vow to forgive all hurt, caused by ourselves and others, and to never condone hurtful ways. Being responsible for my actions, I shall free myself and you. Will you free me, too? May we be kind for all our days, here, there, and everywhere. Let us vow to remember that all that appears will disappear. In the midst of uncertainty, I shall sow love. Here! Now! I call to you: Let us together live The Great Peace that we are. May we give no fear for all our days, here, there, and everywhere. Ultimately, kindness, com- passion, and the promises you’ll make together are the secret elixir. LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2016 22 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE