Non-Religious with a touch of religion.

Here’s a small anecdote.

I did a  lovely wedding yesterday at  near Poitiers.  The first time I’ve been to this chateau .

The bride Dorone Paris  is one of the loveliest young women I’ve ever met. She has already made a name for herself as a talented saxophonist, composer and  founder of….. I’ll let her tell you about herself  here

and she’s marrying  Ciaran a brilliant, young, handsome Irish webdesigner

So the scene is set. A Catholic family and a Jewish family coming together ………..for a wedding!

I asked them to describe their position on spiritual matters and learnt that

Dorone and Ciaran are both non-religious

In Ciaran’s own words

“We both grew up with religious parents from different sides of the world. However we are both atheist and we dislike religion and its effects on the world. We actively want to have religion removed from political affairs and are very convicted about our ideas. However we always try to be completely respectful to all individuals we meet, regardless of their beliefs.
I have a great wonder for the universe and I believe in caring for all living things. I find peace in nature and feel a deep connection to people around me. I feel privileged to be alive and I love living.”


Roisin , (Catholic) mother of the groom  asked me  if we  could perform  a candel- lighting  at the beginning of the ceremony. We were outside and it seemed improbable that unprotected candles could be lit , never mind stay alight throughout the ceremony.

It had already been agreed that she and Harry (Jewish)  the father of the bride  would do a blessing for the couple. Half an hour before the ceremony was to start  I reluctantly gave in to Roisin’s gentle insistance and agreed to let her do  a dummy trial to see if the air was still enough to light the candles.

Ciaran  looked worried when the candleabre appeared. He knew Dorone ( who was busy staying out of sight) had already vetoed this idea if the ceremony was to be outside. He asked his mother to make it brief and to “please not go on and on”……..reminding her that Harry had prepared a very short Jewish Blessing and he didn’t want the ceremony leaning towards one religion or another ( or any religion for that matter! )

 The ceremony began smoothly……

with the usual  general  greetings and acknowledgments.

Dorone sighed with gracious acceptance when asked to participate in the  candle lighting ritual. Roisin  briefly explained to everyone  that in the Catholic tradition the couple each light a candle  which symbolizes the light of their individual family. They then use their respective flame to light their union candle symbolizing  the new family they are creating.

Everyone went silent and watched as Ciaran and Dorone struggled to light the candles in the light breeze.

I thought I glimpsed an exasperated ” I told you so” look from Dorone but the air stilled and it   was miraculously  perfect . The two candles were lit and the couple’s union candle  endured throughout the ceremony !

Harry then performed his modest blessing in Hebrew and Dorone’s Mother Yafa , who was clearly emotional, spontaneously stood up and rallied everyone to clap and sing. All the jews knew the Hebrew song and joined in. The catholics  smiled at this outburst of jolliness .

I think Dorone was slightly embarrassed by all this religious stuff …… It was all going in the wrong direction………………

Everything calmed down and I  continued with the rest of the “non-religious” ceremony ; a couple of literary readings , a few words from me about Dorone and Ciaran’s story so far and we concluded with their exchange of vows and rings.

They had opted for an ancient European hand fasting for which I had provided 8 different coloured ribbons. I usually provide 6 ribbons but this time …for some reason…. I added a couple .

I laid the ribbons over the couples’ joined hands and all at once Harry stood up and excitedly announced that there were 8 ribbons.! “This is very significant in the Jewish faith !” he said  “There have to be eight strings !!”

I invited him up to explain this to everyone.

The number eight is very significant to Jews .

In kabbalistic teachings, the number seven symbolizes the material world ( God created the world in 7 days) …. while 8 symbolizes that which is beyond nature.

“Seven is the world we live in.

Eight is the world that fills the lives we lead with depth, meaning and spirituality—and that is our great challenge: To infuse the common place, natural, physical, pedestrian activities of life with the refined spices of kindness, integrity, spirituality and the pursuit of meaning.”

I asked the two Mum’s to come up and wrap the couples’ hands which turned into an artistic event with them taking the trouble to tie  the  ribbons  as prettily  as possible !  Once they were finished everyone clapped and whistled!

What a joy!

Everyone came up congratulating me on such a meaningful ceremony. Even the musicians were moved by the sponteneity and joyfulness of it all.

I could not take credit for it ……

This ceremony taught me……

that when a couple get married they bring  their family tradition, history and love with them. Even if a couple have very strong  non-religious principals their parents may find so much profundity and joy in weaving a few ancient Hebrew words or simple Catholic ritual into the ceremony .

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