We have been ask several times if there is a Buddhist wedding ceremony for interfaith couples. While each Buddhist tradition and school has their own rituals associated with marriage ceremonies, I have found that for a more Western style ritual where one individual is a Buddhist and the other not, there is very little to go on, so we improvise. Another example of creative re-description. I have posted the OEB’s interfaith wedding ceremony that honors the language of Buddhist thought with a style that would be familiar to those here in America, especially Christians. This ceremony identifies a Priest and a second Priest/Clerigy or Senior Monk, but only one is necessary. Also it is important that the celebrant/Priest meets the State requirements for performing a marriage ceremony. We will gladly provide a digital copy of this ceremony upon request, or provide one of our Priests to perform a wedding if you live within the area of one of our Priories or Chapter Houses.
INTERFAITH WEDDING CEREMONY
Opening and Altar Ritual:
1 Sangha is ask to stand
2 Procession in by priests followed by groom and best man
[Priest(s) performs a single bow in front of altar and turns to face Sangha]
3 Entrance by maid of honor and bridesmaids
4 Entrance by bride escorted by her father
5 Sangha may be seated
6 Priest performs formal bows then altar & purification ritual
[Priest turn to altar and performs three formal bows then goes behind altar and lights 3 sticks of incense and performs the incense ritual while silently reciting the refuges, then performs the salt offering, then takes the incense and walks around the bride and groom performing the purification ritual returning the incense to the altar. Priest now takes his place in front of couple.]
Buddhism is a path of transformation of one’s inner potential, it is a way of life. It is a path dedicated to serving others, helping them awaken to their potential. Marriage is the vehicle to practice serving others. It is a practice grounded in generosity, tolerance, love and empathy. Marriage is the equal commitment to the happiness of your partner’s wellbeing.
Love comes from and encompasses the bonds you are here today to publicly declare to one another, it is a core element of your human universal natures. Like the Christian notion of the soul, it is the spiritual spark, incompatible, indivisible and one that acts to bind those you are interconnected to: your family, your friends, those you hold dear that supports your own human flourishing, as well as the many consequential strangers that help us along the way.
I now ask for all those present to take a deep breath and put your hearts and minds in full awareness to this ceremony of taking the marriage vows, and look and listen with your whole being. In this way you can continue to fulfill your friendship and express your gratitude to (bride name) and (groom name) by making this ceremony sacred with the gift of your knowledge, attention and intentional positive thoughts directed toward them in a way that binds us all through this act of compassion.
Nothing happens without cause. An old Asian saying goes, “Even the chance brushing of one’s sleeve against a stranger’s sleeve may be the cause of their future encounters.” The union of (bride) and (groom) is not accidental. Indeed, due to the law of karma, the inexorable unfolding of the truth of interdependence, is the inevitable consequence of all of the actions of their lives. They, from their very beginning, have been coming together to this sacred moment. Therefore, this union must never be broken, especially now that it is going to be formally declared with the purity of all of our minds, the action from all of our hearts, and witnessed before all beings know and unknown.
[Priest turns and bows to the altar and removes the herb dish from the altar then turns and steps toward the couple and performs a blessing by placing his hand on their heads in turn, and says a silent blessing of intention. He then flicks the herbs to the side of the bride and groom, then returns the dish back to the altar.]
[BINDING RITUAL: The priest steps forward and ask the couple to hold one right and one left hand together as he binds them together with a white silk cloth]
Love each other from this day forward and these will be the hands that you hold tomorrow, and the next day, and into the next decade. These are the hands that will work alongside yours as you build your life together, the hands that will touch you with love and tenderness through the years, and the hands that will comfort you like no others’ can. These are the hands that will hold you through grief, fear, and hardship. These are the hands that will hold your family together, and that will give you strength when you need it. These are the hands, that when wrinkled and spotted with age, will still be reaching for yours.
[The Priest removes the silk cloth and with it bows to bride lifting it up and then places it around the neck of groom while bowing]
Today you promise to dedicate yourselves completely to each other, with body, speech and mind. In this life, in every situation, in wealth or poverty, in health or sickness, in happiness or difficulty, you will work to help each other aware of the encompassing and corrective vows you are about to take.
(bride) and (groom), do you pledge to help each other to develop your hearts and minds, cultivating compassion, generosity, ethics, patience, enthusiasm, concentration and wisdom as you age and undergo the various ups and downs of life and to transform them into the path of love, compassion, joy and equanimity?
Recognizing that the external conditions in life will not always be smooth and that internally your own minds and emotions will sometimes get stuck in negativity. Do you pledge to see all these circumstances as a challenge to help you grow, to open your hearts to accept yourselves, and each other and to generate compassion for others who are suffering? Do you pledge to avoid becoming narrow, closed or opinionated, and to help each other to see various sides of situations?
Understanding that just as we are a mystery to ourselves, others are also a mystery to us. Do you pledge to seek to understand yourselves, each other, and all living beings, to examine your own minds continually and to regard all the mysteries of life with curiosity and joy?
Do you pledge to preserve and enrich your affection for each other and to share it with all beings? To take the loving feelings you have for one another and your vision of each others’ potential and inner beauty as an example and, rather than turning inwards and becoming self absorbed, to radiate this love outwards to all beings?
When it comes time to part, do you pledge to look back at your time together with joy, joy that you met and shared what you have, and acceptance that we cannot hold on to anything forever?
Do you pledge to remember the disadvantages of ignorance, anger and clinging attachment, to apply antidotes when these arise in your minds, and to remember the kindness of all other beings and your connection to them? Do you pledge to work for the welfare of others, with all of your compassion, wisdom and skill?
Do you pledge to work to develop the wisdom understanding the relative functioning nature of things and the wisdom knowing their deeper way of existence, that they are empty of inherent existence? And to remember the laws of cause and effect?
Do you pledge day to day, to be patient with yourselves and others, knowing that change comes slowly and gradually and to seek inspiration from those that act as teachers and guides on your life’s journey?
Do you pledge to continuously strive to remember your own Universal natures, as well as the purposeful natures of all living beings? To maintain the awareness that all things are temporary, and to remain optimistic that you can achieve your greatest potential and lasting happiness together?
BLESSING OF THE RINGS
[The priest and best man together approach the altar where the rings have been placed and the priest performs the ring blessing by lifting the ring dish high and says a silent blessing. He then turns to the best man who takes each ring and returns to his place next to the groom.]
It is now time to exchange rings. [The best man presents the rings to bride and groom as prompted by the Priest.]
(groom), please place the ring on (bride) left hand.
(bride), please place the ring on (groom) left hand.
Do you together accept the gifts of these rings as a reminder of the responsibility to remain aware that all things are temporary, but through diligence and optimism you can create a loving relationship with the utmost potential for lasting happiness?
May these rings continue to be blessed as the symbol of this loving unity.
These two lives are now to be joined in one unbroken circle in mutual interdependent social and intimate oneness that reflects another Universal reality.
Wherever you go, may you always return to one another in your togetherness. May you find in each other the love and compassion for which all of us seek as refuge that acts to energize social harmony and wellbeing inherent to our human natures.
May you grow in understanding and in compassion. May the home, which you establish together, be such a place of sanctuary that many will find there a friend and compassionate guide.
May these rings act as shining symbols with a touch of the spirit and wonder of the nature of human love for all to see.
Closing Remarks and Blessing:
Considering Buddhist thought, when we are joined in marriage we are connected heart to heart, mind to mind, body to body, nature to nature. Dear couple, give up your small selves and take loving refuge in each other. Take loving refuge in all things. This attitude in marriage becomes a living spiritual practice together.
(bride) and (groom), do remember that your marriage is a sacred and blessed undertaking, being witnessed by your family, friends, and all beings. Do not forget what is happening right here and now. And feel the responsibility of this commitment called “marriage.” This practice, “Marriage Practice,” is your treasure throughout your lives together. When things go smoothly and joyously, practice joyously, practice loving mindfulness. When things are difficult and challenging, practice loving mindfulness. This loving mindfulness practice will always be with you and will guide you along this path we call life.
Now witnessing that you have both agreed to marry, and declared your intentions publicly here today, according to the wisdom passed down to us throughout the ages, by the power vested in me through the wishes of (bride) and (groom), as well as the blessing of the connection of your spiritual friends, and by the rights and privileges ordained and invested in me through my sacred duty as a Priest (this phrase may very depending on ordained rank), I joyously pronounce you Husband and Wife, life companions throughout time and space. You may now seal this union with a kiss of loving kindness.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present the newly married (first names and last name including any formal titles).
Procession out, bride & groom followed by the priest(s)