The Place With No Name



Back ] Up ] Next ]

We’ve anticipated this question.  Here are a few items that people may be inclined to ask, “What does it mean?”

The Wedding Ceremony

When people find out that we are not having a ‘normal’ wedding, their next question is usually, “What kind of wedding is it?”  It seems that weddings are classified several ways: by religion (a Catholic Wedding), by continent (an African Wedding), by nation or nationality (a French Wedding), by location (a Church Wedding), and sometimes by an arbitrary type (a White Wedding or a Shotgun Wedding).  Our wedding does not fit readily into any of the predefined types.  Since it does not follow the cookie cutter pattern, and wasn’t pulled, ready-made, out of a box, I suppose the best way to identify it is as a ‘Personal Wedding’.

With Andrea’s help, I wrote the wedding ceremony myself.  Some people consider this unusual, but we wanted something special and something meaningful.  Many conventional wedding scenes involve things that have become, frankly, boring.  The commonly read ‘Love does not…’ scripture in 1 Corinthians is an excellent scripture, but we’ve all heard it fifty million times.

Realizing this, the goal became to create something interesting and unique. We decided to incorporate props and sub-ceremonies, such as the use of bells by the audience, from various cultures to make the play more interesting and encourage those in the audience to be participants rather than spectators.  Sometimes we even created something original to fill a niche.

I wrote the Declaration of Intent in the Buddhist style, reviewed it with Andrea, and ran with it from there.  There is usually a prayer in a wedding, so I added one of those too – but a different kind of prayer.  Most people know what a prayer is – ‘Our father who art in heaven…’ – but if they would stop and think about it, they would realize that there are many kinds of prayers.  The prayer of sounds is literally a ‘joyful noise unto the lord.’

Using ideas collected over a lifetime of religious and philosophical study, I built a different set of scriptural lessons around the traditional framework, merging similar ideas from separate philosophies.  It is amazing to me that the ‘Big Three’ (Jesus, Mohammed, and Buddha) led similar lives and preached nearly identical ideas.  Each message was customized to the thought process of the people receiving it, but in each instance truth is easily recognized.  Love, compassion, brotherhood (and sisterhood), and moderation were the major themes - only later did dogma and doctrine complicate the simple messages these men proclaimed.  There are those who will argue for and against the idea of interfaith; some arguing that their faith or church is the only true one, others arguing that we are all children of god. I have heard all the arguments, but it seems to me that the original message of brotherhood is the most important one. None of the ‘Big Three’ preached religion; rather they emphasized a personal relationship with God.  I think that in the modern era, more and more people are realizing this, and, as Lenny Bruce said, “More and more people are leaving the Church and going back to God.”  What does a supreme being see when he looks down on us and sees us felling his trees and piling up his stones into what we think are magnificent structures?  Can he think anything but, “Look!  The children are playing in the dirt again!”?

The Scriptural Lessons were written with this idea in mind.  Capturing the early essential truths, through distillation rather than dilution, was the goal.

The vows were born after many tries and retries. A vow is an oath, and we wanted ours to be a strong one.  Traditional vows are very straight forward, and we I wanted to maintain that simplicity and avoid being too elaborate.  In the end, I think we found the right mix.

Andrea added the Apache Blessing, which I think fits perfectly.

We invite you to listen and participate.


April Fool’s Day

This has been a running laugh since the date was first set as our wedding date.  Most people, however, don’t know the origin of ‘April Fool’s Day’.  April first is the original ‘New Year’ before the calendar we currently use came into effect.  Those who still observed April first as the New Year were called, ‘April Fools’.

The Altar

altar001.jpg (62872 bytes)

As we planned our wedding, Shane and I knew we wanted our loved ones to participate in creating a sacred space with us.  The gathering was important, but we also needed a focal point to gather around.  Traditionally, weddings commence at some sort of altar, but since our wedding is outdoors, we had to create our own altar.  When a person hears the word altar, it usually calls to mind images of pagan rituals, or of churches, synagogues and other places of communal worship or meditation.  It hints at divine offerings and religions doctrines whose traditional meanings have long since become like white noise to us.  Rarely does one think of what the word might mean on a personally spiritual level.  I prefer Peg Streep’s[5] description of an altar as a sacred space; a personal place of prayer, ritual and meditation.  She feels altars do not ‘make’ space sacred.  Rather, they work by showing us what has been there all along.  For me, a sacred space is any space that calls my soul to join in communion with the universe.  Such spaces speak to me of connection, rejuvenation and hope.  They encourage me to ask hard questions and to become still enough to hear the answers.  They call me to participate and to share.

When I visit the sea with my mother we gather treasure and bounty along the shore.  We place shells, stones, driftwood, and seed pods on the deck outside.  Holding hands we turn our gazes to the ocean, to the sunset, or to the stars.  The waves sing with us as we stand together in silence, or speak softly to one another about our lives. In our hearts we join with God as surely as we join hands with one another and add our voices to the sound of the sea.  Thus we create a sacred space and our own ‘altar’ at which we ‘pray’.

The simple open air structure of the pavilion lends itself perfectly to the creation of a sacred space.  Its circular nature inspires an intimate gathering in which each participant can enjoy the play of expressions and emotions felt throughout the ceremony.  At the center we will have a table which will hold water bowls, elements and sacred sounds, all of which are described elsewhere.  These are the visible props of the ‘altar’ which we will create together.  Of much greater importance is the spiritual element each of us will bring by being a supportive member of our gathering.  Your personal thoughts and meditations throughout the ceremony are in many ways more important than the ceremony itself. These combined with the ceremony will serve to create a living altar; a sort of interactive sacred space.  We hope the words, sights and sounds of our wedding will inspire in each of you that feeling of connection and spirituality.

Rebecca Wells wrote a fictional novel called (amusingly enough) Little Altars Everywhere. There is a section, written from a child’s point of view, that speaks richly to me about the subject of altars:  “Sometime during the summer, I have this dream about Edythe Spevey and me.  We’re on the swing that hangs from the pecan tree in our backyard.  And while we’re swinging, its like Edythe’s body is in my body.  Her legs kick out from my legs, and her head leans forward out of mine.  When I move my arms forward, her arms come out of them.  We are swinging in this just right rhythm.  We are swinging high, flying way up, higher than in real life.  And when I look down, I see all the ordinary stuff – our brick house, the porch, the tool shed, the back windows, the oil-drum bar-b-q pit, the clothesline, the China Berry tree.  But they are all lit up from inside so their everyday selves have holy sparks in them, and if people could only see those sparks, they’d go and kneel in front of them and pray and just feel good.  Somehow the whole world looks like little altars everywhere.  And every time Edythe and me fly up into the air and then dive down to earth, it’s like we’re bowing our heads at those altars and we are praying and playing all at the same time.”[6]

Let us create together a sacred space, one which shows us what has been there all along:  a gathering of people who are all lit up inside and whose everyday selves have holy sparks in them.  Let us join in contemplation, celebration and hope as Shane and I are wed.  Let the words and sounds encourage questions and answers.  Come, let us pray and play all at the same time. – Andrea

Bells & Their Use belltable001.jpg (56478 bytes)

It is customary in some remote parts of Mongolia to use bells as a sort of signaling device – calling everyone to dinner for instance.  In these areas, everyone brings bells to wedding ceremonies and ring them at the conclusion of the ceremony to indicate their support for the new couple.

We took this tradition and expanded upon it, but the basic idea is to encourage the audience to be participants rather than spectators – and, we like bells.  

Bare Feet shay_a018.jpg (22645 bytes)

Since Andrea said we had to wear clothes, we compromised and agreed to go barefoot.  While this may seem like an elaborate excuse to save money on shoes, being barefoot is symbolic for being well grounded.  When standing upon the earth, you are standing between heaven and earth.  Earth is always earth; it is just as it is.  The Earth will let anyone stand on it.  It never lets you down – you can’t fall off the Earth.  In the same way, heaven is always heaven; the stars are always overhead – even if you are upside down.  We will face the earth – and the sky – with ourselves just as we are, with no interposing masks.  We feel that this simple honesty is more important that any article of clothing.

"What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful that the garment with which it is clothed?"
- Michaelangelo

Chinese Bells   wendy_003.jpg (22733 bytes)

‘Chinese bells’ is a term used to describe many different types of musical bells.  These bells, probably of Nepalese manufacture, date from the turn of the century.  Each one is embossed with the symbol of the garuda, a legendary Tibetan bird who is traditionally referred to as the king of birds.  The garuda hatches full-grown from its egg and soars into outer space, expanding and stretching its wings beyond any limits – sort of like the sound of a bell.

The Bride’s Clothes

Dark purple dress with embroidered violet flowers; Lavender veil with royal blue satin trim, placed on the head with a wreath of yellow, red, and orange flowers.

When I approached the decision of wedding garb, I had a very non-traditional idea in mind.  The colors needed to be rich and beautiful.  The veil needed to have a sort of renaissance flair, and I knew I wanted to approach my life as Shane’s wife with flowers in my hair and my bare feet touching the earth.

I thoroughly enjoyed designing my veil, although I think my seamstress was even more gleeful than I was with the results.  She was tired of making the same white frilly creations over and over again.

Do not assume my desire for flowers in my hair and bare feet has some elusive pagan meaning.  Those of you who know and love me understand that I have a deep connection with the earth.  I love nothing better than encouraging plants and trees to grow.  It speaks to the part of me that needs to nurture.  Thus I will wear the bounty of the earth in my hair.  As for bare feet – I hate shoes; unless of course you bring me to Macy’s shoe department when I suddenly NEED to have a new pair.  (Must be a woman thing.)  It is true however, that I like the idea of feeling the connection between myself and the solid earth which supports and nurtures me.

The colors I chose carry wonderful symbolic meanings in a variety of cultures.  Purple is associated with taking a deliberate, well thought out action.  As a blend of red and blue, it is a color of passion and reason and of the balance of heaven and earth.  Blue, the color of the sky and the water, is often associated with the intellect as well as the spirit.  It symbolizes the balance of masculinity and femininity, and is often considered to be a protective color.  In Tibetan Buddhism, it symbolizes both potentiality and emptiness at once.  Yellow is associated with both the sun and the riches of the earth.  It symbolized enlightenment, intellect, and reproduction, growth and nurturance.

This Tewe prayer takes into consideration the importance of cloth as a symbol of interconnection of life and the thread that bring us all together.  It sums up the power and beauty of woven things:

            O our Mother the Earth, O our Father the Sky  
            Your children are we and with tired backs  
            We bring you the gifts you love.  
            Weave for us a garment of brightness

            May the warp be the white light of morning  
            May the weft be the red light of evening  
            May the fringes be the falling rain  
            May the border be the standing rainbow

            Thus weave for us a garment of brightness  
            That we may walk fittingly where the grass is green
            O our Mother the Earth, O our Father the Sky

The Groom’s Clothes

Red Kimono with embroidered Dragon.  Red Silk Brocade Obi (Belt) w/Dragons

In the early stages of planning this wedding, I declared, “I am not wearing a tuxedo.”  I feel that the things are absolutely ridiculous, and very few people wear them for anything at all.  The ‘suit and tie’ have replaced the ultra-formal tuxedo in most cases.  Since I hate ties too, this was somewhat distressing.  All the traditional advice seemed to be, “You must wear a suit.”  Rather than conform, I decided to be clever.  Since a Kimono is considered formal dress in Japan, I could wear one and be both comfortable and properly attired.  The Japanese are just so clever…

I picked this Kimono, after much searching, for its color, its composition, and the embroidered dragons.  I pieced the obi (belt) together from silk brocade by hand, which took many hours.

The color of blood, symbolic of life, red is perhaps the most sacred of colors.  From the blood of Christ to war paint, it has been part of the religious and spiritual symbolism across the world.  Red is energy, strength, and sometimes healing.  Associated with love, passion, combat, fire, and the planet mars, red seemed like a good color to get married in.

Raw silk is very comfortable – more comfortable than any wool suit could ever be and comfort was very important to me.

The dragon is a symbol of inscrutability.  The dragon is energetic, powerful, and unwavering.  The state of inscrutability is based on fearlessness.  This is unlike the conventional concept of inscrutability, which is deviousness or a blank-wall.  For the dragon of inscrutable, fearlessness has been achieved.  From fearlessness is developed gentleness and sympathy.

Gifts to the Wedding Party

Traditionally, engraved mementos or store bought items are given to members of the wedding party so that they can feel appreciated and also remember the ‘Big Event’.  Since we love to give presents we approached this phase of the planning with enthusiasm.  A trip to Toys-R-Us was strongly considered with a great deal of amusement and glee, but was subsequently squashed as we began to realize that this event is our wedding, not Christmas, a Birthday, or Just Because.  We wanted our gifts to be personal, inclusive, and, like our wedding, somewhat interactive.  (The proverbial gift that keeps on giving, so to speak.)  We settled on two gifts.

The first gift is the rehearsal dinner itself.  Rather than force everyone to dress formally and sit stiffly at some gala affair, we delighted in the idea of giving our friends and our loved ones the gift of play.  The Celebration Station was the perfect environment for this, so we arranged for pizza, Coke, and unlimited use of bumper boats, go carts, miniature golf, and video games.  We hope that everyone there age regresses to somewhere between age 5 and 10, and allows themselves to relax into having a great time.  It is always a gift to remember that it is OK to play at any age.

Our second gift is one that I have been nurturing all winter long and up to the wedding itself.  That is, all the plants used at the Pavilion and the Foundation Center.  These plants aren’t merely decorations.  Each one has its own particular meaning for Shane and I, and was something I could do for people that required my direct ongoing attention.  We put our love and good wishes into these living gifts and hope they provide pleasure to all who receive them.  In the pavilion are large pots containing Kumquat trees.  This may seem strange, but in China the tree’s small orange fruit is a symbol of prosperity and good fortune.  These young trees have already borne fruit and will continue to do so over their life span, thus showering their owners with prosperity, good fortune, and a wonderful snack!

In the foundation center are small pots with two types of impatiens in them.  When Shane and I were planning our first date, he scoured the city for impatiens to show how impatient he was for our date to begin.  Unfortunately, it was August, and there were none to be found.  On our wedding day there will be lots of them everywhere and they will go home with people we love. 

Gifts to the Parents

My mother gave all of her children a framed saying by some unknown author that speaks of my family’s strong belief in the haven a family can provide.  It reads as follows:

In modern times this is possible, but, sadly, often this is not so.  Families of origin can be scattered and dysfunctional.  As a result many people recreate ‘family’ with a combination of blood relatives and close friends.

Shane and I are lucky to have had the experience of being raised by two parents who love and support us.  We wanted to do something that expresses our own deep gratitude and love.  We chose a medallion made by the artist Cynthia Webb which expresses what we wanted to say beautifully.  The outer circle of the medallion meets at the bottom and twines together up the center to form the trunk of a tree covered in fruit and new growth.  Two doves sit in the tree’s branches facing each other.  The piece is entitled Perfect Union, and has an inscription on the back which says, “Some things, when together, are more complete than when standing alone.”  We thank you our mothers and fathers for the gifts of your son and your daughter, and for accepting us, as a married couple, into the circle of your family.

Gift to the Officiant
edbowl3.jpg (46395 bytes)
edbowl2.jpg (28792 bytes)

In modern times, the person performing a wedding service is often paid a fee.  Seeing that weddings have become an economic event, this is not surprising.  Ed Goldman never asked for any payment, and he has been very gracious throughout this process.  We were keen to find some way to convey our thanks and respect.

Our gift is the Sound of the Universe, a genuine antique singing bowl from Tibet.  This one was carefully selected from many being sold by a street vendor in Nepal, brought back to the U.S. by the purchaser, and subsequently sold to us.  We were even given a photograph of the vendor and his stand. 

Like Andrea’s idea of a living gift, this gift is alive in its own way.  Its voice is always available – the proverbial gift that keeps on giving. 

The Gong

Ed was gracious enough to allow the use of his gong.  This gong is of modern manufacture.  Ed made the wooden stand that holds the gong.  Gongs have been used throughout antiquity as a signal and a meditation tool.

Prayer Flags

Have you seen the cost of flowers lately?  Ouch!  Andrea and I came up with the idea of using prayer flags instead of flowers, and Andrea decided to make pots of live trees, flowers, and plants to set the stage of our wedding.  Not only did we buy traditional ‘wind horse’ flags to use as a meaningful decoration, we also asked all of our close friends and family to create one of their own.  Andrea wrote the prayer flag instruction sheet, which follows:

Dear Family and Friends,

With joy in our hearts, we anticipate the celebration of our marriage.  In honor of this occasion, we have chosen to use the tradition of prayer flags, as celebrated in Tibet and among other eastern cultures.  Custom requires that a family consult a local lama (priest) preceding an auspicious event or occasion.  Through meditation and fasting, the lama creates an individualized blessing, often accompanied by a symbol, which is then drawn upon a prayer flag.  This flag is given to the family, who then hangs it on the occasion of the event.  It is believed that as the wind blows through the flag, the prayers are released and the blessings are carried to the family on the breeze.

Enclosed you will find a cloth prayer flag.  We would like you to give us your blessings, advice, or wishes by writing them on this prayer flag, along with a symbol related to that blessing, or commemorative of your relationship to us.  For example, if you wrote, “May the love in your hearts be long and lasting,” then you could draw a simple heart shape for the symbol.  If you advised, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” you might draw an apple, a tree, a doctor, or an apple tree falling on a doctor.  On the other hand, you may wish to give a blessing related to qualities we have that are familiar and loved by you, such as a sense of humor.  You may then choose to create or copy something symbolizing the good times we have shared together.  Alternatively, you could choose to create a design or pattern that simply pleases you, or copy a favorite quote or saying.  Please write your name somewhere on the flag so we will know who it is from.

We will follow tradition and hang the flags during our ceremony.  This will allow your blessings to be released in the new spring air as we say our vows to one another.  Later, a friend will piece the flags together to make a combined mural.  We hope to bring this mural with us as we visit family and friends throughout the coming years. Everyone can then share and receive the blessings. 

We have enclosed a stamped envelope in which you can return your completed flag.  We ask that you return the flags no later than March 24, 2000.  If you would rather not participate with us in this way, perhaps you can send us a prayer in your hearts on the day we marry.  We feel the wind will carry these blessings our way as well.

This Program

The souvenir program guide is a feature in many theaters, ballparks, and festivals.  It is also customary in some cultures for the bride and groom to give gifts to each person in attendance at the wedding.  We decided to kill the two proverbial birds with one stone and provide a lasting memento of our marriage.  There is a page in the back where you can paste a photo from our wedding.

This has been a joint effort between both of us, each one writing and collaborating on different sections.  We have prepared this program with the idea of explaining and documenting this unique show.  We hope you enjoy it.


"When you plant crops in a field, it is not the ground that benefits, but you yourself."

Vedic Saying

[5] Altars Made Easy, Peg Streep 1997

[6] Little Altars Everywhere, Rebecca Wells, 1992, pp 14.

Back ] Home ] Next ]




This website is designed to be viewed at a resolution of 800 x 600, or higher, using Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Failure to use these settings may cause in inconsistent results.