This past weekend, I officiated a wedding in the chapel at the beautiful Cedar Creek Estate on Mount Tamborine. It reminded me (not that I needed reminding) of the particular magic of late autumn/early winter on the mountain and the turning of the leaves and crisp note in the air. Nor the promise of the year to come hidden in the leafless vines.
Physical beauty aside, a wedding in a winery or vineyard offers not only a wide range of settings for your ceremony - both indoors and out, depending on the facilities made available by the particular winery - but also creative inspiration for the ceremony. There are multiple ways to incorporate wine, and references to wine, in the ceremony.
Last weekend's ceremony included a handfasting. We used a burgundy cord, reflecting the colour of good red wine, symbolising not only the traditional significance of the colour to denote elegance, sophisitication and maturity, but also as an expression of our hope that the couple would enjoy many occasions for celebration during their marriage.
Wine has been used in religious and social rituals for as long as human memory, and there are many different wine rituals.
In broad terms wine rituals in weddings reflect traditions of gathering around a special ceremony of hospitality and celebration of life and involve the couple sharing wine. The accompanying narrative is an essential part of the ritual, ensuring that the symbolism is fully understood by everyone present.
Perhaps the oldest of wine rituals is that in the Jewish wedding ceremony, where the rabbi says a blessing over the wine, reminds the couple that life will be both sweet and bitter, and the couple drinks from the wine, and later the glass is crushed under foot. This ritual has its roots in the tradition of wine representing gladness. [For example, in Psalm 104 the psalmist talks about wine that maketh glad the heart of man]
There are many ways in which to incorporate wine in your wedding ceremony.
Wine rituals using a single cup of wine
Some of the most beautiful wine rituals are variations on a very simple idea - the toast. Wine can be poured into a chalice, a beautiful glass, or, if you re of Scots descent, the traditional quaich. I can invite you to pass the glass back and forth between you as you each to drink to the past you have shared, the present, and the future you will spend together.
A lovely variation on this idea incorporates a familiar reading from The Prophet
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup
[Reproduced under licence from the Copyright Agency, Ltd]
I invite you to drink to one another, to fill one another's cup but then drink from your own to symbolise your promise to be yourselves and to risk what you are for the sake of what you can be, together.
Fruits of Creation
A variation which has a pagan feel, a single glass or wine is used. I will say that in the glass there are the fruits of Creation, Mother Earth, and Human Endeavour, and that the years of our lives are like the wine poured out for the sake of labour, honor and love. I will then invite you to drink from the wine and each tell us what you taste in the wine, as a reminder that you will often perceive things very differently but your commitment to one another should override any need to be right.
Wine ritual using two cups of wine
outWine is poured into two glasses. Each of the marrying couple picks up a glass in their right hands and then they wrap arms before drinking out of the glass. This is then reversed so each drinks out of the other’s glass.
Rituals using two different wines
outBitter and Sweet
Two wines (one sweet, one dry) are required for this ritual, as are two glasses. I invite you to each drink, first from the sweet, and then from the dry, as I remind you that the wines are symbolic of commitment to face and to share the fullness of life together, that the years ahead will contain sweet experiences, happiness and hope, joy, and delight, and bitter ones, disappointment and despair, sorrow and grief, through which you will sustain one another.
Similar in intent to the Unity Candle and the Sand Ceremony, a wine blending ceremony symbolises and celebrates the blending of two lives into one. Two bottle of wine, one red, one white, are required. I will talk about the significance of each wine as a representation of one of you, and/or your families, and then invite you to each pour some wine from your bottle into the glass, blending it. It should result in a nice rosy wine. I will then invite you each to take a sip from the glass symbolised the joining of your lives and your commitment to share the future.
Rituals using unopened bottles of wine
outAnniversary Box (one bottle)
I've written at length about this ritual in an earlier blog (wine-box.htm). It involves a box, and a bottle of wine. The idea is that, during their wedding ceremony, a couple will put a bottle of wine into a prepared box and lock it, ready to open on a milestone anniversary - sometimes the first, sometimes the fifth, sometimes the tenth. It may or may not include the couple each placing a love letter to the other in the box, to be read when the box is next opened. I explain the ritual as this is happening, and, if requested, may also bless the wine.
Anniversary Box (two bottles)
A variation is for the marrying couple to select a special wine for the other. Both bottles are then put in the box, together with love letters to be opened on a milestone anniversary. As above, the I explain the ritual, and the significance of the choices of wine.
A word of warning: make sure the wine you choose is quality wine, and for rituals where the wine is to be drunk during the ceremony, open, and taste it before the ceremony starts. Better to buy a half bottle of good quality wine (you’ll only need a very small amount) than a full bottle of mediocre wine. The sight of the couple shuddering as they sip an unpalatable rubbish wine does not add to the romance of the ceremony! A quality wine need not be expensive. In Australia we are very fortunate that a wide range of beautiful wine is available around the $15 a bottle mark.