in Steph’s own words..

Our ceremony was an integration of different spiritual traditions & elements that resonate with us. Our officiant & sacred fire keeper, both Mohawk elders, drew from the Mohawk tradition that is native to the very land upon which the ceremony took place. This tradition is deeply connected with nature, the elements, the directions, & the ancestors. We also welcomed the participation of an indigenous Peruvian friend, a sound healer, and a Native American song carrier.

Below is a description of how our ceremony unfolded, and enfolded us:

The area of the ceremony was prepared & blessed from very early in the morning. The ceremony space was a circle including the sacred fire and, opposite the fire, one opening/gate for entrance & exit. The guests had each been instructed to bring a stick with them from their home or somewhere special, as an offering for the sacred fire. When the time for ceremony came, everyone –with sticks in hand– processed together to the circle. Stephanie & her family led the procession, followed by Ben & his family. Each person was smudged with the smoke from burning sage –an indigenous practice meant to purify the person’s energy & intention– before entering the circle.

The organist played “To Make You Feel My Love” as the wedding party entered the circle. As the guests entered & were seated, he then played an improvised piece on melodica and shruti box. Once everyone was seated, the sound healer played the gong.

The ceremony unfolded, including questioning of the parents of the bride & groom about the preparedness of their children to be wed, presentation of prepared verbal offerings from each parent, and the honoring of the families’ ancestors. The parents sticks were all tied together with a red string, symbolizing the joining of families & receiving the blessing of the ancestors upon this union. All four parents placed their bound sticks in the sacred fire together.

Stephanie & Ben were then questioned on their willingness to be wed & be generous with their love to their community. They then exchanged their own vows, rings, & a kiss to seal the deal. As in Mohawk tradition, they were wrapped by their mothers in a blanket while their sticks were tied together with a red string.

The Peruvian healer then made an offering to the Earth, requesting eternal sweetness for the marriage. He spread flour in a small circle on the ground by a melon-sized rock, to purify the offering area. Various guests who had been pre-selected by the healer came forward and assisted in placing sweet things (chocolate, candy, rice, raisins, etc) on the offering. The healer then prayed over the offering & covered it with the rock.

Stephanie & Ben witnessed this offering, all the while wrapped in their blanket and grasping their bound sticks. They then proceeded to the sacred fire and together put their sticks into the flames. A spark was emitted when the fire received the sticks. They watched the two sticks burn in the fire, fusing together in the flames. The Native American song carrier then offered a song, inspired by that moment — walking around the fire and shaking a rattle around the couple.

Ben & Stephanie then took a seat on a bench by the fire. The sacred fire keeper asked the guests to take a moment of silence & put their deepest prayers, highest hopes, & greatest blessings for the couple into their sticks. Beginning with the wedding party, the guests formed a line to offer their blessed sticks to the sacred fire & greet the couple anew. The organist & the recessional singer made their offerings to the fire & then played “You’ve Got a Friend,” gospel-style. The guests sang along in harmony as they made their way through the line toward the heat of the fire & the glowing newlyweds.

When the last people had offered their sticks & embraced the couple, the guests made their way up to the cocktail hour. The ceremony did not end however, until the fire’s embers had all gone out. The sacred fire keeper remained with the fire until this happened.

The sacred fire keeper later presented Stephanie & Ben with a big Zip-Lock bag full of ashes from sacred ceremonial fire — containing the prayers, hopes, & blessings the guests had offered for them. He also presented them with a large bunch of sage, a jar of sacred tobacco — prepared especially for the ceremony, and four birch logs that were placed at the base of the fire pit — the first logs put in place to hold space for the fire.

These gifts are powerful medicine and have already come in handy in calming rough waters as we navigate this new ocean of “us.” We both wear pendants containing some of the ashes around our necks every day to remind us of that sacred moment we shared & keep with us all of people who held us in their hearts that day.

We would like to offer our endless gratitude to the following people for creating & holding such a beautiful & powerful space for our marriage ceremony:

Tony Pasquariello – Ceremony Officiant

Jon Delson – Sacred Fire Keeper

John Medeski – Organist

Lucy Child – Sound Healer

Jesus Eagle – Peruvian Healer

Joani Henry – Song Carrier

Mazz Swift – Recessional Vocalist

Shannon Conley – Flower Goddess

Johanna Zwirner – Flower Goddess

Kalae Hassell – Gatekeeper