Space for sharing….

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The Meta-Inspiration Experience

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the West End Markets, Queensland Brides Wedding & Honeymoon Expo and Brisbane Craft & Quilt Fair.

I love a good market. Markets and Trade Shows are wonderful places to plan any sort of event. You’re surrounded by music, food, energy, products and ideas, all coming together to give you what amounts to a meta-inspirational experience. Every turn from one row to another, one room/space to another, each workshop or demonstration and even the trip to the food queue gives you a tiny piece of information. You may not buy or sign up for a single thing (though I’d challenge anyone not to!), but you come away with new conscious and unconscious thoughts about what you like and dislike.

Even going to the local vege and second-hand market on the weekend can be a treasure of colour combinations, food ideas and style concepts – especially if your style is retro/vintage or you are a keen crafter who wants to do everything themselves (Brides, I’m looking at you)!

A visit to a market or trade show can also put you in touch with people and organisations who may end up being the vendors who work your special day – they put their best foot forward to convince you that they will be part of that perfect moment you’re striving for. Even if you don’t end up using them, if they’ve made a good impression you might keep their card or package and show it to a friend later on (please do that, it really helps us!).

Most importantly, having so many ideas in one place gives you a tactile experience of how those ideas might fit together in a way that will be unique – on the spur of the moment you see a vintage chair next to a particular colour of drapey fabric, topped off by a bunch of daisies and rosewater macarons, while listening to a local bluegrass band covering Taylor Swift, and all of a sudden your entire event concept is clear in your mind!

Or something similar. The above is a serving suggestion only.

Here is some market and expo footage from the last few years to get the inspiration flowing:

Get it on like Marvin Gaye…

In the days when weddings were exclusively conducted in religious locations, the music used to punctuate and beautify the service and celebrations was mostly spiritual in nature – hymns, songs of praise and instrumental pieces composed to the glory of Deity and the unions which they were considered to have brought together. Strangely, though, one of the pieces we most associate with church weddings is a secular piece. What we know as “Here Comes the Bride” is actually the “Bridal Chorus” from Wagner’s opera Lohengrin (and doesn’t even contain those words…nor any references to banana peels…). When it first became fashionable to use the piece as a wedding processional several churches opposed its use, though that would seem odd considering how widely accepted it is today.

The entrance of the bride (or more often now the whole bridal party) to the wedding location is so very important, as it marks the first moments of the new stage of life that the couple are beginning together. Although there comes a moment where the celebrant pronounces them married and invites them to kiss, emotionally for the couple themselves the moment of union is really when they first set eyes on each other. They are at their most joyful, their most visible and their most vulnerable – shouldn’t the music reflect this?

I have attended weddings where I’ve heard majestic bridal processions played on cathedral organs, and others where a single piano, harp or guitar was played. I’ve heard Disney songs, country ballads, heavy metal and classic jazz. In all cases, when those couples look back on their wedding, they will remember the song that was playing when they first saw each other and thought, “This is the person I will give my promise to”. Consider the music before, during and after as part of your ceremony rather than an afterthought or decoration.

The same could also be said for the music played at the reception. A good wedding DJ will be willing to listen and respond, both before and during the reception, to what matters to you and energises your guests. If (as I mentioned in my last post) there is a call for the classics then that is part of the touchstone of the couple and their guests as to what makes a wedding celebration meaningful. But don’t be afraid to throw in a couple of songs that maybe only you and your spouse will want to dance to. There’s nothing that says you can only have one wedding dance!

My very first wedding clients (as with most couples) were keen to make their wedding something deeply personal, and from the decorations to the ceremony that’s exactly what they did. The music at the reception, although it included many “classic” weddings songs, also brought up a few newer gems. The video below was for me one of the most touching songs to hear played, hopefully its honesty and joy will make it a great addition to the traditional fare.


More Than Words

I once witnessed a ceremony in which a woman of Indigenous heritage, who was uncomfortable with taking a speaking role, expressed her contribution in dance. The moment had a profound impact on those present, and showed that there is far more to a ceremony than just the words we speak.

In Western ceremonies dance plays its part, although perhaps on a subtle level. At a wedding reception the bride may dance with her father, the groom with his mother, the bride and groom dance together. These are considered ‘traditional’, but why? The simple answer is that these dances symbolise the transition of the bride and groom from their own families to the new one they create together. One of the most touching ‘first/last’ dances I ever witnessed was bride who began the tradition by dancing with her father, and after a while he with a gentle twirl handed her to her groom who had quietly stepped onto the floor to continue the dance. I doubt there was a dry eye in the house, because all which that moment symbolised was evident in that twirl.

It must be said that even those dance floor favourites which seem to be obligatory at every wedding reception – the Nutbush, the Macarena, the TimeWarp, and nowadays attempts to recreate the Uptown Funk video – are in their way ceremonial and symbolic too. They are touchstones which everyone relates to and remembers, tiny rituals which bring groups of people together and say “this is how we celebrate this aspect of life”.

From a religious perspective, dances that honour deity or ancestors are common particularly in Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. For some the dance is a ceremony in itself – each movement may express an aspect of a God, an emotion or posture of worship, or part of a myth or parable. Dancers often train from childhood, practicing to perfect each and every pose and facial expression, and spend hours or even days preparing for the ceremony. Performance of a dance is an act of spiritual practice in itself, and becomes a way of life.

This video share is of a Shinto music and dance performance, honouring nature. At times it may seem that very little is happening, but if you watch carefully the posture, facial expressions and gestures of the performers there is a deep meditation at work which embraces the surroundings.

There is so much more to the topic of dance (and music) in ceremony, so I’ll be writing more about it in the future.

Ag yn Neall, Gwybod

How could I let this week go past without celebrating an enduring cultural event? The National Eisteddfod of Wales is on this week, and is a bastion of traditional expression, preservation of a culture and language, and an opportunity to experience dramatic theatrical ceremony.

From 12th Century origins (some would say earlier), the modern Eisteddfod was galvanised by the creation of the Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain (The Gorsedd of Bards of the Island of Britain) in the late 18th/early 19th Century. Its purpose was to celebrate and award poetry, prose and song performed and presided over in the Welsh language. These days it has become a much wider festival of the arts and innovation, and although the ceremonial aspects are still conducted in Welsh much of the festival is bilingual to encourage English speakers to attend.

The ceremony of the Eisteddfod is (thanks to its creator, the colourful and highly influential Iolo Morganwg) based around antiquarian druidic ideals. The Bard was, depending on who you read, either a type of druid or a stage on the path to becoming a druid. Thus the ceremonies take on a religious, reverential tone and structure. The power of prose and poetry to move people to wisdom and action is central to this expression of Welsh identity, and is treated accordingly.

I have two videos for you this week, one a snippet of the Chairing of the Bard ceremony from the Eisteddfod of 1927 and another of the same ceremony from last year’s Eisteddfod.

Actually, I have two more, can’t resist a bit of fun from The Goodies 😉


Another word about funerals, and children…

Last post I talked about the value of considering a funeral or memorial service for your pet or working animal, and mentioned that this can be a beneficial part of the grieving process for young children. Interestingly, the following week I read the article linked at the bottom of this post, which talks about the psychological benefits of having children attend the funerals of human loved ones. And so I’m sharing this as well, because it rings just as true.

Children, for their lack of experience in the world, can be very fragile. They are also, however, less emotionally composed of the grey areas which fill up the thoughts of most adults. Once they understand something, they can be surprisingly pragmatic and sensitive. The key is to help them understand.

My great-grandmother passed away when I was quite young. In those days, it was considered too traumatic and confronting for a child to be presented with death in such an intimate way. For this and possibly other reasons the kids of the family were not allowed to go to her funeral. These days of course I understand that it was simply not the “done thing”. I do remember, though, being old enough then to understand that we were being excluded, and that that was something to be sad about.

Flash forward to a funeral I attended in the last few years, where the grandchildren, all early-primary or younger, not only attended but participated. The eldest grandson carried his grandfather’s photo to the graveside, his sister and their young brothers placed pictures they had drawn for him in the grave. They all understood what was happening, and although grieving they carried themselves as well as could be expected. It was important to them, and in the end a healing thing, to be able to say goodbye.

These are, of course, examples that do not apply to everyone. Some children are far too confronted by death up to a much later age to be expected to cope with a funeral. Some children are simply not yet able to understand what is happening, and become overwhelmed and disoriented by the distress around them.

However, it is well worthwhile to consider children in the planning of the funeral. Rather than applying a general “children should not go to funerals”, ask “should MY children go to funerals?” – how will it affect the unique people that they are? Will the experience help them? Can they help themselves by being involved?

Here is a link to the original article, for you to make up your own mind.

Honouring a Furry Friend

A pet is, for most people, a treasured member of the family. They often eat, sleep and play alongside the rest of the household, contributing their presence and unique perspective as much as any human being. Even larger animals who cannot live within the house can form a bond with the humans who interact with them in ways that cannot be denied.

Why, then, is the way in which an animal is treated when they pass away different from the way in which we treat humans? For some who lose a pet, especially if they have had to make the difficult decision to have their loved one euthanised, there may be a certain closure in the simplicity of allowing the vet to “take care of things”. This is understandable, and there’s certainly a place for it.

However, there are growing opportunities for a family to come together and grieve for their pet in ways which are closer to a human memorial or funeral. Many pet crematoriums and cemeteries are now offering owners the chance to visit, and even be present at, the burial or cremation of their pet. Sometimes this can be helpful to children, especially if they have previously experienced the passing of a human friend or relative – it shows them they are allowed to mourn their pet, that others are sad (and needing cuddles) too and that death is a part of life even for animals.

When it’s time to say farewell to a treasured animal friend it may help to have someone gather your thoughts and put them together, perhaps organise ways in which tributes can be made. There may be a poem to read, a song to sing, pictures and keepsakes to display. The animal may have been of service to the community, a sporting hero or a prize-winner, and there may be some outside the family who would like the opportunity to pay their respects.

A memorial service for a pet or working animal could be held in the backyard, their favourite park (subject to Council approval) or in any another place where they contributed or were valued just for being there.

Among the multitude of readings that can be used in the celebration of a pet is a variation on the Rainbow Bridge story. Essentially the Rainbow Bridge is the place where pets who have passed wait for their humans to join them at a later time. Needless to say it’s a place where they have everything they need – their heaven.

You may need tissues for this fortnight’s video!