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a warm welcome and opening the ceremony

The act of welcoming guests to a ceremony or celebration is quite often overlooked. However, the ritual of ‘meeting and greeting’ plays an important role in bringing the guests together and creating a relaxed atmosphere.  In any ceremony, it is the collective energy of the participants and the guests that combine to ‘make’ the ceremony. Nerves are usually inevitable, not just for the individual, couple or family who may be the centre of attention, but possibly also for some of the guests.

This is especially so for someone who may be uncomfortable in social situations or who may not know many of the other guests. Though this nervousness can contribute to the excitement of the event, in some cases it can also prevent someone from really enjoying the ceremony and reception. Having someone to make people welcome and put them at ease helps to alleviate this nervousness and to create a convivial atmosphere, the perfect setting for any celebration.

If it is a wedding this task can be handed to the groom and/or the best man, groomsmen, the MC for the reception or you could delegate this role to a trusted friend.  A simple greeting and, where necessary, an introduction to one or two other guests can go a long way to making someone feel comfortable enough to enjoy the ceremony at a more relaxed level.

It may also be appropriate if the bride or groom’s mother is without a partner, to have someone escort the mother to her seat and then again to the reception. It may be one of the parties in the ceremony or another member of the family.

After I have I set up my equipment and ensured everything is ready to go for the ceremony I enjoy the ‘meeting and greeting’ aspect of my role. It builds great rapport between the guests and myself always making for a richer environment and ceremony setting.

creating a sacred space or circle

Creating a circle or sacred space brings a focus to a celebration that can assist people to feel included and welcome. This is relatively easy to organize in an indoor space where there is privacy and a quiet environment. Outdoor venues can require a little bit of staging – well placed chairs, petals indicating the ceremony area… any indicators that let people know ‘this is the ceremony space’. It doesn’t have to be complex and might even be as simple as gathering the guests in close.

A smaller circle for the couple to stand in, created with flowers, rocks or shells, can be used for opening the ceremony. The act of the couple stepping into the circle can signify their willingness to enter into the relationship and union.   

Sometimes a larger circle is created to include all the guests. This can be done by someone walking around the group with a long cord or rope that is placed around the outside of the boundary of guests, or surfboards, or petals or… the choices are unlimited.

welcoming guests with the presentation of service sheets, lei’s or scarves

Another means of welcoming guests is to present them with service sheets, lei’s or scarves.  Handing out the service sheets can be so much more than what usually happens.  It can form a beautiful ritual of welcoming, and giving and offering a blessing to those who are have come to share in this ceremony.  Choose people for this who are gregarious and warm in nature – people who will smile and really welcome people.

welcoming the bride

If the bride is arriving in the traditional manner, after the groom, I always greet and welcome the bride before her entry into the ceremony and offer her reassurance and a sense of calm, encouraging her to bring her awareness to the present moment so that she can fully enjoy every minute.  It is a symbolic act of being the link from all the preparation over the days, weeks and months to the ceremony itself, a welcoming into this next part of their journey together.

opening the ceremony

There are many variations on the opening of the ceremony with regard to the entrance of the couple. Traditionally the groom and his bridal party are standing in the ceremonial area, however it could be that the bridal party all come down the aisle together, or two separate aisles, or from opposite directions…

You may wish to start a ceremony with a guided meditation. You need to consider many factors here beside guest receptivity, including noises or distractions, comfort of the guests, children or babies who are present, environmental considerations, and the ability of the celebrant or person to lead the proceedings.

A young couple asked me to lead a guided meditation at the beginning of their ceremony to bring people together in a quiet space and to feel the love and connection that was present. When I arrived there were about 20 guests, ten of who had been out drinking until three in the morning – they looked pretty hung over. Wondering about the receptivity of this group, I asked the couple if they still wanted to go ahead with the meditation. “Oh yes,” they said! The guests formed a circle with the bride and groom and everyone was very interested. After a short guided meditation, the rings were passed around the circle as family and friends blessed the rings. Many of the young guests approached me afterwards and said it was a deeply touching ceremony.

In Australia I have conducted ceremonies after a local indigenous elder has opened the ceremony with a blessing, or there has been an acknowledgement of the local indigenous sacred land and traditions.

doug and sally's wedding

At Douglas and Sally’s wedding every member of the bridal party offered the following welcome after they had arrived in the traditional manner and were standing facing out to family and friends. I was standing nearby and spoke after this welcome.
MC – Dave: I would like to welcome you here today. Many of you have travelled a long way to get here and we really appreciate the efforts you have made. There are also many people who at present are sitting all over the world opening up bottles of champagne ready to share our toasts later on tonight.

Also a special thought goes to … (the guests who could not attend)

Groomsman – Steve: Amongst us are friends and family who have come from places as far away as London and Mt Maunganui in New Zealand; a little closer to home we have people here from Buderim, Brisbane and Mapleton in Queensland; Wagga, Maitland, Thora, Coffs Harbour and Junee in New South Wales; Ballarat, Tallangatta and Melbourne in Victoria and of course the rowdy LOCALS!

Bridesmaid – Kat: We are gathered here on the traditional lands of the Gumbaingirr people under the gaze of Nungali. Nungali is a living link to people who walked this earth thousands of years ago and whose stories tell the dreaming of our mountains and the creatures that roamed here.

Bridesmaid – Jenny:  We’re here to join two families, to meet new friends, to smile, to laugh and to share precious moments together

Groomsman – Jim: We are all special to Douglas and Sally; we are the people they wanted to stand before as they share just how lovely their life is since finding each other and ask for your blessing.

Bride – Sally: We are here in the depth of winter, a time of preparing for renewal just like what we are doing here now – renewing our commitment to each other.

Groom – Douglas: We are near water and there is a reason for that too – the question was popped in the bath!
This opening was carried off beautifully by the whole bridal party and enjoyed by everyone present. (Douglas and Sally’s full ceremony can be found in my book, ‘Create your own inspiring wedding ceremony’)

Consider the next time you go to an event, whether it is a celebration or business meeting and notice how it feels to be welcomed … or not. Being welcomed is a powerful acknowledgement and community builder. It reminds me of my son’s teacher, Tracey, who would greet the student’s one by one, shaking their hands, as they entered into her classroom. Tracey would welcome each student, by name, every day!
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"I have had the pleasure of stumbling across your site and was compelled to send you a message simply to say how truly inspiring you are Wendy. I am eagerly awaiting my AG accreditation which is due in the next couple of weeks. However, in all my researching and planning for my CMC role thus far, I've not come across any material or media that has met and further inspired my passion for embracing this new path until discovering It seems to me you arrange your words not unlike the most poetic and soulful musician might compose their innermost heartfelt piece of music. What a gift!" - Rebecca