Couples who are looking for a special way in which to enforce the strength of their wedding vows might wish to consider using an oathing stone.
Non-religious wedding ceremonies can include different rituals, such as the Unity Candle, the Hand Fasting or the Broom Jumping. An oathing stone can also be used as a symbol of the solemnity of the marriage vows.
The origins of this ritual lie in Celtic traditions. In ancient times it was thought that if a person making a vow placed their hand on a stone or rock while they were speaking, this would make the vow more binding.
So this is where the concept comes from that something is “set in stone”
If the vows were also taken near water, they were doubled in strength.
It reflected the importance of the spirit of place. A stone is a symbol of strength and endurance. It literally grounded the couple in their commitment to each other.
What they did with the stone after ceremony varied. Sometimes they threw it into a lake or the sea. Sometimes it was added to a man-made cairn of other such stones.
Sourcing the stone
Any stone may be used, although it should be big enough to allow each person to put their hand on it. It would be better if it were smooth.
The couple might wish to go to a place that is special to them to look for a stone. Perhaps they will find it on a beach or in the veld or in the mountains. The wedding officiant may accompany them on their search.
They will then take home the stone and scrub it thoroughly. When it is clean they might want to rub it with something like almond oil or they might want to spray it with a varnish.
There are also sand blasting companies that would be able to supply a piece of granite which has the initials of the couple carved on it, with perhaps the date of the wedding.
Use in the ceremony
The stone will be placed where the celebrant can reach it easily during the ceremony. Wedding officiants often use a table, where they will place flowers and a candle.
When it is time for the couple to make their vows, the celebrant will pick it up. Sometimes a special family member is asked to bring the stone to the couple. In other cases the stone is passed amongst the guests. Each person holds it and silently think of their wishes for the couple.
There are different ways of holding it. The celebrant can hold it, while the couple place their hands on it when they recite or read their vows. Or one partner can take a turn at holding it while the other is making the vows.
In addition to the main oathing stone, there might be a collection of smaller stones. Again, the stones might have been collected by the wedding couple or they might have bought a number of garden pebbles or even semi-precious stones. These smaller stones are called blessing stones.
They can be in a container at the door of the venue or they might be on plates at the end of each row of seats.
As each guest enters the wedding venue they will select a stone which they will carry to their seat.
Before the couple make their vows, the celebrant will explain to the guests that the wedding couple chose these stones as symbols of their special relationship with their guests. The stones will serve as a lasting reminder of their guests at their wedding and of the special love that they shared on this their special day.
The officiant then asks the guests to reflect for a moment their wishes for this couple for love, happiness, prosperity and unity as they exchange their wedding vows.
Following the ceremony, the guests place the stones in the special container at the door of the ceremony area.
After the wedding
The couple may choose to display the oathing stone in a prominent place in their home, as a reminder of their commitments that they made to each other. They could also put it in a water feature or rock arrangement in their garden.
If they have blessing stones they can also be used as part of the décor in the home or garden.
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