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    Fulfilling Dreams Through the Power of Ritual

    howardAll of the same gender couples I’ve married were together for years prior to their wedding. When I checked in with them after their ceremonies, most told me that they were surprised that they actually felt different. The wedding ceremony had prompted a transformation to take place. Even those couples who had been living together for decades were surprised to say that they felt different. The ceremony precipitated changes that they had not anticipated.

    As an officiant, I believe in the power of ritual. Rituals not only help us to commemorate a moment, but also help us to transition from one life space to another. I enjoy working with people to create rituals, which will be meaningful for them. It is an added bonus when their guests, family, and friends approach me after a ceremony to tell me how meaningful they found it.

    I am typically the person who officiates at ritual events. In January I was a proud participant. After decades of study, I became an ordained Rabbi. Years ago I got my online nondenominational minister license so that I could legally perform weddings. But since I was born and raised Jewish, I had thought rabbinic ordination as more fitting. So, as a good friend said to me recently, I had a dream, I pursued it, and I fulfilled it. Thank you, Yvonne, for your loving and succinct words!

    I do have to admit that I was more than a bit surprised at how transformational I found the ordination ceremony to be. People joke, asking me if they now need to call me Rabbi. Most of the time I would be embarrassed if they did. I have to admit, however, that when people use the title, the respect that it brings feels good.

    Somehow a part of me has changed in others’ eyes. I don’t officiate any differently. I don’t lead services or deliver sermons any differently. I don’t give better advice than I had given before. Perhaps earning the title helped me take one more step in earning people’s respect because I made the effort to accomplish a dream.

    If it is your dream to someday get married, I encourage you to do so. The couples I have married said all of the planning and headaches were well worth it. So often grooms and brides are ecstatic thanks to the normalcy they felt once marriage equality became a reality. For example, my friend Barbara shared with me that she is reveling in her marriage. It is not just a ‘kind of’ marriage, but an actual, legal matrimony. She loves having in-laws, not ‘kind of’ in-laws. Barbara is proud that she and her wife can be their complete selves and finally begin their lives recognized as lawfully wedded spouses.

    As Elizabeth River wrote in her column here two weeks ago, “We are a bit short on ritual in our culture; we just don’t set aside sacred time and space often enough for all the important moments—transitions, wins, losses, changes—that happen in our everyday lives.”

    I am so thankful when I have the opportunity to facilitate rituals for others. And, I am so thankful that, in my own life, I am able to participate in rituals that are transformative.

    Howard M. Steiermann is an Ordained Ritual Facilitator based in San Francisco. For more information, please visit