Rites of Passage: Ceremony as Symbolic Threshold

Many of you know me as a Celebrant, a professional ceremony maker. You may also think of me as a Wedding Officiant.. a Funeral Celebrant… or even a Baby Blesser!  But you may not realize that I have a thorough grounding and education in Rites of Passage.  It is this background that allows me to create truly transformational ceremonies for life’s BIG moments, like weddings, memorials, child honourings, and other passages. Without a deep understanding of the transitions of the human life, ceremonies are just a bunch of pretty words. And that is why so many ceremonies leave us with a sense something was missing. Officiants may be using a one-size-fits-all script or else they haven’t a clue about the emotional arc that ceremony represents.

My entire life is centred around understanding the human mind and heart. I see ceremony as a catalyst… a tangible experience that helps us move through metaphorical doorways and cross the emotional thresholds associated with things like getting married or mourning the loss of a loved one. This is why the Reflective Process and/or Personal Interviews are such a pivotal part of my work with you.

Ceremony = Threshold to me because thoughtfully crafted ceremonies represent the participant’s inner preparation and choice to cross into a new way of being.

Here are a few common ones:

Wedding Ceremonies: becoming a Husband or Wife
Mother Blessings & Baby Naming: stepping into parenthood, birth
Teen Rites of Passage: entering adulthood
Celebrations of Life, Memorials and Funerals: marking a life and adjusting to the loss of someone you love
Divorce Ceremonies: acknowledging the ending of a relationship and beginning anew

Why Threshold?  A threshold is a place of in-between. Anthropologists also use the expression ‘liminal space’, which I like too. I also love the term ‘in-between’ space. When we experience a significant change in our life (for instance engagement), we often experience uncertainty as we stand in the middle of that change. Like standing in a doorway, we can step backwards to how we were. Or we can cross the threshold into a new way of being (marriage). Essentially, the doorway, the threshold, the liminal or in-between time allows us to make a choice.

Because thresholds in this case are associated with life transitions, our time standing in the doorway, poised between two ways of being, is when we can stretch emotionally. Here we can take time to search and yearn. After all, they call it life transition, which implies gradual movement. Ceremony represents the life transition or passage. Ceremony should be a ritual… a rite… that honours the threshold time and helps us to move through it. I guarantee that during the course of your life, you will experience your own threshold moments. I encourage you not to turn away, ignore, dismiss, or bury your emotions, as many people do, in order to avoid them.

We live in a culture that overemphasizes happiness at all costs — I call it the ‘cult of positivity’.  Yet it is in the shadows, the in-between… the liminal… the threshold spaces that we learn to accept uncertainty and ourselves.

Think about using ceremony or ritual to mark your threshold journeys. Humans have done this since the beginning of our existence.  And remember… technology can never replace the human heart.

Master Celebrant Michele Davidson, for Modern Celebrant




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