As I do the last preparations to officiate my brother’s wedding ceremony this weekend, I’m inspired to share my thoughts on ritual and ceremony and how I’ve come to understand and define these two words.
These words are commonly used interchangeably, which has long stoked my curiosity — especially as a self-described “ceremony designer.” So I’ve been meditating on their distinctions for the past few years.
Are there meaningful distinctions?
Especially in this last year, “ritual” and “ceremony” have become hip words more prevalent in many arenas of culture in the U.S. including the language of culture-forward organizations. But I often see people use both of these words with little understanding or consideration of what they mean.
Here are some definitions from Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
“The established form for a ceremony”
“An act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner.”
“A formal act or series of acts prescribed by ritual, protocol, or convention”
“A routine action performed with elaborate pomp.”
Helpful? Methinks no 😑.
Having designed many rituals and ceremonies and having engaged in much reflection on this topic for years, here’s where I’ve settled for now.
I regard ritual and ceremony as consciously designed symbolic actions to evoke energetic states and make meaning. Which is to say, that they are both portals to a vibrational state of being and an associated consciousness.
1️⃣ ✨ I define RITUALS as portals to return to a KNOWN energetic state — one that we’ve already experienced in this life. Eg a tea ritual, a gratitude ritual, etc.
2️⃣ ⚡️ Whereas I define CEREMONIES as intentionally designed portals for TRANSFORMATION — namely we experience for the first time a wholly new energetic state. They make us individually or collectively into…