When we were asked if we had any tips on “planning a cemetery wedding ceremony,” it raised a few eyebrows. But the more we thought about it, the more it made sense. For many cultures, celebration of the afterlife is a big part of their spiritual practice, and graveyards are places where the living can connect with their history and ancestors.
Ram Dass taught us that “In our Western culture, although death has come out of the closet, it is still not openly experienced or discussed.”
Michel de Montaigne, another philosopher who challenged us to think more deeply about life wrote that, “we are in death, whilst we are in life.”
Why not double down on that philosophy and tie the knot surrounded by the symbols of death?
It turns out we aren’t the only ones who find inspiration in death, just as we do in life. Couples around the world have incorporated symbols of death into their wedding ceremonies, and graveyard wedding ceremonies are actually much more common than you might think.
If you believe that the deceased live on in the memories of the living (we sure do) then it makes sense to conduct the ceremony in their presence. (As a side note, if you haven’t seen the movie Coco, do yourself a favor and watch it.)
“Couples often want to share their big day with loved ones, whether they are alive or dead,” one minister in New Orleans told us. “They want to feel the presence of their ancestors.”
Some couples choose to say their vows in graveyards to remind themselves of the importance of life. One former groom explained that his graveyard wedding was a reminder that nothing physical would remain one day, but that love transcends time and space. “As we stood there together, it felt like nothing else mattered except the person in front of me,” he said.
We didn’t have a large pool of ministers or couples to draw from for this blog post, but in terms of logistics, folks felt it was best to keep it simple. For starters, you aren’t going to have the space to set up anything elaborate, and furthermore (and most importantly), you want to respect the gravestones and gardens.
Cemetery weddings are best suited for couples that would rather just say their vows, perhaps conduct a few ceremonies, and then move on to the celebration of life (and death) elsewhere. Here are a few more tips to make sure your ceremony does what it’s supposed to do -- celebrate your love in a way that reflects who you really are:
1. Get Permission
Cemeteries are sacred ground, and it’s important that you respect the people who care for the grounds, and the families of the deceased who come to visit. This way, you can also get advice about parking, where to set up, and other matters.
2. Communicate your Intentions
For many guests (especially older family members) the concept might be a bit jarring, but once you explain why you are tying the knot in a cemetery, they will understand. Explaining your intentions to guests will also help you formulate your thoughts, and might help you understand why you are doing it this way.
3. Respect the Space
If your guests are standing amongst the gravestones, it’s important that you are respectful of these markers, and that you don’t leave any trace. Since your wedding ceremony is a moment to respect those who have gone before you, it’s important that all your guests do the same.
Our ministers have officiated weddings jumping out of airplanes, under water, ziplining through the air, and it turns out, also in graveyards. Our advice is, focus on the ceremony and creating something that reflects who you really are. The rest will follow!