An Interview with Judith Kubish
What led you to be a celebrant?
Early in November, 2003, I returned home from an emergency hospital stay. On a rather mild Wisconsin autumn day, I ventured out to my backyard, and since I couldn’t bend to touch the ground with my hands, (or kiss it—which I would have preferred) I took off my shoes and simply felt the ground through the soles of my feet. It was all I could think to do to express how grateful I was to be alive.
Earlier that week, I had a heart attack , followed by coronary by-pass surgery. At age 58, my sense of myself as a healthy and health-conscious choice maker, young-at-heart and free of my family history of coronary artery disease was confronted and confounded.
In the ensuing recovery time, I healed from the surgery, and came to terms with coronary artery disease. More importantly, however, I began to consider that I did not pay nearly enough attention to my heart - not only my physical heart, but the emotional, relational energy dynamo at the center of my being. All too often, my head ruled my life, made my decisions, and over drove my heart. Longing to truly heal, I needed to learn to listen to my heart - and to welcome and express the gratitude, joy, and amazement I feel at being alive - the spontaneous need, at times, to kiss the ground.
Constructing a more heart centered life led me to become a celebrant. Being a celebrant flows, creatively, and easily, from my heart. Preparing and celebrating ceremonies combines the excellent communication, relationship, and literary skills I have from my years as a teacher and counselor with my life journey as a faith seeker and ritual maker. My heart’s expansiveness had already led me beyond my Polish heritage and the Catholic Church to multifaith and multicultural sharing. I had already assisted many relative and friends in creating ceremonies; I knew there was a need “out there” for skilled ceremonial leaders. Offering my services professionally to celebrate life through ceremony gave me an integrated direction and focus, with my heart in charge!
Weddings seem to have a special attraction for you. Why?
Of course, for those whose path has led them there, getting married is one of the most important days in a person’s life. Creating a marriage ceremony is serving Love’s most intimate and universal dimensions. Deciding to share your life with another, venturing together into an unknown future, intending to learn together, to grow together, valuing differences, respecting yourself and the other equally is a remarkable and heroic journey - with incredible consequences for the people you encounter, or generate, on the way!
There are already rich traditions and customs for honoring this life passage. Unfortunately, some of those rituals, celebrated rotely, have co-opted the primacy of the couple’s love. Their story is secondary to the “institution” of marriage. Ceremonies that plug the couple’s names into a canned script, include a lecture for them and the guests, or simple borrow customary expressions, leaves the couple and their guests looking forward to the reception as the “real action” of the day.
I know there are always new possibilities for meaningful celebration in the hearts and minds of the couple and their families. I am honored to accompany them in creating the celebration that represents them. There is great mystery and uniqueness in each couple’s story. And, there is remarkable sameness in how our hearts are touched by love. All ceremonies, but Weddings, especially, are recharging stations for our love batteries. I’m delighted to keep the power flowing!
How do you view creating a wedding ceremony that makes your services unique?
Here’s an image that answers that question for me:
My husband and I recently attended a play. At the intermission, we were talking in the lobby, one couple among many groups of two, three, and more, conversing before the second act. I don’t really remember what we talked about. However, before we moved back into the theater, we shared a brief kiss, probably some gratitude and appreciation for each other.
As we walked toward the theater, an usher whose face is familiar to us from attending other plays, stopped us and said: “I wish I had a picture of your sharing that kiss. Sunlight, coming through the lobby window, was haloing you, and the way your faces just leaned in to each other….,” the smile on his face and the gesture of “perfection” that he made with his fingers took over for his trailing words. I appreciated his reflection so much. It was simply a kiss, for us. We probably wouldn’t have even remembered it at the end of the day. But his sharing reminded me of how I can not notice the ordinary but magical moments in my life and in my love.
This is a great image for me of what a well created wedding ceremony does. It holds up a mirror to the couple of the ordinary and yet magical dynamics of their love. The ceremony is a happy, realistic disclosure that the couple experiences and says, “yes, this is us.” It heightens their joy and satisfies their desire to have all of their guests get a glimpse into what they alone share….and yet what every one who loves recognizes. As I create a couple’s ceremony, I ask myself: Are the words, images, gestures, symbols, illuminating the love reality of THIS couple?
"Finding the right officiant to marry us was a bit of a challenge. We do not share the same religious ideologies so it was important for us to find someone who could transcend religion in preparing and performing a wedding ceremony. However, we still wanted to incorporate some time-honored traditions. Judith allowed us to do both.
Our ceremony was perfect because it was a true reflection of us—not a lot of canned phrases and scriptures lumped together. No one has ever had a ceremony like it and no one ever will. Our input, feedback, and ideas were ever-present throughout the ceremony and we were able to work with Judith to custom tailor a ceremony that truly paid tribute to our commitment and love for one another. On your wedding day I can think of nothing more important.” Ryan and Angela Ulm
How do you work with us?
From our face-to-face meeting and written interviews, I receive your ideas of what is important to you for the ceremony, the uniqueness of your relationship, and a sense of each of you individually. I also talk you through the traditional elements of a ceremony and determine with you what represents you and what doesn't. There are many choices of unity rituals, for example, like the unity candle, handfasting, a food or wine ceremony, a rose ceremony, a hand blessing, which can be used in the ceremony. Memorials for those who have died, family unity rituals for blended families, participation of family members in blessings or wishes may also be included. I also provide files with possible readings, vow samples, ring ceremony samples if that would be helpful. We discuss any cultural or religious traditions which you would like to see included and, when helpful, I give suggestions or research a tradition.
Always, your creativity, innovation, uniqueness is welcomed and elicited. New elements, new rituals can always spring up out of our interaction, my experience and training, and your sharing of your values and beliefs. You receive unlimited editing of your ceremony script. It is your ceremony and is finished when you say that it is.
End note: I have trained and am proudly affiliated with the Celebrant USA Foundation,an alliance dedicated to servicing the human right to celebration. I am very grateful that my life journey has led me to such soulful work and enthusiastic colleagues.
I care deeply about the health of our planet and I choose goods and services for my work that are environmentally sustainable and carbon offsetting. If you are interested in green ideas for your wedding I highly recommend www.coopamerica.org/pubs/realmoney/articles/celebrations.cfm