marriage

Responsibilities of a Wedding Guest
A great wedding guest can make or break your wedding experience.

To be a great wedding guest, make sure that you are polite and courteous.

April showers bring May flowers, but for brides, April showers bring June flowers. Summer is a popular time for weddings, so you might start getting invitations from your friends who are getting married. To survive wedding season, be the best wedding guest you can. Here are a few tips to help you:

  • RSVP by the date requested. Do not put the invitation aside for a few days, because you’ll forget. Don’t make the couple track you down for an answer.
  • Look at the invitation to see who was invited. Do not invite anyone yourself. If your children aren’t mentioned on the envelope, they are not invited to the wedding. It is customary to invite partners, but if you aren’t married or in a long-term relationship, you may have to go single.
  • Show up if you RSVP “yes.” Barring an emergency, don’t change plans at the last minute. The caterer will charge the couple for your plate, whether you show up or not.
  • Do not talk about the wedding with friends who may not have been invited. This means on social media too. You don’t want to come off as boasting or make others feel bad because they were not invited.
  • Be on time for the ceremony. Better yet, be there 10 to 15 minutes early to get the lay of the land. When you arrive late, you disrupt the flow of the ceremony. If you do arrive late, wait for a break in the action to sneak in.
  • Dress appropriately. If the invitation says “semi-formal,” don’t wear jeans. For a beach wedding, dress more casually. Don’t wear white.
  • Put your phone on silent during the ceremony. Let your babysitter know your phone will be off for a half-hour to forty-five minutes and promise to check immediately after.
  • Don’t take pictures during the ceremony. Respect the wedding photographer.
  • Ask the couple if you can share pictures on social media before you do.
  • Send the gift, if you do, to the home of the bride or groom. Don’t make them deal with more stuff at the reception.
  • During the reception, sit where the bride and groom have placed you. Make conversation with those around you. It’s only for a couple of hours. Your phone will wait.

What About the Rights of a Wedding Guest?

Wedding guests also have rights that come with their invitation:

  • You can expect to receive an invitation if you received a save-the-date card.
  • You have the right to decline the invitation if you cannot attend. No explanation needed, just say, “Thank you, I’d love to be there, but I can’t.”
  • You can ask the couple if you need clarification about your invitation. Maybe you want to make sure you understand the dress code or are confused about the plus one.
  • You have a right to not send a gift at all. You also have up to a year to send a wedding gift.
  • If you do send a gift, you have a right to expect a timely thank-you note. You might want to give the couple a few weeks after the wedding to wrap up all their duties, but if you don’t receive a thank-you note within three months, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask if they received your gift.
  • You should take advantage of the open bar, but don’t overdo it.

Have a Good Time

A wedding is a celebration, and you should have a good time. Thank the host and hostess, typically the bride’s parents, before you leave. Don’t be offended if you don’t get a few minutes with the bride and groom. One of the best things you can do as a wedding guest is to be flexible and gracious, no matter what happens at the ceremony or reception.

Child Brides Find Help From Hindu Priests
One of many child brides posing in a wedding dress.

Child brides face many more health issues than if they wait to get married.

Child brides may not be a huge problem in Canada, but the problem itself is huge. The International Center for Research on Women estimates that one-third of girls are married before the age of 18. The countries with the highest rates of child marriage are in Africa and South Asia. In Niger, 75 percent of girls are married before the age of 18. The ICRW lists the top 20 countries in the world with the highest rates of child brides.

The Problems Associated With Child Brides

  • Young girls who marry before the age of 18 do not get educated as well as girls who wait to marry.
  • These young girls may not have access to healthcare and other services they require to grow and mature.
  • Girls who marry under the age of 18 are more likely to live in poverty.
  • Child brides have a higher risk of HIV and other STDs.
  • Child brides die at a higher rate from pregnancy than women who are older when they marry.
  • Younger brides are more likely to experience domestic violence than the women who marry later in life. In India, the risk of domestic violence for girls under 18 is twice that of women who wait.

Changing Child Marriage

Although many people outside of the regions associate child marriage with Islam, it’s simply a myth that only one religion is affiliated with child brides. Many religions actively participate in the tradition. It is more common in rural areas than urban, and many times girls do not have a say in the matter. One day, they’re playing with friends and helping mom cook dinner. The next day, they’re shipped off to their husband. The bride and groom may not even meet before the wedding.

In Nepal, it’s estimated that about 41 percent of girls are married before turning 18. Some activist groups place the number even higher, at 50 percent. Families even lie about a girl’s age to get around the law. Nepal has banned child marriage for 54 years. Girls are supposed to be at least 20 before getting married. However, it is difficult to enforce the law. Nepal is trying to end the practice by 2030. The country is working with the U.N. and other agencies to implement plans to stop the practice.

Fortunately, Nepali Hindi priests are beginning to advocate against child marriage. When a girl is born, she receives a special scroll that can be used to tell her fortune. Even if a family lies about her age to the priest who is marrying her, the scroll gives her real age. Priests are using their place in the community to educate families about child marriages. Although the number of people convinced to wait is small, these priests continue to work. It may take another generation to turn the tide of child brides in Nepal, but they are doing something today.

What Can You Do?

You may not have the influence to stop child marriages in places such as Nepal, Madagascar or Zambia, but you can certainly support the efforts of those who are working to change the tradition. ICRW is just one activist organization trying to change the tide. UNICEF is another excellent organization that promotes gender equality and education around the world. At Girlsnotbrides.org, you can find even more ways to act and raise your voice in the fight against child marriages.

There isn’t an easy solution to change when it’s embedded in the culture. It’s going to take everyone working together to empower girls and enact new laws designed to support the rights of all children in these countries. Girlsnotbrides.org works with more than 600 groups around the world to help change behaviors and attitudes associated with child marriage. Learn more about what you can do.

Marriage Equality in Scotland
Gay / lesbian wedding icons set

The fight for marriage equality is one that is being fought on a global scale.

Next month, the Anglican Church of Canada votes on marriage equality in the church. As the ULC has reported in the past, this topic is hotly debated within the Anglican Church. The Episcopal Church in the United States changed their canon last year. They were given a “time out” by the international church, but have held to their beliefs that marriage equality is for all of their members. Now, the Scottish Episcopal Church has taken small steps toward changing the canon on marriage within their doors.

The Status of the Canon in Scotland

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church passed a first reading of the change. Currently, in Canon 31, it states that marriage is understood to be between a man and a woman. The proposal is to remove that statement from the canon. This is just one step along the process, because it should be noted that the proposed change is not the final decision. Now that the General Synod has made this proposal, it goes to the seven dioceses within Scotland for more discussion and opinions.

Next year at the General Synod meeting in June, the proposal will get a second reading. To pass, it must get a two-thirds majority of votes. Bishops, clergy and laity are included in this vote. Individual churches send representatives to the General Synod. The first reading received a vote of 5 for, 2 against from the bishops; 43 for, 19 against from the clergy; and 49 for, 12 against, 3 abstentions from the laity. The proposed change does seem to have a great deal of support from the church leadership.

The General Synod is the church’s legislative body, kind of like you might think of Parliament. The Synod members oversee the work of the church and vote on policy. They also might work on national and international issues. A diocese is made up of a group of churches in a particular region. This lets church members and leaders have input into the final canon of the church.

The proposed change would allow clergy to solemnize weddings between people of the same sex. However, there would be a conscience clause for clergy who are opposed to the change. They would not be forced into blessing a same-sex union.

The International Debate in the Anglican Church

Just recently, Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth, daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, married her girlfriend. Although South Africa recognizes same-sex marriages, the South African Anglican law does not. The church has made it clear in the past that gay clerics must remain celibate. Shortly after Tutu van Furth’s marriage was celebrated, the diocese withdrew her license to practice as a priest in the church. The South African Anglican Church is also looking at new guidelines for church members who are entering same-sex unions.

It’s been suggested that there might be consequences from the Primates and Archbishop of Canterbury, the international governing body of the Anglican Church, if countries move forward with changing church canon concerning same-sex marriage. Some countries with an Anglican church still have laws on the books that make homosexuality a crime punishable by death. Other countries, such as Russia and Lithuania, simply have repressive laws that prohibit a propaganda of homosexuality. The leadership from some of these countries does not approve of the changes in other countries.

Pushing for same-sex marriage equality in the church is becoming an international issue. We’ll continue to watch how things in the church become more inclusive for all the members, not just heterosexual individuals. The Scottish Church is taking positive steps, but there is still a long way to go. It will be interesting to watch the vote at the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada this summer to see what happens.

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World Day Against Child Labour
stop child labor vector poster

Child Brides, Child Trafficking and Child Slavery are at an alarming rate.

Child brides and marriages have been in the news lately. In Canada, the age of consent is 18 or 19 in most jurisdictions, but with parental or court permission, an individual as young as 16 can get married. The situation is much similar in the U.S., although a few states do have laws to allow individuals as young as 13 to get married. In those cases, court and parental consent are required. Internationally, child brides are considered a bigger problem, largely due to the fact that these young girls have no say in their fate. Girls around the world do not have the same protections that girls in North America do. The United Nations hopes to change that.

No to Child Labour; Yes to Education

One of the most basic rights for each individual is education. It’s just as important as health, food, safety and shelter. Some countries do not educate their girls or only provide education to a certain age. The International Labour Organization estimates that about 168 million children around the world work instead of going to school or playing. About 120 million of these children are aged 5–14. Many of these children work full-time in deplorable and hazardous conditions. Some have been forced into the workforce because of human trafficking or slavery.

In 1919, the ILO was born, mostly out of the need to end child labour around the world. The ILO has actually been making progress. The goal was to end child labour by 2016, but there’s still work to be done. The ILO actually recognizes the importance of social dialogue in the fight to end child labour in production and manufacturing.

Awareness in the Present

The 2016 World Day to End Child Labour is on June 12. The focus this year is to end child labour in supply chains. A supply chain is the sequence of activities that leads to distribution or the production of goods. Stereotypically, most people think of children sewing clothes, but child labourers work in many other industries, from fishing to mining.

The ILO recommends effective governance as one of the keystones against child labour. Individually, there’s even more that can be done. Here are some recommendations:

  1. Get educated. The Institute for Humane Education is one place to get started. The ILO has a number of resources as well.
  2. Buy fair trade products. There are a number of labels, Fair Trade Certified, Goodweave and Fairtrade Mark.
  3. Talk to retailers about where they are buying their products. Ask them to make sure they are using responsible suppliers and distributors. You have the right to ask about the origin of the product you’re buying. You may need to dig deep and go to the manufacturer to get information.
  4. If you are a stakeholder in a business, make sure your organization is supporting businesses that don’t use child labour.
  5. Talk about the social injustices with others who can make a difference in their own circles.

Making a Difference

Don’t think that your small business won’t make a difference by buying responsibly. In India, the tent dealers association stopped 80 child marriages in Rajasthan, India by simply asking to see the birth certificates of the brides and grooms before renting a tent for their wedding. By coming together and making a stand, these businesses are changing their country.

Join the campaign to stop child labour. On June 12, the UN and ILO have arranged a number of activities in countries around the world. Ask your government officials to start thinking about next year and what you can do in your community to make a difference for children everywhere. The little girl next door to you may not have to worry about going to work, but in many countries, there are little girls and boys who are.

Advocates for Marriage Equality in the Anglican Church
Advocates for Marriage Equality in the Anglican Church

Advocates for Marriage Equality in the Anglican Church

In 1976, the Episcopal Church (the branch of the Anglican church in the United States) took steps toward marriage equality when it recognized that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.” In 2015, the General Convention made changes to church canon and liturgy for marriage equality. Months later, at the Anglican Communion’s Primates’ Meeting, the primates, who are the head bishops of the church, voted to suspend the right of the Episcopal Church to be represented at international meetings. This summer, the Canadian Anglican Church is expected to vote on same-sex marriage equality for its membership. The debate has been going on for months, and it’s not looking positive, but there are people who are pushing forward.

Same-Sex Marriages and the Anglican Church

The General Synod, which is the body responsible for church canon, has been trying to find agreement over same-sex marriages in the church since 2004 when they deferred the vote over blessing the union or not. This would have given each church the authority to bless unions. One of the bishops had already given permission for some of the priests in his district to bless same-sex unions as early as 2003. Currently, there are many parishes that are authorized to bless all marriages, but the church itself has not approved the change to the marriage canon.

This July, the General Synod is voting on a change to the canon at its triennial meeting. According to the final report presented to the Commission on the Marriage Canon,

“In 2013 the General Synod passed a resolution (C003, which is included as an appendix to this report) directing the drafting of a motion ‘to change Canon XXI on marriage to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples, and that this motion should include a conscience clause so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience.’ Such a motion will be considered by the General Synod in 2016.”

After a special meeting early in February, the House of Bishops announced that the resolution would probably not pass because it would not get the support it needed to pass. It takes a two-thirds majority to pass, and according to an article in the Anglican Journal, one-third of the bishops are in favor of the change. Another third of the bishops are opposed. The remaining third are those bishops who are still wrestling with the issue. There is another meeting in April to provide more thought and alternatives to the resolution before the final vote in July.

Social Media Comes to the Rescue

Just a few days following the statement from the Bishops, advocates of the resolution came together and formed a Facebook group, Advocates for Changing the Marriage Canon. It started out with 25 members in March, and it has grown to almost 1400. Both clergy and laypeople are in the group. Administrators must approve the request to join, or you must be invited by another member. The rules are clear that the group is not there to debate the issue. It is strictly for those who are in support of the resolution. Members have reached out to the leaders in the church, expressing their views about why this resolution is so important to the church and to their faith. The group is actively reaching out to the House of Bishops, but it also is serving a purpose of unity among Anglicans who feel marginalized because their marriages are not recognized by church canon. We’ll be watching this issue to see how it turns out when the Bishops vote in July.

Celebrating a Marriage in an Indian Tradition
Beautiful Indian bride hands

Beautiful Indian bride hands

Understanding the traditions from other cultures is important to building relationships with those outside of your own community. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed four Sikhs to his cabinet this November, he brought their culture to the forefront. Sikhs have been misunderstood for generations, not just here but around the world, including in their own country. Indian wedding traditions show an importance of family. Learn more about the heritage, in case you ever get invited to a wedding.

How Long Does the Ceremony Last?

An Indian wedding ceremony traditionally lasts three days. This does not mean that guests are expected to attend each part of the ceremony. Day one is typically for the bridal party and close relatives. The priest performs a ceremony known as the ganesh pooja. Day two is the mehndi ceremony, where the bride and female friends and relatives have henna patterns placed on their hands and feet. The bride is not expected to do any housework until the henna fades away. In the evening on day two, the wedding guests are invited to a sangeet, which is the introduction of families, a meal, and dancing or other performances.

On day three, the main ceremony takes place. In India, the groom might arrive on a decorated elephant or horse, but in today’s world, the groom would probably choose a luxury vehicle. Floral garlands are exchanged as part of the ceremony. In some parts of India, family members carry the bride and groom while they attempt to place these garlands on each other.

This main ceremony can take three hours. The bride’s parents give her to the groom, and the bride’s father requests that the groom accepts his daughter as an equal partner. The priest is there to lead the ceremony and ask for prayers, but traditionally he only facilitates the wedding. The groom ties a sacred thread around the bride’s neck, which is a symbol of his promise to take care of her. He places vermillion on her forehead, a symbol which welcomes her as his partner.

The bride and groom take seven steps with each other to confirm their eternal friendship. It is symbolic of the friendship they need for a relationship and that they will take part equally in the good and bad times of their marriage. The wedding may take place around a fire, which is representative of the fire god, Agni, one of the witnesses to the wedding. Circling the fire seven times is symbolic of the goals of the marriage, including prosperity, sensual gratification, and moral duties.

What to Wear and Bring

Indian wedding ceremonies are bright and colorful. The family often dresses very colorfully, in traditional saris and lenghas. Don’t be afraid to wear jewel-tones and your fancy jewelry. For women who wish to emulate their hosts, a shawl can mimic the look of a sari while complementing most dresses. Most invitations will specify no gifts at the wedding. Send gifts to the home of the bride or groom. There’s too much happening at the reception and ceremony for the family to be concerned about managing gifts.

The Reception

Following the third-day ceremony is a wild party with lots of food and dancing. Today, most receptions will include both traditional and contemporary music and dances. The bhangra is a folk dance from Punjab, and most people pick up the moves quickly.

Food at the reception varies based on the families’ preferences. Curries and naan, a flatbread, are common, as are samosas, which are a pastry filled with meats or vegetables. There may be a large dessert display including cake, ice cream, and other decorated sweets.

Indian weddings are all about the family and the joining of a couple for life. It’s a grand festival to bring not just two people together, but their families.

The Connection Between Marriage, Happiness and Health
Getting married and having children can increase happiness in middle age

Getting married and having children can increase happiness in middle age

Over the years, numerous researchers have concluded that happiness often follows a U-shaped curve in people’s lives. In youth and the golden years, happiness is generally elevated while individuals tend to be unhappy in middle age. This phenomenon is often referred to as the “mid-life crisis.” Factors believed to exacerbate the situation include career and childrearing stresses typically peaking during middle age. However, according to a study published in December 2014 by Canadian economists Shawn Grover and John Helliwell, being married can help improve happiness in middle age and the benefit is often strongest during that period as well. Other studies have found improved health to be another potential side effect of a strong marriage.

Marry Your Best Friend

Individuals who have tied the knot are consistently found to be happier than single people. Yet, as reported by Helliwell and Grover, marrying anyone available is not the answer. They concluded people who realize the most benefit from marriage are those who marry their best friends. The study found this group receives the most social support from their spouses, which can assist in shielding them from the stresses of middle age, when help is often most needed. Those who named their spouses as their best friends experienced almost double the benefits of those who did not. Helliwell stated, “Marriages are forms of super friendships.”

Studies on Health and Marriage

In addition to potentially improving your chances for happiness, good marriages are also believed to bolster physical well-being. Over the years, a lot of research has been done on the connection between health and marital status. Here are examples of three studies.

  1. 19th Century Research of William Farr

William Farr was a British epidemiologist and one of the first scholars to propose a link between longevity and marriage. His ground breaking work was one of the first relationship studies of its kind and assisted in creating the field of medical statistics. Farr’s research involved French adults who he separated into three separate categories: married couples, never-married bachelors and spinsters, and individuals who have been widowed. He used birth, death and marriage records to help analyze the mortality rates of the groups at different ages. Farr found that never-married people were more likely to die of disease than married couples, and widows and widowers fared worst of all.

  1. 2013 Duke University Study

In a study on 4,802 individuals born in the 1940s, Dr. Ilene Siegler and colleagues identified some important correlations between marital status and life expectancy. They found individuals who were unmarried or did not have a permanent partner during middle age where much more likely to die during that period.

  1. 2013 Brigham Young University and Penn State Study

The results of the most extensive study ever on the correlation between physical well-being and marital happiness were published in 2013. Researchers followed 1,681 individuals for more than two decades. Authors Richard Miller, Cody Hollist, Joseph Olsen and David Law found couples involved in good marriages were much more likely to be physically healthy over the course of their lives, and marriage duration was not a factor in the equation.

Unhappy Marriages

Despite all the positive ways marriage can impact one’s life, research has shown troubled marriages can be harmful and even lethal to people’s physical and emotional well-being. A bad marriage can wreak havoc on one’s life, in which case staying single may turn out to be a healthier option. A recent study also concluded strained marriages may actually be worse for the heart than habitual smoking. Merely being married doesn’t protect your health. The quality of the relationship is what really matters.

Marriage is not for everyone and unhappy marriages can be very detrimental. However, there are some consistent positive links that connect happiness, health and marriage.

And, thanks to the Universal Life Church, getting married has never been easier. Have a friend or family member get ordained online to perform your wedding – it could just save your life!

Top Wedding Destinations in Canada

Recently married couple poses in the snow, johnhope14

Recently married couple poses in the snow

Canada boasts some of the top weddings destinations on the planet.  World-class metropolitan areas such as Toronto and Vancouver offer almost unprecedented cultural diversity, variety, and wedding opportunities.  In addition, nearby areas such as Whistler offer an ideal setting for snowy weddings, and winter weddings can be held comfortably aboard larger vessels on the Pacific Northwest coastline.

Below is a list of three very distinct Canadian wedding destinations that have the ability to transform almost any wedding ceremony into a truly memorable event:

·        The City of Toronto

In addition to being the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto has an extensive mass transit system that connects multiple neighborhoods including Polish Town, Little India, Greek Town, and multiple China Towns.  The city offers numerous traditional wedding venues as well as unparalleled religious and cultural diversity.  Couples can easily find ways to stay true to family culture and religious values while enjoying globally recognized art, dining, and accommodations.  Toronto is a winter wedding destination that offers a truly unique urban adventure.  The chilly winter conditions are usually less of an issue due to clean underground sidewalks and multiple indoor venues with spectacular views of the city skyline or Lake Huron.

·        Whistler, British Columbia

Whistler is located in the scenic mountains outside of Vancouver.  Whistler offers world-class skiing, resorts that specialize in winter weddings, and a prime location.  Like Toronto, Vancouver is a metropolitan area rich in cultural and religious diversity.  Vancouver has been nicknamed “the city of glass” due to its many impressive glass skyscrapers.  Only a short drive away from a phenomenal metropolitan area, Whistler has some of the best skiing and winter lodging on the planet for snowy weddings.

·        Maritime Weddings on the Northwest Coast

Some couples have an undying love for the ocean.  The Northwest Coast of Canada can offer fantastic winter maritime weddings.  Instead of embarking on an urban or Mountain adventure, couples can be married aboard private cruises that offer fine dining, top accommodations, and unparalleled scenery.  Unlike many parts of the East Coast or far North, the Northwest Pacific typically does not freeze.  There are ample opportunities to comfortably view marine life, natural wonders, and enjoy the serenity of the sea.

What to Look for in Destination Weddings

There are a number of considerations that should be taken into account before planning a destination wedding.  A few primary considerations are listed below:

  • Is the destination easily accessible for guests and others associated with the wedding?
  • Does the destination offer venues that meet religious and cultural needs?
  • Does the destination offer a chance for couples to afford the perfect wedding?

Winter Weddings in Canada are Recognized Among the Best

Besides boasting major cultural meccas and globally recognized destinations, Canada has something unique to offer.  Canada has a marked history of cultural diversity and eagerness to embrace different religions as well as progressive social change.  Canadians are known for being extraordinarily polite, and courtesy is a general hallmark of Canadian culture.  Canada is a very welcoming country with ample opportunities to create the perfect wedding for almost any couple. Whatever your dream winter wedding is, there are likely multiple Canadian wedding destinations that can turn that dream into a reality.