Thomas and Torres’s wedding was the first I have seen where emotions deemed ‘negative’ were incorporated into the celebration

In the five years I spent as a wedding planner, I witnessed more than 100 weddings unfold – yet I had never seen anything like this one…

The room was dimly lit. Wedding guests were seated on the floor, eyes closed, some crying, some reaching out in comfort. Bodies swayed gently to a melancholic chorus, and a woman’s voice crescendoed with emotion.

“In a relationship, Colleen and Rodrigo know, there is everything: the joy, the bliss, the laughter, the dancing, the grief, the anger, the fear, the jealousy, the hurt. Colleen and Rodrigo’s biggest wish was to gift us with a night where we could be with all of it.”

The speaker invited guests to summon feelings of loss – whether of loved ones, of faith, of youth, of passion – and to embrace their feelings of fear, for the world or for themselves. In closing, guests moved through the room in silence, hands to their hearts. They paused to touch palms and make eye contact with others, acknowledging love and healing from one another.

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It resembled group therapy more than a wedding

I sat mesmerised by the scene, playing over a YouTube link the bride shared with me. Upon meeting Colleen Thomas and Rodrigo Torres, I took a personal interest in their wedding because, in one month, my fiancé and I will be married. I had been conflicted, thinking that I would have to tuck away the messy parts of myself – the parts that are still grieving the failure of my first marriage and the loss of my mother. Thomas and Torres’s wedding was the first I have seen where emotions deemed ‘negative’ were incorporated into the celebration.

Most weddings deal only with joy

As a planner, much of my job involved hiding anything negative from the couple or their guests – breakdowns, arguments, my own divorce. Thomas and Torres didn’t hide anything. They intentionally made room for a range of emotions by using Cosmic Mass, a nonreligious form of worship that draws from raves and ancient dance rites. This may sound too alternative for most, but for these two, it felt right.

Torres admitted: “I did worry that it would be too ‘woo woo’ for people who were unfamiliar with it.”

What clicked most for him was the inclusion of a ritual called the ‘Via Negativa’, a time dedicated to grief and letting go.

“The more room you make for those feelings, the more you can enter the joy part in a genuine way, because you get to be all of who you are – and all of who I am includes the negative and difficult things,” Torres explained. His father passed away a week before their wedding, so there was a lot of pain that needed an outlet.

Though this concept was new to me, it seemed natural. At weddings, there is so much pressure to only express happiness. Many couples honour their missed ones in an understated way: with a photo display, a line in the program, a mention in the ceremony or toast. Others want to avoid the potential for emotional tumult entirely.

At weddings, there is so much pressure to only express happiness

In an act of protection, the mother of one of my wedding clients asked me to prevent vendors and guests from making any mention to the bride of her late father. Afterwards, the bride confided in me that she had been trying so hard to repress thoughts of her dad, that she hadn’t been able to feel a thing.

“When we shut out negative emotions, even joyful ones have no space to enter”

“If a rite of passage is to be complete, it must involve a letting go, a shedding, a separation, indeed, the death of the old identity before the new identity and the new life can take hold,” Sheryl Paul writes in her book The Conscious Bride: Women Unveil Their True Feelings About Getting Hitched.

Reading those words, I realised: When we shut out negative emotions, even joyful ones have no space to enter. Every death requires grief, and I hadn’t given that to myself leading up to my first wedding. Instead, I repressed those feelings of loss during such a joyful time, because the contrast confused me. That repression was in large part what undid our marriage.

Aside from the grief ritual, there’s another part of the Thomas-Torres wedding I find myself rewatching: A singer serenaded them as they stood hand-in-hand, stealing a kiss as the song hits its chorus, “I am not afraid, I am not afraid.” Everyone sang along, encouraged by the repetition in lyric and melody. The singer continued, “I am so afraid” – going up an octave on the word “afraid,” surprising the audience into laughter. “I am so afraid!” The guests clapped to the beat, and Thomas and Torres danced along, visibly lighter after this acknowledgment of fear.

Torres said he chose the song because it made space for the couple to express courage and fear at the same time. Some of his fears stemmed from this being his second marriage and never wanting to face the pain of divorce again. Thomas, too, has seen divorce spring up all around her. The traditional wedding made her wonder if centring the ceremony only around joy set couples up for failure. “Instead of letting the fear and grief become an unconscious monster, I wanted to… really listen to it,” she said.

I want to marry all of my partner, not just the cheerful parts

Instead of folding parts of myself away, I also want a wedding I can bring my whole self to – and I want to marry all of my partner, not just the cheerful parts. When I tell him everything I’ve learned from Thomas and Torres, he promptly put “Via Negativa” on our shared calendar. We’re making space for grief, fear and any other darkness we find within – so that on the wedding day, we can come to each other in light and wholeness.

We are so afraid. We are not afraid.

Article by: Tria Chang first published on ‘Washington Post’.

Author: ANA Newswire