Building sacred space for a wedding
Leaving Boulder, Annie and I drove with Joe and Zoe (the future Mr. and Mrs. Joseph McCaffrey) to Paonia, Colorado. We were visiting a farmhouse venue as a possible place for their wedding the following summer. We stopped at Glenwood Hot Springs to soak some of winter’s weary cloak from our bodies before heading up and over McClure Pass to Paonia.
Zoe and Joe had stayed at Fresh & Wyld Farmhouse Inn Bed and Breakfast once before, and wanted our feedback on its viability for their wedding and reception. We loved it! The area around Paonia is blessed with agricultural ventures supporting the vibrant Farm to Table movement. Fresh & Wyld is an old homestead turned B & B – a cozy, delightful place to stay. It is also an orchard, an organic farm, and a CSA. The proprietor, Dava Parr, a well-known chef, is a wonderful hostess.
From the onset I knew that I would build a sacred space for the ceremony. A bagua (pronounced “bog-waa”) or an eight-sided structure, takes its form and orientation from the Taoist and Confucian traditions. A bagua is a divination tool which constellates local energy, bringing it in harmony with the universe. It is a focusing and amplifying device. Like so many of my creative endeavors, I use only a sketch for concept and then layer the details as it “feels” right. My subconscious mind works day and night designing the goods.
It was a leap of faith (somewhat audacious!) to think I could design a ceremonial space efficiently and cost effectively in Connecticut – then build it on the spot in Paonia as promised – but I felt confident that I could.
Paonia Bagua Construction time-lapse
Building the bagua
I ordered a load of bamboo from Cali Bamboo in California and had it shipped directly to Fresh & Wyld. I bought 10’tall pieces of bamboo in two widths. I used 1.5” diameter poles for the cardinal points of the octagon and the 1” diameter poles lashed together at 8.5’ tall to set the height to room scale. Guy lines with simple tent stay hardware adjusted the perimeter tension to stakes set at the outside. This created dynamic balance. I jute-lashed all the intersections. The poles were held in place by 24” rebar set into the ground in the hollow of the poles. Any cutting was done by a handsaw and utility knife. Simplicity and a “less is more” approach set the tone.
We had two days to complete this project, with guests arriving and festivities happening concurrently. My construction crew changed as time permitted. Joe lent a hand as he was available. My son Jesse, a carpenter and photographer of the event, gave me a boost between his other duties. While welcoming guests and brewing vats of sangria (with Barry’s expert assistance), Annie ran back and forth to town purchasing last-minute hardware and managing numerous other errands.
The overall dimension of the octagon needed to accommodate 80 guests, be wide enough for a center aisle for the procession, and leave room to move freely within. I left the final size to be determined on site because the bagua would be channeling the natural elements – the trees in summer bloom, a mountain breeze blowing from the southwest. Being on the farm allowed me to sense these energies in a way that could not be done from a distance.
Decorating the sacred space
The bagua required six closed sections of gauzy semi-transparent fabric panels suspended by jute cord at the top and bottom giving some closure but still light and breathable.
Each panel had crystal-beaded strands hanging from the top chord. Annie and our dear friend Jenny handcrafted most of these strands in Connecticut and we brought them with us. In the days before the wedding as our guests arrived, we invited them to make more as a group activity. How pleasant it was for our loved ones to sip lemonade, while sitting in the shade stringing beads, chatting, getting to know one another! MaryAnn, Uncle John and Aunt Sandy, Tasha, Jenny, Kean and Kaes, Joanie, and others wove prayers of love and happiness into these ornaments which we fastened into place on the bamboo structure, their music tinkling softly in the breeze.
I left the south end of the bagua open as the entrance for the wedding procession: Kean and Kaes, our ring bearers; Shane and Quinn, our flower girls; Tasha, Alexis, and Diane, the yoga babe dancers; then Joe and his mom, MaryAnn. Zoe, our beautiful bride, stepped confidently into her future walking between Annie and myself. We proceeded to the north end where our celebrant, Batya, stood under a smaller peaked focal point where the vows and sharing took place against the dramatic backdrop of South Mountain.
Creating a living, breathing energy-holding-and-dispersing structure was a wonderful opportunity for me. We filled it with love, music and dance – and sent the vibrations soaring!
Later that night after the bonfire, I brought my hand held drum into the center of the bagua to sense the residual charge. Holding my drum, beating slowly and deeply, I pulsed my arm outright with an interspersed release, stroking the air with the drum. I could actually see trails cut through the ether as the residual sound of the drumming wafted through the night air.
This article continues: Creating sacred space: The bride’s perspective.