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Couple to exchange vows in Buddhist ceremony

They met, they dated, they meditated. Now, on Sunday, Jody Williams and Ashley Babb are getting married. The wedding will not be the sort most often seen in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Williams-Babb affair will be a Buddhist ceremony.

Williams said he has been learning the teachings of Buddhism - what he refers to as a value system more than a religion - since 2007. Babb began about a year ago.

They met, they dated, they meditated. Now, on Sunday, Jody Williams and Ashley Babb are getting married. The wedding will not be the sort most often seen in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Williams-Babb affair will be a Buddhist ceremony.

Williams said he has been learning the teachings of Buddhism - what he refers to as a value system more than a religion - since 2007. Babb began about a year ago.

The couple have learned the history of Buddhism and have been instructed in further lessons by a teacher, Moh Harding.

Harding does not live in the province, but returns regularly for retreats.

Between visits by Harding, the couple sit with the Shambala Meditation Group in St. John's, about once a week, as well as with a private meditation group.

They said they have found great support and close friends in what they refer to as "sangha." The word is Sanskrit, meaning "community," or the group of people studying the teachings of Buddha.

"Buddhism, the practice is to be in the moment as much as possible," said Williams, reaching for a definition of the complex religion.

Stepping out of the present moment, however, both he and Babb easily recalled their history together.

The story of Williams and Babb

The pair met more than six years ago.

"I was working at Jungle Jim's downtown," said Babb, looking at Williams.

Things had shut down for the evening and she was having a casual drink with her boss.

"He said, 'My friend Jody's coming down. You're gonna love him,'" she recalled, with a laugh.

They met.

"There was always a really deep spiritual connection," Babb said. "There was no weird getting to know each other."

"I think we knew each other in a past life, as crazy as that sounds," Williams said.

Both had other attachments when they first met, so little came of the initial encounter.

Babb left the province soon after, moving to Quebec for a time. They eventually lost contact.

Then she returned home, taking a job at a restaurant where - as it turns out - Williams was working as a chef.

The two capitalized on the opportunity provided by the reunion.

After they had dated for a time, with Williams' encouragement, Babb began down the path of Buddhism and, she said, was struck by "the inclusiveness" in the faith.

While both said they now highly value their Buddhist values - leading to their decision to have a Buddhist wedding ceremony conducted by their teacher - they said their faith has caused a bit of a hurdle when it comes to making their wedding legal.

Making sure it is legal

The Department of Government Services provides certifications for marriages, guided by the statutes of the Marriage Act.

Asked about the young couple's concerns, the department explained there were no restrictions to Buddhists being legally wed, but they did have a few extra steps to take in preparing for their wedding day.

"Basically, when it comes to the Buddhist faith, that particular religion hasn't been registered in the province," said a spokesperson for the department.

"From what I understand, there is an application to register it and we are reviewing that application."

While the application is under review, Williams and Babb have been told they can get a member of the clergy who is now practising in the province to sponsor the individual who will come in to perform their wedding ceremony - their teacher.

That will allow their teacher to acquire a temporary licence to conduct marriages, meaning the young couple's wedding would be recognized, legally, in the province.

These sorts of sponsorships are not unheard of, explained the provincial spokesperson.

"I can't give you any details in terms of how many Buddhist weddings take place in a year. However, in terms of the sponsoring, that happens about four or five times a year, usually in the summertime, in the height of wedding season," she said.

While the couple are taking the steps to see their wedding result in a recognized marriage, they say they are not concerned if the approvals do not come together before their big day.

If required, they said, they will find a means to be joined on paper after-the-fact.

Together in spirit, first and foremost

It is about the statements and the symbolism more than the legalities, both Williams and Babb said.

"For me, it's important that the whole wedding is based on these vows that we're taking," said Williams.

That is the reason why they will not be married at a City Hall or church ceremony - they choose to be married by their Buddhist teacher, a close friend.

"It's really, really important for me. There's no way I can explain how meaningful it is or how special our teacher is," Babb said.

Babb also does not plan to spend a large amount of money on the wedding, not under any sort of Buddhist rule, but simply by choice, to emphasize the statement of commitment over the dressings of the ceremony.

"I got my dress at Winners for $5 and I love it and it's perfect," said Babb. "It's not about all the bling. It's about the meaning and what has happened."

That meaning will be expressed in a ceremony that includes a variety of objects used in symbolism, Williams said.

"It makes it really spiritualized, I find," Babb said.

While planning and holding their wedding ceremony, the couple is also preparing to welcome their first child.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Shambala Meditation Group, Government Services

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's, Quebec

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  • Polly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Be kind whenever possible , it is always possible ----- The 13th Dalai Lama . Yours is a day of new beginnings , start as you mean to go on . May your child be the amalgam of all that is good in both of you . I myself, practice the simplest form of Buddhism --- Jodo Shu .

  • Dana
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Enjoyed the read on Spiritual Connection, Buddhist practice. Being a Newfoundlander and a practicing Buddhism is a rarity and it's nice to know that this rich culture is expanding. The information in Buddhist marriage in NL was very helpful. Thank you and good luck!
    Dana

  • Polly
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    Be kind whenever possible , it is always possible ----- The 13th Dalai Lama . Yours is a day of new beginnings , start as you mean to go on . May your child be the amalgam of all that is good in both of you . I myself, practice the simplest form of Buddhism --- Jodo Shu .

  • Dana
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    Enjoyed the read on Spiritual Connection, Buddhist practice. Being a Newfoundlander and a practicing Buddhism is a rarity and it's nice to know that this rich culture is expanding. The information in Buddhist marriage in NL was very helpful. Thank you and good luck!
    Dana