Love, Scientology-Style

Source: St. Petersburg Times
Date: November 18, 2006

Some marital advice Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes could receive today: Never go to bed angry at each other. They may be told that newlywed "girls" expect "frills," and maybe a cat, and young men are prone to "forget" their promises.

It's part of the guidance that Cruise and Holmes may get from a Church of Scientology minister at their wedding in Italy, a ceremony that has drawn attention to the marriage rituals of a church that counts the groom as one of its most famous and ardent followers.

Scientology nuptials have many familiar elements, like a bridal procession, rings and a presiding minister. The most traditional vows include "poetic" insights into men and women, including their frills and forgetfulness, that are meant to signify the need to "stand by each other," said a church minister who has performed weddings for 30 years.

"It is a poetic way of elaborating on the typical 'for better or worse' clause," the Rev. Janet Kenyon Laveau said.

Five ceremonies

Laveau said the basic ceremony has many aspects in common with those of other Western denominations. "The same brides magazines are being used," said Laveau, a Canadian who now lives in Britain.

The minister typically wears a clerical collar - but in some cases dons formal robes - and displays the church's "eight-pointed cross," which represents the eight parts, or "dynamics," of existence.

Marriage is part of the second dynamic, "creativity," which also includes raising children and family life. The first dynamic is "self" and personal growth. The others go in ever-expanding steps from "group survival" to "infinity."

There are five possible ceremonies, each with different wording and length: traditional, informal, single ring, double ring and concise double ring.

There has been no confirmation of what type of ceremony has been chosen by Cruise and Holmes, whom celebrity watchers believe will tie the knot at a 15th century castle overlooking Lake Bracciano, northwest of Rome. Italy's ANSA news agency reported Thursday that the ceremony would be performed by a U.S.-based member of the church, which was founded more than 50 years ago by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.

Gloom Amid Joy

If the couple have a traditional ceremony, the groom will hear this: "Now, Tom, girls need clothes and food and tender happiness and frills, a pan, a comb, perhaps a cat. All caprice if you will, but still they need them."

And Holmes will be told: "Hear well, sweet Katie, for promise binds. Young men are free and may forget. Remind him then that you may have necessities and follies, too."

When the groom promises to "keep her, well or ill," he also will be asked, "And when she's older, do you then keep her still?"

The wording places more emphasis than the rites of many other religions on the likelihood that the future may have difficulties.

The minister tells the bride, "Know that life is stark and often somewhat grim, and tiredness and fret and pain and sickness do beget a state of mind where spring romance is far away and dead."

She is then asked if she is willing to "create still his health, his purpose and repose." Similarly the groom is told, "The tides of fortune and of life are sometimes fair or grim." He should not leave his wife in search of solutions, the minister says. "Take thy own even though they sleep beneath foul straw and eat thin bread and walk on pavement less than kind."

Why are such gloomy prospects mixed with the joy of weddings?

"We do this strictly in the context of being able to do something about it," said the Rev. John Carmichael, president of the Church of Scientology of New York and the spokesman for 12 churches in New York and New Jersey. "Scientology has workable solutions to life's problems. It is designed with tools people can use to help themselves and others."

The Other Love Triangle

As with other religions, there are specific marriage vows, but couples can substitute a personal text. The actual marriage rite takes about 15 minutes, Laveau said, but the entire ceremony can take longer because of musical selections and other things the couple add.

In Scientology, a fundamental tenet of marriage is contained in the symbol of the ARC triangle. Its three points stand for affinity, reality and communication, and couples are told they must be vigilant about preserving all three.

The Rev. Gaetane Asselin, international community affairs director of the Church of Scientology International, said, "We ask them to make a promise to heal any upset before going to sleep." She added, "As long as you maintain the triangle in full, you will understand each other."

The ceremony begins with a request from the minister about whether any guest has reason to oppose the marriage. Near the end, the guests are asked to "acknowledge" the newlyweds. The minister says: "And I will ask these witnesses present to join me in blessing this ceremony with the postulate that the trust and love of the present shall become ever stronger with each passing year."

Laveau said, "They can respond with a 'yes' or applause."