Foot Washing Ceremony

An historical Christian tradition

Cultures and traditions can make a statement during a wedding. They educate some and bring nostalgia to others. Nonetheless they are fun to capture and having a front row seat as to how they are implemented or carried through within a wedding is always a plus for this wedding photographer. During my years as a wedding photographer, I have witnessed different religious and cultural traditions incorporated into a wedding. Throughout the years, I have never seen this one, at least not until I was chosen to document the wedding of Bethany and Josh at the Barn at Madison, a couple of years ago.

Foot washing was introduced by the early Christian church, according to britannica.com. It was meant to imitate the humility and selfless love of Jesus, who washed the feet of his disciples the evening before his crucifixion (the Last Supper). Since then, this custom has been adopted and practiced by multiple cultures and countries. For example, the Palestinians wash the feet of guests who visit their homes and several European royal families would wash the feet of the poor. Interesting, right??

what is involved?

What you may need and how to perform this ceremony

To implement this religious custom into your own wedding day, here are a few things you need to have on location and some suggestions as to how you should incorporate it.

  • A large bowl or deep wash pan – This should be unbreakable or expendable and large enough to comfortably fit your feet within. If you have a large size foot like myself – you may have to find a tub (I kid – I kid).

  • Towels – You are going to need a couple of hand towels for washing and a couple more for drying. If you are planning on having more than just yourself and your groom or bride participate in this religious ritual, you will need a lot more towels as each “washer” should have a clean set of towels. These are not to be re-used.

  • A pitcher – Should be unbreakable and large enough to accomodate enough water to fill some of the bowl as well as rinse off the feet

  • A chair or stool – The one who will be having their feet washed, will want to be seated. The one doing the washing will be stooping or crouching down.

  • Pre-wash your feet – This ceremony is not a hcance to get a good foot scrub or to wash the day’s funk off of your feet. It is more for the symbolism behind it than anything else. Historically, servants would have washed the feet of those entering a room so the feet of the disciples during the Last Supper were already washed prior to Jesus performing the ceremony.

  • Appropriate room – Water may spill so keep that in mind. Historically, this ceremony has been done in a separate room from that of the ceremony area where you had your nuptials. Also think of those who would like to watch, make sure you have enough room and are not crowded. Maybe outdoors like my couple below chose.
  • An assistant – This one you don’t HAVE to have but I noticed it truly helped out a few times for Bethany and Josh below. Maybe an interested child who can hold or grab a towel for you. Just to have an additional hand since you will be in your wedding attire which means movement may be somewhat restricted.
  • Music or a Reading – While you are performing your ceremony, you could have a loved one read the passage of the bible where it describes Jesus washing the feet of his disciples during the Last Supper. If you are voting no on the scripture and music, it is ettiquette to at least have someone explain the history and meaning behind this religious tradition. This way, those who are not familiar with it, won’t feel confused or akward.

Side Note: When implementing traditions and customs into your wedding, please be respectful of where it originated from. Although Foot Washing symbolizes humility and selflessness, the one who wanted to portray this was a symbol himself within the Christian religion. Performing this with that aspect taken out, is going to cause controversy at your wedding and what was supposed to be a beautiful and loving act, will turn into something akward and disrespectful.

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