The welding ceremony: Fire, metal, and marriage

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Sarah Joy Liles
Photos by Misty Winter

My partner and I are both pipe fitters. We met during our apprenticeship and a few years later we decided to get married.  Not being religious, we began to craft our ceremony around our relationship and each of us as individuals. I felt strongly that our ceremony should have an element of ritual, but none of the traditions (candle-lighting, sand ceremonies, hand-fasting, broom-jumping, etc.) seemed to fit.

I don't remember which of us thought of welding, but the symbolism really appealed to Joe (to weld is essentially to unite or fuse elements by various means, often with the result being stronger than the materials welded). And, frankly, the spectacle, on top of the symbolism, appealed to me. I loved the idea of weathering trials and setbacks together and being stronger for it.

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We decided that the shape of the object we welded should be interesting and have significance as well. The mobius strip, a loop with a half twist that results in a three-dimensional object with only one continuous surface and one continuous edge, was an instant winner. The connotations of infinity are even greater than those of a plain ring. Plus, mobius strips are just plain geeky fun (really, make one out of paper and try cutting it down the center or off to one side. The results will amaze you)!

We had our officiant talk a bit about the symbolism of the ritual as we put on our gear and prepared to weld.  We also explained it in more detail in the program and on sign at the reception. Although the guests were all a safe distance away from the welding, we thought it would be great fun to have them all wear welding goggles during the ceremony. This eased any worry we had about the harms of staring at the weld arc and really drew them into the ceremony.

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Of course, there were some challenges to pulling this off. First, we had to convince the venue to let us do it (which they were ecstatic about!).  And although the process we used (TIG, for those in the know) is virtually spark and smoke-free, most people think of welding as dangerous. One of these precautions we took was to wear protective clothing. Although sparks and fires are highly unlikely, the welding arc puts off strong UV rays that can burn the skin and eyes. Thus, I needed something to protect my chest and arms.

While I had Dame Couture make the bodice and pants for my ensemble, I decided to make the jacket myself. I used a commercially-made pattern and gunmetal grey silk taffeta. My dressmaker worked with me to make sure the jacket harmonized with the rest of my ensemble. My entire outfit was made of natural fibers, in part because while natural fibers burn, they don't melt.

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Because we knew of no precedents, we had to figure out the mechanics of the ceremony ourselves. I thought we should each weld one bead. Joe strongly felt we should weld one bead together, both for logistical and symbolic reasons. We settled on welding together, each of us with one hand on the torch, in the same way both partners have one hand on the knife in the cake-cutting ritual.  Luckily, everything went very smoothly, even without a rehearsal!

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  1. I'm in a giggling fit here, remembering the Office episode where Michael Scott toasts the couple with "Webster's Dictionary defines 'wedding' as 'the fusing of two metals with a hot torch.'" I never thought the two could be combined, but the results are beautiful! You guys are like two metals… GOLD MEDALS! XD

  2. I am so happy to see Sarah's wedding featured here. It was so much fun watching it develop (that wedding pants suit! the welding goggles!) on the OBBT. And the symbolism of the mobius orb is fantastic.

  3. Talk about a joining ceremony… This is a first and not an uncommon way of meeting. You work long hours with your partner and you know that person extremely well. If you could spend 40+ hours a week together on the job living together is not an issue!

  4. Can you share the ceremony script you used for the ceremony. My fiance is a welder and I think he would love this!

  5. I am so glad to see Sarah's wedding included here. It was so much fun watching it create (that wedding pants suit! .. I think you find all your answer here @machinerypicks.com where i try to cover up all the issues with both types of framing nailed.
    Just have a look and please let me know if there's more info you want.
    Thanks.

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