An Interview with Sandra from "Less Stuff , More Meaning" Wedding Guide.
It’s an absolute privilege welcoming Lindy and Ulf, Heart to Heart Storytelling, to our community of eco-ethical vendors. Theirs is a unique talent, enriched by their wisdom, environmental activism and quite simply, heart. I won’t go on, as Lindy and Ulf have explained the meaning of storytelling as part of your wedding experience, better than I ever could.
Storytelling celebrants, sounds intriguing…how did that come about?
Ulf and I were storytellers first, we had both been telling stories separately and together for about a decade and when my daughter and her partner asked us to marry them, it seemed a natural progression and another meaningful way to share our storytelling skills. So, while I (Lindy) am the legal celebrant, Ulf works with me to create & perform the ceremonies.
So why tell stories?
Aside from doing what we love and loving what we do, storytelling brings meaning & connection. In our fast-paced technical world, information is googled then forgotten, relationships may be ‘virtual’ rather than human, and we are bombarded with sounds, images and consumerism. Even our important life events such as weddings & funerals are quick, cookie cutter affairs, often with more thought for the catering & decorations, than the ceremonies. Yet people are searching for meaning in their lives and there is an innate hunger for connection and the warmth of community.
And ever since there have been words, there has been storytelling, storytelling is our oldest art form. Stories just makes sense to humans, we live stories, we share stories and we understand stories. In storytelling we find the commonalities of our humanity rather than differences. Storytelling provides the nourishment that our souls long for. Stories told eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart, gift us the sense of sacredness, the feeling of belonging and recreation of community connectiveness.
We have seen audiences deeply touched by our stories. One woman thanked Ulf for his honest, heartbreaking story of his first wife’s death. She said his story had open her eyes to the beauty that lies within the most difficult of times. A young gay man, with tears in his eyes said the creation myth we shared during a wedding ceremony made him feel truly recognised & valued. While others have wondered at the profound wisdom of simple folk tales for today’s problems. In stories, we have cried at the beauty of life, laughed at its absurdity and been inspired by the hero’s journey.
Whatever the story, and whoever our audience, whether sharing stories at a community event, a school or during a wedding ceremony, we never ceased to be amazed at the profundity of storytelling to open & connect hearts, to share wisdom, give meaning and sacredness back to modern life.
How does the inclusion of stories into a wedding ceremony add more richness to the experience?
We love to tell the story of the couple, how they met, what they love about each other, the obstacles overcome, dreams for the future, the funny stories, and the ‘ahhhhhhh’ moments. It’s these stories which we can all relate too and be inspired by… it’s the stories people remember long after the wedding cake is eaten.
Sharing family stories or cultural tales can assist the coming together of two families in understanding and appreciation for each other and their traditions. These tales can also link the past to the present and future, gifting people the security of continuity and connection, while myths and religious stories can add layers depth and meaning with their ancient metaphors.
Tell us your story! How did two storytellers meet and fall in love?
Well that’s a long story, and we are storytellers… but I’ll make a long story short; in 2014 we both attended “Storytelling as Performance Art” at the International School of Storytelling in the UK. I fell in love with Ulf when I heard his first story, a lovely, whimsical Swedish fairytale. And Ulf fell in love with me, on our long barefoot walks through the golden summer meadows. He asked me to marry him on the last day of the 5 week course. We were married in Australia 4 months later. Our very own fairytale!
We’d love to hear about your daughter’s wedding…what was the experience like for you as a celebrant?
The first time I practiced their ceremony, I cried and cried, so I had to practice quite a bit to get through without the tears flowing. It was such a celebration of love but more than that it was a celebration of their rainbow community.
I will always cherish the time that I spent with Jessie and Hayley before the wedding, talking with them, listening to their stories, and learning about how they deal with conflict, and their hopes, dreams and plans for the future. The whole process of co-creating the ceremony with them was an honour and a privilege.
Jessie and Hayley were open to any ideas about the ceremony and they were keen for stories to play an important part. When Ulf and I came across a creation myth which beautifully explains why there are men who love men, and women who love women, and men and women who love one another, we felt is was a great basis for the ceremony, Jess and Hayley loved it too. We also told the story of their meeting & adventures, some embarrassing moments and the magical ones. The ceremony was rich with laughter and tears (I did hold it together) and it was an absolute reflection of those two beautifully unique women.
How have you seen storytelling engage a sense of community and connectedness?
I co-founded a community storytelling café, Long Story Short, in 2013, where we invite storytellers and people with a story to tell to come and share their stories. We are now in our 5th year and when people arrive, they come as strangers but after hearing and sharing stories they leave as friends, as community. One storyteller, who shared her life story as a transgender woman described Long Story Short as ‘heaven on earth’ for the love and acceptance she experienced with our audience. And that’s how it is every month, through stories we find and share the bonds of our common humanity.
What would you like to see more of in weddings?
To borrow your words, less stuff and more meaning! The last 5 weddings I have been involved in have been community affairs.There is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child, well I believe it is should also be a village to create a wedding.
Give every guest a job; big, small, something that suits their talents. Get artists painting signs, musicians on the music, Aunty Flo can collect jars for table decorations. Begin a year or 6 months in advance and make a list of everything that needs doing and assign people to tasks. People love to be asked, besides sharing stories, inviting others to help on your special day creates a strong sense of community.
Your ceremony sets the intention for your married life. So, spend more time on considering intentions and meaning. Be creative with your ceremony, weave in those intentions and meaning, focus more on the internal than the external decorations. A ceremony rich in meaning is a strong foundation for a life time together.
Don’t aim for perfection. Mistakes and disaster do occur, accept them with grace and allow magic to arise.
And share more stories…. Definitely more stories at weddings!
Apart from wedding ceremonies, how else can storytelling benefit us?
Storytelling is experiencing a worldwide revival in many fields, business, heath & wellbeing, education and environment. Ulf first fell in love with storytelling as he witnessed it’s ability to build strong communities.
My first interest in storytelling was as a powerful way to reconnect people with the natural world. While you can tell people facts about why they should look after the environment, facts don’t make them care. But a well told story evokes empathy and fosters the sense of stewardship.
What other services do you offer?
Stories, stories, stories, for all ages and occasions. We share stories with schools, preschools & libraries, at music & environmental festivals. You’ll find us at children’s birthday parties, on storytelling bush walks, and keep a look out for our storytelling in local parks. Of course, we believe that any life event deserves a story or two. If you have a venue or an occasion we have a story to fit!
What’s your favourite story and why?
OOOOOhhh, tough question! I can’t go past the story Ulf told when I fell in love with him, Astrid Lingren’s ‘May My Linden Tree Play’. Ulf also still loves that one. But we do experience a love affair with whatever story we are working on… if we didn’t, we couldn’t tell it!
What can couples expect when they book you for their wedding?
Quite a few cups of tea, (herbal or bog standard) and questions to start with. We want to know all about you. We want to hear your stories, we want to know what makes you tick and how you click as a couple. Unrushed, unhurried, lets get to know each other so we can co-create a ceremony that shares the beautifully unique stories of you.
And finally, how do you (Ulf) feel about being a Roald Dahl look-alike? 😉
Ulf: Well Roald says “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, as long as somebody loves you” and that’s good enough for me.
Lindy: Roald also says “It’s impossible to make your eyes twinkle, if you aren’t twinkly yourself” and I think Ulf’s eyes are very twinkly indeed.
And here is more of Lindy’s daughters wedding to enjoy! Images thanks to Ben Wyeth Photography for capturing Jessie and Hayley’s gorgeous day.
Heart to Heart Storytelling are based on the Central Coast, NSW, and available for travel worldwide.
4/17/2018 0 Comments
There is an old Scottish saying, ‘A story should be told eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart’ and that’s just the way my storyteller husband Ulf and I love to tell our tales to children. No books and just the children, a story, and us. We have discovered that in this intimate space, magic happens…
Experts in the field of education and child development, while they may not believe in magic, are rediscovering the ancient art of oral storytelling (links to further reading below). Of course, story reading has long been recognised as a wonderful educational tool, however oral storytelling has now proven to have many extra benefits.
An oral storyteller brings their personality to the tale. The oral storyteller focuses his or her attention on the listeners, eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart. The storyteller brings not only their undivided attention but their own unique personality to the story telling. Ulf and I have very different styles of storytelling, I tend to be exuberant while Ulf has a gentle Swedish manner. The combination of personality and undivided attention gives the storytelling a sense of intimacy which children respond to.
The Storyteller is Free
A story reader is bound by the book and the text and looks back and forth between page and listeners, while the storyteller is free to respond completely to the listeners’ reactions. The storyteller may even change the story, expanding sections when the interest is great or altering the story to fit the needs of the listeners.
The freedom afforded by oral storytelling allows Ulf and I to take any story and rework it for a specific audience. When sharing stories in early childhood we always add rhymes, repetitions and actions in which the children can join in. We also encourage their contributions by asking questions like, “What would you put in the magic stone soup?” and incorporate the children’s answers into the story.
Exercising the Imagination.
Oral storytelling is a shared experience in which the child becomes an active participant in the creation of the story, while children who are shown illustrations and read to, are passive in comparison. Children listening to oral stories must exercise their imaginations. The storyteller helps them to create the pictures in their minds with words, facial expressions, tone and gesture but each child’s inner vision will be different.
There are many benefits to exercising the imagination and one crucial one is the development of empathy through learning to place one’s self in another’s shoes. Another outcome of an active imagination is the development of greater problem solving skills.
The ‘active’ nature of oral story listening also supports concentration and comprehension skills. Recent research shows listeners to oral storytelling retained more information and demonstrated better comprehension skills than children who were only read to.
A mother recently wrote to us and said that her daughter’s preschool was amazed when her daughter, Gaia, consoled a young friend who had fallen over with the 10-minute story, complete with actions, that she heard us tell on the weekend. Later that week Gaia told another one of our stories to her grandparents! Even we were amazed at how much she retained.
Enhances Emotional Intelligence
Storytelling also enhances emotional intelligence. The reactions of the storyteller to the story, the teller’s tone of voice and facial expressions, model emotions and the appropriate responses to emotions. Learning how to recognise emotions and how to express them is a vital step in child development. Listening to oral stories, also gives control to the child over the level of fear they experience, as they create the images in their minds that they are comfortable with.
Storytelling is of huge benefit to children who are not ready to read or are having reading difficulties. It is an enjoyable activity which increases their vocabulary and teaches them the sound and form of narratives without focusing on the written word. And, if children have participated in oral storytelling, they would have experienced the joy of co-creating stories, generating an eagerness to learn more literacy skills.
Research shows children remember more about a story when it is told to them, rather than read. Watching emotions play on the upturned faces of our audiences is an absolute joy for us. Their expressions tell us that they are fully engaged with the story and us, the storytellers. We are truly on the adventure together, that is the power and joy of storytelling.
Just Do It
Now that you know just some of the benefits of oral storytelling, we hope you feel inspired to put the book aside and try telling a story eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart…it’s absolute magic.
Heart to Heart Storytelling’s 8 top tips for telling tales
1 HEART: Oral storytelling is NOT telling a story by heart, it’s telling stories heart to heart. Storytelling is not memorizing words, it’s sharing images and events.
2 BARE BONES. Read your text a few times. Then strip it down to the bare bones. Where, who why, how and end. You may like to write a few words on each, or draw a bubble map or sketch a simple story board, or map. Keep it simple, keep it brief.
3 RATTLE THE BONES. Tell the barebone story to yourself or the dog. Then check, did you leave anything vital out? Then tell it again and again. Once you feel confident…
4 ADD SOME SENSES. Keep it simple and in words you feel comfortable with, describe some sights, smells, feel, sounds. Remember everyone has a couple of senses which are predominate… so it’s good to include a little of all of them to appeal to everyone in the audience.
5 ADD EMOTIONS. How is the character in your story feeling? Can you describe that in a way the children can relate to? Can you show it in your body language or facial expression?
6 FLESH IT OUT. Add rhymes, repetitions and actions or song for Early Childhood.
7.TELL IT. Tell it, tell it, tell it, tell it, tell it!
8. HAVE FUN. Play with the story and go on an adventure with the children.
REMEMBER: There is no such thing as a wrong story, just a new story!
Storytelling and Story Reading: A Comparison of Effects on Children ‘s Memory and Story Comprehension.http://dc.etsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2180&context=etd
Role of Storytelling in Early Literacy Development -- Louise Phillips http://www.australianstorytelling.org.au/storytelling-articles/n-s/role-of-storytelling-in-early-literacy-development-louise-phillips
The effects of storytelling and story reading on the oral language complexity and story comprehension of young children. http://wessonportfolio.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/46335801/Research%2520Article%25202.pdf
Storytelling engagement in the classroom: observable behavioural cues of children’s story experiences. Mundy-Taylor, J. (2013) (PhD), University of Newcastle. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/939911
The effect of teacher’s storytelling aloud on the reading comprehension of Saudi elementary stage students Nasser Saleh Al-Mansour *, Ra’ed Abdulgader Al-Shormanhttp://www.lisntell.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Storytelling-Aloud.pdf
A heart to heart blog on life, spirituality, storytelling & stories.