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An Interview with Andrew and Joui

Andrew Hinman, PhD and Joui Turandot experienced their Shadow Wedding ritual in July 2011. Andrew is a scientist and Joui is a fashion consultant. Here they talk with Jim and Jessica about the months leading up the the ritual, the event itself, and its effect on their light wedding and beyond.

We talk with a lot of people about the Shadow Wedding but not everyone participates in the process. You two did. What got you on board?

Andrew: We had both received a lot of coaching in the past and had been pretty immersed in the world of personal growth for a while. We’ve always valued “doing our work” both individually and as a couple. We also had issues coming up for us in our engagement that needed addressing. When we heard what you two were offering, we agreed to meet to see if it would be a good way to get some direct support. Part of the appeal was knowing that our work would result in a ritual, as opposed to just going into some kind of counseling.

Joui: Of course we wanted to do it! We think of ourselves as transformational pioneers and we saw this as an opportunity to be led into new, deep territory within ourselves and our relationship. We couldn’t pass up that opportunity.

In our meetings leading up to the ritual, what stood out the most? What new awareness did you find?

Jim and jessica benson shadow wedding photo oceanJoui: Our sessions really helped me understand how to create and refine shadow vows. It was like having practice sessions where we realized, “Wow, we can say this and it will be edgy. And it will also be OK, even good for us.”

Andrew: Warming up our "shadow motor" was essential and made a big impact. The preparation work made the shadow conversation familiar enough to know that we could do it and that it was going to be beneficial rather than damaging to our relationship. This was new territory, but we got the feel for it in the meetings.

You held your Shadow Wedding two weeks before your light wedding. How did that timing work out for you? Did you feel overwhelmed by an additional ceremony in your wedding plans?

Joui: The timing of the Shadow Wedding turned out to be ideal for us. Any earlier and we would have diluted the impact. Any closer to the light wedding and we wouldn't have had time to integrate what happened as fully as we did. We really needed those two weeks to let all the dust settle.

Andrew: I didn’t feel overwhelmed. It may have overwhelmed our friends who showed up for us! It was a lot to ask them to come to yet another event for us during our whole wedding time. For Joui and me, it was all part of the full-on wedding approach we had taken on. It was a piece of the whole.

Was there a peak moment in the ritual for you?

Joui: For me the whole thing was like a peak experience. To be witnessed by our friends as we went into this very visceral, very honest place was incredibly vulnerable for me. At the same time, I felt fierce in my commitment to face myself and face Andrew in this way. We wrestled each other first, warming me up for the vows, which went further than I ever, ever expected them to go.

Andrew: The vows. We went completely off-script and went out of the realm of anything planned or foreseen. We just let the setting, the fire, and our friends carry us into a place we weren’t expecting to go. Realizing that was happening was scary, exhilarating, and liberating!

And how! We were both impressed and inspired by how deeply you went with your vows. Would you be willing to say a bit more here?

Joui: We took what you had given us and we ran with it — all the way. I’m still proud of both of us for how we showed up, and that we made it our own. As Andrew said, we went very far off-script, and it felt as though we really let the pieces we wanted to transform take over in the best way.

Andrew: To me, this is what ceremony is for. It is an incredibly valuable and powerful way to touch novel and otherwise hidden psychological territory.

Your five witnesses were awesome and the debrief was deep and strong. The quality of their feedback let us know that you had picked the right people. How did the debrief impact you?

Andrew: I felt it as a deepening of the relationships with those people. I felt like it was a gift that we were giving to our friends — a gift of our openness and vulnerability and realness. I’m glad they were there because we needed to be witnessed, even though it was such a private thing. And I felt lucky that we shared it with people who were capable of really receiving it.


How did your Shadow Wedding impact your wedding day?

Jim and jessica benson shadow wedding photo oceanJoui: I felt more prepared to take in the intensity of the day, but most importantly, I felt more acceptance for myself. I was able to tell myself, “I’m not a bad bride. I’m not my own enemy.” I had more resources inside to be able to give myself what I needed, and to ask for what I needed. For example, at one point I was getting overwhelmed, and I asked my closest girlfriends to just huddle around me for a minute. It did the trick, and I went back to the reception feeling grounded and sane.

Andrew: Our wedding was an off-the-charts transformative experience. The love bomb we created was enormous, and it clearly affected everyone who was there. For us, it lasted for days. I think the Shadow Wedding had a huge role in our showing up with so much love and such a big conscious "yes" for each other. There wasn’t any doubt present at the wedding at all.

Big picture: How did you benefit from this process?

Andrew: It feels like we took out a psychological insurance policy! I was able to address parts of me that were not on board with getting married. I didn’t have to shut off the ground-fire going on inside me around it. It was so helpful for me to have a structure, a frame for all the back-and-forth inside me. The whole process helped make the light feel real, and I reached a great sense of relaxation and wholeness about getting married. I felt totally solid about our coming together, knowing that the negative side got acknowledged.

Can you speak to any lasting impact the ritual has had on your relationship?

Joui: I feel as though I now have a template for how to move forward — forward in our relationship, and forward beyond where my parents were able to go. I see how my parents didn’t have the tools to deal with their challenges as an opportunity to grow, and ultimately had to go their separate ways. I am proud about going beyond their way of being in relationship. Marriage isn’t just all daisies and roses! This ceremony has given me new ways to work with the thorns.

Anything else?

Joui: We now both experience greater comfort with our truth, and greater permission to speak that to each other. It's a skill that we will continue to use and refine as we go deeper into our marriage.

Andrew: I think that every engaged couple should do a ceremony like this. From my perspective, knowing and speaking your shadow is one of the most critical parts of making a major commitment to another person.

It was an honor and a delight to co-create and facilitate the ritual for you. Thanks for sharing yourselves so fully in this work!

From a Shadow Wedding witness:

“Jessica and Jim created a powerful, safe ritual space with a light touch. I experienced their comfort with all shadow aspects that the couple exposed — without being drawn down themselves.

"I witnessed the real power of the Shadow Wedding ritual when I went to the couple's actual wedding. Because they had directly and honestly addressed their darkest aspects, it was as if the sun shone brighter that day and the couple stood fully in the light, in wholeness.

"I recommend working with Jim and Jessica. They are a skilled couple who can hold you as you reveal your shadow to your partner so you can enjoy true wholeness in your relationship.”

Rosy Moon Schlussel, actor, life coach and yoga instructor