A truly international couple, Gordon Mangum—from Maine—and Roma Kessaram, who grew up in Bermuda, met while working in South Sudan in 2008. The couple were married in a civil ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in September 2014, and celebrated with a ceremony and party on July 11, 2015, at Elbow Beach’s Café Lido. About 130 guests—mostly Bermudian, with many from the US, Canada, the UK, Jamaica and Kosovo—joined the couple on the lawn overlooking Elbow Beach in a meaningful ceremony blending Hindu, Christian and Buddhist elements.
“Gordon was raised in the Christian tradition but majored in philosophy and religious studies (with a concentration in Buddhism) at college,” said Roma. “I was raised in a Hindu home but celebrated many of the Christian holidays, and in the last 15 years or so have taken a keen interest in ‘practical Buddhism.’ We wanted our ceremony to reflect our shared spiritual and philosophical beliefs without being overly complicated!”
The couple created a mandala as a central artistic piece for the ceremony. “Our mandala included a few points of symbolism,” explained Roma. “One hundred and eight outer painted beads represent the 108 energy lines thought to emanate from the heart and a symbol of the heart chakra. It also contained a pendant with the Tibetan symbol of peace etched into it.”
Another important aspect of the ceremony included walking around a sacred fire. “The fire in the Hindu tradition is lit to invoke the presence of the fire god, Agni, and more generally to honour and invoke the fourth of the primary elements of life,” said Roma. They also incorporated a sacred Vedic mantra, the Gayatri Mantra, which roughly translates as: “The Divine Illumination which pervades the physical, astral and celestial planes. On that Divine Radiance we meditate. May that Divine Radiance awaken our intellect and awaken our spiritual wisdom.”
The officiant, Sylvia Hayward-Harris, read a portion of Corinthians from the Bible, as well as the poem “To Love Is Not to Possess” by James Kavanaugh. And as is traditional in India, Roma wore a red lengha (a heavy skirt, fitted top and long draping shawl), as white is the colour of mourning in Hindu society. “A good and memorable time was had by everyone,” she concludes.