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        Sixteenth International Conference of the Association for the Study of Dreams

University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, July 6-11, 1999



When Patricia Garfield first proposed the idea of this symposium,  I volunteered to approach the project from the subject I have been researching --marriage and wedding dreams. I am still collecting dreams but reviewed the ones I already  have, attempting to classify them within the universal dream categories. Because I learned early on to theme my dreams to bring them into focus, I found the classifications  helpful from a sorting-out viewpoint, although not all dreams could be squeezed into a single universal dream category and seemed to fit into more than one in an overlapping fashion.  Sometimes I felt a need for a entirely  new  category or subcategory, such as one which would include dreams of the Divine, or spirit  and spiritual guidance, certainly a universal theme across time and cultures. 

Dr. Garfield suggested that some of my difficulties with overlapping categories might be eliminated if I considered the use of motifs, which did help. My presentation today is a preliminary overview and is not concerned with the meaning of these dreams, nor statistical analyses of my sampling. It is simply a discussion of  my beginner=s attempt at working within the universal  dream classification system outlined in Dream Time (1).


(Background--Why this topic?  My interest was piqued some years ago when a man shared a dream in our Metro DC Dream Group of his reluctance to kiss a blemished bride whom he was marrying. In taking the dream as my own as we do in our groups, I suddenly found myself overwhelmed with emotion. His dream became mine,  and as I worked at embracing the scarred parts of myself, I was led to a new level of understanding. My experience showcased that marriage/wedding dreams were very powerful metaphors for integration and wholeness, as well as actual unions of male and female, or the masculine and feminine sides of self. Carl Jung in his book Man and His Symbols said, AMan=s knowledge (Logos) then encounters woman=s relatedness (Eros) and their union is represented as that symbolic ritual of a sacred marriage which has been at the heart of initiation since its origins in the mystery-religions of antiquity@. (2)

My interest was renewed in 1997, when two  of my three children married within a month of each other,  leading  to all sorts of marriage/wedding dreams being shared in our  family. I decided I would like to do an in-depth study of marriage/wedding dreams and began to collect them.  I am grateful to those who sent me their dreams and to those who might still be  interested in sharing theirs with me.

Since some of the dreams in my collection came from e-mail and anonymous sources, I cannot do a truly scientific study not having full information about my subjects,  but I can tell you that the  dreams come from both  men and women, young and old, who want to marry or who don=t, who are happily or unhappily married, and happily or unhappily single. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and a marriage dream refers to just that waking life occurrence, but then again, many times not......remember, we are focusing today on dream classification not dream interpretation.


                 #1.5 EMBRACE OR LOVE


Looking over the universal dream classification system, it seemed obvious that my collection of dreams would fit into #1.5(Embrace or love, etc.), as a subcategory,  and this is indeed true for many of them.  However, I also discovered that some marriage/wedding dreams  touched upon a range of the universal dream categories.  #10.0 ( Disasters, natural or manmade) was surprising  absent in the dream collection , although waking life marriages might turn into these. Some of the dreams appeared to have overlapping themes, while in some, the dominant theme was something other than embrace or love.   I have excerpted some of these dreams as examples:  


A perfect #1.5(Embrace or love) dream, in which the dreamer is the bride: I  had a dream about my wedding. I look down at my ring, the diamond is very small, I am thinking do I want to marry this person, and I do.  Throughout my dream I keep seeing 3...6 heart cards. (3)


Happy, happy bride, but then again, we find the reluctant bride, who also seems a bit lost (#11):

I am in a king-size bed with a man...we are at opposite edges of it, as far as we can get from each other and still both be in the same bed...he is all the way to my left, I am all the way to his right. He says to me, ACan you tell me again why it is that we are getting married?@ and I say to him AI can=t think of any good reason. (4)


Note: Telepathy/Precognition: Within the system of classification, I personally would like to see a way of marking those which reflect telepathy or precognition which are universal cross- cultural experiences. ( I applaud Tony Shafton=s excellent article, AAfrican-Americans and Predictive Dreams@ in the most recent issue of  Dream Time.)(5).   Perhaps there could be a way of cross-referencing so as not to lose dreams of this nature within the rest of the system. There certainly were a number of seemingly precognitive dreams in which the dreamer met his/her prospective spouse in a dream. This one from the popular press  is a classic:


 Reported in 1884 by Pearl Tyler, daughter of John Tyler, 10th President of the USA:


AI had the most amazing dream,@ she told her mother and sister-in-law.  AI know I saw the man I will someday marry. He was sitting on the porch of a cottage on the side of a hill. I walked up to him, and he rose and came to meet me. He looked like Lord Byron with his dark curly hair and flashing eyes.@(6)


Pearl had the same dream for two nights running. Later, when  Pearl,  her mother, and sister-in-law attended a session at state capitol, Pearl saw the man of her dreams, Mr. Ellis.  Her mother arranged a meeting and the couple fell in love and were married. When Pearl went to her husbands home for the first time, she discovered it to be a cottage on the side of a hill just as she saw it in her dreams.


And a #1.5 in which the bride liked it so much she is going for the second time around:


...I have decided that X and I will get married again. I am in the midst of helping Mother with the invitations...I think we=ll do this wedding a few (5 or 6) weeks from now and realize I=d better register. I make a mental note to do so and write it down on my calendar. But just then...it occurs to me that you probably can=t marry someone you=re already married to, and for 27 years. My mom is saying, AWell, you can say you=re renewing your vows.@... (7)


A #1.5 within a #1.5:

I=m person of honor at X=s wedding: I=m attending some church ceremony and as things come together more, I realize it=s X=s wedding. She=s being given away by Y, who also looks great. I=m having mixed feelings a bit, but I=m okay. I look for Y,  but  don=t see him. I do find Z, who=s very overweight and we hug. She seems especially affectionate when we hug, so much so that I almost get uncomfortable... (8)


A #1.5 (with an overlap of #7.5,(Dressing harmoniously),  in which the dreamer is the bride but not the only one:


I was in my house-mate=s bedroom with her and my other house-mate (female) A close friend of ours stormed in the room and said he had to marry us all. W e laughed and my house-mate said she could not as she was to marry her boyfriend. My other house-mate and I prepared to get wed. She was in red and I was in cream. I do not remember where this was located. I think it was in the vicar=s room of my church at home. At the last minute before were close to be married to our friend, we changed our minds. (9)


Perhaps the classification needs to be changed, too?


A different twist  in which the dreamer is a bridesmaid, with #5.5 (Giving an outstanding performance) and #7.5 (Dressing harmoniously)  overlapping #1.5:


In my dream my sister was getting married but not to her fiancee. I was confused because I didn=t know how she knew this man and why she was getting married to h im. At first it was going to be a secret wedding and I was bridesmaid, wearing a similar dress to hers...Then my sister started acting out different scenes (can=t recall what!). But I sat there wondering what was going on. Different people in the room were getting involved, near the end, this man my sister was marrying got this sparkly shoe and tried it on different people=s feet, and when my sister tried it on it fit. She was now sitting beside me. Everyone realized they were getting married and thought it was great. Everyone thought it was a very original way to get married..(10)

Some of my marriage/wedding dreams included fairy tale symbolism. This Cinderella found her fella and her shoe!)


 Another Ahappily ever after@ #1.5 dream in which the  groom initially struggles with #5.0 (Poor performance) and #7.0 (Dressing inappropriately):


I=m sitting in the balcony of a church on a pew.  I=m looking around, when suddenly I start to hear the organ playing the Wedding March. I looked around to see who was getting married, when it hit me!!@Oh shit! I=m getting married!@ I realized I had nothing together, no clothes, no ring, nothing.  I jumped up and ran down the stairs to the back of the church, where I came upon my father, my brother X, and my mom sitting at a card table. I ran up to them frantically and said. AI=m getting married. You=ve got to help me. I need a ring.@ So I stepped up to my Dad and he took off his college class ring and gave it to me. I put it alongside my finger but realized it was far too big for my new wife. I stepped up to my brother X and he took off his ring and gave it to me but it looked so mannish and the stone was all wrong. I stepped up to my mother and she took off her ring and gave it to me. I slipped it onto my finger and thought it was just perfect for my new wife. They all beamed at me with good wishes, and I felt relived now that I had a ring, I could get married. The end.(11)

(Yes, Goldilocks, too big, too small, just right!)



#7.0(Inappropriately dressed) features strongly in two same-night dreams  of a soon-to-be bride: 

In my first dream, I was at the church that I went to as a child. I did not know anyone there. My future husband did not show up! The next thing happened was a bunch of men with canes and wearing top hats came dancing down the aisle.  


I dreamed that I showed up for my wedding wearing a  multi-colored wedding gown that was torn in many places and my mom would not let me change into the dress that I had planned on wearing. (12)


Then there were dreams in which the dreamer is not the bride or attendant and the wedding is only peripheral to the main action in the dream: 

Get me to the church on time...#3.0 (Vehicle trouble), #8.0 (Missing transport), #11.0 (Being lost or trapped),and finally #11.5, (Discovering new spaces/places):


I have to get back to CA from my childhood home area in New York. I have a day and a half to get to a train station in NYC. I have a wedding to attend on the way, but the train leaves at 5 AM so I have to get up at 4 or 3 AM the night after the wedding to drive to the city...but I am shocked to see a stop and go traffic jam in the direction I want to go.  In order to get into the line to go left I have to turn right and go to the end of the line going left. I am worried and I think I should skip the wedding to get to the AM train on time.


Someone tells me there are changes on the road, and I should have taken another route. Then the light changes. Then the cars ahead of me go and by the time I reach the light, intending to get away from the jam, I see the road is empty.  I go up it out of curiosity to see the changes that have been made. It is narrow, curved, newly paved looking and it goes off mysteriously into a clearing. I drive on worried I will reach the jam. I come to a building, get out of my car and enter. I walk through. (See lots of stairways and rooms) At the other side of the last bedroom, someone calls to me and waves me over. We look out a door and see an excellent road.  We jump down onto it and start going very fast down and up when suddenly we stop at an edge. A body of water is beyond. To the right and above is a train track. I consider going up to it, but see that it ends just a little farther along.


I jump in the water and swim. First it is shallow with a sandy bottom.,then it is deep. First I see simple stream type fish, then in the deep water, salt water type tropical fish. We come to another building with a dock-like entrance. I ask a woman there if I can take some fish to California. She says, AYou can but they will be dead@. I give up on that. Then I find out I can rent or buy a dune buggy there to go the rest of the way to the train station to head back to California. I think it is expensive, $5000. End (13)


Patricia suggested that instead of classifying dreams such as these in another or other overlapping categories, they remain in the sub-category of marriage/wedding, but that we look for the pattern of motifs that exist in that set of dreams. She suggested that the above dream might  have a motif of obstacles en route to the wedding, and others mentioned earlier might be further delineated by motifs such as descriptions of wedding attire, symbols of love and marriage, emotion expressed, etc. (14)


This helped me a great deal, but there are still dreams which I had difficulty placing within the system because of strong overlapping themes.  One of  these is 12.0 Death.   


Wedding/marriage as death for the single self: Not all of these dreams which include death relate to real death. In reading over my collection of dreams, there were other instances in which death was symbolic, as in this dream of a young woman considering marriage:

I am shopping with my mother. We are visiting shops with women=s clothes and shoes...Suddenly we are underground. There is also a big shopping centre. And...a huge door opened for a while. My mother shut it immediately. I only had the time to notice that a quite different world exists behind this door. The entrance to that world was forbidden, but I decided to get there and I did.

There was a sort of huge, long, never-ending church hall, like a tunnel. On both of its sides there were catafalques put in lines. Dead young women were laying on them. All dressed like brides in wedding outfits, white flowers and some green in their hair etc. Every one  holds a big long candle in her hands which were lightening up the holy space. They were all waiting for something. Something was going to happen to them. They were dead but it was a beautiful view. They were so innocent, so pure, dumped in shining darkness and silence of  eternity but not death. I felt there very well...

Close to the entrance I noticed a separate catafalque. The young woman laying on it had her head turned into my side. She had a gently transparent curtain on her face. Somehow I knew that she had open eyes. I was afraid to look into her eyes by my curiosity was stronger than the fear. I saw her eyes for a moment. They were blue, big and dead--as if suddenly stopped blind.  That was a very strange view. I was afraid to look into these eyes. But I wanted to do it once again, to Aread@from them...that was just looking into the eyes of death..(15)


#12.5 Messages  from the dead also featured in some of my sampling.  In correspondence with Cynthia Pearson, she told me she=d  noticed a connection between death issues and wedding dreams.  She mentions some of  these in her book, Parting Company: The Caregiver=s Journey: Understanding the Loss of a  Loved One.(16)  actual physical death,  and/or the death of a loved one and the grief process which follows.  Dr. Garfield=s book, Dream Messenger also contains examples of these, one of which involves a young woman whose father came to her in a dream at the time of his unexpected death, telling her he was Agoing to marry a woman named Grace.  He had been very devoted to the Virgin Mary and his daughter felt he was going to join Her. (17)

Connection with spirit and spirit guidance:

Because I have long been interested in dreams and spirituality, I have become aware of wedding imagery found in dream unions which contain contact or connections with spirit or spiritual beings. I would like to see a separate classification for Dreams of the Divine/Spirit with a sub-category of Connection with spirit and spirit guidance:


Some examples:

A spiritual connection: This was a long and complex dream. The best I=ve had for ages. It started with me with loads of women on a holiday. We were staying in a hotel by the sea...When we got there I was told that I had to have sex with this man. Every woman was allocated one. Mine was ugly, a soccer thug, everything I find unattractive, but I knew that I had to do it. The moment that I accepted this was my duty, my fate, I was told that I was to play the part of a 16th century famous woman (a saint or sorceress or something, in a remake of a film.  It was taking place at this church just up this hill.. I wore a long flowing white dress, (a shroud?). I danced my way to this church feeling very special and spiritual  The more I danced and the closer I got to the church the closer I felt to God and to my self. I felt very special, spiritual, full of energy and love. I was aware of this other person being inside me I woke up feeling better than I have for ages .(19)

And another, a dream from a woman who is Catholic but was dating a Wiccan and feeling guilty about it......


I dreamed that I walked in a beautiful garden full of pleasant paths through flower-beds thick with both wild and domestic flowers. In the midst of these flowers, I saw a woman who looked like the Virgin Mary, amid the roses, with the most radiant happiness in her face. ..Looking away for a moment I saw another woman in the garden, hastening towards us. She had wild chestnut hair blowing unrestrained in the wind, and wore scarlet chiffon. I stiffened, knowing this to be my boyfriend=s goddess.


To my surprise she fell down at Mary=s feet and kissed them, and both she and Mary giggled like children playing a game. Then to my utter shock Our Lady took the Pagan goddess by the hand and raised her to her feet, saying, ACome, Sister Creature--let=s play in the garden.


Then she looked at me and said, AWhy are you so shocked?  Sister Nature only wants to bring your beloved to her Father, as I want to bring that priest to my Son. Go ahead and marry him!@  And then I woke.


(I did marry him, twelve happy years ago, and we are more in love all the time. Our Lady gives good advice). (20)

(So it=s not just in fairytales that folks live happily every after!)



This set of marriage/wedding dreams, dreams which had a common subject, did not always  seem to have the predominant theme of   #1.5, embrace or  love, etc.,  demonstrating yet again that symbols, even those which are considered archetypal, have different meanings for different dreamers.  In classifying dreams, one arrives at a kind of focus, but there should  also be a  caution against losing the dream=s  rich overall picture and its shadings in trying to reduce it to a single color or class. It is here that motifs help to retain the Alife@ of the dream, not allowing it to fall into a left-brained file cabinet. There was excellent dialogue between anthropologist Dr. Curtiss Hoffmann and Dr. Garfield in the most recent edition of Dream Time.(21) It is clear that the Universal Dream classification system is still in a preliminary stage and will no doubt create questions and areas of uncertainty which must be worked through. It is difficult to fully  explore outer and inner space using a telescope with a single lens, but that sometimes that=s how we have to start when the system in which we live and move and dream is so vast!




1.  Garfield, Patricia. AThe Universal Dreams@, Dream Time, Vol 16, #1 &2, Winter/Spring 1999.


2.  Jung, C. G..  Man and His Symbols, Doubleday, NY, 1964.


3. LtMsDotCom .


4. SEW/W=head.


5. Shafton, Anthony. AAfrican-Americans and Predictive Dreams@,  Dream Time, V16, #3,           Summer 1999.


6.  Gaddis, Vincent H..@Romantic Dreams--Do They Ever Come True?@,  Family Weekly, March       1, 1979.


7.  CPT


8.  CW


9.  JP104


10. JP254


11. RW1


12. L=chad


13. W=head


14. E-mail message, DreamSign7 to DreamRita, 6/2/99.


15. ESH


16.  Pearson, Cynthia. Parting Company: The Caregiver=s Journey: Understanding the Loss         of a Loved One (pending)

17.  Garfield. Patricia. The Dream Messenger. 


18.  JP199


19. DJN


20. Hoffmann, Curtiss. AUniversal Dreams, A Response to Patricia Garfield@ and Garfield,          Patricia, AUniversal Dreams, A Response to Curtiss Hoffman=s Response@, Dream Time,        V16, #3, Summer 1999.


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