I just posted something to a mailing list that I thought might be useful over here, too – a time line of how we’ve been going about planning ritual.
Beltane is going to be our first ritual with guests, so we’re being extra-careful with the planning. That said, it’s one of my current goals to have a decent idea what we’re doing for the ritual (not all the details, but the basic working, goals, and stuff we need to have on hand) a month before the ritual.
Starting in early April would be fine for many people if you’re starting from scratch with no idea of what you want to do. (Starting in mid-April is stressful, in my experience, unless you already have a good idea what you want to do and you’re working with people who can adapt comfortably.)
March 5th or so:
Discuss the fact we’d like to have guests, and that Beltane seems like a good time. Discuss which guests.
Do an initial invitation – the three people we want to invite are often busy, so letting them know *well* in advance helps everyone out a lot. (Also, our plans might be different if only some of them could come.)
Do some general discussion of different things we might want to do. Do some thinking about past rituals we’ve been to and how to fit them to a smaller group. Get a couple of brilliant and inspired ideas we think will work well. Start pulling those together in ways that will make them work well with our ritual structure, style, and the people who will be there.
Send out our “month before ritual invite” with formal date/time information, and a short background on what we’ll be doing (the friendship bracelet idea), and what they need to bring (food to share, a few colors of embroidery floss to contribute to the project, etc.)
Get everyone’s food and scent allergy information back, send out an email with specifics so people can avoid each other’s allergens. (If we were a bigger group, I’d probably go the ‘avoid stuff people can’t be in the same room with’ and ‘label clearly’ route, but for five people, I’d prefer to have everyone able to eat everything. That said, our guests have a complicated combination of requirements.)
Continue discussions with my covenmate about exactly how to make the practical things work. Come up with more good ideas, and work out the rest of the details (what kind of bread and wine for the cakes and ale? Do we want altar decorations? What kind? How do we want to phrase the working? Raise energy?) Draft the formal ritual outline.
Send out a final reminder email (just did that).
Run a few errands (fortunately, can be done quickly, on my way to another appointment), picking up necessary materials.
Bake bread for ritual after work. Pack up carefully for the morning.
May 3rd (when we’re actually doing this):
Our gather time is 1:30pm. I’ll be up there around 12 or 12:30 to do a final check through and set-up. We expect ritual to take about 2 hours, and will have feasting and companionable conversation afterwards.