Hello my wonderful blog readers,

I’ve officially transitioned over to a new blog location, on my website!  Please take a moment to update your bookmarks / Bloglines / Google Reader / RSS feed so you can make sure to continue to get updates from Eclectic Unions on creating an awesome and beautiful wedding ceremony!

www.eclectic-unions.com/blog

See you there!

All the best,

Jessie

For every human being there rises a light that reaches straight to the heavens.  When two souls who are destined for each other find one another, their streams of light flow together and a single, brighter light goes forth from their united being.

Ingrid and Elan were married at the Astoria World Manor in the beginning of December.  I worked closely with them to incorporate many different rituals and traditions within their ceremony – as Ingrid put it, a mixture of the traditional and the new.

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We included a unity candle ceremony, but with a twist – while a friend of the couple performed Shawn Colvin’s “When You Know,” I walked to the back of the chapel, and lit the candles of a guest on each side.  The guests passed the light up to the front of the room, until it reached the mothers.  The mothers came up and lit the individual tapers, that the bride and groom used those candles to light the central votive.  It was a beautiful and very physical demonstration of the love and support that the room was literally filled with.

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From our first correspondence, Ingrid and Elan were adamant about including a feet washing ritual in their ceremony.  They told me they had both decided it was the one thing they wanted to include in the ceremony, independent of each other.  I did a lot of research and prep to find a way to make this ritual egalitarian and about the ideals that Ingrid and Elan wanted to develop and keep important in their relationship.  This foot washing ritual was placed at the end of their wedding ceremony, just before the final reading and closing remarks.

Our couple’s relationship has been built upon their friendship, their open discourse and trade of knowledge, and their respect for one another.  To touch someone’s feet is a sign of respect – it is a way to say “I respect your knowledge, and look to you for guidance.”

Ingrid and Elan will now take part in a foot washing ritual.  The root of this rite is an act of love – to physically and symbolically wash the feet of their partner.  It is a purification, and cleansing of negative karma, obstructions, and the past – a way for our couple to have a new beginning with each other today.  And it is also a sign of humility – a sign that they will serve each other, and be open to their partner’s kindness in return – a sign that they will care for each other, and be cared for by the other.  Just like a marriage, it is  a flowing give and take of love and respect.

After the explanation, I performed a reading while they gently removed their shoes, and showed their devotion and their commitment to each other and to a life of service and love and caring for each other by washing their feet with wet cloths, and then dried them.

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We also had the traditional Jewish stepping on the glass at the end (but they both stepped on glasses, instead of just the groom!), and had some wonderful readings from the bridal party.

This was one of my final ceremonies for 2009, and was a wonderful way to end the year.  The devotion and love and respect that Ingrid and Elan had for each other was really inspiring, and I did my best to capture it in their ceremony.  Congratulations again!

Hello blog readers!

I just wanted to throw up a post to say hi, and let you know of some exciting blog posts, coming your way by the end of December:

  • A beautiful at home wedding, including some fun Italian rituals, that the couple put together in two weeks!
  • A wedding ceremony that included a candle lighting ceremony, a foot washing, and was grounded in light, service, and the couple’s open discourse and pursuit of knowledge.
  • A breakdown of Eclectic Union’s first full year of weddings! And a sneak peek at what is going on for 2010!
  • Delicious photos of the cake served at Dan and my engagement party last weekend :)
  • Information on the charities I gave back to this year, thanks to my couples.

So you’ve got lots to look forward to!  I’m taking a brief vacation this weekend, but should be back in action early next week.  I hope your holidays and wedding plans are going well!

Nicole and Sinan were married at the Warwick, in Philadelphia, PA in mid-October.  Nicole found me through Weddingbee, and I was more than happy to make the trip down to Philly for her wedding ceremony.  Nicole is American and Jewish, and Sinan is Turkish and Muslim, so I worked with them to create a multi-cultural ceremony with a few elements that reflected each of their backgrounds – combined with their incredibly Love Story and lots of laughter.

A few days before the wedding, Nicole emailed me and said that there was a Turkish tradition they wanted to include – the bestowing of jewelry on the bride!  Just after being declared husband and wife, the groom’s family were invited up to the chuppah, where they SHOWERED Nicole in beautiful jewelry (gold is traditional).  Necklaces, rings, bracelets, and earrings were presented from her new in-laws.  It was a wonderful way to show their happiness and excitement to welcome Nicole into their family!

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The couple was married under a chuppah, the Jewish wedding canopy, and this was the explanation I gave:

Our bride and groom stand under the Jewish marriage canopy, the chuppah. This represents the home that they will create and share in their married life. Just as Sinan and Nicole are opening their hearts to each other today, so are the sides of the chuppah open, to let in the love of their beloved guests today. So will their home always be open to all of you. The heart of every home is the family the resides within – today, our couple will become each other’s family.

We included two other Jewish elements – the breaking of the glass at the end, and bestowing the couple with (non-religious) seven blessings at the end of the ceremony.  The Seven Blessings are a favorite of mine to include in an interfaith or non-religious wedding with Jewish elements, because, though the ones I have written capture the ideas of the original Seven Blessings, they are much more about seven ideals or thoughts that I hope my couples keep in their marriage together.  They don’t mention God, or a higher diety, but are still a nice Jewish touchstone to include in the ceremony – and a wonderful way to conclude it as well!

Dan and I had so much fun with our mini-road trip down to Philadelphia, and I was so happy that I got to meet Nicole and Sinan (one of the rare times I don’t meet the bride and the groom prior to the wedding!) and be a part of their incredible day.  Congratulations again!

This year, I’m thankful for a lot of things.

I’m thankful for my kitties, who bring so much love and joy and cuddles into my life every single day.

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Maeby and Friday, the cutest kitties around

I’m thankful for my awesome fiance, who listens to me, supports me, and always brings me cold glasses of water when I’m working.

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Dan and I

I’m thankful for my family and friends, especially my mom, who is the most giving and generous person I’ve ever met (and it’s her birthday tomorrow, too!), and my best friend Lindsey, who helps me to find my way through the world.

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My mom and I at her wedding.

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Lindsey and I on her wedding day

I’m thankful for every couple who emails me, calls me up to chat about their wedding, meets with me, and those with invite me to be a part of their wedding day.  Because of you, I get to follow my dreams, which is just about the coolest thing ever.  Thanks for choosing me as your wedding officiant!

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Giant Wedding Collage! Click to take a better look!

Enjoy your Thanksgiving (I’m so excited to make the stuffing this year – my favorite!), and take a moment to think of the moments this year that have taken your breathe away – and the reasons you are thankful, too.

I frequent the Weddingbee message boards, and one of the frequent questions I find myself answering over there is “Where do you find a wedding officiant?”

Sometimes I think the Wedding Industrial Complex has forgotten about the wedding officiant.  I’ve met with couples who have been planning their wedding for 18 months – but didn’t think to hire an officiant until three weeks before.  Many couples worry about who is going to marry them if they don’t get married in a church or a temple, or if they are non-religious or don’t want a minister or a rabbi.  The WIC tells brides that they need to match their bridesmaid’s dresses to their shoes exactly, that you need monogrammed napkins and signature drinks – but tells you nothing about customizing or personalizing your wedding ceremony, which is one of the most important parts of the entire day – otherwise, it’s really just a party.

Here’s the thing:  wedding officiants and Celebrants are out there!  And we want to perform your wedding ceremony – exactly how you want it to be!  My weddings have NO requirements when it comes to their structure or content.  Sure, I’ll guide you in certain directions, based on my past experiences on what works, but you can basically choose exactly what you’d like to include in your wedding.  It’s always personal, and truly reflects the people being married.

And I’m not alone in doing this – there are Celebrants all over the United States (and a few scattered across other countries, too!) who want to work with you to create a beautiful wedding ceremony.  You just need to find them!  And we really do all that we can so you don’t feel like you’re being married by a wedding vendor or professional – we try to make it feel like you’re being married by a friend (well, at least, I do).  A friend who knows a lot about wedding traditions and the ins and outs of ceremony, that is.

So here are some tips when you begin your officiant search:

The best time to start looking for an officiant is when you decide WHERE your ceremony is going to be. Not only is it a peace of mind to know that you can be confident in your ceremony being as beautiful as your venue, but we also book up around four to twelve months before the wedding.  We may not be available or able to put together a great ceremony on very short notice (but it can be done!)

Start by Googling “wedding officiant in [your state]” to find some jumping off points. You can also check out websites like WeddingWire that have reviews from real brides (i.e., we can’t edit the responses) or TheKnot to see who is out there, too.

Schedule a meeting or phone call before signing a contract. There are some wedding pro’s that I think is OK for just one person to check out – but try your best to BOTH be at the phone call or meeting.  All Celebrants offer a no-obligation meeting, and I think it’s important to click and have a real connection with the person who is marrying you.  [Personal note: my fiance and I met with a few officiants for our wedding.  I spoke on the phone with one who I had a good connection with, but my fiance did not connect with her at all at the meeting - I was ready to hire her over the phone.  Meetings are important.]

Ask good questions at your meeting! I find that I almost always answer all of my couple’s questions in my initial wedding spiel, but here are some good questions to ask:

Are you legal to solemnize marriages in my state?
How do we get our wedding license?  Who files it?
Can we customize the ceremony?  Can we write our own vows?
Do you have a PA system you can bring, or a preference for amplification?
What do you wear?
Can we see the ceremony before hand?
How long are your typical wedding ceremonies?  How long do you think our wedding will be?
Do you prefer to communicate via email or phone?
Is a rehearsal included in the fee?  Do you recommend a rehearsal?  Do you attend the rehearsal?
How early do you arrive on the day of the ceremony?
Do you stay for the reception or the rehearsal dinner?
Do you have a backup?  What happens if you can’t make it to the wedding?
If we forget to get the license, will you still perform the ceremony?
Do you provide props for the ceremonies (handfasting, unity candle, etc)?

I think you should walk out of your meeting with your wedding officiant excited about your wedding and your ceremony, with a clear picture of the ceremony in your head.  A good officiant should be able to offer you assistance with your vows (either suggestions if you don’t plan on writing them, or editing if you do), reading suggestions, and help with rituals you may want to include.

I hope this helps with the daunting task of finding a wedding officiant who is right for you.  Have you found your wedding officiant yet?  How did you feel after meeting him or her?

Cathleen and Matt were married at the spectacular Highlawn Pavilion in West Orange, NJ in late September.

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It was a beautiful, sunny day.  Their ceremony was sweet, funny, and meaningful, and included this reading, from Plato’s Symposium (a great non-religious reading!):

Humans have never understood the power of Love, for if they had they would surely have built noble temples and altars and offered solemn sacrifices; but this is not done, and most certainly ought to be done, since Love is our best friend, our helper, and the healer of the ills which prevent us from being happy.

To understand the power of Love, we must understand that our original human nature was not like it is now, but different. Human beings each had two sets of arms, two sets of legs, and two faces looking in opposite directions. Due to the power and might of these original humans, the Gods began to fear that their reign might be threatened. They sought for a way to end the humans’ insolence without destroying them.

It was at this point that Zeus divided the humans in half. After the division the two parts of each desiring their other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one. So ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of humankind.

Each of us when separated, having one side only, is but the indenture of a person, and we are always looking for our other half. And when one of us meets our other half, we are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other’s sight even for a moment. We pass our whole lives together, desiring that we should be melted into one, to spend our lives as one person instead of two, and so that after our death there will be one departed soul instead of two; this is the very expression of our ancient need. And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called Love.

Cathleen and Matt, thanks for letting me be a part of your wedding!

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