May 2009

Popping in to say hi!

Wedding season is in FULL SWING, and I’ve gotten a bit behind in my blogging.

But don’t worry!  I have some awesome wedding posts coming up later this week, as well as information on putting together your wedding processional & recessional, new ideas for your bridal party, and more!

Thanks for being patient, and you’ll hear from me soon!


By popular demand – here it is – Basic Wedding Ceremony Structure 101.

This is the bare bones outline that I use when I’m working with couples to write their wedding ceremony.  In our first meeting, I take it out, talk through it, explaining significance and meaning between the various rituals and traditions, answer lots of questions and ask some of my own.  From the basic outline, we dive into the whole world of wedding ceremonies – but having that nice firm diving board in the ceremony structure really helps to prepare and better understand where we’re going.  As I like to say – we can add anything in, we can take anything out.  But I find that sticking to the basic structure helps your guests “follow along” a little more easily, and not get lost in a more unusual ceremony.

This is what works for me – definitely check with the state you are getting married in to make sure that you include any legal requirements for a wedding (in some states, at one point, the bride and groom need to verbally agree to be married [The I Do’s], and there may be specific wording that your officiant will have to use to declare you married).  Take from it what you need, and leave the rest out – when it comes down to it – this is your wedding after all!

I don’t do a lot of weddings that include ALL of these – three full readings, three plus rituals – it’s much more of a guide than a list of things you need to include.

If anyone has any questions – post them in the comments!  I’ll be sure to answer them there, so we can all share from each others ideas!

Wedding Ceremony Structure 101

Welcoming of the Guests.
I enter, usually as the first person in the processional, or I am already standing at the front.  I thank everyone for joining us, and ask them to turn off their cell phones!

The entrance of the bridal party (that’s a whole other post!).


  • Presentation of the Couple.
  • Family Ritual
  • Thanking of Family & Friends.
  • Remembrances.

In my intro, I welcome the bride and groom to their wedding celebration.  I usually say a few words of special thanks to the person who escorted the couple down the aisle (a twist on the “giving away”).  Using the bride and groom’s own words and information, I do a special thanks for the guests and family.

Any special rituals or traditions as a special thank you to family members would go here.  A popular choice is the flower presentation to the mothers.

If my couple wants to include remembrances, this is where I include them – a brief moment of silence, lighting of a candle, a wine toast, or just me mentioning that they are in our hearts and lives, today and everyday.  I find at this point it doesn’t bring down the tone of the ceremony too much.


There are a few places for readings, either by your officiant or a reader, scattered throughout the ceremony.  I often incorporate pieces of readings into the ceremony itself (the Love Story, Closing Remarks, and Introduction).  Not everyone chooses to include readings in their ceremony.  I like to break up the readings, not having guests come up one after the other to read – it provides a bit more interest and also helps to break up the ceremony so your officiant isn’t just gabbing the whole time!  I think making ceremonies as “interactive” as possible is really important.

Love Story, or Address.
For my couples, I write an original Love Story – the story of them, their relationship (how they met, how they fell in love, all of that fun stuff).  I always end it with what they love about each other, and their hopes and dreams for the future.  They’re always funny and touching, and incredibly personalized for each wedding I do.

Sometimes, the couple prefers not to have a Love Story, and I will do a reading here, one that has a tone that fits the wedding, and share some personal comments connecting the reading to the bride and groom’s relationship and marriage.

For a more traditional wedding, this is where the sermon or homily would go.

The Asking.
This is the “I do!” part of a wedding.  I have the couple turn towards one another, take hands, and I ask them some very important questions about marriage.  If they agree to them – they say some kind of positive affirmation (Yes! I do! Thumbs Up!).  Sometimes, I have couples who will write these themselves, and combine them with the vows.

Wine Ceremony or Other Unity Ritual.

This is the place for a unity ritual that symbolizes the life that the bride and groom will share together.  Wine ceremonies, presentation of gifts or flowers to each other, tree planting – those are the kind of rituals that go at this point.

Either read by the bride and the groom to each other, or done “repeat after me” style with the officiant.


Ring Ceremony.
Short ring vows are usually chosen to repeat as the bride and groom place the ring on each other’s fingers.

Unity Ritual.
Any unity ritual that symbolizes the bride and groom joining together or the merging and blending of two families would go here.  Unity candles, sand ceremonies, hand fasting, garland exchanges, signing of a marriage license.


Closing Remarks.
A final blessing could go here as well.  I like to bring back important elements of the Love Story, or include a short poem or advice.  In a Jewish inspired wedding, I would include a version of the seven blessings here.

Declaration of Marriage.

The bride and groom are declared husband and wife.  AND THEN THEY KISS!

Breaking of the Glass / Jumping the Broom.
There are a few rituals that take place right AFTER the declaration of marriage.

I’ll talk about this with my processional post – but basically, the bride and groom exit, go out, and party!!

I’ve had a personal account on Facebook since 2004 (eek), but just put a public page together for Eclectic Unions!  Feel free to go over and become a fan!

I love mail.  I love checking my mail box every day, I love hand labeling envelopes, I love going to the post office… it’s just one of my quirks!

I must admit, when I read about the postal hikes, I was a little sad that I couldn’t use the fun little 2008 love stamps anymore! I just adore this little guy, carrying that huge heart.  So cute!

And then I saw the new wedding stamps for 2009… and my heart sank.  I just hate the photograph of the rings… I really miss the lovely little green intertwined heart!





I’ve been watching the USPS website, waiting to see what the new Love stamps would look like… and they were announced this past Friday!  I was not disappointed!

On May 8, 2009, in Washington, DC, the Postal Service™ will issue a 44–cent, Love: King and Queen of Hearts definitive stamp with two different designs in a convertible booklet of 20 stamps. The stamp was designed by Derry Noyes of Washington, DC, and Jeanne Greco of New York, New York.

Since the beginning of its popular Love stamps in 1973, the U.S. Postal Service® is paying clever tribute to the world’s favorite “game” with the issuance of the King and Queen of Hearts, the latest stamps in the Love series. Artist Jeanne Greco, New York, New York, created the art on her computer for the two stamp designs, one showing the King and one showing the Queen, by using images from 18th Century French playing cards as a reference.

Over the years, the Love stamps have featured a wide variety of designs, including heart motifs, colorful flowers, and the word “LOVE” itself.

So, goodbye, little heart guy… hello, King & Queen of Hearts… I’m excited for you to begin gracing my correspondence!

Did you stock up on Forever stamps before the postal increase on May 11, or are you a stamp lover like me, and can’t wait for the new designs?

Meet Sarah and John.

<img src= by Cindy Patrick</a>Photo by Cindy Patrick

They’re getting married at the Chesterwood Estate & Museum in Stockbridge, MA, in July (take a moment to check out their venue – isn’t it cool?).

I always say that the coolest people find me and ask me to lead their wedding ceremonies – and Sarah and John are no exception.  In fact, I found Sarah – she’s a pretty awesome photographer, and I contacted her about photographing my wedding in October of 2010.

We met in January, and discussed weddings – both of ours (that’s the Celebrant in me, I guess, even when I’m supposed to be talking about my own wedding, I need to know about other bride’s ceremonies!).  She and her fiance had a lot of really cool ideas of different rituals, ceremonies, and traditions to incorporate into their wedding, and it sounded like their wedding was going to be a blast!

So, a few months later – my fiance and I had decided that Sarah is the one to photograph our wedding.  And then I get an email from her, asking me to officiate HER wedding!  I didn’t have to hesitate before absolutely saying yes!

sj2Photo by Cindy Patrick

Sarah and John came into the whole process with some great ideas about what they wanted to include in their wedding ceremony.  Some of the rituals and traditions I was familiar with and love (handfasting, readings), some I had heard of and am totally excited to do for the first time (seedling planting ceremony), and some that I had never even heard of before (Circle of Love with flowers, presentation of the ring by the moms, with a “blessing” by the parents).

They chose not to have a traditional wedding party, but are having their siblings and their significant others take part in the processional, and are each being walked down the aisle by their parents (in the vein of the Jewish tradition).  There are even some surprises in store – they’re having three readers and letting them each choose the readings they’d like to use… but we’re going to keep them a secret from the bride & groom until the wedding ceremony!

I’m so excited to begin putting their wedding ceremony together – I think it’s going to be something really amazing when it all comes together, something that really reflects Sarah & John’s commitment to each other, to their families, and to love 🙂  ‘Cause when it comes down to it.. isn’t it all about the love?

I’m going to be blogging my process on Sarah and John’s wedding, so you, my lovely blog readers, can follow along at home and see all of the fun research, prep, emails and planning that goes into creating and writing a wedding ceremony, and hopefully get some great ideas for your own ceremonies along the way.   So, we’ll start from the beginning – with their outline and our first meeting and end in Western Massachusetts in mid-July.  I can’t wait!

PS: Sarah recently did a wedding update on her blog, if you want to hear more about her current wedding plans! Loving the orange!

Photo by Cindy PatrickPhoto by Cindy Patrick

I’ll start this blog post out with a little announcement: Gordon Bond, the groom from one of my favorite weddings at the Abraham Staats House in April, and the designer who made these amazing wedding invitations, is now custom designing wedding invitations! If you’re interested in contacting him to make some awesome invitations just for you, check out his new website – Custom Wedding Invitation Design by Gordon Bond – Custom Not Cliche.

Now, on to the Etsy Friday!

I’m super excited for my first beach wedding of the season tonight!  It’s been a rainy week here in New Jersey, but it looks like it’s going to be sunny with just some scattered showers today (*knock on wood*).  So, everyone, please put in some positive thoughts and good feelings to the weather today, and I hope that Jess and Kenny get a clear day so we can have the ceremony on the beach!  You’ll get to hear more about their ceremony next week. of 3 Signs via Funki Folk Art

I just love these custom designed signs!  Perfect for a beach or outdoor wedding, where the wedding site may be slightly hard to find, and adds a cool, rustic touch. Personalized Message in Sand via Capture Cape May

How cool is this!  They go down to the beach in Cape May, NJ, and write your message in the sand, photograph it for you, and send you the print.  For a beach wedding, this would be great to use as your thank you cards, decor at the venue, or even a great gift for the bride and groom! Headpiece via Anca Pe’elme

This beautiful headpiece is made up of pearls, shells, and little clay bubbles – perfect for bringing the beach into the bride’s attire.
Marry Me in Paradise
via Bunny With a Toolbelt

This display stand for custom cake toppers is a lovely way to bring a tropical flare to the reception as well.  You can pick which bridal party figurines you’d like from her shop, too. Bouquet via Chocolate Brooms & Bouquets

Love this seashell bouquet! Perfect for a destination wedding, as you can (very carefully) pack it in your suitcase. Embellished Letters via Tropical Cottage

These letters would be GREAT to decorate an altar / table for the ceremony, or used at the reception, perhaps decorating the sweetheart table or on the escort or guestbook table.

My fiance, Dan, comes with me to a lot of my weddings – he takes pictures, helps me trouble shoot my sound system, is an emergency witness, and provides excellent moral support (plus, I buy him dinner afterwards). So, over the past year, as my unofficial assistant, he’s witnessed more weddings than most people will go to their whole lives! Considering when I started out on this whole officiant thing, he was a self-proclaimed wedding hater who thought he would never actually get married (as Joey from Friends so eloquently put it – “a complex fellow unlikely to take a wife”) – his support and interest in my ceremonies means a lot to me.

Dan and I (at a wedding, of course!)

Dan and I (at a wedding, of course!)

So when I say the word “fiance” to my couples, they immediately get very excited for me, and the first question they ask: “Who is performing YOUR wedding?”  It’s a tough question!

Being on the other side of the officiant search? This is HARD! What a huge decision! What an immense amount of trust! This person is going to be standing up in front of ALL of my family and friends, talking about Dan and I and our relationship and our love on the biggest day of our lives. But you know – no pressure or anything.

So we’ve been meeting with wedding officiants, and I love seeing how Dan interacts with them, now that he is an unofficial wedding ceremony expert. We both have very strong ideas and feelings about specific things we want and don’t want in the ceremony, but could use some guidance on incorporating all of our ideas and plans in there. And that’s where the officiant comes in – taking our ideas, our stories, our plans, our random scraps of poetry I’ve been saving in my Google Notebook, and smushing it all together into a fabulous ceremony.

So – when you’re meeting with your officiant for the first time – or if you are planning on writing or working with someone to write your own ceremony and having a friend or family member officiate – there are two important questions to consider.

Number 1: What do you ABSOLUTELY want and not want in your ceremony?

Maybe you like some aspects of the more traditional vows, but you’d like to make them more personal. Are there any rituals, traditions, or readings that you’ve seen in other weddings and loved? Or is there a certain element that you both love that you’d like to incorporate into a ritual? What is kind of cool about weddings is that you can give meaning to ANYTHING. I’m doing a wedding on the beach next weekend where the couple will stand in a Circle of Love we’ve created in the sand – as their family and friends enter, they will place shells along the circle, to symbolize their love and support as they begin this new journey.

I found out that shells can symbolize the beginning of a new journey, and incorporated this as well. This entire ceremony was created just for them based on their request to incorporate the beach theme, with the shells, and their family and friends in a very physical and real way. I’m so excited to see it, I think it’s going to be just beautiful!

It’s just as important to tell your officiant what you DON’T want in your ceremony! Not only does this ensure that it won’t be in there, but it also helps to give them an idea of the kind of person you are, and what you are looking for in your ceremony. Tricky, right? We wedding officiants have all kinds of tricks like that up our sleeves.

Number 2: How do you imagine your wedding ceremony?

This is a tough one. Many people can imagine their entire weddings, down to the cocktail napkins, but often get a little stuck on the ceremony. Let me put it this way – close your eyes, and imagine you are standing up there. Do you hear laughter? Is there music? Are people crying (happy tears!). What is your officiant saying?

I know it sounds silly, but it can help you to get the picture in your head. Do you want your ceremony to be light hearted? Intimate? Romantic? When it’s over, what feeling would you like your family and friends to walk away with?

I asked my fiance these questions before our wedding officiant meetings, to prep him and make sure he was already thinking “wedding ceremony” thoughts. And I think it really helped!

When you’re choosing an officiant (be it hiring a wonderful Celebrant, or asking a dear friend or family member to lead your ceremony), it’s important to make sure that they can legally officiate your marriage.

Case in point: when my mom and stepdad got married (ten years ago this November!), my stepdad was in charge of finding the rabbi. They met with him once before hand, and my stepdad decided that he was the one! When he showed up for the wedding – well, we’re pretty sure he had been drinking. During the ceremony, he went on and on about my parent’s May / December romance (uhm.. they’re less than five years apart!), and was just generally strange.

A sweet beginning to the ceremony.. walking my mom down the aisle

A sweet beginning to the ceremony.. walking my mom down the aisle

My mom says that immediately after the ceremony, she and my stepfather retreated to a room to be by themselves for the yichud, a Jewish tradition. The rabbi knocked on the door and asked them for the check! Made out to Cash, please, he also asked.

Then a few weeks later, my mom was watching the news and saw a piece about a guy who had impersonated a rabbi, and performed a bunch of wedding ceremonies in New York!  It meant that everyone who had been married by him was not legally married. Because the couples who had him officiate had no idea that he was not a rabbi, New York State granted some kind of clemency to his couples, so they would not need to get remarried.  My mom began to suspect that maybe her rabbi had been this impostor rabbi guy… but because they were still legally married, and she didn’t want to stress anyone out about, she just let it go.

With the dozens of couples I’ve met with over the past year – I’ve only had one (!) ask me for proof of my legality. I guess I just look very trustworthy? In New Jersey, the laws are pretty simple when it comes to who can officiate at a wedding:

Judges of a Federal District Court, United States magistrates, Judges of a Municipal Court, Judges of the Superior Court, Judges of a Tax Court, Retired judges of the Superior Court, Judge or the Superior or Tax Court who has resigned in good standing, any Mayor/Deputy Mayor or Chairman of any Township Committee, Village President of New Jersey, County Clerks, and every minister of every religion.

Which means that I, as an ordained minister through the Universal Brotherhood Movement, can legally declare you husband and wife. It also means that if you go over to the Universal Life Church’s website, fill out a form, and click “submit,” you can perform weddings in New Jersey. It’s as simple as that – no forms to fill out on the officiant’s end, no registration, no nothing!

But everywhere isn’t as awesome as the wonderful state of New Jersey. I live less than half an hour away from both New York City and New York State, but I haven’t done any weddings there yet because the laws are a little more stringent. In certain areas of New York State, there have been precedents set where marriages were annulled because a Universal Life Church minister was not legally allowed to officiate at weddings because, though the officiant was a minister, he or she did not have a congregation that they provided spiritual guidance to – and that’s a requirement to legally be able to solemnize marriages, according to the laws on the books!

New York City has its own set of laws, AND officiants need to register with the city (that’s one of my goals for the summer!).

But that’s not all! In Massachusetts, ANYONE can perform a wedding, as long as they submit an application (complete with letter of recommendation) and a $25 fee. I learned, through Mrs. Cherry Pie’s wedding [of Weddingbee], that in Montana, ANYONE can preside over a marriage! In certain areas of Pennsylvania, you can get a self-uniting license (traditionally used for Quaker weddings), where there is NO officiant!

But the long story of it all is – ask your officiant a few questions about their legality.

If you’re asking a family or friend to officiate – do your research first on if they CAN do it. This is also the one time that I will tell you to NOT rely on the internet – call the town hall or registrar where your wedding is taking place and MAKE SURE that your friend can legally officiate with their internet ordainment. Not only do you want to make sure that you’re married at the end of it – but some states have penalty fees that may need to be paid by your officiant if they are not legally allowed to solemnize their wedding. Totally not fun!