June 2009

We all have such wonderful people in our lives – but when we get married, not everyone wants to have a bridal party – or maybe you only want to have a small bridal party, but would like to help some other family members or friends involved with the ceremony as well.

I’ve had some very clever and smart brides lately with some great ideas to get MORE people involved in your wedding ceremony!  Here are some of my favorites:

Readers. This is more on the traditional side, but can be a great way to include a special friend or family member who is not part of the bridal party.  Why not let them choose the reading they’d like to use?  There are a ton of fabulous places to find fun and personal readings to include in your ceremony – you could even choose a few, and just give your reader an option.

Guest Vows. This is one of my favorite rituals.  Immediately after the couple does their “I do’s” or their vows, I’ll address everyone gathered directly, and ask them to pledge their own love and support for the bride and groom in their marriage.  The wording is usually slightly different than the traditional vows:

Today, you have come here not simply to witness our couple”s union, but to take part in it.  Each of you represents not only yourself, but all of the people who have and will touch the lives of our bride and groom. Your support has helped their relationship to flourish, and the joy that you all bring into the couple’s lives keeps them going.  Our bride and groom have asked all present to take vows as well, to pledge your support and love for them as they embark upon this new path together.  After I have spoken these vows, please answer with “We will.”

Everyone gathered here today, before you stand two people who love you very much. Do you promise to encourage and inspire their dreams? To accept them not only as individuals, but as a couple? To be their friends and their support, today and everyday to follow?

And then they all answer with a resounding “WE WILL!”

Wishing Stones. When the guests arrived, they are greeted with a groomsmen or usher holding a small basket of pebbles or stones (an alternative would be to have the basket near the programs, with a small sign of explanation).  Each guests takes a stone, and holds it during the wedding ceremony.  Towards the end of the ceremony, I ask the guests to imbue the stones with all of their love, well wishes, and blessings for the couple, as they embark on their new life together.  At the end, the stones are collected, and presented to the bride and groom.



Many of my couples who choose to use this ceremony go on to use the stones in their yards of their first homes, or simply place them in a bowl in a special place in their house.  A wonderful reminder of the love of your friends and family on your wedding day!

In a beach vow renewal I am doing this summer, we are going to throw the stones in the water, immediately following the ceremony – a sweet way for everyone to make a wish for the couple.

Ring Warming. I’m often hesitant to mention this, because passing wedding rings around a large group of people stresses me out – but there are ways to include this ritual that let you have a bit more control. This ritual involves passing the rings around to all of your guests, so they can “warm” them between their palms, and bless them with their love and well wishes.


Stephanie & Gordon's rings, before the ceremony

My suggestion is to designate a bridal party member as the “ring person” at the beginning – they can stand at the end of the aisle, as your guests enter, and ask them to take a moment to hold the ring and imbue it with happy love thoughts (and keep a close eye on them!).  You could also just pass the ring along your bridal party, or the front row of your parents (tie them both together with a bit of ribbon, so they’re more substantial and less likely to get dropped!)

Include Them In Rituals. Are you including a wine ceremony, handfasting, sand ceremony, or another unity ritual?  Why not invite a special friend or family member up to pour and present the wine, wrap the cord, or read the introduction to the sand ceremony?


For Jess & Kenny's wedding, Jess' childhood best friend and Kenny's cousin presented their rings.

If you don’t have a six year old boy to spare, consider asking a close friend who is not in the bridal party to present your wedding rings – they don’t have to be part of the processional, but they get invited up, you can give them a big hug, and they’ll present the rings to you during the ring ceremony.


Sarah and John wanted to include two rituals I had never done before into their wedding ceremony: a Sapling Planting and a Circle of Love.

They got the idea for the Circle of Love from John & Kate Plus 8, when they had their vow renewal in Hawaii (side note: watching that episode last week for research made me a little sad with the Gosselin’s recent news).


It’s a traditionally Hawaiian ritual, but I couldn’t find a lot of information online – mostly, what I found was using it more as floral decoration (i.e., creating the altar where they would get married, with perhaps a brief mention in the ceremony itself – like a decorative chuppah) than a ritual. But Sarah and John wanted to incorporate their family into it, having them place the flowers to create the Circle of Love during the processional, in lieu of having a traditional bridal party.


As I mentioned, I loved this idea so much and that I used it, in a slightly different capacity, for a beach wedding, creating the Circle of Love out of shells. Here’s the wording that I created for Sarah and John’s wedding:

As our bride and groom’s siblings entered, they placed a flower, forming a Circle of Love that now surrounds our bride and groom. This Circle of Love will form the altar, the sacred space where John and Sarah will make their vows and promises to each other, as they are joined together in marriage.

But these flowers not only represent this new beginning for our bride and groom, marking this spot and this moment in their lives – but also the love of each person who placed it. Each flower is an individual, beautifully unique in its own way – just as the love and support of the person who placed it. Each flower is a show of support for our bride and groom as they become husband and wife, and as they begin this new, amazing, and wonderful journey together, as partners in life. Sarah and John are surrounded by these flowers, this Circle of Love, just as they are surrounded by their cherished family’s love today – and everyday!

The other ritual they wanted to include was a Sapling Planting ceremony. Again, I went to my favorite resource (the internet!) to do some research, and found some information on it via 2000 Dollar Wedding (that post is a great jumping off point for thinking outside the box and creatively if you’re writing your own ceremony, by the way).

(from 2000dollarwedding.com)

Drawing inspiration from Sarah and John’s personal story, as well as quotes, my own ideas, and 2000 Dollar Wedding’s ceremony, this was the wording and action I came up with:

Sarah and John will now take part in a Tree Planting Ceremony, to symbolize the roots of their relationship, and the continued growth of their love, as they become each other’s family today.

Sarah told me that she and John spend all of their spare time working in their yard. They even call themselves “hobbits” because they are always gardening! So it is very appropriate for them to choose a living tree to symbolize their unity and marriage.

Love is the essence of human experience and emotion. It is the root of all and everything we, as humans, do. Love richens our experience, and fills our lives with meaning. It gives us a firm base from which to grow, to learn, and change.

Sarah and John, would you please plant the sapling?

Sarah and John plant the sapling.

Let your relationship and your love for each other be like this tree you plant today. Let it grow tall and strong. Let it stand tall during the harsh winds and rains and storms, and come through unscathed. Like a tree, your marriage must be resilient. It must weather the challenges of daily life and the passage of time. And just like the tree you are planting, marriage requires constant nurturing and nourishment.
Sarah and John, would you please water the sapling?

Sarah and John water the sapling.

Remember to nourish each other, with words of encouragement, trust, and love. This is needed on a daily basis so you each can grow and reach your fullest potential – just like this tree.

I love adding rituals into weddings, especially when I get to be creative and write them myself! I think adding a little “action” into a wedding ceremony adds interest, emotion, and fabulous memories for both the bride and groom AND their guests.

Are you planning to incorporate any rituals into your wedding ceremony?

Follow Along Ceremony.
Part 1: Meet Sarah & John!
Part 2: First Meeting, First Outline

Jess & Kenny

Jess and Kenny were SO much fun.  They had a “summer love” at the Jersey Shore, so getting married on the beach was a top priority for them!  We created a very cool ceremony – a Shell Circle of Love – to incorporate their family and friends.  [All photos courtesy of CLB Photography – thanks!]

They were married at Seven President’s Beach, in Long Branch, NJ, with their reception at McLoone’s Pier House.

Jess & Kenny

When their guests entered, they were presented with a shell by a groomsmen, standing at the front of the aisle.  The guests then came to the front, and placed the shell in the sand, creating a circle of shells surrounded the beautiful bamboo trellis that Jess and Kenny would be married in.  As their bridal party entered, I presented them each with a shell, which they placed in the circle, to complete it, before taking their spot, standing at the front.

Jess & Kenny

Jess & Kenny

Jess & Kenny

I explained the meaning of the Circle during the introduction of the ceremony:

As all of you entered, you placed a shell in the sand, forming a Circle of Love that now surrounds our bride and groom.  Shells often symbolize the place from which one starts an important journey.

These shells not only represent this new beginning for our bride and groom, marking this spot and this moment in their lives – but also the love of each person who placed it.  The shells that form this circle were placed as a pledge of support – support for our bride and groom as they become husband and wife, and as they begin this new, amazing, and wonderful journey together, as partners in life.  Jess and Kenny are surrounded by these shells, this Circle of Love, just as they are surrounded by their cherished friend’s and family’s love today – and everyday!

I must give credit to another of my couples for the inspiration for this ceremony – the incredibly awesome Sarah and John are not having a bridal party, but plan to have each of their siblings and their significant others enter in the processional, and place a flower at the front, to form their own Circle of Love.  They told me that it is a Hawaiian tradition – I think it’s an awesome idea and a great way to literally surround yourself with love on your wedding day!

Jess & Kenny

But, back to Jess & Kenny.  They were married within this circle of shells, on the beach, on a windy (but sunny!) May evening, remember?

Their Love Story was sweet, funny, and totally them.  I talked about their first meeting at a bar, when Jess smiled at Kenny – and Kenny just walked by, completely oblivious.  I overheard some friends talking after the ceremony, and they said that was totally Kenny!

They also wrote their own vows – a very sweet touch, and though they did share them before the ceremony, they were both very emotional and happy to hear them read.  The bride was all smiles, and though she was afraid she was going to be nervous, once she got up there – other than some giggles! – she did just fine. 🙂

Their entire wedding ceremony had some beautiful details – flip flops and tissues for guests to use during the ceremony, a steel drum band that played them down the aisle, and a beautiful sand ceremony, incorporating sand from the beach itself.  All in all, it was a beautiful day and a beautiful ceremony!

Jess & Kenny

Jess & Kenny

Jess & Kenny

Jess & Kenny

Jess & Kenny

Jess & Kenny

Jess & Kenny

Jess & Kenny

Jess & Kenny

Jess and Kenny, congrats again!!  Thank you SO much for letting me be a part of your beach wedding!

Jess & Kenny

For even more photos, check out their extended gallery!

Lauren and Tom were married at the English Manor in Ocean, NJ, on the Saturday of what had been an incredibly rainy and dreary week.  But, thankfully, the clouds stayed away, and we could have the ceremony in the beautiful gardens out back.

Lauren & Tom

Lauren and Tom have a really incredibly Love Story – they met in their English class, their freshman year of high school – and for Tom, it was love at first sight.  He has been in love with her from the moment he met her.  They were friends in high school, then lost touch after graduation.  When their ten year high school reunion rolled around – Tom had no intention of going.  But he decided to look up the one person he wished was still in his life – and found Lauren. How sweet is that!

It is so obvious to anyone who meets Lauren and Tom how freaking in love they are. In fact, that’s one of the requests Tom put in his homework – “If they remember one thing for the rest of their lives I want them to remember that at least once in their lives they saw two people who defined love.”

They wrote their own vows and we also incorporated a handfasting, where they repeated vows while bound together.

After the ceremony, Lauren told me that everyone was telling her it was a lovely ceremony, but she admitted she hadn’t heard a single word of it – she was just waiting for me to pronounce them husband and wife!

If that doesn’t say love… I don’t know what does.

So much LOVE and congratulations to you, Lauren and Tom! I have all the faith in the world that you’re going to spend the rest of your lives making each other incredibly happy.

Lauren & Tom

Lauren & Tom

Lauren & Tom

Lauren & Tom

Before we met to discuss their ceremony, Sarah sent me a basic outline that included the elements and people that she and John knew they wanted to include in their ceremony. I melded this with my basic outline for structure, and so, going into our first meeting, I had a very good idea of what their ceremony was going to be like.

Here is the outline Sarah sent me:


Circle of Love:

The bride & groom’s siblings and their family members will walk down the aisle, and place a flower along the edge of the circle, forming a Circle of Love that the couple will be married in.

Groom will enter with his parents.
Bride will enter with her parents.

Welcome Message.

Three total.

Tree Planting Ceremony.


Blessing & Exchange of Rings.

Closing Remarks, Declaration of Marriage, & Kiss!

And here’s the outline that I brought to our meeting:

Welcoming of Guests.

Circle of Love.


Explanation of Circle of Love
Welcoming of the Couple
Thanking of Family & Friends.

Love Story.

Reading #1.

Tree Planting Ceremony.

Vows & Ring Ceremony.

Reading #2.


Reading #3.

Closing Remarks.

Declaration of Marriage.


We talked through the outline, and made some decisions – who would be involved with what, how certain elements would work – and talked through some ideas, so we were on the same page, especially with rituals I had never done before.  I’m excited because they have many friends and family members involved in the ceremony – it’s much less about me standing up there and talking (not that there is anything wrong with that!), and much more about me leading the ceremony, guiding everyone through these steps and creating the ceremony together!

For the tree planting ceremony – I believe that instead of a seeds, they are now going to plant a seedling (a little more visual, PLUS more likely that it’ll be able to grow well!).

Their Circle of Love is my favorite! I think it’s a fabulous way to incorporate a larger group of people in a very intimate way. I suggested this to another one of my couples who had a beach wedding in early May – as each of their guests entered, they were presented with a shell by a groomsmen stationed at the start of the aisle. The guests came to the front, and placed the shell, created a circle of shells and of love that the couple was married in. It was really cool, beautiful, and very personal.

I broke up the readings, and will place them in the ceremony based on their specific context.  I don’t like to have all of the readings come one right after the other in my weddings… I think it helps to keep everything interactive and moving along to break them up and create a narrative flow with them, based on their context.  Sarah & John have asked three of their friends to choose the readings they will be sharing, and we’re keeping them a secret from the bride and groom till the big day!  So I can’t post about the readings until after the ceremony is over!

I also got to talk to Sarah and John a little bit, and tried to get a sense of their personality and their relationship. I love to hear stories straight from my couples, so I asked them how they met, and took a lot of notes!

I walked away with a very clear picture of their ceremonony, and I hope Sarah and John did too! We had both gone into the meeting a little more prepared and planned out than normal, but for such an unusual ceremony – I think it really helped us to figure out what they wanted!

Coming up next: creating their Love Story!

Follow Along Ceremony.
Part 1: Meet Sarah & John!

Over Memorial Day weekend, Donna and Ryan were married at Costa del Sol in Union, NJ.

Their wedding ceremony was so much fun! I knew from the moment we met that their ceremony was going to be really funny and very sweet. They both have a great sense of humor, and love to make each other laugh, and their ceremony really reflected that.

I loved the music they chose – the bridal party processed in to Iz’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (that’s the cool Hawaiian version), and the recessional was REM’s “End of the World”!

They have the sweetest proposal story, and I just have to share it with you!

Our couple went camping for the weekend of Father’s Day in 2007, and decided to hike up to the top of Sunrise Mountain. When they got to the top, Ryan sat down on a large rock, while Donna admired the view and took a few pictures. Eventually, Donna went and sat next to Ryan, and they enjoyed a few moments, just the two of them, alone at the top of the mountain, when Ryan interrupted with the ever loving sentiment of “I hate you” (part of their own personal couple witty banter). Donna gave her standard reply: “Well, you’re stuck with me forever!”

Ryan, of course, was expecting this, and pulled out a ring and said, “I was kind of hoping for that!”

Donna was astonished, and at a loss for words. It took her a few minutes (which felt like a MILLION HOURS to poor Ryan!) to finally say yes, through her tears. They say there for a moment, together, their first moment as an engaged couple, to catch their breathe, before carving their initials in the rock and heading back down to the camp. Donna couldn’t wait to call her friends and family, hoping she’d at least get in touch with a few of them before her cell phone died – she was on cloud nine!

But when they got to the bottom – she saw a car pulling up that looked a lot like Ryan’s brother’s car – and who should get out but Ryan’s dad and brother! Soon followed by Ryan’s mom and sister in law, Donna’s mom and stepdad, and Donna’s dad! Ryan had set up both families to come and meet them for a big dinner after the proposal, and his plan had gone off without a hitch! Donna says that it was the most amazing day of her life (so far!)

They also incorporated a handfasting, and they made a beautiful cord, in their wedding colors, with charms, bells, and celtic knots attached to it. Donna’s brothers were invited up to present the cord and wrap their hands.

Donna and Ryan, I had SO much fun with you! Congrats on your wedding!

For more photos, please check out their extended gallery.