September 2009


I was a theatre major in college – and when I would stage manage, I was often the voice that told you to turn off your cell phones and pagers and unwrap your candy before the performance would begin.

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Groomsmen at the rehearsal before the ceremony (via melissa blemur)

(And, yes, both of the photos in this post were taken at recent weddings I officiated… before the ceremony!)

Now, I’m often the voice that asks guests to turn off their cell phone and other noisy electronics prior to the wedding ceremony.  I like to say, “Other noisy electronics” in addition to cell phones because many cameras make sound now, too, and you never know who’s going to bring a portable gaming system and just play Mario Kart quietly through the ceremony.

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There’s a small controversy about this in the wedding world.  Some officiants believe that it truly should be the guests responsibility to make sure their cell phones are off, and prefer not to make an announcement at the beginning of the ceremony.  Every time I’ve done that – I’ve had cell phones ring!

Some officiants will suggest putting a basket out that all guests can place their phones in and collect after the ceremony – I’m not a fan (I’m not putting my iPhone in that basket!).

Some officiants will ask their couples to put a note in the program (may not get read, no matter how beautiful your program is), or will go from row to row just before the ceremony begins asking everyone to make sure their cell phones are off (my second favorite option).

Whatever you do – mentioning it in some way is a great idea.  Because nothing ruins a nice wedding ceremony than your cousin’s cell phone singing “All the Single Ladies” during your vows.

Funny story: At my stepbrother’s bar mitzvah, a cell phone rang from the back row during the ceremony – and the ringtone? Hava Negila.  I guess if a cell phone needs to ring during a joyous event – that’s the only appropriate ring tone!

Emily and Nick were married along the shores of Lake Tahoe in August.  Now – you might be thinking – isn’t Lake Tahoe in California?  And, Jessie, don’t you officiate weddings in New Jersey and New York?

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Emily & Nick, married in Lake Tahoe - ceremony by Eclectic Unions, officiated by a friend of the couple

Emily contacted me a few weeks before her wedding regarding my wedding ceremony writing services – they were having a friend officiate, and were having some trouble putting together a ceremony that really reflected them and showcased their love and relationship.  So I worked with Emily and Nick, cross country (hurray for email!) to create a personal and special ceremony for them.  It was so lovely to be a part of their wedding, even if I wasn’t actually there!

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Some special elements of Emily & Nick’s wedding that I just loved:

  • It’s a Lake Tahoe tradition to throw a flower into the water, in honor of those who can’t be at the wedding, because of distance or those who have passed on.  So sweet!
  • They asked their family and friends to offer advice for a good marriage, and had Nick’s sisters read these during the ceremony – they were funny, touching, meaningful, and hysterical!  They ranged from: “If she cooks dinner, he better do the dishes!” to “Above all else – forget your head and listen to your heart!” (Both excellent advice, by the way).
  • Emily gave me a few prose pieces that she and Nick love, and I included this one from Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays With Morrie in their closing remarks:

There are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage:
If you don’t respect the other person, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble.
If you don’t know how to compromise, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble.
If you can’t talk openly about what goes on between you, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble.
And if you don’t have a common set of values in life, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble.
Your values must be alike.  And the biggest one of those values?  Your belief in the importance of your marriage.
Love each other or perish.

  • Their Love Story!  Emily & Nick were roommates and best friends before they started dating… and they both mentioned a specific moment, when they had attended one of Emily’s sorority formals as friends, while they danced to Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” – they felt a slight tugging in their hearts, and they knew that they were going to take the next step in their relationship.

So, from New Jersey to California, I got to be a part of Emily and Nick’s special day, without ever leaving my own state (though I hear Lake Tahoe is beautiful!).  The bride and groom shared some photos with me as well – it looks like it was an incredible wedding (THAT LIGHT)!

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(love this shot!)

Follow Along Ceremony.
Part 1: Meet Sarah & John!
Part 2: First Meeting, First Outline
Part 3: Creating Rituals
Part 4: Choosing the Readings

Sarah and John  didn’t have a bridal party, so they had a lot of unique and beautiful ways to incorporate their family (the Circle of Love, and reading introductions for the myriad of rituals they included) and friends (readings!).  They had one more unique way to incorporate their siblings: the vows.

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Usually, the vows are read from a card, or prompted by the Celebrant.  But Sarah and John had Sarah’s brother and John’s sister come up, and stand with them during their vows, and prompt them with each line.  They also combined their ring vows with their vows, so after they spoke the vows, they placed the ring on the other’s finger.

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And their vows were beautiful, heartfelt, funny, and emotional.  It was a sweet moment to have a few of their siblings in such an important part of the ceremony, and I loved how they really thought of fun ways to help their families and friends feel like a wonderful part of the wedding.

I promise that I will trust your words
and always be honest with you.

I promise that I will support your ambitions,
care for your cares,
and work to understand your worries.

I promise to comfort you when you are sad,
laugh with you when you are happy,
laugh at you when you are being silly,
and know the importance of laughing at myself.

I promise that I will listen to you
no matter how much or how little you have to say,
and appreciate when you say nothing at all.

I promise that I now see my family as yours,
your family as mine,
and look forward to loving the family that we create.

I promise to love and nurture you
in good times and in bad,
in sickness and in health.

These things I promise from now until the day that I die.

Here are some more beautiful pictures from Sarah and John’s wedding, courtesy of Cindy Patrick, their awesome photographer.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Sarah and John, thank you for trusting me with your wedding ceremony, and letting Dan and I be part of your celebration.  We had so much fun, and wish you both nothing but love and happiness in all of your life together.

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Sarah’s brother Ian places a flower in the Circle of Love

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Sarah and her parents wait to make their entrance

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The bride during one of the readings!

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The Tree Planting Ceremony

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Potting the soil together

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During another reading

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You can see their Circle of Love here!

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The Handfasting (John’s sister Brooke made the cord – isn’t it beautiful?)

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Still want more? Check out Cindy’s blog!

I have my final beach wedding of the season this weekend (please send us good weather vibes!!).  If you’re planning your beach wedding for next spring or summer, here are some great tips that I’ve culled from my beach weddings this year!

Jess & Kenny exit their ceremony, at Seven Presidents Beach, Long Branch, NJ

Jess & Kenny exit their ceremony, at Seven President's Beach, Long Branch, NJ

Amplification is a must! There is something about the sand / water / wave crashing combo that just SUCKS sound.  Even if it costs a little bit extra to have your DJ set up a separate sound system – it is worth it so your guests can hear every word of the ceremony.  I recently purchased a new sound system, specifically because my portable system was not going to cut it for a beach wedding.  Check with your venue to see if there is power at the beach as well, to let your DJ / band / musicians / officiant know what kind of plugs / power they need to bring.

It’s windy! Veils will blow around, and so will your hair.  It’s a good idea to tie rings securely to any ring pillows (if they’re not safely in the honor attendant’s pockets).  If you have a structure or altar with a cloth, make sure everything is attached securely.

Let your guests know it’ll be on the beach! They may want to bring a pair of flip flops or go barefoot for the ceremony, but bring a nice pair of heels for dancing later.  It also helps any older or disabled guests know they may need to allocate extra time to make it down to the water.

Dyana & Vinnie's vow renewal - very windy, fabulous weather!

Have a rehearsal AT the space AT the same time as the ceremony! This is helpful to get an accurate feel for the space, as the sun will be in the right space AND the tide will be about the same.  You can know for sure how long the “aisle” is going to be, and where the bridal party will be entering.

Bring the location into the ceremony! Including a mention of why the beach is so special to you and your fiance or a poem about the beach into the ceremony is a lovely way to really personalize.  Another option I love is to include part of the beach sand in your sand ceremony (either mixed in with the colored sand, or as an additional layer the officiant can pour over the top).

Expect to start 5 minutes late! A combination of the location, parking, and communication (your officiant, coordinator, and guests will all be running around in sand, which makes everything take a bit longer) often means that beach ceremonies may not start exactly on time – beach traffic can be not fun at all.  If you expect to start a little bit late, or give an earlier start time on the invitations – you can help alleviate this stress.

Helen & Zubins beautiful gazebo, with sand ceremony

Helen & Zubin's beautiful gazebo, with sand ceremony

Have a plan after the ceremony! Know where you and your fiance and bridal party will end up after the ceremony.  Receiving line?  Farther down the beach to take photos?  Make sure you end up out of the way of exiting guests (unless you’d like to do a receiving line), as everyone will want to hug you and congratulate you, and if there is only one exit from the ceremony site, it can create a bit of a back up and an unexpected receiving line may occur!

Be flexible! Of course, we all want to have this wedding on the beach – but if it rains, and we’re inside, your ceremony will be just as beautiful and memorable.  And, hopefully, the clouds will clear for a few minutes so you can get some great photos!

Helen & Zubin pour the sand for their unity ceremony

Helen & Zubin pour the sand for their unity ceremony

If it’s a public beach, communicate EXACT locations and make sure it’s scouted out before hand! Public beaches can have multiple entrances – setting up signs from the parking location or entrance is a great idea to make sure your guests make it to the wedding!

Don’t be upset if you have uninvited guests! Unless you are on a completely private beach, other beach goers will probably end up watching your wedding (and may even show up in some of your photos!  Venues will usually block off the space for the ceremony down to the water, so your photos will have a clear view and no speedos, but you never know…

Vinnie & Dyanas Sand Ceremony... we added a layer of white sand, mixed with the beach sand!

Vinnie & Dyana's Sand Ceremony... we added a layer of white sand, mixed with the beach sand!

Beach ceremonies are always beautiful, and always unexpected.  Working closely with anyone involved with your ceremony, especially your venue coordinator, can really help your ceremony go off without a hitch!

American Express is sponsoring a contest to “Shine a Light” onto an inspiring small business.  I nominated Eclectic Unions, and need your endorsements to complete my nomination (I need a total of 50!).  If you have a chance, I’d really appreciate if you took some time to visit the site, read my story, and endorse Eclectic Unions.  Click here to visit my Shine a Light profile.  You do need to register, but it only takes a few minutes, and you have until September 13!

One of my goals is the bring the idea of tradition and ritual back to wedding ceremonies, to personalize and create special moments that truly reflect the couples being married, and their love and devotion for each other.  To me, there is nothing more inspiring than love, and I find inspiration every day in the amazing couples I get to work with.

Thank you for your support!

As of today, I am officially self-employed, and am proud to say that Eclectic Unions is my full time gig.

Since its inception in 2008, I have been dividing my time, working at a full time day job and running my Celebrant business.  It has been very busy, but very rewarding.

Earlier this month, I decided it was time.  I never expected my Celebrancy practice to get off the ground so quickly, and I feel so lucky, every single day, that I get to do what I do.  I am so happy that I get to share these amazing, incredible, and inspired moments in my couple’s lives, and truly feel blessed.

I couldn’t have done it without the near endless support I’ve received from so many people in my life, especially my mom, my best friend Lindsey, and my fiance Dan.  They have each helped to get me started in more ways than one, and I am lucky to have such a fabulous support system.

But most of all, I need to thank you – my amazing couples (past, current, and future), and my blog readers.  Because of you, I get to wake up with a smile on my face every morning, and I get to follow my passion and my dreams.

It means the world to me.