There are so many things that I love about being a Celebrant, but I think my favorite is that I get to officiate my friend’s weddings.

Rachel is a college friend of mine – we worked together on many shows, drank a lot of wine, and basically had an awesome time.  Brian was kind of “the one that got away” for Rachel – they met in high school (where they had mutual crushes on each other!) and kept in touch afterwards.   But it took everyone being in the right place at the right time for them to actually make it work as couple – which they do amazingly.  Knowing Rachel pre-Brian – he just brings out the best in her, and I am so glad they found each other.

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They were married at the Nassau Inn, in Princeton, NJ on Halloween (yes, Halloween! Apple cider and cider donuts were served before the ceremony, and pumpkins were everywhere – but no costumes!)

Their ceremony was short, simple, sweet, and funny.  I opened with a journal entry Rachel wrote in high school, about how Brian was her new “love interest,” and shared the rest of the journey that had brought them to their wedding today.  They chose simple vows, saying “I do” and “I will” at the appropriate times, and broke a glass at the end, too.  It was a ceremony of laughter and happiness, and I tried to capture the joy and love that they have found in each other.

It was an emotional day, for everyone (even me!  I almost cried during the ceremony!), but I was so happy with their ceremony, and I think they were also.  Rachel and Brian, you guys have all of my love – have a safe trip home today!!

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As I’ve mentioned, my fiance Dan and I are so excited to be getting married in October of 2010.  Now that it’s less than a year (we’ve been planning since early 2008!), I’m starting to think through some details and elements that I want to include.

Our venue is a beautiful estate house, and once we visited, we decided the design theme for the wedding would be “Modern Vintage” – elegant and timeless touches combined with a modern twist.  This is the board I’ve put together with my dress and some of my accessories, along with some inspiration photos that capture the elegant feel we’re going for.

Credits, from top right and going clockwise:
Oleg Cassini dress by David’s Bridal; Inspiration Bouquet by Fleurspermail (love the grape hyacinths!); Dress Detail shot by me; Oleg Cassini dress by David’s Bridal; Monogram by Lindsey Rose Weisman; My faux engagement ring (Mystic Topaz in a setting by GreenKarat.com); Bridal Shot via Ruffled Blog; Shoes by John Fluevog; Shot of the venue via Flickr; Bouquet Detail Shot (saved without remembering where it came from! Do you know?  I’ll credit!)

I’ve had my dress in my possession for nearly a year now, and I just adore it.  I’m removing the taupe sash and adding in a metallic mint green one (how could I not throw as much green as possible into my bridal look?).  I have both a birdcage veil and my friend Lindsey’s veil to wear, too – I think I’ll wear the more traditional veil (a two tier fingertip veil with beautiful beading on it) for the ceremony, and the birdcage for the reception.  I have my hair trial in a few weeks, so maybe I’ll have more wedding inspiration to share!  It’s so interesting being on the other side of the wedding planning!

This was a rockstar wedding.

Robin and Anthony were married at the incredible Landmark Loew’s Jersey City Theatre – an old fashioned classic movie palace that first opened in 1929.  The inside is beautiful, ornate, and lush, and the perfect backdrop for a Grammy themed wedding.   The rock and roll details were incredible, and everywhere – the bride and groom posed for portraits on a grand piano, their guest book was a guitar that everyone signed, their card box was a guitar case, propped open with a cardboard sign of “Will Play for Gifts.”  The flower girls (sorry, the Rock Princesses!) threw custom guitar picks before the bride and groom made their grand entrance.  So freaking awesome.

The bride and groom wanted a simple ceremony, with their vows as the real centerpiece.  I shared their Love Story, which is truly one for the books:  they were acquaintances in high school, running in the same circles with mutual friends, but nothing more.  But, nearly twenty years later, they met up again, when a mutual friend put them in touch – and it was love at second sight.  From that moment, just a year before their wedding, Robin and Anthony knew they were going to spend the rest of their lives together!

Robin + Anthony by you.
Their guitar pick favors, that the Rock Princesses threw as they walked down the aisle from skull baskets!
Robin + Anthony by you.
The Rock Princesses!

Their processional was nothing short of awesome.  Each bridal party member had their own theme music, with the DJ announcing them as they walked in.  VIPs were seated to the side, with the rest of the guests cheering and standing behind a velvet rope.  Right before Anthony walked in with his parents, his friend walked and performed a guitar solo on a glittering electric guitar, to AC/DC’s “Back in Black.”

Robin + Anthony by you.
The Ring Man presents the ring on a drumstick.

And the vows?  Robin and Anthony each wrote their own vows, and Robin, who is a big crier, did a fabulous job holding it together for them (with her Best Chick and sister standing close by for support).  And Anthony – well his vows were in the form of a song, which he song, accompanied on acoustic guitar.  A surprise for everyone – an incredible emotional and powerful moment.

Robin + Anthony by you.

Not many couples can say they get their names up in lights at their wedding, and Robin and Anthony’s rockstar wedding truly reflected who they were, in every single way.  Thank you so much for letting me be a part of it (and sharing these awesome photos with me!)

Robin + Anthony by you.
Robin + Anthony by you.
Their guestbook guitar, with a copy of their invite tickets!

Robin + Anthony by you.

Robin + Anthony by you.

Robin + Anthony by you.

Robin + Anthony by you.

Robin + Anthony by you.

I recently met with a couple who were interested in ways to incorporate their support of marriage equality in their wedding ceremony – so I turned to one of my favorite sources (the internet!) to find some good ideas for them.  I am proud to live in a state that offers civil unions (it’s a big step in the right direction!).

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Officiating at the civil union of Jess & Lorrie

My favorite suggestions came from this A Practical Wedding blog post.  I really liked the idea of including a brief notice in your program:

Jessie and Dan believe that marriage is a universal human right, and look forward to the day that they can celebrate the joy and privilege of legal marriage with their LGBTQ friends and family.

Another suggestion that Meg had was, if you include a wine ceremony, to spill a few drops (kind of like at a Passover seder!) to suggest the sacrifices and sadness at the fact that our gay friends cannot have the same rights in marriage as we will.

White Knot

I also discovered the White Knot campaign, where you wear a small white knot, pinned to your shirt, to symbolize your support of Marriage Equality.  You’re encouraged to wear them EVERYWHERE and when people ask you about it – talk about it!  I hadn’t heard of this movement until this morning, but it’s one I really like, and is really simple to do.

PS: OffBeatBride is always a great resource for this, too, as well as a wonderful resource with some great “wedding porn” of gay weddings.

I thought I would take a few posts to write about the various unity ceremonies that can be included in wedding ceremonies.  There are not only so many wonderful rituals and traditions that you can include – but there are so many variations on each of them.

Let’s start with one of my favorites, the sand unity ceremony.

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In this ceremony, the bride and groom pour sand into a central vessel, to represent the many aspects of their lives coming together – and their marriage and lives will be as hard to break apart as it would be to separate the many grains of sand.

How It Works

We have the props set up on a small table at the front, which is usually directly behind where I am standing during the ceremony.  When it is time for the ceremony (usually at the end, just before the closing remarks and after the ring vows), the couple separates, each standing on one side of the table.  Depending on the room, I either go to stand behind the table, or I’ll go stand in front, slightly off-center, near the groomsmen.

Usually, there are two vials of colored sand, with a central (empty) vessel.  Sometimes, we will have a third color (if they’re incorporating kids in the ceremony, they’ll have their own color, or can pour their parent’s color, for step-families).

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If the couple wanted to include their family or parents, I invite them up, to stand on each side.  If we’re including kids, they’ll stand near their relevant color.  I then introduce the ceremony, and explain the meaning and relevance of the sand.

Our couple stands before two vessels of colored sand.  These represent their lives as separate individuals, and separate families.  Each one holds its own unique beauty, strength, and character.  They can stand on their own and be whole, without need of anything else.  However, when these sands are blended together, they create an entirely new and extraordinarily more intricate entity.  Each grain of sand brings to the mixture a lasting beauty that forever enriches the combination.

Just as these grains of sand can never be separated and poured again into the individual containers, so will your marriage be a molding of two individual personalities, bonding together and forming one heart and one life.

At this point, I ask the parents/family members/kids to pour a single layer of their sand, to represent the base of support and love they have for the couple.  They are then seated.

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Then the couple pours their layers, individually, to represent their prior lives and the retention of their own unique-ness as they are joined together in marriage.

And then, to symbolize their marriage, the couple pours the remaining sand together, mingling the two colors.  If the couple has children or step-children they want to really incorporate into the ritual, they’ll often pour their sand at the same time as the couple as well, mingling all of their colors together.

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If the wedding is on a beach, or there is some relevant sand the couple has provided, I’ll then “seal” the top, by pouring a layer of this sand, and mentioning its meaning.

Here is a very poor diagram to give you an idea of the layers:

Sand

I love this ritual because, afterwards, you have a beautiful sand sculpture to keep!  I did a wedding last summer that was smaller, and, a year to the day, they had a big vow renewal, and poured new layers onto the sand – a beautiful way to symbolize their first year of marriage.

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Pouring the sand, the first year.

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Parents pouring the first layers of the sand, a year later.

Where do you get the sand?

There are tons of places to buy unity sand ceremony sets (you can get even get fancy and get them engraved!) online.  They even match them to David’s Bridal and Alfred Angelo colors, if you want to be super coordinated!  I’ve also found beautiful sparkly colored sand at craft stores (check out the floral department, it’s often used for filler in vases for arrangements, or in the wedding section, or in the kid’s section [for play sand]), and even some bridal stores are beginning to carry it.

And make sure that you bring something to cover the vase up with, so it doesn’t get too jostled on the way home, if you intend to keep it.  You can pour a layer of melted wax (from a candle or just purchasing some wax and melting it) to really “seal” the top so it won’t get too mixed up.

Not Just for Sand!

And why not think outside the box even more?  It doesn’t have to just be sand!  My fiance and I were having trouble finding a ritual that really resonated with us, but knew we wanted to include something… lately, we’ve been throwing around the idea of doing a “sand” ceremony with salt and pepper!  We’d get colored salt (probably grey or pink gourmet sea salt) and colored peppercorns (leaning towards green or pink), and do the typical sand ceremony actions, with a bit of a twist on the wording.

Are you planning on including a sand ceremony?  Are there any other unity rituals you’d like to learn more about?

Erica and Jeff were married at Jenkinson’s Inlet, near the boardwalk of Point Pleasant Beach, NJ.  It was a rainy weekend, but thankfully we got some beautiful clear weather, and though we couldn’t have the ceremony on the beach as planned, everyone was dry!

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Erica and Jeff chose to have the groomsmen standing at the altar at the beginning, holding up various signs – it was hysterical!  You can see a few of them here – some others read “That’s what she said!” and “Giggity, giggity, giggity.”  It created an atmosphere of laughter right from the beginning!

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Erica and Jeff have a fabulous sense of humor, and wanted the ceremony to be light and funny, as well as to really celebrate the family they have together.  One of the first things that Erica told me when we talked was that she and Jeff had met at a Halloween party – where Jeff was dressed as a girl… dressed as a bunny.  Of course, that went right into their love story!

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Their kids were the flower girl and ring bearer, and did a GREAT job!  We also included a sand ceremony that the whole family took part in, and poured some sand from the beach on top, too.  We also included a hand-fasting, using some boating twine to bring in the beach theme.

One of my favorite touches was when the bride was escorted down the aisle.  Erica’s brother’s walked her in, and half way down the aisle, where she was met by her dad, who escorted her the rest of the way, to the altar.

Check out more great shots from their wedding on their extended gallery!

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Setting up props before the ceremony.

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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!