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

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For anyone thinking of eloping to New York City or those New Yorkers or New Yorkers at heart who have thought about getting married at the top of the Empire State Building…

Well, you’re out of luck.  The Empire State Building no longer hosts private events or weddings.

Except once a year – this year, 14 lucky couples will be married on top of the Empire State Building, through a contest run with Brides.com.  And you can watch them live!

More information is over on Brides.com.  If you’re looking for a little romantic inspiration on Saturday.. why not watch the weddings?  Or take a look and see how they transformed the top of the building into a beautiful wedding site?  Or read about the romantic proposals and love stories of the couples being married?

Bonus V-Day Info:  If you’re looking for some super cute Valentine’s Day cards to print and send toyour loved ones or friends, check out these free cards from The Black Apple – she posted them last year, but they’re still up there! The High-Res PDF prints up really well – I printed them out on some card stock, cut them out, and sent them to a friend for a Valentine’s Day suprise.

Have a very happy and love filled Valentine’s Day!!

I’m blog obsessed. I used Bloglines to keep track of  the blogs that I read, and it helps when I’m looking for some knitting, cooking, crafting, or wedding inspiration – there seriously is a blog for EVERYTHING out there now!

Here are a few of my favorite wedding blogs.

Planning your wedding on a budget? Sara of 2000 dollar wedding made it happen, and continues to update with ideas and ways to fit your dream wedding into a the money you have in your pocket. She also wrote a really fabulous, in depth post about how she created her ceremony – one of the most unique ceremonies I’ve ever seen!

OffBeat Bride is another one of my favorites – just when I think I’m beginning to think outside the box, Ariel takes it another step.  If you haven’t read OffBeat Bride – you really have to – it’s a fabulous resource on really making your entire wedding your own (and not going broke doing it!).

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WeddingBee is updated by a number of woman currently planning their weddings, and afterwards as well – one of my favorite reads are the incredibly detailed, multi-post wedding recaps – they keep me tuned to the page to see the newest installment of my favorite Bee Bloggers!

Real Wedding Vendor Blogs

WeddingBee PRO is a new site, launched in December, where a variety of vendors come together to blog their own special kind of wedding inspiration – beautiful invitations, floral arrangements, photographers.

BridalBuds

BridalBuds is a new website with a similar structure of WeddingBee – a number of brides blog their wedding updates.

WeddingAces is vendor and expert wedding advice – wonderful inspiration and ideas for your wedding!

I just LOVE looking at the cakes from Pink Cake Box!  And they’re in NJ, too!

snippet & ink is inspiration galore, with tons of inspiration boards – and once you’re there, go ahead and make your own with Polyvore!

What’s your favorite wedding blog?

Here in New Jersey, weddings have a season – most people get married late spring to early fall – May to October.  As soon as it gets a little cold and there’s that whisper of snow in the area – people just put their poofy white dresses away to hibernate until May.

But there’s always wedding planning going on!  And I think the winter and early spring is an ideal time to begin communicating and contacting your vendors for your summer and fall weddings – for a variety of reasons!

We’ve all heard that the holiday season is the time to get engaged, so the New Year always starts out with a bunch of new brides, ready to start planning their perfect days.  On the other hand, as the new year begins, all of the brides who have been planning their 2009 weddings can finally say – I’m getting married this year! – and fully dive in to their planning (this works for next year brides too – I’m currently planning my 2010 wedding, and have felt so much better about emailing and contacting vendors now that I can say “I’m getting married NEXT year!”)

As I said, this is a great time to start planning because if you have the time, you won’t begin to feel the pressure or crunch of wedding planning.  And when wedding planning becomes stressful.. well, then it’s not fun, and planning the wedding is almost as much fun as the wedding itself.

So if you’re a new bride, or super excited to be getting married this year or NEXT year, here’s a great tip to get you thinking about planning your wedding ceremony:

What do you absolutely WANT to have? And what do you absolutely NOT want to have?

  • Is it very important to have your mom or dad walk you down the aisle?  Do you want to make sure you can write your own vows, or use special ring vows or a reading?  Is there a special ritual or tradition that your parents used that you just have to be able to fit in?
  • Alternatively, have you been to weddings and thought – I don’t know what I DO want, but I can tell you what I don’t want!  Are there certain stories or anecdotes you don’t want your officiant to use?  Certain terms or vows that you are just dead set against?  Rituals or traditions that you’re just not that into and don’t want?
  • It’s a great idea to brainstorm these together before you meet with your officiant, so that you can make sure you’re all on the same page when it comes time to put your ceremony together.  Sometimes, the key is to knowing what you DON’T want!

This fall, I’ve begun to work with many couples who are getting married in the summer and fall of 2009.  And I’ve found many of them have been requested handfastings!


Photo from Flickr

If you’re not familiar with handfasting – it’s, quite literally, “tying the knot.”  Though “handfasting” is often used in Pagan circles as the the term for the entire wedding ceremony, the handfasting I’m referring to is a unity ritual, often going after the ring vows and before the closing of the ceremony.  The couple takes hands (like they’re shaking hands – right into right and left into left).  Their hands are then wrapped with a cord, symbolizing the joining of their lives and hearts.  Each wrap represents a step towards complete commitment to each other.  At the end, the couple remains there, for a moment, and then the cord is removed before the end of the ceremony.


Lindsey & Ben had me wrap their hands, then repeated a simple vow.

Some couples choose to take vows as their hands are wrapped – this is an option as well.

Something fun many of my couples have done is to choose a handfasting cord that really means something to them – if you’re a fiber artist, you can knit, spin, weave, or crochet your cord – or use something that is relevant to your life – a couple I met with recently mentioned using boating twine as they are getting married at the beach!  There are also traditional meanings to the colors of a handfasting cord – so if you want to do multiple colored cords, your officiant can mention what each one means as it is wrapped around your hands.


Photo from Flickr

You can also have a friend, family member, or bridal party member wrap the cord around your hands.  If you have a smaller bridal party, you could have them all come up and do one wrap, as the officiant speaks.  Or your parents could wrap your hands, signifying their support as you enter this next stage in your life.

The roots of the handfasting are in the Celtic countries of Europe – I’ve had couples with Irish backgrounds use handfasting, as it has been the tradition in their families.  Many couples who want to incorporate a Pagan touch to their wedding have chosen a handfasting as well – not only because it is a lovely ritual, but because it’s a nice way to slip a non-traditional element in to the ceremony without scaring the more conservative relatives.

PS: Not that crafty and don’t have a beautiful vintage handfasting cord in your family?  Hit up a fabric store, and buy some beautiful trim or cording and some tassels (in the home decor section).  Attach the tassels to the cord, and you’ll have a beautiful handfasting cord!  Just make sure you get one that is long enough – I’d reccomend at least1 yard and a half long.

I think it’s a beautiful ritual, one that has a fabulous background, and something to think about when putting your ceremony together!

So maybe you do want to write your own vows after all. There are many books and websites and random people who will give you advice, rules, outlines, and other information about putting your vows together.

But you don’t have to listen to anyone.

Your vows, like your ceremony, should reflect who you are, as well as your relationship with your soon to be spouse. Personalizing your vows, or customizing existing vows is a great way to do this.

Here are my top five hints and tricks for writing your own vows.

Something Old: Do you really want to use the traditional “Till Death Do Us Part” vows, or have a specific vow that you heard somewhere that you just love – but you also want to exchange personalized vows during the ceremony? It’s possible. Talk to your officiant about incorporating the traditional vows elsewhere in the ceremony – in the ring vows or in “The Asking” (that’s the “I do!” part of a wedding). You can even incorporate them into your personalized vows.

Something New:
If you get stuck on your vows, or are having trouble figuring out how to finish them, give them to some new eyes to look at. Your bridal party, parents, or officiant are just waiting to offer suggestions and questions to help you create the perfect vows for you. And, if you’re choosing to not keep them a secret from each other, sharing them with your partner before hand can often open up new ideas and stories that you may want to include.

Something Borrowed
: The internet is a great resource for putting your wedding ceremony together. There is tons of information on vows people have used, as well as personalized vows couples have written. Don’t be afraid to borrow liberally from these places – your guests will never know you didn’t write it!

Tom & Jeannie's Wedding.
Tom & Jeannie wrote their own vow, but had me read it to them – and then they agreed with Yes! and I do!
Something Blue: This is the wildcard – What do you love about your partner? What do they do for you that makes you smile, every single time? Don’t be afraid to get specific with your vows! I’ve had couples promise to always make cookies and coffee after dinner or tolerate a favorite television show. Don’t be afraid to personalize it!


Melanie admired Brian’s resourcefulness at tough moments – like when the cat gets locked in the closet, and they can’t find the key – Brian promised to love and support Melanie even on Mondays after a tough day of work.

Writing your own vows is a great and easy way to personalize your own ceremony. As I mentioned in my previous post, even personalizing pre-existing vows can help to create a wedding that really reflects who you are!

When I meet with couples, one of the first things I ask when we’re going over ceremony structure is whether they plan to write their own vows. Sometimes, I get a lukewarm response – “Well.. maybe…” After some questions, and a few suggestions, I usually get it out of them: they would like to have original and different vows, but don’t want them to specifically be vows that they’ve written.

Over my time as a Celebrant, I’ve culled a huge file of wedding vows – some original that I’ve borrowed from couples, some I’ve found in books or on the Internet, some I’ve written myself. I present these to my couples as a jumping off point – a source of inspiration to begin to think about possibly creating their own vows. I find that often people will find vows they just love, and edit them slightly to work for their situation.


Mickey and David each chose different vows to read at their wedding

Another idea that may work if you’re looking for slightly different vows – find out what vows your parents used in their wedding ceremony. Some brides and grooms like the idea of using traditional vows because they are the same words that people have used for generations when they married – the whole tradition of the ceremony itself. If you’re planning an interfaith or multi-faith wedding, you may be able to find wedding vows that are traditional to the specific religion you’d like to honor.


Retta & Jack chose the same vows but chose not to say them
I read them aloud, and they agreed to them with “I do”

The best part? No one will know that you didn’t write these vows yourself! If you choose slightly different vows than the traditional “to love and to cherish, as long as you both shall live…” – most people will assume that you have written them yourself. And, as it is your big day, you can take all the credit for it.

Here’s a very popular vow that I’ve had many couples choose – and I just love it too!

I take you, Dyana, to be my spouse,
my friend, my love, and my lifelong companion.
To share my life with yours,
To build our dreams together,
to support you through times of trouble,
and to rejoice with you in times of happiness.
I promise to treat you with respect, love and loyalty
through all the trials and triumphs of our lives together.
This commitment is made in love, kept in faith,
lived in hope, and eternally made new.