This wasn’t my usual wedding.

MJ contacted me a few weeks ago – she and her fiance wanted a simple, quick, and personal wedding, but weren’t sure of the location or the date yet.  When we met up, she told me her idea, and it was awesome: have the wedding, with just a few friends as witnesses, at a tattoo parlor on a Saturday afternoon… and follow it up by getting each other’s initials tattooed on their ring fingers.

I didn’t hesitate before saying yes!

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MJ and Steve wrote personal vows, that were funny and touching.  They had two readings – one of which was the lyrics to “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascall Flatts, and the atmosphere couldn’t have been cooler.  We did the ceremony right in front of this crazy altar they had set up in the parlor (Jinx Proof Tattoo in Montclair, NJ).

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They each chose personal ring vows, and didn’t share them before hand (most of my couples choose to use the same ring vows).  And MJ’s were hysterical:

I give you this ring, not as the proverbial symbol of my love, rather a blatant BACK OFF BITCHES, HE’S TAKEN.  It is a gesture to mark my territory and stake my claim.  Take it off, lose the finger.  THE END

It was definetly one of the most unique wedding ceremonies I’ve ever done, and I couldn’t have been happier to be a part of it!  It was true proof that your wedding ceremony can and should reflect who you are – from the traditional to the not-so-traditional and everything in between.

Not to get all mushy or cheesy, but it made me really think about why I got into this whole marrying people officiant business – so I can help everyone have their perfect wedding.  So people have big poofy white dresses, and some people get married in killer silver heels and a bright blue cocktail dress in a tattoo parlor – but everyone gets the perfect wedding for them!  And I just love that I can be a part of it.

MJ & Steve – whenever you want to renew your vows, give me a call!  Thanks so much for letting me be part of your crazy nutso tattooed wedding.  You guys rock!

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Helen & Zubin had a Fourth of July wedding on the beach, at Merri-Makers at Water’s Edge, in Sea Bright, NJ!

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It was a sweet and simple ceremony.  The couple chose the same vows to read, and had two friends each do a reading during the ceremony.  They chose to add a sand ceremony.  Helen & Zubin were low-key, and not afraid to laugh – a wonderful attitude to enter into a marriage with.

An excerpt from their Love Story:

It’s appropriate that Helen and Zubin are getting married today, a day that is traditionally celebrated with fireworks, as that is where Zubin proposed to Helen – underneath the fireworks, on a private yacht in Helen’s favorite place – Disney World. When two people, like our bride and groom today, fall in love, they light each other’s wicks – creating light, and joy, and sending off immense amounts of love and glorious expectations, just like the beautiful and colorful fireworks that will light up the skies this evening.

Congrats, Helen & Zubin!!

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As I made my way to the Lake Mohawk Country Club in Sparta, NJ, for Meg & David’s wedding, it started to pour, and I was very concerned about the ceremony – which was to take place outside, overlooking the lake.  Thankfully, the rain COMPLETELY cleared up, the sun came out, and we had beautiful weather for their ceremony.  Thank goodness!

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Meg and David had a handfasting, group vows (in the form of a declaration of support), and had the groom’s cousin read the Apache Wedding Blessing, a sweet reading that is very popular in weddings right now:

Now you will feel no rain,
For each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
For each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more loneliness,
For each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies,
But there is one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place,
To enter into the days of your togetherness.
And may your days be good and long upon the earth.

(PS: Did you know that the Apache Wedding Blessing was actually written for the 1950 Western film Broken Arrow?)

Their ceremony was fun and light-hearted, with a touch of seriousness.  There was definitely a lot of laughter, and the flower girl wore fairy wings!  Meg & David are off to Germany for their honeymoon – congrats, again!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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

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.