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!

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By popular demand – here it is – Basic Wedding Ceremony Structure 101.

This is the bare bones outline that I use when I’m working with couples to write their wedding ceremony.  In our first meeting, I take it out, talk through it, explaining significance and meaning between the various rituals and traditions, answer lots of questions and ask some of my own.  From the basic outline, we dive into the whole world of wedding ceremonies – but having that nice firm diving board in the ceremony structure really helps to prepare and better understand where we’re going.  As I like to say – we can add anything in, we can take anything out.  But I find that sticking to the basic structure helps your guests “follow along” a little more easily, and not get lost in a more unusual ceremony.

This is what works for me – definitely check with the state you are getting married in to make sure that you include any legal requirements for a wedding (in some states, at one point, the bride and groom need to verbally agree to be married [The I Do’s], and there may be specific wording that your officiant will have to use to declare you married).  Take from it what you need, and leave the rest out – when it comes down to it – this is your wedding after all!

I don’t do a lot of weddings that include ALL of these – three full readings, three plus rituals – it’s much more of a guide than a list of things you need to include.

If anyone has any questions – post them in the comments!  I’ll be sure to answer them there, so we can all share from each others ideas!

Wedding Ceremony Structure 101

Welcoming of the Guests.
I enter, usually as the first person in the processional, or I am already standing at the front.  I thank everyone for joining us, and ask them to turn off their cell phones!

Processional.
The entrance of the bridal party (that’s a whole other post!).

Introduction:

  • Presentation of the Couple.
  • Family Ritual
  • Thanking of Family & Friends.
  • Remembrances.

In my intro, I welcome the bride and groom to their wedding celebration.  I usually say a few words of special thanks to the person who escorted the couple down the aisle (a twist on the “giving away”).  Using the bride and groom’s own words and information, I do a special thanks for the guests and family.

Any special rituals or traditions as a special thank you to family members would go here.  A popular choice is the flower presentation to the mothers.

If my couple wants to include remembrances, this is where I include them – a brief moment of silence, lighting of a candle, a wine toast, or just me mentioning that they are in our hearts and lives, today and everyday.  I find at this point it doesn’t bring down the tone of the ceremony too much.

Reading.

There are a few places for readings, either by your officiant or a reader, scattered throughout the ceremony.  I often incorporate pieces of readings into the ceremony itself (the Love Story, Closing Remarks, and Introduction).  Not everyone chooses to include readings in their ceremony.  I like to break up the readings, not having guests come up one after the other to read – it provides a bit more interest and also helps to break up the ceremony so your officiant isn’t just gabbing the whole time!  I think making ceremonies as “interactive” as possible is really important.

Love Story, or Address.
For my couples, I write an original Love Story – the story of them, their relationship (how they met, how they fell in love, all of that fun stuff).  I always end it with what they love about each other, and their hopes and dreams for the future.  They’re always funny and touching, and incredibly personalized for each wedding I do.

Sometimes, the couple prefers not to have a Love Story, and I will do a reading here, one that has a tone that fits the wedding, and share some personal comments connecting the reading to the bride and groom’s relationship and marriage.

For a more traditional wedding, this is where the sermon or homily would go.

The Asking.
This is the “I do!” part of a wedding.  I have the couple turn towards one another, take hands, and I ask them some very important questions about marriage.  If they agree to them – they say some kind of positive affirmation (Yes! I do! Thumbs Up!).  Sometimes, I have couples who will write these themselves, and combine them with the vows.

Wine Ceremony or Other Unity Ritual.

This is the place for a unity ritual that symbolizes the life that the bride and groom will share together.  Wine ceremonies, presentation of gifts or flowers to each other, tree planting – those are the kind of rituals that go at this point.

Vows.
Either read by the bride and the groom to each other, or done “repeat after me” style with the officiant.

Reading.

Ring Ceremony.
Short ring vows are usually chosen to repeat as the bride and groom place the ring on each other’s fingers.

Unity Ritual.
Any unity ritual that symbolizes the bride and groom joining together or the merging and blending of two families would go here.  Unity candles, sand ceremonies, hand fasting, garland exchanges, signing of a marriage license.

Reading.

Closing Remarks.
A final blessing could go here as well.  I like to bring back important elements of the Love Story, or include a short poem or advice.  In a Jewish inspired wedding, I would include a version of the seven blessings here.

Declaration of Marriage.

The bride and groom are declared husband and wife.  AND THEN THEY KISS!

Breaking of the Glass / Jumping the Broom.
There are a few rituals that take place right AFTER the declaration of marriage.

Recessional.
I’ll talk about this with my processional post – but basically, the bride and groom exit, go out, and party!!

Rehearsal Dinners are always a blast. More low-key than the wedding dinner the next day, everyone’s super excited for the upcoming nuptials, and it allows the bride, groom, bridal party, and parents some quality time to relax, eat some good food, and have a fabulous time before the big day!

But sometimes people forget about the actual purpose behind the Rehearsal Dinner – the Rehearsal! It’s an important element of the wedding ceremony, and can really help to alleviate stress on the day of the wedding.

I don’t always suggest having a rehearsal – if you’re having a very straightforward wedding ceremony (no rituals or ceremonies in the ceremony itself, a minimal wedding party, no music changes or cues), it’s not always necessary. But I do recommend having a rehearsal if you have more than three people on each side of the wedding party, children involved in any way, shape or form, or any rituals or traditions that you may want to practice. It’s also a great way to have everyone in the wedding party know who everyone else is on the day of, which can make everything run really smoothly on your wedding day.

The whole bridal party!  The people standing where honored guests, like grandparents and parents, who walked down the aisle and then were seated.

The whole bridal party! The people standing where "honored guests," like grandparents and parents, who walked down the aisle and then were seated.

My rehearsals usually last about 45 minutes – much longer than the actual wedding ceremony! I usually begin by introducing myself, and giving a brief explanation of what we’re going to be doing. I love when the bridal party will introduce themselves, as it makes it easier for me to know who everyone is!

The Bride & Groom show the bridesmaids where to stand

The Bride & Groom practice breaking the glass!

We start by practicing the processional. Everyone lines up in the order that they’re going to enter in. It usually helps if your day of coordinator, venue contact, or very helpful friend can be there to make sure everyone is lined up. If the DJ or band can be there, awesome – if not, we’ll practice without music (and I’ll make sure to go over the cues with them before the ceremony the next day). I’ll show everyone where I am going to stand at the front, and then we’ll start walking!

The Bridal Party, all lined up

The Bridesmaids, all lined up

Once everyone gets to the front, we can figure out how everyone is going to stand, so people can know where they’re supposed to go. The great thing about rehearsals is how casual they are! People can be shifted and moved and changed to make sure everything is just perfect at the front.

Practicing the Rings

Practicing the Rings

We can also establish how the bride and groom will stand in relation to the officiant – I prefer my couples to face each other, or (ideally) face catty corner, slightly out towards their friends and family. You get great photos this way, can see each others’ faces, and you don’t have to stare at me the entire time (believe me, I’m not going anywhere).

The Bride & groom practice breaking the glass

The bride & groom show the bridesmaids where to stand

We’ll run through the ceremony (quickly – “cue to cue,” so to speak), then practice the kiss (yay!) and the recessional.

Then we do it all again! Just to make sure everyone knows where to go.

Practicing the Recessional! Her groosman partner couldnt make it to the rehearsal.

Practicing the Recessional: Her groomsman partner couldn't make it to the rehearsal.

Practicing the Recessional: A groomsmen had to drop out of the wedding, so two bridesmaids recessed together.

Practicing the Recessional: A groomsmen had to drop out of the wedding, so two bridesmaids recessed together.

As I said, it’s great if a representative from your DJ or band or whoever is doing the music for your ceremony can be there – as well as your venue contact, day of coordinator, or very helpful friend who will be lining the party up before hand. This is especially helpful if the bride and groom are NOT seeing each other before the ceremony – so you can figure out the logistics of them avoiding each other until their big moments!

The Happy Bridal Party, right after the ceremony!

The Happy Bridal Party, right after the ceremony!

I don’t have a lot of photos of rehearsals, so the photos scattered through this entry are from my best friend’s wedding in June, when the boyfriend acted as my official photographer for all wedding related events. Afterwards, we went out for a great dinner of pizza and beer at a very cool restaurant that was full of used books – and everyone got to take home two of their own! What a fun rehearsal dinner.

It’s amazing the strong connection we can have with words.  I’m a deep lover of words – I collect poems and quotes, and firmly believe in their power to uplift and inspire.  Incorporating someone else’s words, a favorite piece of poetry, or selection from a novel is a great way to personalize your ceremony, as well as imbue it with that wonderful feeling and strong emotion that only the well written word can instill.

When I’m writing a wedding ceremony, and want to include someone else’s words, that first things I think about are, “What is the theme of this wedding?”

Finding Words to Fit Inspiration
I’m not just considering the actual theme of the wedding, as the bride and groom have set forth (like Autumn, Rock & Roll, Vintage Glam, Renaissance, Literature), but the direction that I see the ceremony going on – I consider the relationship of the couple, the love story, their sense of humor.

I did a wedding that took place in the couple’s backyard – they were all about family, about turning their house into a home for their family.  I immediately jumped online and began searching to find some quotes that I could use in their ceremony.  And I found the perfect quote!

Jeannie & Toms beautiful backyard wedding

Jeannie & Tom's beautiful backyard wedding

As someone once said, “It takes hands to build a house, but only hearts can build a home.” Tom and Jeannie have opened their hearts not only to each other, but to everyone in their lives.  This love is what makes their house into a home.

I always ask my couples who their favorite artists, performers, and authors are – and who their heroes are as well.  This gives me another jumping off point to find beautiful words that really fit well with the rest of the ceremony.

Let me give you an example – in a recent wedding I did, the bride told me she loves Abraham Lincoln.  I don’t think most people would think to include a quote by President Lincoln in the wedding ceremony, but I found this lovely quote that felt very much like the couple – and included it in the end of their love story.

And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

As the bride’s love for President Lincoln was a bit of an inside joke, I got a few laughs with the quote, too.

Finding Inspiration from Words
Often times, couples will tell me of a poem or reading they would like to incorporate as well – and I often use these as ways to extrapolate the theme of the ceremony, the overall feeling that the couple would like their wedding to evoke.  It’s kind of the backwards version of when I search for a quote – instead of trying to figure out the theme from the ceremony outline and THEN find a quote, I take the quote, find the theme, and keep that in mind when writing the ceremony.  It’s kind of like the wordy version of those wedding inspiration boards – a poem or reading suggestion can help me better understand what a couple is looking for.

I had a bride this past summer who came to her meeting with two passages she just loved and wanted to include in her ceremony.  They also wanted a very short ceremony, with little to no Love Story.  I adapted the passages into their Love Story, relating it to their relationship and their lives.  It worked out really well.

A good marriage must be created.
In a marriage, the little things are the big things.
It is remembering to say “I love you” at least once a day.
It is standing together and facing the world.
It is forming a circle that gathers in the whole family.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is not only marrying the right person – it is being the right partner.

Lynn and Joe have clearly found the right partner in each other.  Joe says that Lynn is his inspiration.  Her selflessness, big heart, and drive to help others never ceases to amaze him.

The love and support that Lynn receives from Joe have been above and beyond her wildest dreams.  She admires the way he cares for her, provides for her, and protects her.  She says that he is always willing to help others, through good and bad, no matter how tough it is – whatever it takes.

Joe and Lynn, today you are marrying the right person – you have found your perfect partner.  It brings us immense happiness to see that you have found each other, and to witness your marriage today.

Joe & Lynns Love Story

Joe & Lynn's Love Story

I love that passage – it’s in my Celebrant arsenal – I like to use it in my closing remarks.  Thanks, Lynn!

Ways to Include Words in Your Ceremony
You’ve probably heard of the old standard to include poetry or a text selection in your wedding – add a reader to your program.  This is an especially nice way to include family members, close friends, or bridal party members into your ceremony.  Make sure that you’ve told them before hand that they’re going to be reading, and, if at all possible, send them a copy via email so they can become familiar with it!

I always bring a copy for the readers, so they don’t have to worry about folding a piece of paper and sticking it in their pockets or purse.  Talk to your officiant about it, or see if you can leave a copy at the front, on your props table – it makes everything run much more smoothly if they don’t have to worry about that extra piece of paper.

The Matron of Honor reads e.e. cummings

The Matron of Honor reads e.e. cummings

As I’ve mentioned, if the couple doesn’t want to have a reader, I will often use the selection in the ceremony itself – perhaps in the Love Story or the closing remarks.  I like to weave it seamlessly into the ceremony, so it doesn’t feel weird to have me all of a sudden speaking in verse or reciting Shakespearean sonnets.

You can also include a quote or short poem in your programs, or even on your invitations! This is a really nice way to have your theme of your ceremony expand throughout your wedding.

Something I love is to include them in your vows.  I recently found a poem that just took my breathe away – and made me cry each time I read it.  It spoke really clearly to me, and I’ve tucked it away to use in my own wedding vows (and I can’t share it here because I know he reads my blog!).

And please, as always, feel free to think outside of the box!  I’ve had couples incorporate song quotes from musicals in their vows – or read song lyrics like a poem – or put a poem to music! – recite a passage in two languages (a great way to have a bilingual touch to your ceremony!).  The possibilities of including other people’s words in your ceremony are near endless, and incredibly inspiring.  Start your own quote collection today!

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!!

Layla & Lewis were married recently at the Valley Brook Golf Club in River Vale, NJ.  I had so much fun getting to know them and learning their story.  They also introduced me to a GREAT Greek  restaurant – After Athens in Rutherford – two blocks from my apartment that I hadn’t been to – it has the most fabulous chai!


They really wanted a sentimental, touching, and funny ceremony, without getting too mushy.  I think their Love Story really captured the wonderful love they have between them, and celebrated who they were.  Layla gave me a special “checklist” that a friend had given her, as potential ways to check out a new guy’s history, and I opened with it:

Many years ago, a friend of Layla’s wrote a special screening checklist for her potential dates.  This list included many gems of advice, including:

Number 1: Check guy’s psych history.
Number 4: Check his walls/photo albums for signs of obsessiveness.

But, the most important, was number 7:  Above all, settle for nothing.  Layla took this very important advice to heart, and it led her to her soul mate, as you see them before you today.

You will always and forever be new to ME, you will forever be my REAL LOVE.

"You will always and forever be new to ME, you will forever be my REAL LOVE."

Layla & Lewis chose to write their own vows.  It was their moment to really have fun and open up to each other, in front of their family and friends, and they did a fabulous job.  Layla used a reading from the Velveteen Rabbit in her vows – telling Lewis that his love is what makes her REAL.  Lewis said that one of his favorite activities is making Layla smile – and requested that she let him do that forever.

Lewis getting his vows!

Lewis getting his vows!

Matron of Honor Jamie reads e.e. cummings

Matron of Honor Jamie reads e.e. cummings

Their ceremony also included a reading by the Matron of Honor (e.e. cumming’s “i carry your heart”) and a handfasting.

The couple during their handfasting

The couple during their handfasting

Wrapping Layla & Lewis hands with the handfasting cord

Wrapping Layla & Lewis hands with the handfasting cord

Layla & Lewis are expecting their first child in March, and got engaged in November, putting their wedding together in just two months!  I couldn’t believe it!

You guys rock.  I had SO much fun.  Congratulations again!

Please click here to see more photos from Layla & Lewis’ ceremony

.

As a Celebrant, I understand how powerful and meaningful symbols can be.  So I was delighted when I got this email before my Celebrant graduation in May of last year:

One special event every year is to set aside some time for YOU to talk about who you are and what your path to Celebrancy and your new status as a Celebrant means to you.  We do this using the universal language of symbolism, which we study in the course and which deepens and enriches every ceremony we perform.

I spent some time thinking about what I would bring with me, as a symbol of myself and my choice to become a Celebrant.  As a knitter, I almost immediately knew I wanted to knit something as this representation.  I researched yarn, patterns, and eventually settled on creating a shawl, something I had always wanted to do, but had never attempted (successfully!) before.

Modeling the Shawl, 2008

Modeling the Shawl, 2008

I think the intricacy of the lace matches up well with the intricacy of relationships, those ties that hold us together.  I picked this color in particular because periwinkle has always felt like a magical color to me, that beautiful ethereal color of the sky that I always felt wasn’t quite real.

Of course, there are a few mistakes in there.  I had some trouble transitioning between the charts, mostly because I had to follow the chart blindly when I started it off, and wasn’t able to easily read my knitting.  I tried to fix them the best that I could, and I don’t think they take away from the overall look.  In fact, I was happy that I had some mistakes that I conquered.  That was all part of my grand plan for the shawl.

Modeling the Shawl, 2008

Modeling the Shawl, 2008

As a Celebrant, I will get to know a couple, then create and perform an original ceremony for them.  This will involve taking elements from many different places – the couple’s own words and cultures, known traditions, and my own creative knowledge.

The same can be said for this shawl.  I followed a general pattern, one that many have followed and done before (just as the wedding ceremony).  I made my own choices – I made it larger, changed the yarn, chose the color.   I even made some mistakes along the way, but I incorporated them into, and made it a part of the piece.  Though I followed the “rules” of the pattern, I created a completely unique shawl.  Just like when I write wedding ceremonies – I’ll follow the “rules,” but I’ll end with something completely personalized and unique for the couple.

Modeling the Shawl, 2008

Modeling the Shawl, 2008

Even if someone liked my shawl so much that they decided to do it exactly the same way, adding extra repeats and the same yarn and same needle size, they would still be different.  That’s the beauty of any kind of art, any kind of creativity.  By simply writing, simply knitting, you are making something that is completely yours, something that will be memorable, beautiful, and unlike anyone else’s in the world.

Officiating at Tom & Jeannies Wedding, 2008

Officiating at Tom & Jeannie's Wedding, 2008

What made it even more special – I wore it at the first wedding I officiated, a wonderful backyard wedding over Memorial Day weekend.  It was perfect.