Before we met to discuss their ceremony, Sarah sent me a basic outline that included the elements and people that she and John knew they wanted to include in their ceremony. I melded this with my basic outline for structure, and so, going into our first meeting, I had a very good idea of what their ceremony was going to be like.

Here is the outline Sarah sent me:


Circle of Love:

The bride & groom’s siblings and their family members will walk down the aisle, and place a flower along the edge of the circle, forming a Circle of Love that the couple will be married in.

Groom will enter with his parents.
Bride will enter with her parents.

Welcome Message.

Three total.

Tree Planting Ceremony.


Blessing & Exchange of Rings.

Closing Remarks, Declaration of Marriage, & Kiss!

And here’s the outline that I brought to our meeting:

Welcoming of Guests.

Circle of Love.


Explanation of Circle of Love
Welcoming of the Couple
Thanking of Family & Friends.

Love Story.

Reading #1.

Tree Planting Ceremony.

Vows & Ring Ceremony.

Reading #2.


Reading #3.

Closing Remarks.

Declaration of Marriage.


We talked through the outline, and made some decisions – who would be involved with what, how certain elements would work – and talked through some ideas, so we were on the same page, especially with rituals I had never done before.  I’m excited because they have many friends and family members involved in the ceremony – it’s much less about me standing up there and talking (not that there is anything wrong with that!), and much more about me leading the ceremony, guiding everyone through these steps and creating the ceremony together!

For the tree planting ceremony – I believe that instead of a seeds, they are now going to plant a seedling (a little more visual, PLUS more likely that it’ll be able to grow well!).

Their Circle of Love is my favorite! I think it’s a fabulous way to incorporate a larger group of people in a very intimate way. I suggested this to another one of my couples who had a beach wedding in early May – as each of their guests entered, they were presented with a shell by a groomsmen stationed at the start of the aisle. The guests came to the front, and placed the shell, created a circle of shells and of love that the couple was married in. It was really cool, beautiful, and very personal.

I broke up the readings, and will place them in the ceremony based on their specific context.  I don’t like to have all of the readings come one right after the other in my weddings… I think it helps to keep everything interactive and moving along to break them up and create a narrative flow with them, based on their context.  Sarah & John have asked three of their friends to choose the readings they will be sharing, and we’re keeping them a secret from the bride and groom till the big day!  So I can’t post about the readings until after the ceremony is over!

I also got to talk to Sarah and John a little bit, and tried to get a sense of their personality and their relationship. I love to hear stories straight from my couples, so I asked them how they met, and took a lot of notes!

I walked away with a very clear picture of their ceremonony, and I hope Sarah and John did too! We had both gone into the meeting a little more prepared and planned out than normal, but for such an unusual ceremony – I think it really helped us to figure out what they wanted!

Coming up next: creating their Love Story!

Follow Along Ceremony.
Part 1: Meet Sarah & John!

Married To The Sea

Wedding Tradition by Married to the Sea

Is there a wedding typical wedding tradition that you just can’t understand?  Personally, I don’t understand the garter toss.. I’ve seen modern wedding dresses.. it is SWEATY under there! Not the best place for your new husband to go!  How about you?

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!

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.