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!

Advertisements

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

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:

Processional.

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.

Readings.
Three total.

Tree Planting Ceremony.

Handfasting.

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.

Processional.

Introduction.
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.

Handfasting.

Reading #3.

Closing Remarks.

Declaration of Marriage.

Recessional.

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!

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

.

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.