There are so many things that I love about being a Celebrant, but I think my favorite is that I get to officiate my friend’s weddings.

Rachel is a college friend of mine – we worked together on many shows, drank a lot of wine, and basically had an awesome time.  Brian was kind of “the one that got away” for Rachel – they met in high school (where they had mutual crushes on each other!) and kept in touch afterwards.   But it took everyone being in the right place at the right time for them to actually make it work as couple – which they do amazingly.  Knowing Rachel pre-Brian – he just brings out the best in her, and I am so glad they found each other.

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They were married at the Nassau Inn, in Princeton, NJ on Halloween (yes, Halloween! Apple cider and cider donuts were served before the ceremony, and pumpkins were everywhere – but no costumes!)

Their ceremony was short, simple, sweet, and funny.  I opened with a journal entry Rachel wrote in high school, about how Brian was her new “love interest,” and shared the rest of the journey that had brought them to their wedding today.  They chose simple vows, saying “I do” and “I will” at the appropriate times, and broke a glass at the end, too.  It was a ceremony of laughter and happiness, and I tried to capture the joy and love that they have found in each other.

It was an emotional day, for everyone (even me!  I almost cried during the ceremony!), but I was so happy with their ceremony, and I think they were also.  Rachel and Brian, you guys have all of my love – have a safe trip home today!!


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

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!!

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!

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!

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.


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.

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?

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

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!