ruth ellen hasser wedding officiant

I just got off the phone with J. He and C. have been a couple for fifteen years. They live in a neighboring state and are planning to get married in Illinois in June, shortly after that state’s recognition of same-gender marriage goes into effect. Then they want to come here to St. Louis to celebrate their marriage. Why St. Louis? It is the location of their first date, and a place they often come for sporting events, concerts, and nightlife. They already share a last name, and now they are on the verge of  legal recognition as a couple in ways that most heterosexual couples simply take for granted. We will meet under the Arch, and they will exchange marriage vows they have written to each other.

Finally, they can get married! And what a privilege it is for me to be part of such a significant moment in their lives

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This is considered “off season” for folks in the wedding business. I don’t know what other wedding professionals do during these cold winter months, but for me there is more time to begin writing the ceremonies I’ve already committed to officiating in 2014. Actually, I write ceremonies year round, but at this time of year I can write with a little less pressure because I am performing so few ceremonies right now. It’s also a good time to take a look at my website to see what needs updating, as well as to update the photos and info I have on my online ads.

During the winter, there is also more time available to meet with couples who are considering me as a Celebrant for their ceremonies in 2014 and 2015. Before I got into this Celebrant work, if you had told me that I would be meeting at least sixty couples a year to talk with them about their weddings, I would have assumed that I would eventually get bored or at least a little bit goofy with so many meetings at which to have, more or less, the same conversation. But, honestly, although I may be covering the same general topic (weddings), with a lot of the same basic questions being discussed, I never get bored because each couple is different and possesses a unique perspective on what they want to communicate in their ceremony.

And that is what I find to be one of the delightful rewards about this work. Each couple has their own story. Although many couples have common elements in their stories, each is still unique and lovely. And when they choose me to be their Celebrant, they entrust me with the privilege of helping them to tell their story and to celebrate the meaning they find in their story; sometimes with words, sometimes with rituals, often times with both. Now, that’s my idea of a good day’s work.

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Since Labor Day weekend, I have officiated at twenty-one wedding ceremonies. Whew! Where has the time gone? Now, as I head into a quieter November, I’ve got a little bit of time to look back and ruminate.

As I performed many weddings this year, I carried with me some sadness over the break ups of two different couples I know, both of whom had been together over twenty-five years. I wanted to tell these newlyweds of 2013 a cautionary tale or two about not taking each other for granted; or that no one’s relationship is immune to wear and tear, and to the steep toll life’s difficulties can exact from a marriage. Of course, I did not. It is not my place. And it is not the time.

At the very same time, I have had the great privilege to witness the love and fidelity of my father-in-law Dave, as he journeyed with my mother-in-law Jean, through her final days with Alzheimer’s Disease. Theirs was a 64-year marriage, not perfect (does such a thing exist?), but they faced the world together, side-by-side, one day at a time, until her death on October 5.

Every couple I meet believes that they will make their marriage last a lifetime. And so we celebrate the belief, the hope, the firm intention, and the vows to do just that, knowing that we will sometimes fall short of each other’s expectations, but celebrating, nonetheless. And, hopefully, the celebration will bring us closer to becoming the people we long to be for ourselves and for one another. As I continue in this Celebrant work, my hope for each couple is that theirs may be a partnership of integrity, love, and joy!

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“It is such powerful work we do, and we are rewarded by being witness to so much beauty.”

– Dina Stander, Ordained Certified Celebrant

These comments were made recently by another Celebrant and sum up so well my experience since embarking on this Celebrant path in 2007. And I’ve noticed that it doesn’t even require a long and elaborate ceremony to reap these rewards. For example: Recently I performed a short, civil ceremony for a couple who was going to have a longer Hindu marriage ceremony the next day. We were in the home of the parents of the groom with the bride and groom, both sets of parents, a couple of siblings, and an aunt. The ceremony took all of five minutes. And yet, the love and joy that was present in that room was palpable and powerful. Even I was moved to tears, and I had just met everyone shortly before the ceremony!

Long or short, secular or spiritual, each ceremony can become a reflection of the beauty of the hearts, minds and souls of its participants. What a joy to be able to witness this, time and time again! Do I ever get tired of it? No, not really. Of course, I get tired when I work a lot, and that’s why I make sure to schedule time off to relax, refresh, and renew myself. But even when I’m feeling a little weary, once the ceremony begins, I am no longer conscious of my fatigue. Instead, as I participate in the ceremony, I experience a heightened sense of awareness of the significance of these distinct moments in time for the ceremony participants. That awareness gives me all the energy I need.

So here I am,  in the middle of my seventh “wedding season.”  Thanks to all of you who trust me with your ceremonies, I’m still having the time of my life!

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It’s been a busy Spring! I had four ceremonies in March, seven in April, and I’m preparing for eight in May. Add to that my work on Summer ceremonies and beginning some Fall ceremonies, I’ve not had a lot of time to stop and smell the flowers. Not that we’ve had many flowers to check out here with this unusually late St. Louis Spring.

Flowers or not, since 1970 this time of year brings us Earth Day, an annual opportunity to take a look at how each of us can make a contribution toward improving life on planet Earth. I am always looking for ways to improve in this area, and I hope to see the wedding industry become more genuinely “green” as time goes by.

This past year I became an “approved vendor” with The Green Bride Guide www.greenbrideguide.com .  The Green Bride Guide is a comprehensive and credible green wedding resource online. The Directory is like a Yellow Pages for green weddings that provides a centralized resource of green wedding vendors, searchable by geographic area.

According to the Green Bride Guide, almost 50% of couples are now looking to include green elements in their events, and 85% are concerned about “greenwashing,” the passing off of non-green companies as eco-friendly. To address these concerns, the Green Bride Guides screens all vendors in the directory and displays their green practices in their profiles.

I will soon be adding a “going green” page to my website to describe in more detail my ongoing efforts toward lessoning my carbon footprint, both in my personal and professional lives. So, stay tuned!

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As the United States Supreme Court prepares to hear two cases next week involving same-sex marriage laws, it seems fitting to reprint an excerpt from Goodridge vs. Department of Health, the landmark Massachusetts case which found that same-sex couples have the right to marry in that state. I first became aware of this excerpt when a couple told me that they wanted to use it as a reading for their civil union ceremony. Since then, both same-sex and hetero couples have requested this reading. Some consider it a political statement, others simply a good definition of marriage. Take a look and see what you think. Me? I think it is both!

Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations….Without question, civil marriage enhances the “welfare of the community.” It is a “social institution of the highest importance.” Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…. Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.

(Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall) 

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So, I started January with a nasty cold, followed by a restful vacation in California with my husband. Once home and healthy again, I met with seven couples last month, and I am happy to report that all seven hired me! That’s a nice beginning for the new year, indeed! Now it’s all about more meetings and ceremony writing….

My first wedding of 2013 is scheduled for Valentine’s Day in the home of the couple, Stephanie and Jeff. I’m looking forward to celebrating an intimate ceremony with them and a few close family members and friends.

One of my goals for this winter includes finally mobilizing my website! The statistics on the soaring use of hand-held devices are too overwhelming to overlook, so I’m going to get to it in order to make it easier for people to find me and learn about my services.

Once again I am preparing for the only wedding show in which I participate: Off White Indie Wedding Show, March 9-10. This year it will be held at Mad Art Gallery in Soulard. If you want to connect with creative, eco-friendly, out-of-the-box, LGBT-friendly, handmade, small businesses from the St. Louis area to help you create the kind of wedding you really want to have, do yourself a favor and go to this show! The tickets are an incredibly reasonable price of $10 each. http://offwhiteweddingshow.com/

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Last night on NBC’s 30 Rock, Tina Fey’s lead character Liz Lemon got married.  But this TV wedding had very little in common with most real weddings I’ve been to, and was unlike most TV weddings – period!  As I watched and laughed I couldn’t help but think, like the Celebrant that I am, “These people could use a Celebrant!”

As the episode began, Liz and her boyfriend Criss made a spontaneous decision to get married at the courthouse.  Liz is someone who abhors the whole wedding industry and she was determined to stay as far away from a traditional wedding as possible.  So they intentionally dressed down for the ceremony and grabbed a couple of homeless men to be their witnesses.  Yet, Liz could not escape the gnawing feeling that she did want their wedding day to be special, though definitely not traditional.  Finally, after lots of the craziness that 30 Rock does so well, Liz and Criss got married on their own terms: Liz wore her Princess Leia costume, while Criss gave her a wedding ring purchased at a police auction.  Tony Bennett sang “Just In Time” as the couple kissed, while the homeless men danced together.  A perfect 30 Rock wedding!

Besides the fact that I’m a 30 Rock fan, why mention this?  Well, if Liz and Criss were real people, and if they had contacted a Life-Cycle Celebrant® to officiate at their ceremony, then they would have been able to work with a ceremony expert who would have helped them plan their wedding in a way that was meaningful for them, but without all of the stress. And “drama.”  Or comedy.  Which is great for TV, but not nearly as much fun in real life!

So, congratulations to Liz and Criss!  And for you other, real life couples who want your own ceremony to be as unique as you are, check out your local Life-Cycle Celebrant® who will help you create your own memorable and meaningful ceremony!

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I have just finished my final drafts for this weekend’s ceremonies.  For Saturday’s ceremony, Madison and Steve chose one of my favorite blessings, written by poet and Unity Church minister, James Dillet Freeman.  He is sometimes referred to as the “poet laureate to the moon” because his poems were taken there on two different missions, Apollo 11 and Apollo 15.  This blessing is, however, both spiritual and very down to earth.  Enjoy!

 

Blessing for a Marriage, by James Dillet Freeman

May your marriage bring you all the exquisite excitements a marriage should bring, and may life grant you also patience, tolerance, and understanding.

May you always need one another — not so much to fill your emptiness as to help you to know your fullness. A mountain needs a valley to be complete. The valley does not make the mountain less, but more. And the valley is more a valley because it has a mountain towering over it. So let it be with you and you.

May you need one another, but not out of weakness. May you want one another, but not out of lack. May you entice one another, but not compel one another. May you embrace one another, but not out encircle one another. May you succeed in all-important ways with one another, and not fail in the little graces.

May you look for things to praise, often say, “I love you!” and take no notice of small faults. If you have quarrels that push you apart, may both of you hope to have good sense enough to take the first step back.

May you enter into the mystery that is the awareness of one another’s presence — no more physical than spiritual, warm and near when you are side by side, and warm and near when you are in separate rooms or even distant cities.

May you have happiness, and may you find it making one another happy. May you have love, and may you find it loving one another.

 

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When we met to discuss their ceremony, Joe and Gregg told me that they wanted a “simple, elegant ceremony with class!”  More than that, they wanted the ceremony to emphasize the importance of family in their lives.  Indeed, without their family’s encouragement to have a bigger celebration, it is likely they would have just gone to the court house for their civil union.  Instead, earlier this year, Gregg and Joe gathered at Tony’s in Alton with their closest family members for an enthusiastic celebration of their loving commitment to each other.  Congratulations!

 

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