St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Winter 2019

Elopements

As a trained and certified Life-Cycle Celebrant®, I love the opportunity to create a ceremony in collaboration with a couple, to tell their story well, and to celebrate their love in ways that are unique to them. Most of the time this takes place in a twenty-thirty minute ceremony with the couple surrounded by their families and various groups of friends. It is usually part of a longer day or even a weekend of events that often requires a tremendous amount of planning and more than a few dollars to pull off.

And then, at the other end of the spectrum, there are the “elopements.” These are wedding ceremonies which are short, on average five to ten minutes, and usually involve a very small number of people. There are many reasons why a couple may choose such a ceremony. Money is often, but not always, a contributing factor. Many of the couples I’ve worked with are planning to have a larger ceremony later on, months or sometimes even years down the road. 1z1a0162

Meanwhile, life happens! There may be a need to get insurance coverage for an uninsured partner, one may be in a branch of the military and has received orders to deploy, a student visa is about to expire, or (surprise!) a baby is on the way. And so many more…

Whatever the reason, every couple deserves a good ceremony to celebrate their commitment to love each other for the rest of their lives! I start off with a short, basic ceremony, which I will adapt when I learn if they want their ceremony to be secular or spiritual. And then I encourage them to add their own vows and readings if they want. Some hire a photographer to document the occasion, while other times a family member or friend with a camera or good phone can capture the moment.

I have had the honor to officiate at elopements in homes, back yards, restaurants, city hall, and in our beautiful local parks. The Grand Basin in Forest Park seems to be most popular among couples I’ve known, but any place that feels special to the couple will do.

Whether large or small, what nearly every wedding ceremony has in common is the sincere desire of the couple to take this huge leap of faith in each other, in building a future together. It gets me every time.

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Fall 2018

Drinking on Your Wedding Day

Recently I have been reading posts that couples have made on a variety of wedding websites regarding drinking on their wedding day. Most refer to the amount of drinking they did at the reception. Looking back, some were embarrassed at how much they drank, others felt that they kept it under control. And then there are those who drank a whole lot and felt that everything went just fine, until it didn’t…

Drinking alcohol is considered a natural part of celebrations for many people. There are those who cannot imagine a party without a few of their favorite drinks. Unless someone chooses not to drink for religious, personal, or health reasons, it is common enough for drinking to be an integral part of a couple’s wedding day. Am I stating the obvious?  JessieShaun 031717G

So if you are someone who is planning to drink on your wedding day, I am asking you to give it some thought before the big day and to consider staying sober for your wedding ceremony. Now, if this is already a given for you, read no further. But if you find yourself saying, “Whaaaat?!” then please read on.

Your ceremony is the heart of your wedding day. In that special time, you have set aside a few brief moments out of your busy lives to thoughtfully and deliberately share your joy over the choice of your life partner with your families and friends. In choosing to be married, you are making one of the most significant commitments a person can make, with repercussions far beyond anything you can see at this time. You are taking a leap of faith in yourself and in this other human being that you will choose to love for the rest of your lives. Uh, that’s kind of a big deal, don’t you think? It’s a commitment that requires “sobriety” in all its best meanings.

Maybe you want a drink before the ceremony to calm your nerves. If you are someone who can stop at one drink, no problem. If you have trouble in that area, you may want to consider taking a pass on that “one” drink. Once the ceremony is over, then go enjoy the rest of the celebration, with all the wonderful food and drink that is usually a part of such a significant event.

As your Wedding Celebrant, I want you to have the best experience possible on your wedding day. With my focus being exclusively on your ceremony, I care about how you will experience this moment when you marry your best friend. The clearer your head, the more likely it is that you will be fully present to your partner on this significant day when you celebrate your love for each other. I cannot think of a better gift to give the one you love!

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Summer 2018

Thinking About Children and Weddings

Weddings ceremonies are usually designed by adults with adults in mind. And yet many times we include children, most often in the opening rites as Flower Girls and Ring Bearers. In my life, before I was a Celebrant, I never gave this practice a second thought. Now that I have officiated at nearly 600 weddings, I’ve been giving children in ceremonies a fresh look.

Just to clarify: This is not about including children in the ceremony when the couple is bringing children from earlier relationships into the new marriage. That’s a blog piece for another time. Instead, this is about the roles we often assign a child or children which are really unnecessary to the ceremony but are more often for the “cute factor.”

Along with most adults, I have enjoyed those moments in a wedding when happy children walk up the aisle carrying a pillow with rings attached, spreading flower petals on the floor, pulling a wagon, or carrying a sign that says variations of, “Here comes the bride!” When the child is enjoying herself or himself, we smile along with them and encourage them.

But what about those times when it does not go so well? Perhaps he or she is shy and uncomfortable walking up the aisle with a lot of adults staring at them. (Actually, I cannot tell you how many couples tell me the same thing about their discomfort with being the center of attention on their wedding day!) Maybe his clothes are itchy, her new shoes are too tight, or he is missing his nap time. Most children have not yet refined their ability to ignore such discomforts in public, so in their raw honesty, they register their distress for all to see.

Of course, it helps to remember that children see the world differently than adults, too. There was the little guy who kept wondering when he was going to get his “Ring Bear” costume, who was so looking forward to dressing up as a bear for the day. And then there was the Flower Girl who kept walking up and down the aisle, sincerely believing that her job was to empty the entire basket, one petal at a time.  I think it was the bride who nearly melted down that day, waiting for the flower girl to finish! KristenChaz 041417A

So why do we include children in something that they really don’t understand and then expect them to behave like little adults for a day? Heck, half of the actual adults in attendance don’t really understand what we are doing in the ceremony, either! I cannot count the number of meltdowns I have seen in exhausted little ones. Not to mention their parents who appear to be barely hanging on, some of whom are also in the wedding party, which has a whole other set of stressors. And I’m pretty sure that what I see at rehearsals and at the ceremony is only the tip of the iceberg.

What is my point? I know that couples have lots of things to consider when populating their wedding party. Family politics are often a factor, as well as your love for the children being considered as potential Ring Bearers, Flower Girls, etc. I am simply suggesting that you think about giving the children you love so dearly (as well as their parents) a break by NOT including them in your wedding party. If you want to invite them as guests, go for it. If you want them to feel special as your guests, provide activities for them like coloring books, bubbles, and the like. There is no shortage of ideas to be found online that can help you show hospitality to the children in your life so that they might enjoy your wedding day a little more on their own terms.

If you choose to include children in your wedding party, give them a wide berth to just be themselves that day. Make their roles easy to understand and be prepared for anything! Let kids be kids as you celebrate your marriage.

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Winter 2018

Your Love Story

When I read articles about making a wedding unique and personal, most of them tend to emphasize the externals like colors, venues, apparel, flowers, food, music, lighting, décor, and more. And while there is nothing wrong with creating a memorable and unique wedding experience for you and your guests through something like a great meal, a key piece of the day is often overlooked: THE CEREMONY.

Of course, sometimes a couple may not have a lot of choices regarding the elements of their wedding ceremony due to religious, cultural, or family traditions. But if your wedding officiant is a Life-Cycle Celebrant® like me, your choices for customizing and personalizing your ceremony are very nearly boundless.

One of the key ways to personalize a wedding ceremony is for the officiant to tell your story as a couple: how you fell in love, what you love about each other, why you want to make this life commitment to each other, and anything else that you believe is key to who you are as a couple. This is the heart of your wedding day! This is what you have invited your families and friends to celebrate. And it is one of my favorite things about being a Celebrant: learning a couple’s unique love story and helping them to celebrate that story with the most important people in their lives.

Sometimes when first asking a couple about their story they will claim that there isn’t much to tell. They are under the mistaken assumption that if there is not a lot of excitement or drama in their story, it is not of interest to others. But each time I hear a couple’s story, I find there is plenty of amazement to be had in learning about how two people discovered the beautiful souls in each other. Based on hundreds of wedding ceremonies I have officiated, I would bet that most of your guests will feel the same. PaigeEric 102415B

There are common elements to many love stories, like the feeling that these two people can be themselves with each other, the sense of feeling at home with each other, and the joy of deciding to be together. And there are unique elements like how the couple met, first date stories, and hopes for the future.

In many cases, the more personal your wedding ceremony, the more your guests will feel like they have been given the opportunity to truly celebrate what makes your marriage uniquely yours. And isn’t that what you have invited them there to do?

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Fall 2017

A Day in the Life…of this Celebrant

So, what does a wedding officiant do all day? Isn’t it just a matter of showing up and officiating? Well, I cannot speak for all officiants, but I can speak for myself and for others who are trained and certified Life-Cycle Celebrants®.  Before the actual ceremony day, I have spent hours writing and re-writing the ceremony script so that it is just the way the couple wants it to be. For many couples, I have also planned and run their rehearsal, sometimes alone, and other times in coordination with an event planner.

Jaymie & Kyle,  Cody Krogman Photography
Jaymie & Kyle,
Cody Krogman Photography

Of course, not every ceremony day looks the same for me. Sometimes I am officiating at two weddings in one day. In that case, I do not put other things on my morning schedule. Other times I spend Saturday morning in meetings with couples whose wedding ceremonies we are only beginning to plan.

Just for fun, I listed my activities on October 28, 2017, in order to compare schedules with the bride and groom. Thanks to Simcha’s Events for these excerpts from Hanna and Tim’s Graham Chapel wedding itinerary.

Itinerary for Bride and Groom

9:45 Bride and Bridesmaids meet for hair and make-up in the bridal suite.

11:00 lunch for Bride and Bridesmaids arrives (Panera).

12:00 Flowers arrive.

12:30 Groom and Groomsmen arrive at Knight Center.

1:00 First look with Father of the Bride and Bride.

1:05 First look with Groom and Bride.

1:10 Couple photos taken.

1:30 Wedding party heads to Forest Park for pics.

3:45 Family photos at Graham Chapel.

4:30 Photos complete.

5:20 Ceremony begins.

6:30 Cocktails and Reception begins.

Itinerary for Celebrant

9:30 Ruth meets her sisters for breakfast at the London Tea Room. Runs errands.

12:00 Back home. Adds notes from yesterday evening’s rehearsal to final copy of today’s ceremony. Prints final copy.

12:30 Practices delivery of today’s ceremony out loud.

1:00 Lunch at home (leftovers – yes!)

1:45 Puts final touches on Sunday’s Jewel Box wedding and prints final copy.

2:00 Practices delivery of tomorrow’s ceremony out loud, with one more run through of today’s.

2:30 Sends review requests to recent couples for The Knot and Wedding Wire.

3:30 Hair, make-up, get dressed.

4:10 Leaves home for Graham Chapel.

4:45 Checks in with Bride, Groom, Reader, Planner, and DJ. Mic/sound check.

5:20 Ceremony begins.

6:30 Greeted at home by hubs who has dinner ready for us to eat. Life is good!

 

 

 

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Summer 2017

“Totality”8-21-17 eclipse

August 21, 2017, the Great American Eclipse! And I have the good fortune to live in what was referred to as the “Path of Totality.” For one minute and twenty-seven seconds, give or take a few, the moon completely blocked out the sun. We were able to take off our viewing glasses and – WOW. Words cannot describe. There are plenty of pictures. And they sort of capture it. But there was this feeling that came over me. And I just had to give a couple of full-throated “Yawps” and “Whoo-hoos” to the world.

Later that same day, I met with a couple from Chicago who had come to St. Louis for the eclipse. They wanted to get married on this auspicious day, and so we met in Lafayette Square Park for a simple, quiet and lovely ceremony. They had written their own vows. And although I do not remember everything that they said, it was clear they understood that the commitment they were making to each other was about “totality.” They are all in, 100%!

Sometimes people wonder: Why have a marriage ritual? Because even the best of words are not enough to express totality.

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Spring 2017

500 Weddings

Amazing. Since becoming a Celebrant in 2007, I have now officiated at five hundred wedding ceremonies! OliviaWeston 101715B

Have I become cynical or jaded? No, absolutely not, because I keep my focus on the unique qualities and the true beauty of each couple whose love and best intentions have led them to a decision to marry. Whether the ceremony takes place in a park, a chapel, the couple’s backyard, or the hottest wedding venue in town, it does not matter to me. The wedding ceremony is always about celebrating the commitment to love each other as spouses for “as long as we both shall live.”

So, from Paula and Tom, the first couple to take a chance on me as a novice Celebrant, to Patrice and Melvin, who have just asked me to officiate at their elopement later this month: Thank you, one and all, for trusting me with your marriage ceremony, the heart of your wedding day!

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Winter 2017

Unity Rituals

One of the ways a couple can put their own unique stamp on their wedding ceremony is to perform a meaningful unity ritual. So, what is a unity ritual? At a wedding, it is a symbolic movement or set of movements which expresses the unity of the couple. The most common unity rituals seen at American weddings include the exchange of marriage vows, the giving of wedding rings, and the first kiss as a married couple.

Other cultures and religious practices have unity rituals which are included in a wedding ceremony, some of which we are seeing more of here in the United States when people bring their treasured traditions with them as them emigrate. Some of these include the lasso ceremony, circling rituals, hand washing, or a garland ceremony.

Some of the unity rituals you may be more familiar with include lighting a unity candle, blending sand, Celtic hand fasting, or tree planting.  Some unity rituals can be created or adapted to include children, if the couple is bringing children into the marriage.

So how do you decide what, if any, additional unity rituals to have at your wedding ceremony? And I say “additional” unity rituals because most people will have already decided to include marriage vows, wedding rings, and the first kiss. And for some couples, those traditional unity rituals are enough.

But if you think that you would like to explore other possibilities, ask yourselves if you want to say something more, express another aspect of your commitment to each other, or feature something about your relationship as a couple to the wider community. If you are easily creative, you may come up with an original idea. However, most of us need help coming up with ideas, so rest assured that there are plenty of options posted on Pinterest, WeddingWire, and The Knot every day.

SueEric 062015B

As a couple who enjoy exploring new craft beer together, Sue and Eric knew that they wanted to share a glass of beer for their unity ritual (see photo). Sometimes it can be that simple!

An experienced wedding officiant should be able to discuss options with you to help find just the right unity ritual to enhance your marriage celebration. Contact me to talk about your wedding ceremony today!

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Fall 2016

“Off Season” Weddings

My husband and I were sitting with our coffee over a leisurely breakfast this morning. About half way into it, he looked at me in disbelief. “What? No weddings today?” As I look back at my 2016 calendar, the last Saturday I was not officiating at a wedding, attending a family wedding, or out of town for travel was April 16. Yep, my 2016 “wedding season” is over. This does not mean that I will not be officiating at any more weddings this year. There are still a few more on my calendar. But it does mean that the pace has slowed down dramatically!

For most couples planning a wedding, “wedding season” is a new expression. I know it was for me, before I began officiating. It did not occur to me that there might be some times of the year that are more likely to interest couples than others. I had assumed that June would be my busiest month. It’s not!  But I have learned that, at least in the St. Louis area, many couples are leaning more and more toward Spring and Fall for their ceremonies.

Lauren and Tom, at their "off season" wedding ceremony, November 5, 2016, at Silver Oaks Chateau.
Lauren and Tom, at their “off season” wedding ceremony, November 5, 2016, at Silver Oaks Chateau.

Off course, the process of deciding when to have a wedding is distinct for each couple. Whether your determining factors include getting some great outdoor photos, your favorite time of year, the travel needs of family, the availability of your preferred venue, astrological data, or any other considerations, you may be more or less tied to having your ceremony at a particular time.

However, if you are not tied to a particular date and time, and if you would like more options for just about everything (from flowers to DJs to Officiants), you may want to look at some off season dates. Off season in the St. Louis area tends to run from November through March, with a few variations, depending on the wedding vendor. Since fewer people get married during these months, more of the excellent wedding professionals whom you may want for your wedding day are likely to be available.

So, make any season your wedding season! Text, email, or call me to see if I am available for your date. If it is November through March, chances are pretty good that I am!

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Summer 2016

BrittneyChris 071815M2“Presentation of the Bride”

When discussing the various aspects of a wedding ceremony with a couple, it is always interesting for me to see how they resolve the questions raised by the old tradition of “presenting” or “giving away” the bride. As a wedding officiant, I have never felt comfortable asking the question, “Who GIVES this woman to be married to this man?” I mean, REALLY? Although it sometimes still happens in other countries and cultures, most people here are way past GIVING women away; treating them as property owned first by the father, and next by the husband.

THANK GOODNESS! So I encourage couples to think about the real value this moment in the ceremony holds for them.

The tradition of the father of the bride escorting her down the aisle to a waiting groom is still loaded with meaning for most who choose this ritual. And, if not the father, sometimes both parents, sometimes the mother (if the father has not been an active presence in the bride’s life), a brother, a step-father, etc. will walk with the bride. In a broader sense, this ritual shows the support and blessing of the families for the marriage. The strength and power of the tradition seems to be in its marking a moment of transition from the families in which the couple were raised, to the new family which is created by the very act of the marriage.

And so in the spirit of showing such support from both families, more and more couples are choosing to do a makeover of this ritual by including all of the parents, none of the parents, friends, godparents, adult children, or others who accompany the bride and sometimes the groom, as well. Many same-gender couples have led the way in making this old ritual more relevant. When you have two brides or two grooms getting married, there tend to be fewer assumptions and traditions by which couples feel bound.

In addition to the various options around who escorts the couple getting married at the opening of the wedding ceremony, what words to say?  Well, many of my couples are choosing to forego words altogether. So the “transition” takes place with no question being asked, or statements being made by the officiant. When the bride arrives with her escort, hugs, kisses, and handshakes are exchanged, the escort goes to his or her seat, the couple stands with the officiant, and the ceremony continues. The actions speak for themselves.

Other times, the couple may have me say something like, “Who has the honor of presenting this woman who has chosen to marry this man?”

And then there is the choice for me to address all of the parents, with one or more questions like,

Do you bless your daughter, and your son, who have chosen to be married this day? Parents:  We do.

Celebrant:  Do you celebrate with them the decision they have made to choose each other? Parents:  We do.

Celebrant:  Will you continue to stand beside them, support them, and encourage them with each passing year? Parents: We will.

These are but a few examples. The bottom line? Make sure that whatever happens in this opening ritual reflects your beliefs about the transition you are making from your families of origin to your life as a married couple.

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