Coffee Shop Civil Union: Ivan and Jeff

We had agreed to meet at a coffee shop in Edwardsville last month. It was the simplest ceremony I’ve ever done. But they wanted it that way.

Jeff and Ivan had just celebrated their 14th anniversary as a couple, and now that civil unions are available in Illinois, they wanted legal recognition for their well-seasoned union. I asked them why not have a bigger ceremony and celebration? They smiled and replied, maybe next year for their fifteenth anniversary. We finished up the paperwork and they headed back home to celebrate their union with a few close friends.

It is a privilege and a blessing for me to officiate at ceremonies in which two people vow to love each other for a lifetime. Whenever someone takes a stand for love, whether in a wedding ceremony, civil union, or commitment ceremony, I find that my own commitments to loving relationships are strengthened. Ivan and Jeff, thank you for standing up and celebrating your love!

Wish Upon A Wedding

Wish Upon a Wedding is the world’s first nonprofit organization that provides weddings & vow renewals to couples facing terminal illness and other serious life-altering situations, regardless of sexual orientation. With over 20 chapters across the country, the organization has granted 30 wishes since launching in January of 2010.

From September 15th til October 31st, auction doors will be open to bidders across the nation in the largest charity wedding event of its kind! Featuring hundreds of high-end and unique experiences from the industry’s finest, Bid Your Wish for Wedded Bliss has previously been hailed as a luxury shopping experience like no other, drawing thousands of savvy bidders from coast to coast.

With many items starting at just $50, hundreds of amazing wedding deals await the lucky couples who visit the auction.

The Essentials

It was a small, simple gathering of family and friends. I stood on the porch of a lovely Illinois winery, wind at my back, with a spectacular view of the river. But it was the couple who held our attention. Their vows were straight from the heart, well-rehearsed but still spontaneous, celebrating the delight they have found in one another, the treasure they see standing before them, promising to love each other, come what may.

As I pronounced them “husband and wife,” the kiss was followed by a spur-of-the-moment dance to music carefully selected for its heart-felt lyrics. The essentials were there. The wedding was complete.

The Complimentary Interview

One of the more pleasant surprises for me in being a Celebrant is just how much I enjoy meeting with couples for a complimentary interview. This usually happens after a couple has contacted me, either by phone or email, expressing an interest in getting to know more about what I do and how I can help them to have a meaningful and personalized wedding ceremony. When the couple is ready to meet, we schedule a meeting at a mutually agreeable date and time, usually at a St. Louis Bread Company, Kaldi’s, or other café. Meeting together gives the couple a chance to ask me any questions they may have as we talk through an outline of options for their wedding ceremony. It gives us an opportunity to get to know each other a little, helping all of us to get a feel for how well we might work together, should the decision be made to hire me as their officiant.

After four years of working as a Celebrant, I find I still look forward to meeting each new couple, learning something about what makes them unique, and enjoying the delight of those times when I am asked to share in one of the most important days in their life together!

Graham Chapel Wedding: Allison & Christopher

They returned to where it all began. Allison and Chris chose to celebrate their marriage commitment to each other in the magnificent setting of Graham Chapel, on the Washington University campus where they met as undergrads.

Check it out: Allison is wearing a family heirloom wedding dress, originally created for her great-great Grandmother Nellie Campbell Shellito in 1884. She is the 5th bride in her family to wear Nellie’s wedding dress. May the good fortune and happiness of the preceding four marriages in which the dress was worn be bestowed upon Allison and Chris!

Butterfly House Wedding: Trisha & Justin

They found me on WeddingWire.com while looking for an officiant who would work with them in creating a ceremony that’s “…fun and represents who we are,” said Trisha when we first spoke. Her background is Catholic; his is Jewish, while both share an interest in Buddhist practices. I thoroughly enjoyed creating their ceremony with them and celebrating the joy they have found in one another with all who gathered yesterday morning outside the Butterfly House.

Congratulations, Justin and Trisha!

http://www.weddingwire.com/

“Catering to You” Wedding: Sara & Marlon

Each time I “pronounce” a couple, I am a bit in awe of what they have just agreed to do and to be for one another. But every once in a while I am surprised by the emotions that show up in me in that moment, as they did recently at the wedding ceremony of Sara and Marlon.

I suppose it has everything to do with the fact that Sara grew up across the street from me and my husband during the sixteen years we lived in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood. Our families attended the same church for many years, she participated in the church youth group when I was an adult facilitator, and we carpooled together for a year or so to the high school she attended as a student while I worked there as a teacher.

And although she was absolutely stunning when she walked down the aisle toward Marlon as Etta James sang “At Last,” the tears didn’t catch up with me until that moment at the end:

“Sara and Marlon, by the love that has brought you here today, by the vows you have exchanged, and by the integrity of your commitment, in the presence of these witnesses here and in the presence of God, it is my pleasure and my honor to pronounce you husband and wife.”

Photo by Arsenia Tate
http://www.cateringtoyou.com/

Greener Weddings: Earth Day 2011

More and more of us are coming to the realization that, for the very survival of life on this planet, we need to begin to thinking of every day as “earth day.” This requires bringing a new level of awareness to the impact our everyday decisions make on both the natural world and on our brothers and sisters all over the world.

I have witnessed a growing number of brides and grooms bringing this deepening consciousness to their weddings. They are making choices that include eco-friendly engagement and wedding rings; using recycled paper for everything from invitations to program; and buying organic, locally grown flowers for their ceremony and reception. Some brides are wearing used gowns (vintage, borrowed from a friend, or a family gown); having the reception catered by a vendor using locally grown food; and choosing to have the ceremony and reception in the same location to cut down on driving.

The list goes on. I could write a book. But I don’t need to because there is so much information out there for those who want to pursue greener options for their weddings!

Two books to consider:
Green Wedding: Planning Your Eco-Friendly Celebration, by Miyera Navarro, and
The Green Bride Guide: How to Create an Earth-Friendly Wedding on Any Budget, by Kate L. Harrision.

Support Among Catholics for Same-sex Couples

From a recent PRRI press release:

“New research by the Public Religion Research Institute has found that American Catholics are in fact more supportive than any other Christian tradition when it comes to favoring legal recognition for same-sex couples, and while there’s still some division over whether that recognition should be civil marriage (43%) or civil unions (31%), only 22% are categorically opposed to any form of recognition. This is just one among many findings that show Catholics favor gay rights much more than perhaps thought.”

I am a trained Life-Cycle Celebrant and Wedding Officiant. I perform wedding and commitment ceremonies for couples who are committed to loving each other. And I am also a person whose spiritual family of origin is the Roman Catholic Church. Until reading the results of this research, I thought my support of same-sex couples put me in a minority among American Catholics. Apparently, I am not in the minority. And I couldn’t be more pleased!

Wedding Makes A Splash

The other day a friend sent me a link to a video of a wedding ceremony in which the best man tripped as he was stepping forward to deliver the rings. It happened at that wonderful, tender moment, just after the bride and groom have exchanged marriage vows, and just before they offered their rings to one another. Not only did the trip and fall look painful for the best man, he took out the bride and the officiant on his way down. To make things worse, they were standing on what looked like small concrete platforms over a pool of water, much like you might find here in the Missouri Botanical Gardens. So not only did the bride and the officiant go down, but they fell backwards into the water. Yikes! Talk about an awkward moment…

Note to self: Never perform ceremonies standing with my back to water.

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