Mi Espanol Es Primitivo

This week finds me working on my Spanish speaking skills. Are you surprised? Well, I am! Yes, I took ten hours of college credit Spanish as an undergrad oh so many years ago. But, like many of my peers, I took the courses but never practiced further than I needed in order to pass. And truly, in late ‘70’s St. Louis, there were not many opportunities to connect with people whose first language was Spanish.

But along comes a wedding between a native St. Louisan and a native of Columbia (the country, not Columbia, Missouri!). Upon learning that some members of the bride’s family are travelling here for the wedding, knowing little to no English, I decided to dust off my language skills in order to have some parts of the ceremony be bi-lingual. Thanks to the Microsoft Word program which offers translations and to the bride who made some adjustments, I will be speaking, for better and for worse, some Spanish at tomorrow night’s ceremony.

I’m glad that those ten hours of Spanish has finally paid off!

Happy Hanukkah

Tonight at sundown begins Hanukkah. For the next eight nights, those who observe this Jewish holiday will celebrate a Festival of Light.

They will remember the miracle that occurred when the Maccabees, though surrounded by their enemies, were able to keep the altar lit for eight days and nights, even though they only had enough oil to burn for one night.May all who celebrate Hanukkah be blessed by love and light in their families, in their souls, and in their lives!

Seasonal Blessings

Although today is December 1, I have just pulled four carrots out of my garden along with enough lettuce for this evening’s salad. I’ll admit that it’s a little bit of a stretch for me to embrace the yuletide season when the previous seasons’ gifts are still pouring in, not only from my kitchen garden, but in the form of photos and testimonials from my summer and autumn weddings. It’s been a year of delightful wedding ceremonies with a variety of couples from all over the metro area and beyond.

I am counting my blessings, a good thing to do this time of year when our national holiday of Thanksgiving flows right into the other holidays of Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christmas, and New Years Day. I’ve never been much of a shopper, so a series of decisions which Rock and I have made over the years to step back from some of the commercialization of these holidays has left me with more time to enjoy the visitors, the gatherings, and the food of these days.

To those of you who have chosen the holidays for your wedding ceremony, my best advice is to keep breathing and to keep your eyes on the prize which is your marriage, not your wedding day!
To those of you who will become engaged during the holidays, I congratulate you on taking such a momentous step in your lives.

To all of us, may the holidays become a time to not only count our blessings, but to find ways to share them with others.

We’ve Come This Far By Faith

Tomorrow will be my 26th wedding anniversary. Wow. Since I had just turned 26 a few weeks before my wedding day, this means that I have now been married for half my lifetime. Wow, again.

Most of those who marry do so with the intention that the marriage will last for the rest of their lives. Sadly that is not always the case.

This year for Thanksgiving, I am delighted and grateful that we have made it this far and, “God willing and the creek don’t rise,” I look forward to many more years with the Rock-man!

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!

The Wedding Design Studio Open House

Don’t miss the open house of The Wedding Design Studio!

The Wedding Design Studio is a comprehensive studio offering brides complimentary access to an extensive vault of wedding resources including the portfolios of handpicked wedding professionals, each carefully chosen based on their reputation for flawless style, innovative spirit and integrity.

The 3-day open house is December 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Mingle with St. Louis’s most in-demand wedding professionals, browse inspiring portfolios and view the latest in table top design and couture wedding décor. Open house bonuses will run throughout the three day event including a magazine swap, color sample sets and free planning advice with a Proposing Dreams coordinator.

Hours for the Open House are Tuesday, Dec. 1st and Thursday, Dec. 3rd, 12pm to 5pm, and Wednesday, December 2nd, 12pm to 6pm with followed by a happy hour from 6pm to 7pm with complimentary drinks, hors d’oeuvres and giveaways!

The Wedding Design Studio is located at: 3520-1 Greenwood Blvd. Maplewood, MO 63143. For more information, email: info@theweddingdesignstudiostl.com.

St. Louis Ceremonies is proud to be a partner with The Wedding Design Studio. I hope to see you there!


Dominique and Michael

They had a class together their first year of college. Stealing looks across the room, Mike noticed her exotic beauty and sense of style. Though drawn to her, he concluded she was way out of his league. Dominique saw his leather jacket, spiked hair, and heavy metal t-shirts- he looked cool even while on crutches after shattering his toe. She decided someone as “cool” as that would not be interested in such a “girlie” girl. The following year when they, coincidentally, moved into the same dorm and actually met, they discovered an immediate spark between them, became instant friends, and a few months later started dating. Apparently, the girlie girl was not way out of the cool dude’s league after all!
Dominique and Mike married on August 15, 2009 at The Magic Chef Mansion in a colorful outdoor ceremony, immediately followed by cool drinks and frozen fruit juice bars. The St. Louis heat and humidity did not dampen anyone’s enthusiasm for this ceremony uniting these two people so obviously in love!

Wedding planner Allison McDonald coordinated the day’s events, while Susan Jackson Photography beautifully captured the ceremony and their delight in one another in the photographs you see here.

Help for Couples

Now that I’ve explained that most Celebrants do not do marriage prep, I am going to recommend a book to anyone who is in a committed relationship and interested in a little help with keeping their relationship alive, healthy, and vibrant, whether they are newlyweds or have been together thirty years.

A few years back when I was teaching high school seniors, I asked one of my regular guest speakers if he had any background reading recommendations for me on the topic of “healthy marriage.” Tim Jordan, M.D.* is a Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician who graciously donated his time each semester to talk with my students about ways they could learn to take care of themselves as they moved through the stressful transition from high school to college. One of the books he recommended to me was, Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D.

Reading this book is a terrific opportunity to learn healthy relationship skills that can greatly enrich the lives of couples in committed relationships. It is available in its 20th anniversary edition at most bookstores and online. My husband Rock and I have recently rediscovered it on our bookshelf and have begun working through the exercises together. My recommendation of this book is offered, not as a Celebrant, but as half of a married couple who always appreciates insights and support in developing a stronger, deeper, and more intimate marriage.

*For more information on the wonderful work with children and adolescents that Tim and Anne Jordan are doing, see

Do You Do Marriage Prep?

Recently I ran into someone I had not seen for a number of years. We were getting caught up with each other, asking questions like, “What are you up to these days?” When I explained my work as a wedding officiant and Celebrant, my friend asked a question I frequently get in such conversations. She asked if I was doing any marriage prep or counseling with the couples whose wedding ceremonies I perform. My answer always starts with, “No,” and it often includes lots of explaining.

First let me say that the majority of people with whom I have this conversation are either active Catholics or former Catholics. St. Louis is a very Catholic town! And my work history includes five years of college campus ministry in Catholic institutions and fifteen years of teaching theology at Catholic high schools. So most of these conversations have a Catholic framework and assumptions as a starting point.

For those of you who do not know, to be married in the Catholic church, a couple must meet certain specific requirements, including participation in one of a number of marriage prep activities sponsored by the Catholic church. It could take the form of a couples retreat (not at all like the movie!), a class, a workshop, or a sponsor couple program. One of the hopes for all of these programs is to help the couple take a good look at some of the realities of married life and to assess their own readiness to be married.

In the long run, one goal of these programs is to help couples avoid divorce in later years. Unfortunately, the last time I saw any studies on the subject, it appears that Catholics divorce at about the same rate as the rest of the population. This is not to say that these programs are not helpful to some or even most couples who participate in them. It is simply a suggestion that most current marriage preparation programs in general cannot possibly prepare couples for all of the complexities of married life between two very fallible human beings.

Of course, it isn’t only Catholics who require some sort of marriage prep for couples. There are many churches whose requirements for engaged couples include a minimum number of meetings with a minister or with people specifically involved in ministry to engaged couples.

Celebrants trained by the Celebrant Foundation and Institute do not require counseling, retreats, or workshops of the couples with whom we are planning weddings. Sure, we like to meet with the couple, but usually that meeting is a mutual interview where the couple gets to know us a little and we get to know them a little in an effort to decide if we will be a good match for one another. Once hired by a couple, our work as Celebrants is simply to design and officiate at customized ceremonies which help each couple celebrate their relationship and commitment as they see it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that churches and ministers requiring some kind of marriage prep for engaged couples should change what they are doing. Not at all. I’m simply saying that Celebrants offer an alternative for couples who may prefer not to participate in such programs, and for couples who do not have a particular church affiliation at the time they decide to be married. And isn’t it always nice to have options? I think so.

Changed, Not Taken Away

On their 40th wedding anniversary, Phil and June received a number of gifts from their family and friends. But there was one they particularly liked. It was a cheesy little plaque which simply said, “This marriage was made in heaven – and so were thunder and lightning!” They hung it on a wall in their home for all to see. Surely, anyone who knew them knew just how right-on it was.

After taking an early retirement a few years later, Phil finally had the time he had always longed for to pursue some of his interests and hobbies. As a professional photographer, he had an artistic imagination and a sharp eye for the aesthetic everywhere he looked. One of the things he had more time to look at was their yard. Although he was physically unable to do gardening, he still enjoyed the idea of a beautifully landscaped yard. Every winter and early spring as the gardening catalogues arrived in the mail, he imagined what the yard could look like if they planted this bulb, that shrub, those seeds.

June, though able bodied and energetic, was pursuing interests of her own which did not include spending a lot of time hanging around their house. After thirty plus years at home raising seven children, she was a woman on the go. “Don’t you dare order anything from those catalogues,” she warned him, “unless you are going to plant it yourself!” As far as she was concerned, that was that.

Early that summer, without any warning, Phil died suddenly from an aortic aneurism. After all of the usual rites of gathering family and friends to remember and mourn, June was left with her own private grief. Day by day, she slowly tended to the tasks of trying to make sense of her new life without Phil. As is normal for those early days, weeks, and months of grieving, she had her good days and her bad.

>One day in late October of that same year, a package arrived in the mail from a seed store several states away. Curious, she immediately opened it. What she saw made her cry, then laugh, then shake her fist at Phil’s portrait grinning at her from the bookcase. The package sitting on her dining room table held bulbs and seeds, ordered by Phil that previous spring! It appeared that Phil had gotten the last word.

Or did he? The following spring, on April 21, one of June’s adult daughters called her from Phil’s graveside. It was his birthday, and she had gone to the cemetery to leave flowers there for her dad. When she arrived, she noticed that Phil’s grave was covered with a stunning display of blooming tulips. At first June pretended to be as surprised as her daughter. But she never was a very good liar, and so June proceeded to tell her daughter about the package which had arrived the previous autumn and how she had figured out just what to do with those bulbs Phil had ordered. A few weeks after the package had arrived, she took them to his grave and, after carefully looking around to make sure that no cemetery personnel were watching, June planted those bulbs on Phil’s grave with a triumphal, “Hah! Now who has the last word?”

But just then, after hanging up the phone, June realized that those tulip bulbs had come to mean something far greater to her than just another argument between her and Phil. To June, they had come to symbolize the nature of the change in their relationship. The previous autumn, when she had planted the bulbs, her grief was still raw and intense. What she had planted in the cemetery soil was not just a few bulbs, but with those bulbs all the complicated and mixed feelings that accompanied her grieving Phil’s death after forty-five years of their “thunder and lightning” marriage. What she had harvested six months later was not only the beauty of those tulips but a dawning appreciation for the reality that her relationship with Phil goes on, radically altered by death but not taken away. And, like the tulip that grows from a modest bulb, she could appreciate a beauty in their changed relationship now which she could not possibly have seen last autumn.

And she felt gratitude.

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