St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Fall 2015

Who Needs a Professional Wedding Celebrant?

This year, three of my nieces have announced their engagements to be married in 2016. I am thoroughly delighted for each of them, and I look forward to getting to know their future spouses as the years go by.

Many people who know that I am a Professional Celebrant who officiates at over sixty weddings a year simply assume that I will be officiating at my nieces’ weddings. But, in fact, it looks like I’ll be officiating at just one. Two out of my three nieces are active participants in a house of worship and they prefer to have someone from their pastoral leadership officiate. This is no surprise to me. Couples who are part of a faith community usually want their wedding ceremony to be a clear articulation of their community’s beliefs about marriage, and they often look to their pastors to help them to do just that.

Ruth with her niece, Rachel, in October 2007

As a Professional Celebrant, my role is similar to that of a pastor in that I work with couples to create a ceremony which is a clear expression of their beliefs about their marriage. The biggest difference is that, because I do not represent any singular religious creed or faith tradition, I am free to focus exclusively on the couple and on how they see their relationship with each other, as well as their relationships with their families and with the world around them. They may choose to use symbols and rituals from the culture or religious traditions in which they were raised. Or not.

With other couples, the choice may be to have an exclusively secular ceremony. But in every case, the key is to personalize the ceremony in such a way that we tell the story of the couple as they see themselves at this significant moment in their lives. The question I return to again and again with couples as we prepare their ceremony is this: Does this ritual / symbol / reading / action hold meaning for you? If so, then we consider using it in the ceremony. If not, it usually gets put aside.

Why not just have a family member or friend get “ordained online” to be your officiant? Lots of people are doing it. If you are just needing to get legally married, and have only a few people involved, this might be a way to go.

But if you are inviting guests and planning for a twenty to thirty minute meaningful ceremony, and if you believe that the ceremony is truly at the heart of your wedding day, then you would benefit from hiring a Professional Wedding Celebrant. Look for one who has training, experience, good reviews and excellent references.

Yes, I am totally biased in favor of those of us who are certified Life-Cycle Celebrants®, graduates of the Celebrant Foundation and Institute!  Of course, I know that we are not the only good officiants out there. But the certification and training we have is exceptional, our reputation is growing, and we deliver for our couples, time and time again.

So, who needs a Professional Wedding Celebrant? In 2016, only one out of my three nieces. And what about you? If you do not already have an officiant through a house of worship; if you want someone you can count on, with training and experience; if you want your wedding ceremony to be something meaningful and positive that your guests will talk about long after your wedding day: CONTACT ME TODAY!

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Summer 2015

Vows to Children

When two people decide to marry, the impact on them and their families is profound. When one or both of those people have young children they are bringing into the marriage, even more so. It both complicates and enriches their lives. As a Celebrant, I always offer the couple the opportunity to include the child or children in the ceremony. Often this takes the form of including the child as a Flower Girl or Ring Bearer, or as a participant in a Unity Candle or Unity Sand ceremony.

But one of the most moving moments often occurs when the new parent chooses to offer vows or promises to the children. Whether they have written original vows or borrowed vows from samples I make available to them, witnessing the new parent attempt to put into words the love and commitment they feel for the child is powerful beyond words. And so incredibly important is it to the child that this new parent clarifies what his or her role is in their new family!

New Parent:  Sally, I want you to know that I love you and your father very much.  Even though I am not your mother, I promise to protect and care for you as my own daughter.  I promise to do my best to guide and support you, and to respect you enough to allow you to see the world through your own eyes.  I will always try to offer you words of kindness and love each day.

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Winter 2015

Choosing Your Officiant 

Most engaged couples have had little if any experience in choosing their wedding officiant. If they have been married before, the ceremony was often in a house of worship where their officiant was a given. The vast majority of the couples I work with have not been married before and quite often, I am the first officiant they are meeting with to discuss their ideas for their wedding ceremony.

If you believe that your ceremony is the most important part of your wedding day, then you want to be sure that your officiant is someone who takes the time to get your story right. The Celebrant Foundation & Institute   recommends asking these questions before hiring your officiant:

How do you create the ceremony? “Do we have final approval over the script?” Ideally, the officiant should collaborate with you every step of the way so that the ceremony is tailor-made for you. Don’t let a boilerplate ceremony be imposed on you.

When will you arrive? The officiant should be available at least 45 minutes before the ceremony in order to run through any last minute changes, and to coordinate details with readers, musicians, photographers and videographers.

Does your fee include a full rehearsal at the wedding venue? Many officiants don’t rehearse, but a full rehearsal may be essential for a beautifully choreographed ceremony and for calming last-minute nerves.

Can we vary the traditional choreography of a wedding? You may wish to face your guests rather than the officiant, or have the officiant stand to the side instead of between you and your spouse. Make sure your officiant is open to these suggestions.

What training do you have in creating and officiating at ceremonies? Many officiants have no specific training. Look for those who have a sound background in the history of ritual and ceremony, knowledge of wedding traditions around the world, the ability to manage and choreograph a wedding party, and experience in public ceremonial speaking.

Will you work with our other wedding professionals? The officiant should coordinate as needed with musicians to provide music cues for the ceremony, with photographers and videographers to assist them in getting the best shots, and with the staff of your venue to ensure that the ceremony will not conflict in any way with their requirements.

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Valentine’s Day 2015

This time of year I always get questions from curious friends about how many weddings I am scheduled to officiate on or near Valentine’s Day. My answer usually surprises them: Not many, and some years, none! From what I have seen, Valentine’s Day is a much bigger day for engagements than it is for weddings.

Jeffrey & Stephanie, Valentine's Day 2013

I have had a few, though. My favorite was on Valentine’s Day, 2013. With lots of work and careful planning, the bride and groom had turned their home into a beautiful wedding chapel, decorated in red and white. Surrounded by the love of family and friends, Jeffrey and Stephanie pledged their love to one another. It could not have gone better.

The most unusual Valentine’s Day wedding ceremony  for me was in 2010 when I was asked to officiate at a group wedding, co-sponsored by a local radio station and Windows Off Washington. When I received the phone call asking me to officiate I thought it was a friend playing a joke, at first. Then I figured out that the request was legit, but I hesitated. I did not want to be a part of a ceremony that was more about laughs and less about a meaningful celebration of marriage. But the more I talked with the event coordinator, the more I became convinced that the sponsors wanted to create an opportunity for the couples to truly and joyfully celebrate their love on Valentine’s Day. So I agreed to officiate. Forty-seven couples pre-registered for the wedding, but only seven showed up that day. Why? At least one reason was the weather. St. Louis woke up to a couple of inches of snow that Sunday morning. And you know how we are about snow…

Why not more weddings on Valentine’s Day? Well, the most obvious reason would suggest that the dicey weather in our northern hemisphere this time of year makes planning for anything that involves travel (wedding party and guests to the venue, the couple to their honeymoon, etc.) a huge gamble.

Valentine’s Day 2015 St. Louis weather forecast: Windy, clouds, snow flurries, high of 34F, with the temperature dropping throughout the day. And so, as I plan my wardrobe for tomorrow’s outdoor “short and sweet” wedding, I think warm thoughts about the other couples whose weddings I’ve officiated on this day in years past. I wish for them a truly happy anniversary, and an even happier life together!

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Autumn 2014

“And the seasons they go round and round.” – Joni Mitchell

Another wedding season winds down into a slower, late autumn rhythm.  This year the St. Louis area has seen more rain than most, but none of my outdoor wedding ceremonies were seriously compromised by rain. Wind? Yes. Cold? You betcha. But rain, cold, sunshine, or wind, all went forward, couples got married, and life goes on.

Couples who plan outdoor weddings at any time of year are taking a chance that the weather will turn against them. Of course, it does not actually turn against them. No need to take it personally. Weather is just doing what it does; that is, it changes and cannot be relied upon to be what you hope it might be for your plans on your big day. Of course, it might do exactly what you want. It could actually be gorgeous, just the right temperature, with a slightly warm breeze and the sun at just the right angle. But you cannot know for sure when you choose your date, place, and time. (For the record, one of my October 2014 couples, both of whom are meteorologists, chose to have their ceremony indoors.)

So, it’s not a great stretch to see a metaphor for married life here. Not only do long-term relationships go through many seasons together, but no matter how well we may make plans for life to go one way, something often comes along to send us in a different direction. Perhaps Wendell Berry had that in mind when he wrote the following:

“The meaning of marriage begins in the giving of words. We cannot join ourselves to one another without giving our word. And this must be an unconditional giving, for in joining ourselves to one another we join ourselves to the unknown.”

Joanna and Ryan, after their October ceremony at Overlook Farm, Clarksville

The unknown, indeed! Congratulations to my autumn couples, as you navigate the unknown together!

Open post

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Summer 2014

OK, now that we are past Labor Day, many consider summer to be over. Yet, with our recent heat and humidity surge, it still feels like summer here, and technically it can be considered summer until the autumnal equinox, right? Of course, during my years as a teacher, going back to work at this time of year meant that my summer was definitely over.

As a wedding professional, summer is my busy time of year and here in the St. Louis area, fall is even busier. Amazingly, I’m still getting inquiries about officiating in September and October of this year! Most of these requests are for days and times for which I’m already scheduled, so I pass them on to other local officiants, knowing that their schedules are nearly full as well, but hoping that the desperate couples can get lucky. Meanwhile, while officiating current weddings, I’m working on second and third drafts for my fall weddings, fine-tuning those ceremonies for which I am scheduled to officiate. It is good to have work, and I am grateful!

But I have been mightily distracted by the events in Ferguson these past several weeks since the death of Michael Brown. I have no answers, but I do have lots and lots of questions and concerns. I do not personally know any of the people involved, but I do believe that I am connected to all of them, because we are all part of the same human family. I pray for the family of Michael Brown, as well as for Darren Wilson and his family.

As a white woman, I do not know firsthand what it is like to be pulled over for “driving while black,” or any of the other indignities and dangers so many people are subjected to in my city/state/country because of their race. But when people are expressing their outrage and pain, I can listen and learn and look for opportunities to show support for those with the courage and tenacity to work toward changing those structures which seem to be making things worse for people, rather than better. The path is not a straight one, nor is it always clear, but I know that we can do better. 

I am encouraged by people all over the world for whom the events in Ferguson have been a wake-up call. Can things really be different this time? Yes, if we allow ourselves to be changed for the better. It won’t happen easily or quickly, but it can happen. How does it happen? One heart, one soul at a time. Mohandas Gandhi reminded us that we must “be the change” we wish to see in the world. Alright then, let’s get to it!

http://www.handsupunited.org/

https://www.facebook.com/dsnstl

 
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/121483302@N02/14799964240/”>theglobalpanorama</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Spring 2014

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

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Winter 2014

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.

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Autumn 2013

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!

St. Louis Wedding Celebrant: Summer 2013

“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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