New Year 2010, Parte Dos

I am excited about the possibilities for my Celebrant work in 2010. Here are some of the things I am considering:
There were a number of weddings I officiated this past year where everyone could have benefited from the use of a sound system. I believe that I could be heard (my fifteen years in the classroom and several years of community theatre taught me a lot about projecting my voice!), but the bride and groom and readers were not always able to be heard. So I think it is time to look into getting my own sound system.

I would like to offer couples the option to use a credit or debit card to pay for my services. I know that there can be all kinds of crazy fees involved in doing this, but if I can figure out a way to make it work for St. Louis Ceremonies, I will.

I am going to develop my Spanish-speaking and comprehension skills. My recent experience with a December wedding stirred an interest in me for speaking this language that a growing number of new St. Louisans speak as their original language. If I work hard, perhaps a year from now I will be able to say that I offer bi-lingual ceremonies. OK, maybe two years from now, but eventually I hope to make this happen!

I have signed up to take “Funerals and other Ceremonies for Healing” this winter from the Celebrant Foundation and Institute. Once I receive certification, I look forward to expanding my Celebrant practice into funerals, memorials, and other ceremonies to assist people with some of the more difficult transitions and losses that are a part of being human.

If this year is anything like the last, I know it will be filled with more of the wonders and blessings that are at the heart of celebrating life’s most profound moments. I can’t imagine doing anything else!

The New Year 2010

This past year has flown by, as they all seem to these days. Recalling twenty-five weddings and one memorial service in 2009 brings on a rush of memories and feelings. As I reflect back I am grateful for so much.

First I want to say thanks to all of you who trusted me with your wedding ceremonies in 2009. I feel privileged to have worked with you to create some truly lovely and meaningful ceremonies.

Regarding St. Louis Ceremonies, I find I am most grateful for the people who have helped me to get things rolling this year. The list is long so I won’t attempt to name everyone who has shown me so much support and encouragement, but I do want to mention a few:

Thanks to local Celebrant extraordinaire Lamira Martin, from whom I received over thirty leads this year. I am most grateful for the wisdom of her experience and for her refreshing lightness of being!

In preparing to set up my website, my St. Louis friend Andrew Wimmer and Seattle Celebrant Annemarie Juhlian were invaluable in providing me with guidance and suggestions as I went through the early stages of website development. As the website vision moved toward a reality, Zoe Feast of Indigo Image helped me to pull it all together. My deep gratitude goes out to you all.

And, finally, none of this would be happening as smoothly as it has been without the constant support of my husband, Rocky. He has been on board this Celebrant project 100% from the start. Rockmeister, you are the man!

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.

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.

Spiritual But Not Religious?

Something I hear with regularity from couples planning their weddings is that they are “spiritual but not religious.” Apparently, those who feel this way are not just talking to me. This past weekend, PARADE magazine published the results of their national poll on spirituality. In it, 24% of respondents considered themselves to be “spiritual but not religious.”
This can mean different things to different people. Although some people who say this are regular church goers wanting to signal a religious openness to other traditions and beliefs, most people I meet are not regular church attendees. Instead, they either do not currently practice any particular religious traditions, or they have combined practices from a number of different traditions to meet their personal spiritual needs.
Whatever it means to you, the good news is that celebrants trained by the Celebrant Foundation and Institute are ready to work with you on your wedding to create a ceremony that truly reflects your beliefs, whatever they are!

From Control to Celebration

This morning I ran across something written by theologian Matthew Fox which made me think about the small but not insignificant role I see celebrants playing in the world today. Fox said,

We need the courage to leap from one edge to another – from contemplation to compassion; from I to We; from ladder to circle; from climbing to dancing; from control to celebration; from home as nation to home as global village.

Celebrants trained by the Celebrant Foundation and Institute approach each ceremony with a deep respect for the ones who have requested our services. Yes, we have the authority that accompanies training and experience. But an equal or even greater authority belongs to the individual, couple, family, or group for whom we are designing the ceremony. Working together we create a ceremony based on their needs, hopes, desires, and vision, not our own. The image of moving from a ladder model, where the officiant is always right, to a circle model, where the officiant/celebrant collaborates with people to create something meaningful , moves us from I to We; from control to celebration.

When I explain this to people, I am greeted with smiles and nods. So many of us have longed for these types of collaborations in order to celebrate life’s transitions, but we have not known how to do them or where to find them. Celebrants are helping people meet a very real need to create ceremonies to honor what they experience as sacred in their lives.

Sometimes the Best Things Come in Small Packages

Stephen and Christina looked over the list of favorite unity rituals used by many contemporary brides and grooms. They all looked pretty good, but none of the rituals seemed to fit them as well as they would have liked. Then, with a little searching online, they found just what they were looking for: The Wooden Wedding Box.

A tradition which has made its way from Holland to the United States, The Wooden Wedding Box can be a delightful addition to any wedding ceremony. It is about the size of a small tool box, just large enough to hold a bottle of wine, two glasses, and two love letters.

This is how it works: The bride and groom compose a love letter to each other sometime before the wedding day. In the letters they are asked to write about the good qualities of their partner and the reasons they have fallen in love. Then they put the letters into the box either before or during the wedding ceremony, but they are instructed not to show the letter they have written to their partner.

During the wedding ceremony after the rings have been exchanged, the wedding officiant explains to the guests what the box is all about. She or he describes the contents of the box and its purpose. If the couple should find their marriage enduring serious difficulties, before making any irrational decisions they should open the box together, drink a glass of the wine, and then read the letters they have written to one another. Of course the hope is that the couple does not ever encounter such serious difficulties and that they are able to open the box, read the letters, and drink the wine on a big anniversary, perhaps ten, fifteen, or twenty-five years from now!

When the explanation is finished, the couple walks over to the table where the box is waiting for them. There they each take a small nail and take turns hammering the nail into a pre-drilled hole. When finished, the rest of the ceremony continues.

At Stephen and Christina’s wedding, The Wooden Wedding Box Ceremony was acknowleged with smiles and nods of understanding by their guests. It seems that anyone who has ever been married understands the need to take time out now and then to remember and celebrate their love for one another.

If this sounds like a good option for your wedding ceremony, talk with your wedding minister or celebrant. For more information, see .

Posts navigation

1 2 3 4 5 6