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: 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: 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: 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.

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: 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!

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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