Still Cute, Just Older

Older teens or adults children in weddings

I love including children in a wedding ceremony! We often see kids as flower girls or ring bearers. When the children are the children of the couple getting married (rather than say, nieces or nephews) it becomes even more important to involve them in the ceremony. Let them know you understand that this is a big day for them, as well. The little ones are always adorable!

But for slightly older couples, they may have older children, perhaps teens or even adults themselves. How do you include them? Is it even appropriate? As in many things in life – it depends.

If the children are ‘on board’ for the wedding, happy to see their mother or father has found love again, then they should certainly be honored, recognized or involved. It’s always a good idea to ask anyone what role they might enjoy in your ceremony, but because we’ve seen so little of this modeled for us, most people won’t have any idea of what to do. So here are a few suggestions.

Once your kids are out of the house, you really are not blending the family, nor are you becoming a step-parent in the traditional sense of helping to raise the kids, so rituals like the Sand Ceremony may not resonate as much.

Instead, I like to see teens or adult children doing something together, and one thing that works especially well, is sharing a reading. In a religious ceremony, they might be asked to read scripture, and in a less religious or secular context, there are countless sources of inspiration. Teens will need direction but adults might be honored to find their own selection. On the other hand, in our busy world, asking them to do that might feel like a burden. In that case, come up with a few ideas to present to them. Once the reading is selected, one that is age and topic appropriate, it can be split up into sections.

For teens, giving them gifts is fitting, pointing out how the gift is analogous to the rings the couple exchanges, how it is symbolic of your love and commitment to them. I often include this as part of the ceremony itself. Admittedly this is easier for girls, since jewelry usually works out well as a comparative symbol. Some boys will also like jewelry, but really anything can work, because with the gift you are simply telling them you will love them always.

Gifts for adult children are great, too, but they don’t necessarily need to be presented in the ceremony. An heirloom, if you have one, makes a very meaningful gift.

Adult children, male or female, can present the rings to their respective parents. They may also want to walk down the aisle with their mother, not ‘giving away’ their mom, but supporting her. And I like the idea of fathers walking with their children as well.

Another possibility is to write a short statement about your children, and have the officiant include it in the ceremony. Or prepare a program and include lots of wonderful details about your amazing children for everyone to read; it gives them something good to do while waiting for the ceremony to begin.

And of course, those adult children may have children, and I’m sure you will be considering roles for your grandkids!

Just because you are marrying again, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate it. Many ‘older’ couples feel they need to keep it toned down, especially if they had a big wedding the first time around. And that makes complete sense. But don’t apologize or underestimate the importance of this milestone. After all, it is quite miraculous to find love and start anew! Worthy of celebration indeed! Bring the whole family.

     Thank you Lisa Rhinehart  and Michael Straub  for the use of your photography

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Cooking up some wedding fusion

Blending traditions and cultures for an inclusive wedding

I’m often asked about this. When a couple comes from two different cultures, ethnicities or religious traditions, how do I blend their backgrounds into a cohesive ceremony? First and foremost, I am always deeply mindful that there be an absolute sense of equality and balance. No one is leaving any ceremony I created saying ‘it was all about her,’ or ‘it was all about his family.’

Here is a fairly typical scenario – let’s take a couple, one partner is Puerto Rican and the other Italian. Both come from Roman Catholic backgrounds, but do not actively practice their faith, but many of their parents and grandparents do.

When you explore Italian traditions for the ceremony itself, it is exclusively the celebration of the Catholic Mass. I am not a priest and obviously I would never attempt to mimic communion. Instead I might suggest a wine sharing ritual that references both the religious connections of wine, using an Italian wine. There’s a lot of history to draw from. I explain the connections, connotations and symbolism, and then the couple drinks the wine, sharing the ‘cup of life’ together. I hope you get the idea.

One of my favorite Hispanic wedding traditions is the lazo, which is like a giant rosary and used to join the bride and groom by draping it over them during the ceremony, while the priest blesses the marriage. Again, I’m not a priest, but I love using a lazo in a similar fashion. The officiant doesn’t have to do this, by the way. In fact, it’s a great honor to ask one or two people to wrap the cord – a favorite relative, god-parents, or anyone special to the couple.

A lazo can be made of many materials, besides being beaded like the rosary. I have seen floral lazos, and ribbon lazos – do what works for you. Some couples create their own lazo. By the way, lazo literal means lasso, for obvious reasons, and sometimes is even called a lasso – so if you see these two terms, they are the same thing.

I also love the 13 Coins ritual, which could be used instead, and I promise to write about that one soon. But you probably would not want to use both.

Michael Straub Photography

Readings can bring a lot to the table. Look for scriptural passages or use the wisdom of writers from the country you are honoring. In some instances, you might even have the reading performed in two languages. That infuses a lot of flavor. Find authors or poets from each heritage, and make sure to mention why you chose it.

There are other, and probably easier places besides the ceremony, where couples can honor their backgrounds. One of my very favorite Italian wedding traditions is done at the reception. It is when the couple breaks a vase, plate or glass, and the number of pieces symbolize how long they will be happily married. Because of its similarity to the Jewish ‘breaking the glass’ at the end of the ceremony, I find this especially wonderful, because it speaks to the universality of symbols!

For the Puerto Rican side of the family have the couple’s first dance be a danza criolla, a Puerto Rican waltz.

Have a band or DJ who are versed in Latin music, such as salsa, merengue, mambo, samba, and can also toss in an Italian Tarantella, along with some great Italian-American crooners such as Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima, Vic Damone, Jerry Vale, and Tony Bennett.

And food, food, food. Both cultures have many specific and fantastic dishes to enjoy. Don’t worry if you think they don’t ‘go together.’ Do it anyway! Food always brings people together.

These are just a few examples of how two cultures can successfully be brought together for a wedding ceremony and celebration. There are countless ways to infuse an important milestone like this with history, culture, religion, and most importantly – meaning.

(this column is dedicated to Ashley

     Thank you Lisa Rhinehart  and Michael Straub  for the use of your photography

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Fairytale Weddings – Grim Roots

I love delving into rituals and traditions from around the world, and do so fairly often in this column. Today I thought it would be fun to look at some of our most well-known customs that have, uh, let’s say – ‘uncomfortable’ origins.

It’s almost universal for fathers to ‘give away the bride,’ and I love putting my own modern spin on this by reframing it as ‘supporting’ the bride and/or ‘presenting’ the bride. The origin of this tradition is pretty clear, very literal. A daughter was the father’s property, and his to give. But there are a few other theories that make it even more disturbing. One is classic that seems to weave into many wedding traditions – having to do with evil spirits.  It is thought that the bride needed to be ushered to the ceremony because she couldn’t see through her veil, and (get this) the veil was over her face to protect her from unseen demons. Other stories say the veil was to hide her face from her groom, until it was too late for him to back out. Ugh! This reflects the long history of women valued only for the looks or child-bearing. Good and bad luck, spirits and myths, all were dominant themes in ancient times, and to some extent still today.

As most of our western wedding traditions, having bridesmaids also harkens back to early Roman times, when the bride’s maiden friends would line up to form somewhat of a protective shield while walking her to the groom’s village. These girlfriends were dressed similarly, and expected to intervene if any vengeful ex-lovers tried to hurt the bride or steal her dowry. The bride did not have different clothing, but instead wore the same dress as all of her bridesmaids, to make her blend in and all the more difficult to distinguish for potential kidnappers.

And speaking of kidnapping, the best man’s role comes from his duty to make sure the bride either didn’t escape or get kidnapped. Apparently kidnapping women was more common than I realized. But sometimes the best man himself was charged with a kidnapping to bring a woman to be married. This is told clearly in well-known Roman myth, the story of The Rape of the Sabine Women, where the men of Rome kidnapped young women from other cities and brought them to be married to Roman men. It’s interesting to note that the original meaning of ‘rape,’ may have been ‘abduction’ as opposed to sexual violence, but I’d bet anything that sexual assault was part of the deal. Those poor women! Until 1753 English brides could be kidnapped until the Marriage Act was passed.

Mock-kidnapping are still part of wedding traditions in parts of Eastern Europe. Ha, ha. What a fun tradition, right? It is, but only if you do not look too deeply. And unfortunately, real kidnaping is still a practice in many places. Have we come much further? Recently the kidnapping of girls by Boco Haram made headlines world-wide, but probably only because of the sheer numbers of very young girls taken. It takes a lot to get people’s attention.

Less traumatic is the origin of the ring bearer carrying that pillow. The pillow symbolizes the promises of your sweet marriage dreams coming true. Using a small child to carry it represents innocence, the future and new beginnings. That’s a relief.

Pope Innocent III introduced the period of waiting between betrothal and marriage in 1214, and engaged couples started displaying their commitment with a ring – and so began the tradition of the engagement ring.   Archduke Maximilian of Austria was the first to put a diamond on it, in 1477. The engagement ring is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand because it was once thought that the vein in that finger led directly to the heart. Not all women wear it there however, in traditional Indian practice its worn on the right hand, because the left is considered unclean. Also in many Northern and Eastern European countries such as Denmark, Norway, Russia, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Bulgaria, it is more common to wear the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the right hand. In Brazil, the engaged couple each wear plain bands as engagement rings on their right hands, and then, upon taking their vows, switch their rings to the left hand. I love this!! Couples in Germany and the Netherlands often do the exact opposite: sporting engagement rings on the left hand and wedding rings on the right.

Traditions vary and the roots of some of our most well-known customs have surprising beginnings. Understanding them doesn’t have to turn you away from using them. In the end, we chose the customs that we love the most and interpret them for a modern era.

     Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the use of your wonderful photography


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How to give the best wedding speech ever!

Have you been tasked with giving a speech at a wedding? Quite an honor, but sometimes a little scary! You want it to be good. No, you want it to be great!

Here are some of my thoughts on how to help you get there.

First, and very importantly, it needs to be structured – you know:  a beginning, middle and end. Hold this thought as you create yours, and it will help guide you. Know your three key points – your introduction, some meaningful content, and a good ending. Endings are everything, it’s also what people remember the most, so bring your best energy to it.

And a common problem many speakers battle is not knowing when or how to end.  I’m sure we’ve all heard speakers going on and on, wishing they’d stopped sooner! If you are not reading the speech you may also find yourself out on a limb and having a hard time getting back to safety. In other words, just prattling on and on.

Don’t let this happen. Either write your speech or use bullet points to keep you on track. If you know what you want to say, and prefer NOT to read it – practice OUT LOUD with a friend. This really does make a big difference.

Introduce yourself. Not everyone knows who you are, and assuming they do is arrogant.  Simply say who you are and how you know the couple – and that starts you off in the right direction. There’s your beginning.

A best friend of one half of the couple must include words about the other partner. It can’t be all about your friend, leaving out his or her new spouse. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to do so, or make it sound like a mere after thought. A short compliment to him or her isn’t enough. Include something of substance.

Keep it clean. Don’t include anything you wouldn’t want published in the newspaper, heard at work, or want your mother to hear. If in doubt – don’t say it.

Include stories, experiences with the couple that enlighten us to their personalities and their love. Explain why you know they belong together. Your childhood friendship with one or both of them is fine, but keep that brief.

Humor is difficult. Don’t force it. If a story is funny, great, but don’t tell jokes, it’s not open mic night, it’s a tribute to the couple, not you!

See if you can find a meaningful quote, something that makes complete sense for the couple, reflecting their taste, passions and values. There is a lot of wisdom out there, finding something from a source that connects to their lives helps illuminate your intent. But again, don’t force it. It’s not required.

If you think it’s too long, it probably is. When you practice the speech – time it.  About five minutes is perfect.

Be sober, or mostly sober, when you speak.

Be yourself. Don’t write something overly fancy or use words you wouldn’t ordinarily use.

Don’t let the speechmaker who proceeds you, steel your thunder or your wonderful stories. Check with them ahead of time and compare notes if at all possible.

If you are asking folks to raise their glass in a toast for your finish, make sure their glasses are full before you even start, so check with the wait-staff before you even begin.

Remember – there is a difference between offering a toast and making a speech. Please do what is asked of you, although a speech is often (but not always) ended with a toast. However, don’t step on someone else’s toes if they’ve been asked to make the toast. A best man versus a father, for example – the father offers a toast, the best man gives a speech; or best woman gives the speech, and mother offers the toast, or any version conceivable.

And finally, the big conclusion – thank everyone for being there and acknowledge the love that brought you all together.

     Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the use of your wonderful photography

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Spotlight on Grooms

So much focus is put on women and weddings. Maybe too much, really – focus that becomes pressure, stress and unrealistic expectation. Remember that men, too, are almost always part of the occasion and equation, and too often not given enough thought. Time to look at the men-folk again!

Before I get to all the practical stuff, I want to share an observation. I see a great many men cry during the ceremony, most often during the vow exchange. I am not surprised when they are caught off-guard by overwhelming emotion. My theory is that in our culture men are taught to suppress their feelings (big boys don’t cry) and at an important, extremely emotional time such as this, all those tamped down feelings that have built up inside can’t be held back. The damn breaks. At least that’s my guess. So, men, if you do cry, please remember that it’s quite normal and understand why. A little advance crying might help relieve the pressure, though, so give into the urge to shed some tears beforehand.

Now, onto wedding planning! Granted there is usually one partner who is more inclined towards the wedding planning, but given you are a team and planning a life together, it would behoove ANYONE getting marriage to participate in planning. Male couples can teach us something here – after all, if there is no bride to carry the burden of wedding planning, what do two grooms do? Usually they plan their wedding together.

Many a (straight) groom has expressed that all he needs to do is show up, implying wedding work is up to the woman. This is wrong on so many levels. If he takes his upcoming vows seriously and his friends and family are joining him to celebrate, why shouldn’t he be engaged (pun intended!) in the process?

The good news is that many men today are taking an active role in their own wedding planning. Here are a few tips for them.

Some of the classic ways to be involved include choosing music, signature drinks, menu, photographer, and participating in choosing all your vendors. In other words – express your opinion. Don’t get sucked into a wedding that does not fit you style. To be sure you will feel comfortable and proud on the big day, you must participate in advance.

If things are getting tense in the family, you can be a shoulder to lean on, a hearing ear, and even a buffer, should your bride and her mother (for example) start to argue. However, don’t ever say one bad word about your future mother or father-in-law. It will come back to haunt you. Just be understanding and support your partner!

If your bride is taking on too much and is stressed out, gently help her off the edge of the cliff and encourage her to let go of any unimportant tasks.

If you have decided to write your own vows, don’t leave this to the last minute. Check in with your fiancée, to be sure you do not wind up walking away from the ceremony embarrassed. Don’t make your vows all humor, one funny line is enough. As a celebrant, I assist couples who are creating their own vows, so they will be confident without necessarily knowing what the other one is planning to say. You may not have that opportunity – so talk with one another about the length and tone of this important promise, or ask a friend to help.

On the day-of, classic responsibilities include making sure your attendants are there on time, and sober, and know who is holding the rings. Delegate jobs for them in advance, such as welcoming guests, directing traffic, and generally being around to help. There’s a reason you chose them to stand with you, they are there to support you!

Don’t forget to eat something, it’s a long day, and pace yourself in all ways. If your normal routine happens to include exercise, go ahead with that in the morning. You’ll feel better. The same advice goes for women, of course.

A new tradition that has developed, and I although it plays into the ever-growing list of things-to-do-for-weddings, it is beautiful. Give your intended a gift on the morning of the wedding. This doesn’t have to be about the expense, but it does need to hit the right note. Something personal, a private reference between the two of you perhaps? Or sending a card or letter – via one of your attendants – to deliver to her before your walk down the aisle is also a grand romantic gesture and will surely set a romantic tone for the nuptials. If ever there is a time to get sappy, this is it!

Pay attention to your own grooming. While a bride may be at the spa, getting her hair, nails, and make-up perfect, some men don’t really care for any of that. But it is important to go a bit beyond just a fresh shave or beard trim and haircut, and I encourage men indulge in some extra personal grooming, beyond their daily routine, and consider getting a facial. Most men never know the joy of a facial:  pores cleaned, little hairs trimmed –  it really will make you look your best, especially for those close-up wedding portraits.

Make sure your clothing and shoes fit properly, well in advance, guys.

Stay sober.

And during the ceremony and party following, focus on your partner, make eye contact, compliment her, and be a complete gentleman in all ways. Thank everyone, and remember to enjoy the moment.


     Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the use of your wonderful photography

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Should You Accommodate Difficult Guests?

The concept of the dysfunctional family has become a bit of a joke, with everyone declaring their family is ‘not normal.’ And what is ‘normal’ anyway? But for those with severe problems, it’s no joke!

Whether it’s addiction, mental health, or developmental issues, there are probably people in our lives who have circumstances that may impact a big event. Couples planning a wedding often worry about family members who are struggling with those or other ‘disruptive’ issues. With much-needed attention being given to our nation’s opioid crisis, we are more aware that many people are abusing drugs.

I recently officiated for a couple with three children, one who was autistic. This young child moaned, cried, and ran around during the entire ceremony, which everyone tolerated because they love him, and they understood; but unfortunately, it distracted the couple from enjoying their special time. They had given me a heads up about him, and believed he’s be ok, but the stress of the change of scenery and the change in routine created an environment that escalated his behavior. And although they had his favorite calming thing – a cell phone game – to help, it was still hard for him. There’s an important lesson here: triggers.

For those in recovery, weddings can also be stressful. They may not want to be around alcohol, which seems to be such a big part of many celebrations, and some recovering alcoholics would prefer not to be around people who are drinking. Others feel differently. Alcohol can also be a trigger for drug use.

One question is: do you want to have a ‘sober’ wedding? An open- bar with drinks freely flowing is probably not the best idea for the recently sober – flaunting the temptation. If you want alcohol at your wedding, but are concerned about it, consider having table service instead. It’s more discreet than folks hanging around a bar.

It’s a difficult decision whether to even invite a friend or family member who could become out-of-control.  An honest discussion with the person may be possible, but because so many addicts are in denial, it might not work. Choosing not to invite someone, especially someone close to you like a brother or sister, is a very heart-wrenching decision. You don’t want to regret or second guess yourself after the fact, but either way, you probably will.

Another important question to ask yourself is how willing are you to adjust your event to compensate for someone else’s issues. Would that non-alcohol event be ok with you? Would a smaller, more casual afternoon wedding work better, be less stressful? Would you choose a no-children wedding if there are young ones you don’t want there? Would you be willing to provide services or help for those with special needs?

Are you afraid the person in question will make a ‘scene?’ Assigning someone to keep an eye on the person is a burden that doesn’t seem fair.

It’s not uncommon for one partner to be concerned about someone, while the other partner thinks it’s ‘no big deal.’ Try to understand and acknowledge that there really is no way to know what will happen, and in a way, you are both right.

If it the couple themselves in recovery, one or both partners, there are many ways to celebrate that accomplishment. I have had several couples share those stories with me and we created interesting, sensitive and meaningful ways to touch on that in the ceremony.

And of course, if should go without saying, be sure to support someone dealing with addiction or mental health issues. Congratulation them on the hard work it takes, as when they walk a healthier path.

There is no one answer, and no right answer to these dilemmas, but I hope these questions and considerations will help you think through the challenges, if you have these concerns about your big day.

  THANK YOU Lisa Rhinehart for the use of your gorgeous photos 

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2018 Wedding Trends… who cares?

What are the trends we can expect for 2018 weddings? One of them is something I’ve been advocating for a long time: unusual forms of entertainment for your guests.

A friend of mine, DJ Adam Skuba, has the latest cool craze to replace the photo booth – the Magic Mirror. It is an interactive experience you’re sure to enjoy! I found it so intriguing when I tried it – it definitely draws you in. The Magic Mirror is literally a mirror and it takes your photo and then you get it printed out on the spot. There are a few cool bells and whistles with this device, including writing with your finger on the mirror, and it is set up to include your event name and date on final product, which looks like a postcard.  You wind up with a wonderful keepsake.

The Magic Mirror

There are other unusual creative options for entertainment, as well. A short ‘floor show’ from a comedian, sketch comedy or improve troupe, a musical revue, or even acrobats would be so fun. A mariachi band or New Orleans style 2nd Line could stroll through the party.

Here’s a few other miscellaneous ideas to keep it fresh: Mix up your wedding party – gender wise. Embrace your culture – always a good idea. Bridal gowns with sleeves and pink bridal gowns. Go crazy with desserts. And navy, they say, is the new black – just not for me, I’m not giving up my black clothes!

And then there are venues! Couples are looking for unique venues to host their weddings, and it holds extra meaning when the location reflects one’s interests, backgrounds and passions.

Seaport Museum - interesting location for wedding!

For several years I’ve written about how the self-declared color expert, Pantone, chooses a color of the year. This year have presented eight color palettes, as a preview -  but just announced the winner – the 2018 color of the year is Ultra-Violet.

Another big color trend are the metallic and iridescent tones. I can see how they are eye-catching, but they are not for the faint-of-heart. A variation on this is anything with a pearlized, marbleized, or translucent look. These are all dramatic and create a distinctive look for any wedding. They have a more formal feel, with the potential to be gorgeous, but could also go terribly wrong and look tacky, so be careful!

Baltimore harbor

A good color scheme can pull everything together, and it doesn’t cost a dime. Just choose the colors you love the most, regardless of Pantone, any wedding advice column, time of year, or me.

A few trends that I don’t mind seeing go away include using burlap, chalk-board signage, and please, I beg you, no live goldfish centerpieces! Just don’t tell me Sand Ceremonies are out. They are one of the clearest symbolic actions, especially great for families, and should not be pushed aside simply because they’ve become popular.

Ultimately you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, or go with trends; just enjoy the ride instead. Your wedding is exactly that – yours. Do whatever makes you happy. Sometimes simple is the best way to go. Oh, and if burlap and chalk-boards are for you – please use them.

This coming year celebrate your joys, and honor your sorrows the best way you can. Wishing you all peace and love, and a very happy and healthy 2018.

  THANK YOU Lisa Rhinehart for the use of your gorgeous photos throughout the year!


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Year-end highlights

It’s practically obligatory for columnists to do their year-end column or wrap-up. And then there’s the one about coming trends. I am not going buck those traditions! Here are some reflections on weddings I’ve officiated this past year, as we say goodbye to 2017.

From intimate elopements and micro-weddings at my own ceremony site, Harmony Gardens, to big beautiful spectacles at high-end venues, my season was full and diverse.

Intimate ceremony at Harmony Gardens

I loved them all, or to be completely honest, almost all –  but some of the most appealing ceremonies for me, included those with children, and even a few with expecting parents. Including kids in the ceremony is something I feel strongly about. For couples with children, whether from previous marriages, with children from the two of them, or any combination -  this big day is also about the kids. While its fine for a niece or nephew, having your own child be a flower girl or ring bearer doesn’t feel like quite enough. So, with these couples I make lots of suggestions, and many of them really like the idea of saying vows to the children, if they are old enough to understand.

Photo by Garth Woods

I fondly recall the pregnant bride and her partner who performed the sand ceremony including a tiny little container of sand representing their future child. It was incredibly sweet.

I’ve written about interesting locations and I had a couple who got married at the Kemmerer Museum in Bethlehem, another other at Steel Stacks, and one on the balcony at the Inn at Jim Thorpe.

Another sand ceremony on the balcony at Jim Thorpe

I’ve had several military brides and grooms, and I always want to acknowledge that in meaningful ways.

I have a New Year’s Eve wedding coming up. It’s a great choice for a wedding date –creating a double celebration. They clearly have a built-in theme.

There was the Russian/Ukrainian couple, the Jamaican couple, the salsa-dancing couple, and the nature-oriented ceremony with lots of Celtic influences.

Bread & salt ritual

But you don’t have to be ‘different’ in any way to be special and worthy of the very best and beautiful wedding possible. Every couple in love deserves a great ceremony and every couple has their own journey to celebrate. Sometimes that journey is surprising and sometimes it is simple. Sometimes it is complex and sometimes, easy. But anyone taking the leap of faith that is marriage is undertaking a huge commitment that warrants close attention to detail.

I have had many couples who expressed that they were quiet, or homebodies, and didn’t want a big fuss, and together we came up with the right approach. Because still, within the quiet there is commitment and love. And as the expression goes, ‘still waters run deep.’




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In good times or bad…

A great venue!

One of the best things about being a Celebrant is working with wonderful couples who love each other and see good things in the future. But how do we reconcile love and goodness, when bad things happen around us?

It’s helpful to remember that people have tied the knot during wartime, through military deployments, through sickness and separation, and all sorts of adversity. People fell in love in the Warsaw ghetto and under fire in Kosovo. And of course, like my parents, many couples married before their husbands deployed during WWII. Love finds a way.

If you are someone struggling with the state of the world, it can be difficult to remember there is goodness, too. And yet, people still fall in love, and that is a beautiful thing. It might raise the question: is a big wonderful wedding appropriate? I say: yes! Celebrate love!

As in most things in life, it’s all about balance. You can be concerned with the state of the world, and you can give yourself permission to have a wonderful wedding celebration.

Here’s are few ideas you may find inspiring to combine a desire for a better world, with the indulgence of a wedding.

A view with meaning.

Consider dedicating a shower, engagement party, or even a part of your wedding to a cause that is close to your heart. Choose groups that represent your values, but be sure it is something all of your guests can get behind.

Find a venue that does good in your community, such as a library, the “Y”, or a social service agency that has a space you can rent. I know this is a difficult one, but it is possible. They may be surprised, but welcome your financial contribution, and the attention you draw to their cause.

Include some words about your views on life in the ceremony and through your choice of favors. There are countless quotes and inspirational sources to reflect your values. Or perhaps include a promise to help make a better world along with your promise (your vow) to each other.

Choose small local businesses for your vendors. There are some companies like Give that create delicious goodies and are socially and environmentally conscious. Or Tom’s Shoes – they provide shoes, water, and other services to people in need – so be sure to pick some up for your attendants.

And instead of a gift registry, have a charity registry, or include it along with the gift options.

There are many websites that address eco and sustainable weddings, but I’m proposing more than that. I recently found who have a searchable database for what they call ‘do-gooder’ vendors, although it’s not exactly Pocono oriented.

Be bold, be honest, speak out. I’m not suggesting you turn your wedding into a political rally (although that could be cool). There is a time and place for everything, and a wedding can be a place to include your perspective. Getting married is one of life’s most important milestones, therefore it is worthy of your deepest deliberation.

                THANK YOU Lisa Rhinehart for all the gorgeous photos. 


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Another look at the Knot

Did you ever wonder where they expression ‘tying the knot’ came from?  I thought I’d take a good closer look at the ancient ritual that inspired the well-known phrase.

There are a few different explanations of this Celtic ritual, also called handfasting. The basic action is simply using rope, cloth, or ribbons, to wrap (sometimes tied and knotted) around the joined hands or wrists of the couple. A clear symbol of unity.

Conveniently we forget the history that tells us handfasting was originally used for an engagement, not marriage. But it really does make an excellent wedding ritual, and I’ll get to that in a minute.

Photo Credit: The Pros

Back to the history. When we look at the origins of this, we are looking at pre-Christian traditions that fall into many categories: Pagan, Wiccan, Goddess, and Nature-inspired worship and practices. Don’t let that be a stumbling block if you like the symbolism. The reason most couples like this today is because it comes from the ancient Celtic people, who lived in the area that is now Ireland (and parts beyond). For this reason we can call it an Irish tradition. It has become more mainstream and can certainly be performed for Christian couples who might otherwise be put-off by those Pagan roots. Prince William and Kate Middleton were handfasted at their wedding in Westminster Abbey so I think we’re good to go!

My research about the original intent, the engagement ritual, points to the idea of two people being ‘bound’ in a union to last for a year and a day. Sounds like a trial marriage, which seems like a good idea, if you ask me. It gave the couple the chance to see if they could survive marriage. After the year, the couple could either split up, as if they had never been married, or could decide to enter permanently into marriage.

Photo Credit: Garth Woods

Today it has definitely become a wedding ritual. And, if you are a practicing Wiccan or Pagan, it can be the actual legal action of marriage. Depending on the state where the handfasting is performed, and whether or not the officiant is a legally recognized minister (or Wiccan priest) the ceremony itself may be legally binding, or couples may choose to make it legal by also having a civil ceremony. Because of the beauty of our Constitution we all have the right to practice any religion we want, so if it truly is your religious belief, it is then a legal act. But please, people, do the legal license!

There are countless variations to this ritualistic action. Usually after the declaration of intent, the “I do” party, the couple joins hands, sometimes crossing their own hands at the wrists, and then holding hands with one another (making the sign of infinity). Some traditions say to only join your right hands together. Once the cloth is gently wrapped or loosely tied some words are said. When I do a modern version of this I often have the couple take their vows while handfasted, and then unwrap the cloth.

For actual Wiccan ceremonies, the four elements of the earth are incorporated into the handfasting. There are many sources to find ancient wording if that is what you’re looking for, but most often I want to have a modern spin.

The rope or cloth you choose can be anything you like, and it can wrapped by the officiant, or a special person or person of your choice. I love that because it’s another great way to get others involved in the ceremony. I once had both mothers of the couples do the honors.

Photo Credit: Garth Woods

The most important advice I can give a couple is to make sure family will be ok with this. If you love the ritual but it would offend family, please skip it. There are many other wonderful rituals to honor Irish heritage. A marriage always is about more than just the couple – it is about families as well.

Now, when you tie the knot, you’ll now know a little more about it.


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    Lois Heckman

    Lois Heckman is a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant who officiates at weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies in the Poconos and beyond. She has performed hundreds of ceremonies and brings a wealth of knowledge to her work. Visit her website: ... Read Full
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