Why Get Married?

I write a lot about weddings, but a wedding is merely the first step and symbolic transition in something bigger: marriage.  And while I love weddings and creating wedding ceremonies rich with meaning, it is the lifetime that follows that matters most.

There’s a beautiful poem by Marge Piercy, an author I’ve always enjoyed, called Why Marry at All?  The piece addresses overcoming old constraints of marriage that limited a woman’s role in life, and celebrating the more modern idea of standing together through life’s challenges as equals. It’s a point of view I agree with completely. Because marriage, like all societal constructs, has evolved and grown. And this is a good thing.

The institution of marriage probably predates recorded history. Most ancient cultures valued a wife only as property, an idea that held on far too long. Over time, however, both religious organizations and governments began to set out rights and obligations between the spouses. Different religions and cultures have different interpretations of this, but all agreed that intimate relations and procreation were an expected part of the union. Lovebetween the couple came to be valued much later, really only in modern times.

Today most people choose whether or not to have children, and couples that do not want, or cannot have children, are not shunned, but live a happily married life. Over-population of the planet should figure into this equation as well, although that discussion seems to have disappeared.

When women no longer have to depend on marriage for survival, why would a woman want to get married? In the 1970’s feminists began asking this very question and many rejected the institution. But ultimately the bond of love between two people is more powerful than social forces left or right. And so, feminists, too, chose marriage. People just naturally want to pair-up; most people do not want to be alone.

I believe in marriage because, at its healthiest and best, it creates a place of safety, where two people can grow, as individuals and as a couple. It has proven to promote longevity, stability, health and wellbeing. It also provides legal benefits including tax, social security, employment, medical, family, housing and other types of legal rights that vary from state to state. I’ve officiated quick elopements for many a military couple, needing the legal status so their partner could live on the base, and marriages for people dealing with immigration issues. There are couples who need health insurance of their partner, or the right to make medical decisions. And I’ve officiated for countless love-struck young couples who are yearning for a lifetime of happiness.

I’ve officiated for gay couples who have spent over 20 or 30 years together and finally got to make it official. I support marriage equality because it’s obvious to me that gay and lesbian couples deserve all the same legal, spiritual, social, and emotional benefits of marriage, and I’m so happy they got that. Let’s hope we don’t lose those rights.

Today, marriage is better than ever! Couples I speak with are very committed to equality and see their relationships as true partnerships.

When I am creating a wedding ceremony I am celebrating not only the love of the two people who brought us all together for that purpose, but the institution itself.



thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the awesome photography!

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The Common Threads of Finding Love

I’m always intrigued by the New York Times section calls ‘Vows.’ They have a sweet way of sharing a little bit about each couple’s story. Good writing!  When reading these vignettes, I often recognize commonalities with the couples I work with. Common threads, so to speak.

We all like to think we’re unique, but truth be told, we are more alike than we are different, and the search for love is certainly something most of us have in common.

I thought I’d explore some of these similarities, drawn from the hundreds of couples who shared their stories with me. I especially love hearing how they found one another. My intent is not to make people feel less special, it is simply true that there are only so many stories in this world, and I think Shakespeare probably wrote all of them. I’ve read there are only six or seven types of stories anyway.

Looking at the accounts of how people found their soul-mate, I think Joseph Campbell, author and ‘mythologist’ got it right when he identified the ‘hero’s journey.’ For each of us, our personal journey can be epic.

On-line introductions

There are the stories of how it was absolutely the last time someone would stay on the dating site… they’d had it, done, finished… and then, thatmessage came in.

Then there are those who said they would never do on-line dating, but their best friend/ sister/ mother/ coworker convinced them to try, and the very first person they connected with turned out to be ‘the one’.

Joseph Campbell wroteComputers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.I would add that sometimes the ending makes it all worthwhile.

The story of dating the other one first

They met through mutual friends, but it was complicated. One or both were in relationships, but once they connected they knew it was only a matter of time until they would be together.

Then there are the tales of dating the sibling/cousin/twin (yes twin!) a few years back, but always liking the other one better. Fast forward and they run into one another at a bar/ice cream shop/ grocery store/ beach, and BOOM!

Joseph Campbell, again: The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.

Childhood sweethearts

Never forget him/her. Married then divorced or widowed, and decided to look up the old flame on Facebook, and the story begins. Again, as Joseph Campbell puts it: We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

On love

When I ask people what love about one another, almost all couples speak about their partner being their best friend. I find this inspiring and hopeful. Another common denominator is how much they value one another and support one another. Laughter is often mentioned, and how much couples enjoy spending time together doing anything, everything or even nothing.

No matter how different the couple may appear to others, whether being of diverse nationalities, religions, or ethnicities, they speak of how they complement one another. Whether the reference point is Yin and Yang, Lucy and Ricky,or Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly, they fit together like pieces of a puzzle. This is sometimes called the ‘other half,’ or even ‘soul-mate.’

Once more, Campbell:The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.And this relates to my final, and most important point. It’s beautiful to hear couples tell me their partner loves them for who they truly are. All of them, flaws and all.

We humans need love in our lives. Almost everyone wants a life partner who supports them, listens to them, and values them. No matter how you met that person, I’m glad you did.


thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the awesome photography!

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Seeking understanding of world religions

Over the years I have written about many cultural and religious traditions. Along with Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism, I’ve written about Sikhs, Shintoism and Paganism. I’ve often explored Celtic customs, which I have found to be especially great for weddings, and Eastern European traditions, Native American, and various Hispanic traditions.

The subject comes up often for me when I have a bride or groom who would like to honor their heritage in their wedding ceremony. I may know a lot about their traditions, and other times I need to do some research – and this has become one of the most enriching parts of my work as a Celebrant.

Just a little touch will go a long way. For a recent ceremony I created for a Sikh groom and Polish bride I included a quote from his religion and a ritual from hers. That was enough for them, emphasis on ‘them,’ because a wedding should be a reflection of the couple.

I wanted to explore a religion we don’t hear about very much and given that there are about 4,300 religions around the world, that shouldn’t be difficult.

The world’s 20 largest religions and their number of believers are:

  1. Christianity (2.1 billion)
  2. Islam (1.3 billion)
  3. Nonreligious (Secular/Agnostic/Atheist) (1.1 billion)
  4. Hinduism (900 million)
  5. Chinese traditional religion (394 million)
  6. Buddhism 376 million
  7. Primal-indigenous (300 million)
  8. African traditional and Diasporic (100 million)
  9. Sikhism (23 million)
  10. Juche (19 million)
  11. Spiritism (15 million)
  12. Judaism (14 million)
  13. Bahai (7 million)
  14. Jainism (4.2 million)
  15. Shinto (4 million)
  16. Cao Dai (4 million)
  17. Zoroastrianism (2.6 million)
  18. Tenrikyo (2 million)
  19. Neo-Paganism (1 million)
  20. Unitarian-Universalism (800,000)

Let’s take number 13 from this list: Bahai, or more accurately, Bahá’í.  This is one of the world’s newest religions. Started around the same time as Mormonism, which began in 1830 –  Bahá’í was founded in Persia in 1844, when a Muslim prophet, who took on the title of the Báb which means ‘gate’ or ‘door’ in Arabic, began a revolutionary new teaching about spirituality. He taught moral transformation, women’s emancipation and the importance of helping the poor. The religion leans towards the mystical side, focusing on a person’s relationship with the unknowable essence of God and recommends daily prayer and meditation. It’s quite a beautiful philosophy, encouraging its followers to be kind, generous, truthful, and to have integrity and to be of service to others. Bahá’í also teaches the unity of all religions.

For a Bahá’í wedding the only requirement is a reading from their scriptures, which both partners read, that says: We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God. Two witnesses are present, and the wedding is recorded in their records of their house of worship.

Unfortunately for all its seemingly progressively ideas, this religion is vehemently opposed LGBT rights, marriage and expression throughout its entire existence (and they aren’t letting up).

The name Bahá’í comes from the Arabic word for Glory. They use the symbol of a nine-pointed star, along with a calligraphic rendering of the phrase ‘God is most glorious’ as a beautiful graphic. There’s a lot more to it than that, of course, but those are some of the basics as I have come to understand them.

Whatever your background or belief system, everyone deserves to have their wedding reflect their personalities, families and traditions. It will always be worth it – even when it takes some research and effort.


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Brides and their Fathers

                     It used to be called ‘giving away the bride.’

Last week I wrote about brides and their mothers. Today let’s talk about brides and their fathers.

First up – giving away the bride! Many a father and daughter have imagined this moment for a very long time, in a sweet and positive way. Dad walking his daughter down the aisle! It’s an ancient tradition with roots in patriarchy and ownership of women; but hey, we all get that it no longer means any of that!

But let’s remember that not every bride has a father in her life, or at least one she wants to be a part of her wedding day. And if your father is deceased, this can be a very emotional topic.  I’m always touched to see a bride or groom carry something representing a deceased parent.

There are many variables that might lead a bride to re-think this age-old tradition, although I admit, it’s very difficult to break old customs. Many women have not given this much thought and assume they will have a male escort, choosing an uncle, brother or grandfather when there is no father to accompany her. That’s fine. That’s nice. But it’s not required. There are no hard and fast rules around this, and that is my point. Bottom line: a bride does not have to have a man escort her. She might want someone, male or female, but it’s not a requirement.

The age of the bride can be a factor. Perhaps in your 20’s you may still feel a bit like ‘daddy’s little girl,’ but there comes a time when a grown-up woman just wants to walk by herself. This can be especially true for re-marriages. It was good the first time but seems out of place for a second time around.

When the bride has children, she may prefer to walk in with them. Or a woman may want to walk with her mother. And my favorite thing – with both parents in the picture, why not have both parents escort?

If your loving papa is around and you are choosing not to have him escort you – how do you tell him? The answer is carefully and at the right moment. And that moment should be sooner, not later – don’t wait until it’s too late – you must approach this very early on in the wedding planning, otherwise assumptions are made, and it will be hard to un-do that.

It will be helpful if you have another role in mind for dad, such as a reading or toast at the reception. You can tie that in with the not-so-good news. Think carefully about the words you choose and make it clear this isn’t about him, but about your independence.

For women who are being escorted by dad, a big moment in need of consideration is when arriving at the altar, with the groom waiting there, what is said, what is done? Some fathers want to plop their daughter’s hand into the hand of the groom. Not my favorite thing, but I certainly won’t forbid it (I wouldn’t forbid anything). And there’s the ‘who gives this woman?’ part, too. Again, I’m not a fan, but I have a better way to say this – and that is asking the dad ‘do you support your daughter in marriage today and welcome so-and-so into the family?’ To which he gets to respond with an ‘I do.’ You can do this with moms and with both parents.

Complicating matters further is the stepfather situation, and it is a very common scenario. Sometimes a step-father or father-figure has played a bigger role in someone’s life than their biological father. You may still want to honor your bio-dad, if you’re in a good or decent relationship, that is. Both fathers can escort you, or one can escort ½ way and ‘hand you off’ to the other for the final walk to the altar. That may sound odd, but it can work.

A few words about grooms. Obviously, this isn’t the same kind of issue for men due to the whole ‘ownership’ history. But interestingly, men are going in the opposite direction, and that is walking with a parent or parents as they enter the ceremony. I love this, and thinking about the language and context, regardless if it’s a bride or groom, you might ask: are parents escorting you, or are you escorting them? Depending on how you think of it, it takes on a slightly different meaning. Let’s just say it’s nice to enter the sanctuary together.

There are many nuances to ceremony, and even before any words are said, the choreography, the entrances, and movements, have meaning and importance. Take the time to think through what was once a given and see if a revamp is right for you.


thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the always awesome photography

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Mothers and Daughters – 5 tips to smooth the way when planning your wedding together.

In the good old days (whenever that was) mothers planned their daughters’ weddings and had almost complete control over everything. These days, brides and couples often take the lead in creating their own celebrations. But we should not forget that a wedding is a hallmark of enormous change and that is why moms (and dads) often have a lot to say about it. They may also feel like they are losing their son or daughter, and it can be unconsciously upsetting and sad. Marriage will bring out a range of emotions for everyone involved.

Today I specifically address mother-daughter issues. It has been written about countless times, and become a bit of a modern-day cliché, but mothers and daughters do often fight. Especially during the teenage years, which I hope are well behind you; but sometimes wounds linger.

To further complicate the situation, if mom is paying for the wedding, it bestows power on her. But do not fret – there are ways to find common ground.

Brides, you don’t want to turn into bridezilla, and moms. you certainly don’t want to be the mother or mother-in-law from hell. With a little pro-active thoughtfulness, you should be able to not only survive wedding planning but enjoy it together.

Here are some suggestions for mothers and daughters to help smooth the way.

  1. The to-do list.Get to this very early in the process. Discuss which responsibilities will be assigned to whom, and which areas will be collaborative. Remember there should be no hard-and-fast rules. Should a task become overwhelming, don’t hesitate to ask each other for help. Mothers, ask what your daughter might especially needs help with, and daughters ask you mother which details she feels especially drawn to. Even if you know each other well – don’t make assumptions. Asking is a sign of respect and will help ease tensions. Even ask about obvious things. Statements such as ‘would you like me to go with you to look at dresses?’ instead of ‘let’s look at dresses tomorrow,’ will make a difference.
  1. Discuss the budget, and approach it with a sense of values. Try not to lose sight of what really matters.
  1. Have some ‘big picture’discussions about marriage. Daughters – share your hopes for the future with your mother; mothers – share stories of your wedding with your daughter. You are sure to find things to laugh about, cry about, and learn from.
  1. Time to grow up.Mothers, if you don’t already do so, there will never be a better time to begin treating your daughter like an adult. Likewise, daughters, you must now respect your mother as you would a friend. Leave old wounds behind and approach the planning with the respect you would give a friend or co-worker. Sometimes we treat those closest to us with less care than strangers. Don’t let this be the case. Brides, realize this is a big day for everyone, not just you! Mothers, no matter how difficult, be the cheerleader, and lead with grace. You will set the tone for family unity and happiness for years to come.
  1. Let it go. When conflicts arise, ask yourself honestly how important this issue actually is before an argument ensues. The aspects of the wedding that are most important to you are certainly worth ‘fighting for,’ but compromises should be made as well.

Taking the time to think about these and other potential danger zones will help ensure an easier process in one of life’s biggest transitions. Good luck!


thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the always awesome photography

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Love at any age …

Let’s talk about marriage when the couple is over a certain age. What age? Good question. Over 40? Over 50? Over 60? Yes, all of the above. There is no expiration date on love.

After divorce or loss of a spouse some people are not interested in finding another life partner. Others know they need to be paired up. We’re all different. But one thing I have learned from working with older couples, is there can sometimes be a hesitancy to fully celebrate this milestone. It might be because of children, or just the perception of being judged by society.

But when you find love, no matter what stage of life, it is wonderful, and regardless of previous relationships, marriage is an important rite of passage. Having said that, I do agree, it can, and dare I say ‘should’ be less extravagant.  There are ways to tone it down, when it’s not the first time around. Here are few things to think about.

If there are children, even adult children, it’s great to include them in various ways. Your kids can walk down the aisle with you – both partners – there is no need to confine this to a bride. A man can walk with his children as well. You might ask teen or adult children to share readings in the ceremony. Holding the rings is tried and true. And more creatively, how about having them say their own ‘I do’ in support of the new marriage or new step-siblings, and conversely you can say an ‘I do’ to them, pledging your continued love and support even as the family changes. This is especially important if the children still live at home.

Keeping it less formal feels right. A luncheon instead of a dinner, or a buffet instead of a sit-down meal, keeps is so.

You’re free to not wear tuxedos and gowns, and that can be quite a relief. You are also free from having to choose bridesmaids and groomsmen. Really not necessary at this stage. Maybe just have one best person each, or again, the children can stand with you…. or not.

Your vows might take a different tone at this stage in life. They might include words about the importance of having found love again, and how hopeful it is to find a partner in life. You may want to acknowledge the long road to where you are. You are mature now and you understand what marriage means.

And then there is elopement. I recently officiated for a couple who didn’t want to deal with the whole family scene, yet still had all the beautiful details including live music, photographer and videographer, a beautiful location and me – and that’s it! No guests. It was awesome.

Young love can be breathless, but older love has depth. Celebrate that!


photo credits: Garth Woods

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Variations on a Theme

There is an interesting intersection of the many customs and rituals of weddings. One with surprising commonalities is the African-American ‘jumping the broom’ and the Celtic ‘jumping the oak branch’. But today I want to talk about a tradition used in wedding ceremonies in Spain, Latin American countries, and the Philippines:The ‘arras’ or 13 Coins, sometimes even simply called ‘wedding coins.’ This is another great example of the many ‘unity’ rituals performed all over the world.

Coins boxes made by one of my brides!

I’ve had the good fortune to perform the 13 Coins ritual in a few different situations, giving each one its own unique interpretation. Although I’ve written about this tradition before, a few years ago, today I’m going to share variations. These twists or modern takes on the ancient custom illustrate how rituals can be changed to fit any couple and the times we live in.

Traditionally the priest blesses the coins, hands them to the groom, who repeats the words, such as: ‘all that I have is yours, and all that you have is mine.’ For modern couples I have added words and asked the couple to pass the coins back and forth, each one making a promise to the other. After all, why should it only be the man promising support? Doesn’t the woman also have an equal role? I don’t believe it is just money we’re talking about, but emotional support, too. Two brides, or two grooms? Not a problem. Today it’s all about equality, at least I hope so.

If there is no priest blessing the coins, it would be an honor to invite a friend or family member hold the coins through the ceremony and bring them forward as needed. The coins can be blessed, and again, asking a someone to do that is an honor, but they don’t have to be.

Additional promises can be added – something like: ‘I give you these coins as a symbol of my heritage and my love and commitment to you.’ There is no requirement that specific words be used in this tradition making it very open to new interpretations.

It looks nice when one partner cups their hands and the other dramatically pours the coins into them from a few inches above. Don’t just hand the person those coins, pour them with panache.

If one or both partners are fluent Spanish speakers they can repeat in Spanish, but since I don’t speak Spanish, I’ll say it in English. In any bi-lingual group, it’s always good to have translations anyway!

The coins themselves offer opportunities. You might choose coins from different countries, whether county of family origin, or even countries you’ve visited. I have included sobriety coins from AA. There are many ways to express something additional with those coins.

Sometimes there are heirloom coins in a family, especially when they are actual gold coins. Using gold coins, by the way, is traced back to an ancient Roman custom of breaking gold or silver, one half to be kept by the woman and the other half by the man, as a pledge of marriage, but the custom of the giving of these wedding coins originated in Spain and spread from there. The gold coins are sometimes presented in an ornate box or on a gift tray, historically representing the bride’s dowry. Still to this day the custom certainly represents wishes for prosperity.

Modern couples are looking for more personalized ceremonies to express who they are and what they believe. Taking an old tradition and reimagining it is a great way to do just that.


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Understanding Pagan Rituals

There is often a misunderstanding about what pagan, wiccan, and nature- based ceremonies are all about. Occasionally I have requests to include pagan rituals in weddings and I’m happy to do so. Now, I am no expert, and certainly am not conducting a true Wiccan or Pagan wedding ceremony, but it is fun to include an element or two from these traditions. They are quite lovely in many ways. Fear not!

But first the language: Paganism is the wider term that can embrace many things, from Wicca, a nature-oriented faith, Druidry, which are ancient Celtic practices, or even Asatru, which is a sort of reconstruction of Northern European pre-Christian beliefs (think: Vikings). These beliefs go back thousands of year and pre-date Christianity.

When people ask about Celtic traditions, they are often honoring their Irish or other countries and locations, their family roots, but when they use the word ‘pagan’ they are not identifying heritage as much as beliefs. There is also the term Celtic Paganism. No matter what you call them, these practices originally took place between 500 BCE and 500 CE.

Native American traditions are loosely associated, because they also share a reverence for nature and have an overlap of symbolism and ritual. I love how that happens!

Handfastingis probably the best known of the Celtic traditions that is still popular. It is thought to originally be more of an engagement ritual, but has evolved into a wedding ritual. It is as simple as the name implies – the couple’s hands are tied together (tying the knot), some words are said, and the knot untied. There are countless variations.

Blessing the Space, or creating a sacred space, is exactly what is sounds like. This can be done in many ways, but most dramatically by conducting a smudging  – which is waving smoke around.  It signifies cleansing the area. Sage is most often used, and sometimes cedar or the herb sweetgrass. This custom is not only pagan but done in some Native American cultures. It is fascinating to see how in different places and times, humans devise similar or even identical traditions or adapt them from coming into contact with the ideas. Some other variations include places stones on the ground, creating a circle with items such as flowers, stones or even candles. Mainstream religions also bless spaces but perhaps not so dramatically.

Jumping the Broom, is a ritual most Americans think of as an African-American one, but it can also be Celtic or Wiccan and signifies crossing the threshold and entering your new life together. When you think of a groom carrying his bride over the threshold of the doorway you see exactly the same symbolism. Additionally, brooms can sweep out the old, or clean or cleanse, and that, too, has meaning when beginning a marriage. Again, we see a cross-pollination and similar symbolism in places quite far from one another in place and time. This is one of the most fascinating things about rituals.

Calling the Quarters, also known as the Four Directions, assigns properties to North, South, East and West. It can also intersection with the elements or earth, air, water and fire

Earth coordinates to North, representing the physical realm with the qualities of good health, a happy home, groundedness, and fertility.

Air is East, the mental realm of wisdom, symbolizing good communication, learning, and intellectual growth.

Fire is South, the action realm representing creativity, harmony, sensuality, and vitality.

Water is West, the emotional realm, with the qualities of understanding, emotional support, intuition, and friendship.

You can well imagine how all of those characteristics would be important in any relationship and why one might invoke them in a wedding.

Including any of these ancient traditions into a modern marriage can be interesting and meaningful. It doesn’t mean you are turning away from your faith tradition or family roots. It is a way to connect to something much older or connect to the earth.


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Sand Stories: Exploring a Modern Ritual

I find that I am often writing about ancient traditions, the deep roots of weddings, and the connections between culture, religions, and the way all this has evolved. But there are a few modern rituals as well, ones that not all that old at all. There is the wine box, with or without the exchange of letters, water rituals, and tree or plant rituals, and one of the most popular is the sand ceremony.

There is no consensus, but there are several explanations for the sand ceremony, which is, of course, the action of pouring sand together, represents joining of the two people. The many grains of sand are meant to symbolize all the thoughts, feelings and experiences you bring with you to the marriage. The couple pours their two containers of different colors of sand into one, and creates something bigger and more beautiful. I’m fond of adding that you do not give up your individuality in marriage. I’m not a fan of the ‘now we are one’ concept. You are still two people, but on the same path together, side by side.

It’s a great choice for a non-religious ceremony, and also resonates for people who love nature, the beach, the earth, science, or any number of connotations that can be readily seen in sand. As Rachel Carson wrote: In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.

I always adjust the description of any ritual to be sure it fits the couple, and have, from time to time, added words about the uses of sand – from making concrete and building a strong foundation, or making glass. I have referenced science, vacations, hobbies, or anything that draws the couple to the sand.

Here’s what I’ve gathered about this history of this very down-to-earth ritual. There is the Hawaiian story – whichmaintains that Hawaiian couples entering into a committed union, would scoop sand from the beach and combine their individual handfuls into a container as a symbol of their marriage. That is the essence of the sand ceremony, and placing it on beaches in Hawaii makes sense.

There is the California story, which draws from the hippie days of the 1960s, with couples marrying on the beaches and creating non-traditional ceremonies. Because, the good old ‘Unity Candle’ would absolutely not work in the wind by the ocean, and perhaps looking for something different, someone came up with this. Or maybe someone had seen in it Hawaii. And it is a great alternative to candles, by the way.

There are some who think there may be an ancient connection after all -  to pagan ceremonies or even Hebrew traditions. The Biblical Salt Covenant could actually be the inspiration for the Sand Ceremony – sand and salt both being granules that are mixed together. In Jewish culture, salt was used as a symbolic bond between husband and wife, and also used it in rituals of reconciliation and to celebrate adoption. Salt itself has a rich metaphoric usage.

I really love how the sand ceremony is perfect to symbolize the blending of families. You can have children pick their own colors, and everyone can participate in pouring ‘their’ sand into a large family vase – and see themselves as part of something bigger, yet still retaining their individuality. I’ve also used it with parents, pouring a foundation for their children who are getting married. There are lots of useful variations with the sand.

There are fancy sets you can buy, or you can use everyday objects. I’ve had couples use mason jars and couples have engraved crystal.

Whether this is new to you, or old hat, the Sand Ceremony works!


thank you GARTH WOODS for the beautiful photography   

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Wedding Wallflowers

8 Tips for Shy Brides or Grooms

I’ve spoken with many couples who were concerned about being the center of attention on their wedding day, for both the ceremony and the celebration. It’s a bit ironic, because the wedding is really all about the couple. But for shy, introverted people, it can be terrifying. Large social gatherings can be stressful for many people. It’s not unusual, and there is nothing wrong with being uncomfortable in the spotlight.

A wedding should not be an ordeal, but sometimes it is. Our culture puts so much pressure on people, with a very homogenous idea of how this should all look and feel. The best day of your life? The day you’ve been waiting for, forever? That’s a high bar indeed! Your wedding does not have to be like other weddings, whether friend’s weddings or in magazines, movies or television. It is unrealistic. It’s crazy.

I have a few suggestions for you, if this is sounds familiar.

1. The ‘first look’ phenomena will really help – seeing each other for the first time on the big day can be stressful. A first look, a private moment together (with or without photography) can help with the jitters.

2. Skip the ‘first dance’ completely. If you wish, replace it with something else, like an anniversary dance, or just have everyone join in. The couple in the spotlight dancing for the first time as married, blah blah blah – it is not necessary. Let your band or DJ know – and stick to it – don’t let them tell you otherwise. They work for you, not the other way around.

3. Speaking of music, you don’t have to throw a big dance party if it’s not your style. You might choose a duo or trio to play some quieter selections. This can be very sophisticated. A luncheon instead of a dinner tends to be more casual, too, which can also help.

4. Choose clothing that feels like you. Don’t get pressured into a big gown or tuxedo if you don’t feel comfortable in it. The same goes for hair and make-up. It’s not a glamor shoot.

5. Limit the guest list. A smaller wedding will be easier to deal with. What’s a smaller wedding? Good question! Under 100? Under 50?  Or even very, very small. Speaking of numbers, keep the attendants, (bridesmaids/groomsmen) to a minimum, too, or have none at all. Yes, it is totally ok NOT to have these specially selected people stand with you. The entire bridal-party situation can lead to lots of stressful interpersonal conflicts and anxieties. You really can get married without this.

6. The ’sweetheart’ table is the table just for the couple at the reception, the one where they sit by themselves. Perhaps it’s better to sit at a group table with closest family and friends, rather than be isolated. Come to think of it, this is a good choice for lots of couples. Being at your own table cuts you off and plays into the isolation, and you may wind up feeling alone at your own wedding. My intent here is to suggest things that will help you feel a part of your own weddingwithout the stress, not to have you run away from it…

7. …but you can have a designated retreat location for the two of you. If you get totally frazzled at your reception, take five or ten minutes and go to your special place and take a breath, then go back to it.

8. Giving a speech at your own wedding is not required. If you feel you must do it, write it ahead of time. Instead, visit each table and simply thank them for coming. That truly is enough. Your guests are coming to support you. They know you, and love you, so likely they understand you are shy. A simple ‘thank you for coming today’ is really just fine. Your guests will say lots of nice things – smile and nod your head.

Staying true to yourselves, and limiting stressful situations, will enhance your comfort level and even save money. You should have a wedding that works for you. And if you can’t, consider eloping! I’m always available.

  thanks to Lisa Rhinehart rhinehartphotography


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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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