Breath is Life – A Winter Warming Ritual

Winter is a time when I hunker down. This is probably true for many people. Since weddings are few and far between, at least in our part of the world, the cold weather keeps me indoors, and provides lots of time to think and write.

So I was thinking: on a cold day have you ever brought your hands to your mouth to blow the warmth of your breath onto them?  With that in mind I imagined  using that exact instinctive act in a ritualistic way. Obviously I didn’t invent breathing onto one’s hands, but what I am doing is giving it a specific meaning, one that connects the importance of breathing and the importance of marriage.  

There are countless religious references that could also be made, especially when we think about Genesis. In that creation story (as in most creation stories) God breathes life into Adam to make him a person, real and alive.

As far back as the Egyptians there was an understanding of breath as it connects to religious or spiritual things. Hindus especially believe many things about the breath’s connection to something greater than our humanity.

In ancient China people were thought to have two souls, both composed of breath. Breath was given to a person to live, and then received back in death.

Buddhist meditation is dependent on discipline of the breath. Islamic prayer also incorporates breathing with the profession of faith when speaking God’s name. There are many more examples of religions using breathing as a means of achieving a higher state of consciousness.

The connection of breath, body and mind in yoga is at the very essence of its practice.  If a couple was interested in yoga I could expand on that, and this ritual is in itself very yogic.

Although I don’t quite have a name for this, I would begin the ritual by asking everyone to think of how the air we breathe is life itself, and life without love is not quite living. Breath is vitality. When we take a deep breath, we are preparing ourselves. Breath is a foundation, sustaining and connecting our body and spirit. When we are confused, we stop and take a breath. And when something wonderful happens we say it ‘takes our breath away.’ Breath really is life.

Next, I would ask the couple to bring their hands up to their mouths and to breath on them, warming them, and then hold each other’s warmed up hands. I would speak of taking this time to breathe in the moment, warming each other heart and soul, and to remember that their marriage, too, is a living and breathing thing. Just as we breathe in and out,  marriage will also expand and contract. Inhale, exhale, ebb, flow. This is natural, life and love ebb and flow.  

Another beautiful moment captured by Lisa Rhinehart

There is a popular reading, the Blessing of the Hands (author unknown), that one hears often at weddings, and if you like the poem, it would work well with this idea.

These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever. 

These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future.

These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.

These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind.

These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and tears of joy.

These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children.

These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one.

These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.

And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.

For my Humanist approach, I want to simply emphasize that using breathing as a marriage ritual connects the couple to the essence of their lifeforce, which is wonderful to embrace on such an important occasion.

What do you think of this idea? I hope to create more winter-inspired ideas soon, and if I do, I’ll be sure to share them with you.

find me on facebook – Lois Heckman, Celebrant, and Instagram – Lois Heckman

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Gift to the Future – The Importance of Wedding Photography

There are two framed photos that grace the walls of my home – my parents wedding and my husband’s parents wedding. I treasure these and enjoy them immensely. They are the World War II generation and both our fathers are wearing their uniforms. These photos tell quite a story.

My parents wedding photo.

Your wedding is an important story, and we all know weddings can be an expensive undertaking. There are many ways to prioritize your budget. I hope photography is one that is at the top of your list. Even an elopement is worthy of beautiful photographs.

In our digital world everyone can take photos and who doesn’t have thousands of them filling up our hard-drives? I’m here to make the case for hiring a great photographer along with having actual prints made. 

A beautiful formal shot by Lisa Rhinehart.

A true professional will capture images that most of us simply cannot even see. It’s not the equipment, although that helps, it’s the ‘eye’ and the ‘art.’  You may have a family member or friend with all the good equipment, but if they are not a professional, do they really have what it takes? 

Asking a friend to take your photos is like asking one of your guests to help serve the meal. A guest is a guest. Neither should your father, uncle or aunt officiate your wedding. Unless they are professionals with experience, leave these two important jobs to people who truly know how to make it an amazing and meaningful experience.

When choosing a photographer, take the time to look through their work. Some take lots of formal shots and others go with a more photo-journalist route – the ‘capture the moment’ approach. One of my favorites always surprises me with the moments he’s caught, while I never even noticed his presence.  I think a combination of these approaches is really perfect. Capture those special unguarded moment, without the pasted-on smile, but also get group shots and portraits. Sometimes these are the only photos future generations can reference.

I adore this photograph, how it captured a wonderful moment.
Rhinehart Photography

I have seen the results of having a friend or family member (who is not a professional) take pictures, and sometimes it is not pretty. Out of focus, heads chopped off, squinting faces. 

Professionals have cameras costing thousands of dollars, as well as carrying a back-up camera in case anything goes wrong. For a bigger budget there can be two photographers covering everything.  They also carry a variety of lenses, flash guns, lights, spare batteries, memory cards and a whole host of other technical stuff. But as I already stated – you are paying them not only for this gear, but for their art, their hard work and time spent both on sight and editing afterwards, along with a lifetime of training and experience.

In our modern world, most photographers send the couple a link to all the digital images and the couple can choose what they want to do with that. I encourage you to get at least a few high-quality prints made. Digital images can easily be forgotten or lost to the dreaded computer crash. Prints will be part of your home, to be handed down generation to generation – even after formats change.

Great candid shots like this compliment the formal photographs.
Lisa Rhinehart Photography

Years ago, I found some footage of my family that was on an old home movie format, and had them converted to video-tape; then I had that converted to DVD. What will happen when there are no DVDs left?  Technology is forever changing… but a print, like a painting, just is what it is.

As with all of life’s milestones, we are left with memories, and those memories can be best kept in the real world. Consider it a gift to the future.

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Weddings in Sicily

Every winter I take a vacation abroad, and I always try to crash a wedding if possible. Preparing in advance I want to learn about the local traditions. This year it’s Sicily, and as you read this I’m there right now!

As I studied up on their wedding traditions I’ve learned that for Sicilians, a wedding is probably the most important event of a lifetime. Historically it was a necessity – adding to social status, bringing the couple into the community. Unmarried people were considered weird, unlucky and not worthy of attention. 

the town of Cefalu in Sicily

As in other parts of the world, marriages were mostly arranged by parents or relatives, and couples often married without even knowing one another. 

Christianity was established in Sicily in the 5th century. The Byzantine, or Orthodox Church became their tradition, but by the 13th century the Roman Catholic Church made inroads on the island. 

I found this tidbit to be fascinating: many Sicilian wedding customs, especially before the 20th century, were based on Muslim practices dating back to medieval times when Arabs dominated the island. The church may have supplanted the mosque, but many Muslim traditions held on. It is not uncommon around the world  to find subtle influences rooted in ancient customs, and it shows us the power of history, religion, ritual and tradition. 

The bride on her way to church.

For Jews of course, the story is different. The Jewish explosion from Sicily was at its height in 1493 when the Spanish Inquisition reached the island.

But after 500 years, today there is a slight resurgence of the Jewish community when the Great Synagogue of Palermo was reopened in 2017. The building had been taken and used as a monastery, but it has now been returned to its historic owners.

The famous Godfather movies have two Sicilian weddings in the films. It is interesting and relevant to this discussion that they are very different. One is more modern and one very old-fashioned. One movie scholar writes that ‘As noted in the screenplay, Michael’s wedding is the same in feeling and texture as it might have been five hundred years ago, with all the ritual and pageantry, as it has always been, in Sicily.’

Lengthy engagements are still the norm but that is mostly due to financial concerns. Having a good job to support a family and pay for a home leads to courtships as long and six or seven years. And when the couple finally announces their engagement, it could still be another year or two until the wedding. The bride’s family bears most of the costs of the wedding. There are no bridal showers are we know them, but they do now use the bridal registry, which helps the couple establish their home.

His and hers VW beetles wait outside the church. how adorable is this?

Divorce was uncommon until the 1970s. The 1961 film, Divorce, Italian Style, is based on the fact that divorce was actually illegal then, and the story involves a husband fantasizing about getting rid of his wife. Apparently a satire, or ‘black comedy,’ it plays with the concept that its ok to murder your wife. At least that is what I gather, I haven’t seen it.

Until about 1900 most Italian weddings, complete with dowries, were arranged by consent of the spouses’ parents. A girl might be informally betrothed while fairly young, perhaps at fourteen, and wed at around the age of eighteen, although there were instances of girls marrying at fifteen. Sicilian marriages are no longer arranged by parents, and today your will even see public displays of affection and all the trappings of modern love and modern life. And today you can choose to have a civil ceremony, officiated by a mayor or civil registrar. Shocking! Same-sex civil unions and unregistered cohabitation have been legally recognized since June 2016.

Due to immigration and the exposure to the rest of the world, especially the EU and the U.S. the modern, western style wedding is in full swing. Even without travel opportunities, through TV and magazines, most Sicilians have adopted modern attitudes. 

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You’re Engaged… Now What?

Christmas is a popular time for proposals. A ring does make a wonderful surprise gift. If you just became engaged, sit back and enjoy the feeling for a minute, because it won’t be long before everything starts spinning, and hopefully not out of control. 

If you haven’t told anyone yet, please tell your immediate family first. And this should be a personal visit, if possible, or at least a phone call. Please don’t email the folks to announce your engagement.

Where will you find your ring?
Rhinehart Photography

So what’s next? After savoring the moment, everyone begins thinking about their fantasy wedding, and don’t be surprised if you and your fiancé have different ideas on this. Your friends and family will have their opinions, too. Remember, a marriage is about collaboration and compromise, it is about two of you, and it is also about the families, so with that in mind, stay open to their ideas. Listen to everyone’s suggestions and simply say, ‘we haven’t really decided yet.’ Take it all in and don’t rush to any decisions. Your wedding plans should be approached with the love and respect you wish to bring to your marriage.

Once you’ve settled on the major issues, such as where you’d like to have the wedding, and what type of wedding it will be, then you can begin the rigorous task of research. Whether a back-yard barbeque, a destination wedding, or a high-end 300-guest event, all need planning and require lots of decisions. And it’s in the details that couples most often get confused and stressed. Don’t hesitate to ask family and friend to help and divide up some of the tasks. In fact, including them will make the very happy! Everyone who loves you will probably want to be a part of it – so give moms and future mothers-in-law specific tasks and ask for their advice. If possible, be sure to include them on a few shopping trips, especially for a wedding gown, visiting venues, tastings, or to any expos you may attend. This will go a long way in creating good feelings and getting everyone on the same page for the big day!

If you choose to use a wedding consultant, a good one will make everything go smoothly. I highly recommend it. Organizing a wedding can be surprisingly hard work and especially for the do-it-yourself ones. For some couples it’s fun, but others prefer not to attend to all the little details themselves, or are just too busy.

Determining your budget is, of course, very important. You may be surprised at different ways your budget can be flexed. What’s important to you? What must you have, what can you live without? It’s all about the choices. 

Discuss values. Don’t have a friend marry you if they have not background in doing this. Yes, you will save money, but a meaningful ceremony is worth its weight in gold.

Would you like to stay conscious of ecological issues for your wedding? Find out about recycling at the venue you choose. Is there a ‘cause’ that is important to you or the family. Many couples are making charitable donations instead of giving favors. 

Would you like a designer gown, but can’t afford it? Try buying a ‘recycled’ gown – there are loads of places on the Internet to get one. Remember it’s only been worn once. With a few alternations you could be wearing a real designer gown worth thousands more than you could ever afford. 

Instead of renting a tux, buy a really great new suit – it’s a better value, because now you’ll have a great new suit!

Be yourself and feel like yourself. If you’re not a fuffy, spangely girl, don’t try to become one for a wedding.

There are lots of ways to approach the planning. There is no right or wrong way. But getting organized is really important. I suggest you get one of those wedding planning workbooks – there are many available to buy or download. It will keep you on track and help ease the stress. 

However you choose to handle your wedding plans, remember what’s really important: that you have found the person with whom you want to share the rest of your life. And that’s what matters the most.

find me on facebook – Lois Heckman, Celebrant, and Instagram – Lois Heckman

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Wedding Trends 2020, do they matter?

As the new year approaches, bloggers and opinion makers of all stripes give their predictions and advice for the coming year. I will attempt to add to the cacophony. But having said that, I’m not a fan of following what the latest fashionistas tell us; on the other hand, there are good ideas that come up every year that can be inspiring.

Although there are specified activities for weddings, in some ways it is a blank slate. You know the outlines of the day, but how you fill that in is up to you. This is where fashion, taste, and yes, those trends, come together with creativity, form and function.

If nothing else, considering trends helps you figure out what you like or do not like.

We all want to look great, especially a bride or groom. But remember that fashion comes and goes. Looking back on old wedding photos we find that some styles have held up better than others. Those 1980’s giant puffy sleeves and huge hair – not so much. I’ve seen the big sleeves trying to come back, to which I say: no!! No. No. No. However, 1920s dresses still look amazing to me. I’m a fan of 1940s fashion as well.

I read for 2020 something I’ve been preaching for years: be yourself. I don’t consider this a trend; I consider it sanity. This can mean a lot when it comes to a wedding gown. Some women may not want the traditional look. Many women might feel more comfortable wearing a special dress (not a gown) or even a pants suit. To which I say: yes! Yes. Yes. Yes. 

Consider purchasing a suit rather than renting a tux.
Rhinehart Photography

A new generation of bridal designers are offering up lots of choices for that woman. Names to know include Ted Baker, Hermione de Paula, Monica Byrne and Danielle Frankel. You may not be able to afford a designer label but take look and be inspired. That’s the whole point. Check out trends for inspiration not for mandates.

This trend of ‘being yourself’ is good news. I like to see people feeling relaxed, secure and comfortable, as well as not spending what they can’t afford. It’s good to look and feel like yourself.

And I’m not leaving the men out of this discussion. Any man who is not comfortable in a tux and stiff shiny shoes will not enjoy his wedding day as much as if he’s in a regular suit and perhaps sneakers. I see a lot of guys wearing fresh new spiffy Converse sneakers in the coordinated wedding colors. I’ve also seen many grooms and groomsmen wearing jeans with a nice shirt, tie and vest.

Choices are good! Here’s a groom in jeans!
Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the use of your photography!

Food stations are a growing trend and I love this idea.  This differs only slightly from a buffet in that having the food spread around the room on several tables (or stations) encourages people to move around. This results in more interaction as well as a less congested buffet table. It moves things along, making for happier guests. Who enjoy standing in the buffet lines or waiting for their table to be called? By the way, there is nothing wrong with choosing a buffer rather than a plated meal. In some circles it has a reputation as being second best, but for me it’s the best.

Sustainability continues to trend up and that’s a great thing. The average age of couples getting married in 2020 is 33, so they are the Millennials we hear so much about. Gallup finds that millennials’ concerns about the environment is at a high point. Green, eco, whatever you want to call it – more and more couples are thinking about their choices at each step of wedding planning.

Another big wedding trend advocates for a more intimate experience. Also known as micro-wedding – these weddings tend to have a smaller guest list of around 40 people or fewer. They can be formal or informal, and keep with tradition, or take a more modern approach – however, they tend to be a fusion of both.  However that doesn’t mean you can’t go big in other ways – you might be able to spend more lavishly per person with a smaller guest count.

While the signage or messages such as ‘pick a seat, not a side’ is an excellent one, you may have seen it once too often. Find new wording such as: Find a seat, stay as long as you can. We are all friends here, so there is no seating plan. But seriously it doesn’t have to rhyme.

And finally – the unplugged wedding should NEVER go away. This is not a trend, this is my one commandment. Politeness never goes out of style, so please turn off your phones and cameras at any special event, at least for a while, and try to live and breathe in the moment. 

Just remember that the value of any trend is that if can function as a sounding board. It will help you assess what truly resonates for you.


find me on facebook – Lois Heckman, Celebrant, and Instagram – Lois Heckman

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Exploring Rituals for the Holiday Season

With the holiday season upon us – I’m taking a break from wedding talk today… but there is a connection. It’s something I write about often: ritual. And what could be more ritualistic than Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, or New Year’s Eve?  From the more secular parts of the celebrations, such as the Christmas tree and gift exchanging, to the most holy and sacred acts of worship, the holiday season is replete with customs, traditions and rituals. Lighting candles, decorating, wrapping gifts – all become meaningful when we do it year after year, just as our parents did, and their parents before them.

Photo Credit: Rhinehart Photography

Old or ancient customs connect us to the continuity of life, to our faith or cultural past. New traditions bring closeness within our own families and communities right here and now. But sometimes those same traditions over and over can become more of a chore than a joy. 

Wouldn’t it be great to have your very own traditions to pass down through generations? Some families do, but if you don’t, you have the opportunity to start something of your very own. Simple things like driving around to look at lights, or baking cookies are holiday favorites. Here are a few more ideas that might inspire!

Explore world customs and make ornaments, food, or craft projects that reflect another culture. Can you imagine eating latkes for a special Christmas meal? Expand your cultural awareness with the Italian Fest of the Seven Fishes. You don’t have to be Latinx to enjoy tostones (fried plantains) or coquito, which is a coconut-based drink enjoyed with cinnamon and rum, similar to eggnog. 

Giving is always important. Have your family conduct a food or coat drive, or buy gifts to donate to a local shelter. Before donating anything, be sure to check first to see exactly what they need. Remember, it’s not what you want to donate, its what they truly need. Gift cards are often perfect because they offer people the opportunity purchase what that actually want. Adopt any cause or charity that resonates for you, and then continue to support it every year.

Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the use of your beautiful photography!

Start a tradition of reading. Choose a classic such as the wonderful O. Henry story ‘The Gift of the Magi,’ or try poems, chapter books, or just about anything. Perhaps pick something that takes you out of your comfort zone. Everyone will be more open to the book when it’s read together. Whether it’s after the candles are lit for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, or for the 12 days of Christmas, read every night. 

Karaoke anyone? Sing songs together. Not everyone is musical but most can still muster up a few tunes with the family. Sing it loud, sing it proud, and sing it every year! 

Start an on-line holiday remembrance tradition, using photos or video. Mix it up with quotes from the family and the famous. Include favorite foods, special moments and even a few bloopers (but not too many, don’t embarrass anyone).

These are just a few ideas that may inspire you. I hope you will dream up your own traditions and personal rituals to add depth and tradition to your holiday season. ¡Felices Fiestas! 节日快乐 (Jie Ri Kaui Le)! Laethanta saoire sona! 幸せな休日 (Shiawasena kyūjitsu) Li holide eximnandi! Forhe Feiertage! Etc. etc.


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Enjoy the holidays!!!

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Life (and weddings) do not always go as planned.

Did you miss me? When I opened the paper Sunday morning there was no Pocono Wedding Talk  and I was stunned. After over a dozen years of writing this column something happened last week. I forgot to submit one. Blame it on the Thanksgiving holiday week, which no doubt threw off my routine, blame it on my aging brain, or best of all, I’ll try not to focus on blame. But it did get me thinking about how mistakes will happen. 

Yes, things don’t always go as planned in many aspects of life, and that is certainly true for weddings. 

Although not all of us have attended weddings recently (or ever) – evaluating your experiences can be a good way to help you avoid mistakes. Couples may recall what they loved about weddings they’ve attended, or what they did not love about them. Did it feel boring? Did things move too slowly? Was the music too loud? Was the food fantastic? Was the DJ rockin’? Was the Celebrant awesome?

Once you think about those pros and cons, you can become pro-active to try to ensure that your celebration is the success you want it to be.

Here comes the cake (don’t drop it)
Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for your amazing photography!

Notice I say successful, not perfect.

There is a mass medial idealization of weddings, summed up in an expression I see often that says: Best Day Ever. That’s setting the bar really high. Should we even aspire to this?

If you have an expectation of perfection you will likely fall short. Just acknowledging that is a good start; know and accept that every little thing may not go your way.  But if you relax and ‘go with the flow,’ you will have a wonderful experience. No one intends be become the ‘bridezilla’ – but some detail can trigger a nervous bride (or groom).

Traffic tie-ups, bad weather and so many little things are not in our control. However, it is reasonable to want the big things to go right! That would include the ceremony and special moments such as toasts and big-ticket items such as food at the reception. 

A little rain won’t dampen your spirits.
Rhinehart Photography

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but once, and only once, I was late for a wedding. I have officiated nearly 1,000 at this point, just for perspective. But here’s the important part:  the wedding party and the entire group of guests handled it beautifully. They sang songs together as they waited for me to arrive. What an amazing way to deal with the situation. They were all laughing and singing, and when I entered, they let out a big cheer, as I walked straight up to the altar and we began! I hope it never happens again, because I may not be as lucky as that.

Here are a few common concerns you should be prepared for:

Have a good back-up plan for weather conditions if you are planning an outdoor ceremony or reception. 

Speak frankly with anyone expected to make a toast and even offer help. Let them know if some stories might embarrass you, or what they can focus on. 

Be careful about alcohol consumption which, when starting too early in the celebration, can cause many things to go wrong.

A guest list spinning out of control is another problem confronting many couples. Use tact in explaining to family that weddings are expensive; simply say that as much as you’d love to have so-and-so, your budget simply doesn’t permit. 

Your perfect dress, its wants to be worn comfortably!
Rhinehart Photography

Women, please try on your dress again before the wedding, with your shoes, and actually walk around in it. Many women discover too late that the dress is simply too long or the shoes too uncomfortable. While you can’t change the dress, you can hem it!

For the DIY folks – problems I have encountered include big beautiful floral arrangements that do not have a base heavy enough to support them. I’ve seen them blow over during outdoor ceremonies. (I once had groomsmen quickly gather rocks and put them into the flowerpots to stabilize them.) I’ve also seen arches and arbors fall over when not secured properly. 

But most importantly, give yourself the room to feel many things. There is an unrealistic expectation not only about the dream wedding, but what it will feel like. You think it will be the happiest day of your life, but it’s possible that it may turn out to be the most tiring day of your life. It is not unusual to have doubts, sadness, fear, and many mixed emotions on your wedding day, or leading up to it.  Being nervous is very normal. I often remind couples that if they weren’t nervous, I’d be worried about them. You are nervous because it is important. 

So, while you may wish to work out all the details of your celebration, do not ignore your feelings. A wedding celebration is more than food, dancing, flowers and a big party. It is an important milestone in your life, so give it the emotional space it deserves. 

find me on facebook – Lois Heckman, Celebrant, and Instagram – Lois Heckman

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Modern Ideas for Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties

Bachelor and bachelorette parties used to signify the last fling before the restrictions of marriage. To me this is an antiquated idea. The premise was that after the wedding you wouldn’t be having any fun so better get that in now. For men it was celebrating their last days of ‘freedom.’ Women did not want to be left out of the fun, so girlfriends started planning a parallel style party with the name ‘bachelorette’ attached. 

You may have heard about or even attended a raunchy bachelor or bachelorette party, and pop culture has done a lot to promote the image of what these parties should be. But truth be told, most people are embarrassed by it. They often involve over-the-top sexualized activities, rely on stereotypes, and involve way too much on drinking to create the ‘fun.’ 

Instead, what if you thought of this party as an opportunity to get together with friends and talk about love, marriage and the upcoming changes in life; a chance to enjoy the company of old friends in a relaxed atmosphere before the formalities of the wedding day arrive.

If you are looking for some ways to create a more personal, stylish or sophisticated party, here are some suggestions. Bending the rules further, perhaps both partners (the engaged couple) can attend together, or you can go old school and have them separate. Remember these events do not have to be segregated by gender. They can be, but they don’t have to be; and friends of a groom may include some women and friends of a bride may include men. Just do what’s right for you!

Lisa Rhinehart can make a photo of a drink look gorgeous!
Thanks to her for all the photography she contributes to my blog.

I’m not saying not to drink if that is something you enjoy, but I am saying that drinking should not be the main focus or purpose. With that in mind you could still have a champagne brunch, with the perfect menu, held at a hotel or resort. You may want to include the choice of a spa treatment or round of golf. But who would pay for something that expensive? Well, if you can’t afford to spring for your crew, have these as options available on site with pricing shown on the invite, but of course, you must pay for the engaged woman or man you are honoring.

For more ideas involving alcohol – how about an ‘imported beers of the world’ themed get together. Splurge on some really great brews, you can even include the matching beer glass. Or conduct it as a beer tasting. A Mexican or other international flavored menu would be great, whatever you feel pairs nicely with beer. Ditto for a wine tasting! And again, for whiskey.

A night at the casino is fun. Get a room at the hotel for the initial get together including a cocktails and snacks, then schedule an hour in the casino, followed by a show! You can set limits on the gambling and drinking by constraining the time line.

Celebrant!!!! Lisa Rhinehart Photography!

How about a cruise around Manhattan, a day trip to the Jersey Shore or a trip to the Hudson Valley? Hire a limo or bus.

Lead a group of friends to an undisclosed location (along the river, on top of a mountain) where the caterer meets you and a sumptuous meal is served. Be sure to include lounge chairs! This would be so marvelously mysterious.

Are you up for a round of paintball or a rafting trip? Be sure to order some custom T-shirts or caps to commemorate the event.

Even a friendly game can be a celebration opportunity.
Rhinehart Photography

Like many things involving weddings, these events have become more extravagant and expensive over the years. But they don’t have to be. You can organize a baseball game or go bowling. A party can take place at home, without the expense of a hotel or resort.

Here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind:

  • Do set a budget, and a time limit, when the event begins and ends. It should not be open-ended. 
  • Do have a designated driver. 
  • Do ask the couple for input into the invite list.
  • Do make sure everyone invited to the party is also invited to the wedding.

And…

  • Don’t plan it for the night before the wedding.
  • Don’t play drinking games. 
  • And most importantly don’t do anything you’d be embarrassed to have your future spouse know about!

Oh yes, one more thing: do have a blast!

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Thanksgiving Rituals

Consider these ideas to enhance your holiday experience

Holidays are tricky. Not everyone has that wonderful family gathering we’re shown on tv and in the movies. If you’re lucky enough to share the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday with a group of family and friends I have a few suggestions for you. It is called, after all, Thanksgiving, so it is an opportunity to help children learn about gratitude. And we all need reminders now and then.

This is the kickoff of a celebratory season which might include Hanukkah, Winter Solstice and most often Christmas. With so much emphasis on consumerism, this could be the perfect time to take a breath, slow down, and dig deep.

Science even shows that feeling grateful promotes healthy and happier people. 

Decorate the table or placemats!

Here are a few ways to include gratitude in your Thanksgiving celebration.

One of the easiest and obvious is having everyone talk about what they feel grateful for in their lives. Start the meal going around the table giving each person a turn to speak.  Need I add – without interruption?

Have everyone say something nice about the person sitting to their left (or right, or whatever, just make sure everyone is recognized).

Lead up to Thanksgiving Day by having everyone think of something they are grateful for throughout the week, jotting it down, and reading it at the dinner celebration.

Remember to thank others… focus the week on extra nice comments showing appreciation for anyone in your life, people at check-out counters, wait staff and those closer to you as well. Talk about how that worked out for you at dinner. For children – help them write thank you letters to people in their world such as local fire companies, deployed military, the ‘lunch lady,’ the janitor, a special teacher  or crossing-guard, I’m sure can come up with something together.It’s a good habit to cultivate!

Continuing to involve children, make sure they have a role in the meal. Have them serve dessert for example. Kids benefit from helping.

Service! Volunteer time and especially find out what local programs actually need and create a project to fulfill that need, such as collecting winter coats,  pet food for animal shelter, or gift cards for the domestic violence shelter. Volunteer to help serve meals to those in need.

Service to others helps those who serve.

Create a special holiday tablecloth by using permanent marks and have everyone write messages of thanks on the cloth. Use this every year, adding more and more positive messages. It will be fun to see the development over the years. Or create placements.

Every celebration deserves a toast.
(Rhinehart Photography)

Invite someone new to share this day with you. A neighbor, friend or relative who may have no place to go on this holiday will be grateful, and you will be enriched for having done so. Make amends with an estranged family member or friend by inviting them.

And finally, don’t forget a toast. Clink your glasses together in appreciation of the moment.

find me on facebook – Lois Heckman, Celebrant, and Instagram – Lois HeckmanImage

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Love at Any Age

Love can come at any age. Do we ‘find’ love, or does love find us? Rumi, the Sufi Mystic who lived in the 13thcentury wrote something that is still rings true: ‘Your task is not to seek for love, but to seek and find all the barrier within yourself that you have built against it.’

After a divorce or death of a spouse, or even if you have never been married, at a certain point in life, to begin a new journey is a bit scary. But when it happens it is worthy of celebration. You must set aside those barriers and be open to new things, new experiences, as Rumi advises, and know that you deserve to be loved and that you have love to give.

A beautiful couple
(photo: Garth Woods)

At the risk of sounding like a TV talk-show pseudo-psychologist, I do really believe this, because I have seen it often. I have heard many stories from couples who found love later in life. Later in life is a relative term of course. A couple I officiated for just a few weeks ago identified as finding love later in life – but they were young enough to be my children. Didn’t seem all that late to me. But I have also officiated for couples in and around their 60s.

One stumbling block for second (or third) marriage is the words we use, language carries baggage. ‘Second marriage’ may not sound good to you, especially  if it is the first one for the partner. You can just say ‘marriage,’ because if you’re getting married, that’s what it is. I’m not a fan of the term ‘remarriage.’ 

When we vow to stay together until the end, and that doesn’t happen, it can feel like failure. But there are so many good reasons to end a relationship, and often it is the right and brave thing to do.

So, if you have found love again, should you celebrate wildly? Yes, why not? It is totally worthy of celebration – but, you may not want to have the kind of wedding a couple in their twenties might plan. And if there are children involved, you have to consider their needs and their feelings as well.

A wonderful couple eloping at Harmony Gardens
(Garth Woods photography)

Louis de Bernières wrote in his book Captain Corelli’s Mandolin:
Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.

I find this quote to be so very true and important. Older couples understand this, especially if in their first marriage that temporary madness burned away there was nothing left.

As we age we can become jaded. We might also become more set in our ways, and that makes it hard to open our hearts and homes to another person. And if we’re looking for the perfect partner we’re bound to be disappointed, but if we find the person who makes our life better, more joyful, then we’re on the right track. When you’re young you don’t know what’s ahead, when you’ve lived through disappointments and even tragedies, you might be more guarded.

And now for some science!

Recent research aimed to identify and examine elements of relationship success as described by younger and older adults. The top-five most highly rated elements of successful romantic relationships for the older adults were Honesty, Communication, Companionship, Respect, and Positive Attitude, whereas as the top-five most highly rated elements of romantic relationship success for younger adults were Love, Communication, Trust, Attraction and Compatibility.  Not so different but different enough.

Love is also chemistry, because it releases dopamine – that wonderful chemical in your body that makes everything just ‘more!’ It increases emotions and sexual desire.

And finally, not everyone needs to be partnered up. There is a lot of social pressure to have a mate. I wish that was not the case. Going to weddings and seeing all your friends getting married can be downright depressing if you haven’t found that special someone. There are many benefits to being single, but there is also no doubt that falling in love is exhilarating and that married people live longer.

Love at Any AgeJoseph Campbell wrote: Successful marriage is leading innovative lives together, being open, non-programmed. It’s a free fall: how you handle each new thing as it comes along. As a drop of oil on the sea, you must float, using intellect and compassion to ride the waves…. What I see in marriage, then, is a real identification with that other person as your responsibility, and as the one whom you love. 

To that I will add: at any age.

find me on facebook – Lois Heckman, Celebrant, and Instagram – Lois HeckmanImage

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