Check this off your wedding to-do list

You have found the person you want to spend your life with – this person loves and respects you and you are best friends and partners. Check. What could be more important?

You decided to tie the knot because it will strengthen your bond. What a good idea. Marriage has many benefits, not the least of which is prolonging one’s life. Hey, that’s just science. So you’re planning a wedding. Check.

You have found love! 'check'

Now comes the work, and a checklist can really help keep you on track. I’m talking about the ‘let’s seriously get this done’ check list. There’s a lot to think about and more decisions to be made than your ever imagined. Many couples have told me that planning a wedding was much more difficult than they ever imagined. But when that big day comes, its all going to be worth it…. isn’t it? Well that depends. Because remember, it really is just one day in your life. The ‘big day.’ Even I use that term sometimes. That’s a lot of pressure. Can you can keep your sense of perspective? Try checking that one off your list.

One of the biggest decisions is, of course, the budget. How do you decide how much can you spend? How much can you afford and how far are you willing to stretch your finances. But whether $1,000 or $10,000 or $100,000, ultimately you have to figure out what matters the most. The venue, food, photographer, music, clothing and of course don’t forget the value of a good officiant!  But like any other purchase – a beautiful pair of shoes can cost $50 or $250 – the choice is yours.

Lots to think about.

The average amount spent on an American wedding is $26,000. There are expenses you may not think of that quickly add up, such as table arrangements, hair and makeup, favors and gifts, a rehearsal dinner, transportation. Even details like dress alternations, postage for those oversize invitations, all keep stretching your budget more and more.

Then there is the question of who to invite? How big is this thing becoming? Decide this early in the planning process, and try not to let family members pressure you about it.

Lots of websites will tell you what to expect to pay for various services. Don’t trust them! Put your money towards the things that matter most to you. People who chose me are clear that they value a meaningful ceremony and are willing to pay a more for that. That is one of their priorities.

Keeping it small is another option. Inviting only those very closest to you, and then treating them and yourselves to the very best is another way to go. I have officiated fabulous weddings for two, or with 12, 25 or 50 guests. They were all great! A small wedding can be very charming and allow you to splurge here and there, or simply just keep it simple. The money saved can go towards something major in your life.

The process of planning a wedding can be a nightmare, or it can actually be enjoyable. If you can afford a wedding planner (and it is a great investment) it will make things go much more smoothly. If you choose a venue that has great service, that too, will make a big difference. When assessing the value of a venue that provides all the details remember that you are paying for those little extras plus all the time that goes into them. Your time is valuable, too. If you think you are saving money by doing-it-yourself, you may be mistaken. And trying to do it all is not a good idea.

Whatever you ultimately decide when facing these choices, remember that first item on your checklist – finding the love of your life – and it will help keep the crazy in check.

Getting the rings would be a major 'to do'

Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the gorgeous photos.




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Taking the Walk Down the Aisle

Rites of passage are marked by actions that help connect to things greater than ourselves. They connect us to the past while moving us into the future. Sometimes the most basic of elements make the most powerful statements. Many human rituals involve common everyday things such as fire or water.

That is why the simple act of walking, which almost all of us do, can also be a ritualistic element. While I was studying funerals at the Celebrant Foundation it made a lasting impression on me when an instructor pointed out that simply walking forward to touch the coffin was a powerful moment.

Down the long aisle of the church.

And when the bride, groom, or others, walk down the aisle, it is kind of a big deal! We even use the phrase ‘walk down the aisle’ to mean getting married.

The question of who walks down the aisle and in what order is often daunting. There are many different rules for the processional, depending on your faith tradition, but today almost any order is acceptable, especially given the complexity of families. One of the best reasons to have a wedding rehearsal is to work out the processional. I’ve often found that some detail for the processional we thought would be good in advance of the ceremony, changed at the rehearsal.

The recessional – when the couple exits the ceremony – is another time where walking is key. You walked in single and you walk out married. You are changed.

Walking out - the recessional!

Think of how grand an entrance is when walking down a large majestic set of stairs. The coronation of a king or queen would be less grand without the walk down the aisle. By contrast its amusing to think of ancient self-appointed gods and emperors who had themselves carried around in sedan chairs. I guess they thought they were above walking like mere mortals.

Making an entrance on the stairs.

Beyond simply getting down the aisle, there are several fascinating ancient wedding rituals that involve more walking. The Jewish ritual of Hakafot, and the Hindu Seven Steps are two great examples.

In the Jewish ritual the bride walks around the groom, who is seated, offering her protection. Some say it harkens to the battle of Jericho when the Israelites circled the walls seven times. While it may seem counter-intuitive that the bride offers the groom protection, going a little deeper, it also signifies that he is the anchor, in the center or the focal point. Others say it comes from the book of Jeremiah states that “A woman encompasses a man” [31:22].  Some versions of this ritual differ on the number of times for the circle, but in any case, this is all very ancient, and it does provide interesting symbolism that we can draw from, especially for an interfaith ceremony. I guess you could say that that once you find a good man, encircle him with your love.

With the Hindu ritual the couple, together, holds hands and walks around a fire seven times. A key aspect of the Hindu ceremony is to light a sacred fire, and for the Seven Sacred Steps, with each step, the couple agrees to blessings or vows for their marriage. I love this idea very much, although I doubt most modern wedding venues would allow a fire! Sometimes the bride’s sari is tied to the groom’s kurta, or a sari shawl might be draped from his shoulder to her sari.

I have created rituals drawing from both of these traditions, finding inspiration and offering modern adaptations.

When you walk down the aisle it is awesome to think of the long and deep history of taking that metaphorical and literal step in life.


Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the gorgeous photos.







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Creating a Wedding that Gives Back

I’m always thinking about different ways a wedding can be not only unique but more meaningful. On a day and a time in your life when you are focused on yourself and your future, it’s not a bad idea to stop and think of others not as fortunate.

Charitable weddings have been around for a while now, and there are many new ways to include charitable contributions to honor your love, your values and your big day. I love this idea! Not every couple wants gifts for their wedding. Some people have plenty of ‘stuff,’ and sometimes couples choose instead to honor their passions, interests and causes by including them in the wedding plans.

Let’s look at it this way – there are three opportunities to include a favorite charity or cause in your wedding planning. Before the wedding, during the wedding and after the wedding.


Puppies!!! (Photo: Caroline Logan)


There are many reputable organizations and websites that do the work for you, or you may prefer to choose your own charity, which is great when going more ‘local.’ Either way, let your guests know you’d like them to support your cause. You may want to set up a page such as Go Fund Me, this will show how much you have raised from your wedding – and your guests have the satisfaction of seeing the cumulative results of all their efforts. Another simple method is to request gift cards for wedding gifts, making clear your intention to donate them to a group.

Or you can have guests choose from a few different causes, working with a known entity that does this for you, such as the I Do Foundation. The top five charities designated by couples on this particular wedding registry are Doctors Without Borders, American Cancer Society, Heifer International, Habitat for Humanity, and Save the Children.

Include charity funding in your registry with a site like Zankyou, which transfers donations in your name to the NGO of your choice. Something like Wish Upon A Wedding is also appealing – this group provides weddings and vow renewals for couples facing serious illness or a life-altering circumstances.

I cannot emphasis enough that you want to be sure to include this in your invitation or your wedding website, it’s difficult to change old habits, so make it extremely clear.

Let your guests know!


Just give money yourself in honor of your big day. Then, for your reception – instead of favors, give wrist-bands, pins or any simple keepsake, that shows your support for the specific cause. DIY it by creating a note to place on each table setting explaining that you are donating to your favorite cause, and why you are doing this in lieu of a favor or small gift.

You can even create a theme that coordinates to your favorite cause – for example, if animal rescue is your passion, have a rescue group designated for each table, complete with photos and how to contact them.

I recently came across an awesome idea – a wedding photo shoot that featured rescue puppies to bring attention to the couple’s passion.

Angel Gowns - by Michelle


A group called Love What Matters (a podcast and platform that features stories about the inspiring things that are happening every day) led me to Gowns By Michelle. Michele is the actual person who makes tiny clothing she donates to families who have suffered the devastating loss of an infant. She started with the fabric from her own wedding gown, and it has grown from there. Donate to her or do something similar yourself.

Other post-wedding ways to do good are to send your flowers to a local hospital or nursing home. Donate left over food and goodies to local foodbanks or shelters. As always – please check in advance – don’t assume.

These are just a few ideas to infuse an entire new level of meaning into a wedding. Clearly this isn’t for everyone, but it could be perfect for you.


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Say ‘Rent’ to the Dress

There’s a very old phrase about ‘beg, steal or borrow,’ which means to accomplish something by any means necessary, but today I’m thinking about ‘rent, buy or borrow.’

It’s always exciting to see what brides will be wearing on their wedding day. Usually I have met ‘my’ bride in person beforehand, but, still, we all look a bit different when we’re all dolled up.

Great photo celebrating the dress (Rhinehart Photography)

There’s no doubt – the wedding dress is important. I’ve written about being comfortable in your dress and shoes. I’ve written about matching your expectations to reality. I’ve written about the long, long day you may have ahead of you and how to plan for that. I’ve seen brides in dresses that looked, to me, extremely uncomfortable, and dresses that require assistance just to use the bathroom. But the dress of your dreams is the dress of your dreams.

Recently, upon complimenting a bride her on her dress, I learned something interesting. Being somewhat older she chose not to wear a traditional wedding gown, and wore a perfect cocktail dress, quite exquisite. She confided that she got it through ‘Rent the Runway.’  Wow! What a great idea. After a few clicks, I readily discovered several websites where you can rent gorgeous clothing. While ‘Rent the Runway’ isn’t specific to wedding gowns, ‘Borrowing Magnolia’ certainly is, and there are several more. At ‘Borrowing Magnolia’ you can try on three dresses in your home for $99.

Oscar De La Renta gown $380,000.

I like this idea for lots of reasons, but first and foremost: who wears their wedding gown more than once? The other big incentive is cost; save money and still have the wedding dress of your dreams – that is sweet.

Is your taste beyond your means? Personally I would get a kick out of wearing a true designer garment, but I certainly wouldn’t spend the money on one.

But it’s not only about affordability, what about reducing the hassle of storing or preserving a gown?  And let’s be honest in saying that the gown of today may not be your daughter or granddaughter’s choice. Don’t saddle her with that.

Then there is the borrow option – but not for your dress. I’m thinking of your jewelry! It could add meaning, while saving a great amount of money, to borrow a stunning piece of jewelry from a mother, grandmother, aunt or sister.

You can rent jewelry!

Another quick google found you can rent jewelry as well. We’ve heard how celebrities on the red carpet wear millions of dollars of jewels on loan. We mere commoners can get in on the ‘good stuff’ too, by renting all kinds of accessories including that very high end bling. Websites like ‘Adorn’ and ‘Haute Vault’ rent, and ‘Borrowed Bling’ has a membership program that lets you borrow, once you’ve paid to join.

Do you know what a designer dress sells for?  I hope you’re sitting down. Well known designer Vera Wang’s start at $2,900 and her ‘Luxe’ Collection starts at $6,900.  Designer Dimitra’s gowns range in price from $15,000 to $25,000, and these are not the top designers, either.

However, the average cost of a wedding dress this past year was around $1,350 at local bridal shops. That’s still not chicken-scratch.

Vera Wang at $100,000.

And, of course, this information can apply to anyone, any time. Have a formal event coming up? Maybe now you will consider renting a dress.

Men have been renting tuxedos forever. Ironically I actually advocate the exact opposite for men. Purchasing a great suit or tux is something you can actually use over and over. A wedding gown, not so much.

Go ahead and rent your runway, but it’s your secret. No one needs to know. Rent, buy or borrow and steal the show!


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Day of the Dead and Thanksgiving – what could they have in common?

I love customs, traditions and rituals and the month of November brings two very good opportunities for them. While my theme here, Pocono Wedding Talk, is clear, I can’t help but stray from time to time.

We are coming to a big season of ritual – Christmas, of course, Hanukkah, too, and soon Thanksgiving – celebrated to honor the Pilgrims’ first feast. They were, I presume, giving thanks for simply surviving. The story is that the feast was held with the Indigenous people who were, perhaps naively, hospitable to the newly arrived Europeans. They sure didn’t know what was coming.

Thanksgiving imagined in painting 1899

November 2nd is another intriguing holiday –  the tradition known as the Day (or Days) of the Dead, celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and by people of Mexican ancestry living in other places, especially here in the US. Day of the Dead focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember loved ones who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. The intriguing part for most of us not within that community is when celebrations take place right on the graves of the departed.

An altar in San Antonio (photo by me)

While the two holidays differ quite a lot from one another, they do share common elements. Both are cultural occasions with time-honored traditions, full meaning and memories.  Both intentionally remember those who have died by celebrating their lives and telling stories of how they contributed to our shared values, traditions and family lore. And both provide an opportunity to feel connected to something bigger that extends beyond the ritual, by connecting us with a deeper sense of gratitude for life.

Traditional Day of the Dead rituals include creating altars to honor the dead, laying out food offerings, sharing anecdotes and stories (many are humorous that poke fun of the deceased) as well as cleaning and, most interesting, decorating and sharing a meal at gravesites. The key purpose of activities is to make contact with the spirits of the dead, to let them know they are not forgotten.

Family gathers for Day of the Dead.

Sharing a Thanksgiving meal is also a tradition that makes us feel a part of the generations that preceded us. Putting aside the historic misconceptions that have been promoted for many reasons – the re-writing history and commercialism – the holiday still has much to offer. Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for expressing gratitude about health, family and personal circumstances, and research tells us that when we engage in talking about our gratitude, it brings us a deeper sense of well-being.

Conversely if you don’t have a family or community to celebrate with, holidays like these can be depressing. If this is the case for you, try to find a volunteer opportunity or other way to find meaning on these holidays. Or take a vacation. Most importantly, take care of yourself.

"Modern Family" thanksgiving (get it?)

But to my main point – November celebrations have all the important ingredients of rituals – a prescribed time and place; predictable elements that are repeated year after year (signature foods) and some that are new (new guests, new location, new stories); meaning conveyed through symbols (special flowers or songs); and an intergenerational gathering that we remember from our childhood and gradually assume more responsibility for as adults.  We do our part, over our lifetimes, to pass this shared heritage along to the younger generation.

Whatever rituals you might observe in November, I hope you enjoy them, make them your own, and that you feel like Willard Scott did when he wrote, “Thanksgiving just gets me all warm and tingly and all kinds of wonderful inside.”


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Those cute kids walking down the aisle

Little children walking down the aisle is one of the cutest moments in a wedding.  Flower girls, ring bearers… do you need them, and do you want them? As with most things in life, it depends.

There certainly is no requirement that you include them, but if you do, there are many variations on this theme. I’ve seen girls carrying bouquets and baskets, tossing petals, riding in carts, walking with dogs, carrying signs, and little boys carrying the ring pillow or box with the rings, holding cute signs, walking with other children, and entering on a tricycle or little motorized toy car. I’ve even seen adults as ‘flower women’ – which is surprising, but pretty cool.

Signage is great! (mi & mo photography)

Putting a spin on this tradition really can bring something fresh to any wedding. If there are kids to involve – use them well.

So how did this ritual evolve?

Those adorable kids (Rhinehart Photography)

Dating back from a time when brides themselves were quite young, the flower girl led the bride in as a symbol of innocence. In ancient Roman and Greek times she would scatter herbs and grains to beckon fertility for the new union. I know I’m often referencing ancient times, but it’s because that is where we find the roots of so many of our traditions. By the medieval era sheaths of wheat were carried in the wedding procession. (See my ‘brief history of weddings’ column for more).

Kids and dogs!! (photo: I AM LKC)

In some cultures, only female children attended to the bride, not her adult friends or relatives, so multiple flower girls were not uncommon. There was a lot of emphasis on innocence (read: virginity).

The ring bearer was traditionally a young male servant, his role, too, dating back to ancient Egypt when jewels were displayed on ornamental pillows during a wedding. Show-offs!

Later, it became common in Europe to exchange wedding rings, and this young boy continued to be a part of the ceremony, as the two traditions merged, leading to the pillow being used to carry the rings.

I love seeing a flower girl and ring bearer enter together. They can help each other be brave as they take that walk with all eyes upon them. But of course any combination, whatever the number, will always be adorable.

Walking together is good (Glen Durrell Photography)

Many couples choose to have their ring bearer as merely symbolic rather than as a functional, but which I mean instead of entrusting their actual wedding rings to a young child, instead they attach fake rings to the pillow. If the real rings are placed on the pillow, be sure to secure them in some way, to prevent them from being lost. Then have the rings delivered directly to a best man or woman or the officiant. The kid doesn’t need to hold them through the ceremony!

I was once witnessed a ring bearer drop the real rings in an especially inaccessible spot – and it took quite a while for them to be found. It is not something I want to ever see again!

It’s a good idea to rehearse the children, especially for petal tossing, my personal favorite choice. Practice using leaves or anything at all, and when the day comes she will be well prepared to toss that trail of rose petals for the bride to walk upon. Please explain it to her – it will help her understand the importance of her ritual, which, in simplistic terms is that she is leading the way and protecting the bride on her special day. You can skip the fertility part

I’m often asked about the order of the processional, and regarding the flower girl it’s easiest to remember that her petals are there for the bride, and the bride alone – so she enters right before the bride. But sometimes it is better to send kids in first. Children and pets always upstage adults anyway. And it can’t hurt to get the ones done, seated and out of the way, especially if there’s a case of stage fright! Who hasn’t seen kids crying or balking at performing their task?

It can be absolutely adorable to include children in your processional, just know what you’re getting into beforehand, and embrace it in any way that works for you.

That's an entrance! (Sabrina Schantzen photography)



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FLIP A COIN …One off-beat wedding provides charming inspiration.

I don’t usually write about one specific wedding, but when a fun, interesting, creative couple gets their hands on their own wedding – anything can happen. I recently worked with just such a pair. Here are a few things they brought to the table.

The Happy Couple in front of the venue

To begin, they changed up the standard time-line by having their cocktail hour first, then the ceremony, and then the dinner. They are not the first to do this, but it doesn’t happen all that often. I really like this for several reasons. Food-wise, it actually makes a lot of sense. Hors d’oeuvres can be filling. Give it a rest, then have dinner. Additionally, it provided an opportunity to socialize with guests, perhaps taking away some of the anxiety. Think of it: everyone had a snack (and a drink) which puts them in a great mood, then on to the ceremony. However, if a couple is not seeing each other before their ceremony (or seeing guests) it probably won’t work. These ‘out of the box’ ideas clearly are not for everyone, but it’s always good to think about options.

Next, instead of a traditional processional they created what they dubbed a ‘soul train.’ They had a group of friends make two lines, and then, two at a time, they danced down the make-shift aisle – coming to the front where the ceremony would take place. Now, if you wanted attendants standing with you, you could have them dance their up to the altar area. This couple choose not to have any bridesmaids or groomsmen stand with them, so the dancers then took their seats. They chose a Michael Jackson song for this, naturally! When everyone was done hoofing down the aisle, the bride, with her own special song and her special escort (her father having passed away) danced to the front and we began our ceremony.

Line up for a soul train processional!

For their “I do” response they choose instead to say ‘I’m in,” which garnered a great response from their guests, who obviously knew them well!  Traditionally, once the couple agrees to go forward, (the ‘I do’ part) they can take their vows. This is sometimes called the ‘declaration of intent’, the ‘pledge’ or ‘declaration of free will and intent’, and it’s not the same as the vows. A lot of people get confused about that.

Once they were ‘in’ – who would speak, or ‘take’ their vows first? Old school thinking is the husband goes first, but today most people don’t pay much attention to that. They certainly didn’t have a preference one way or another, so they flipped a coin. That worked great! Again, not the first time I’ve used that in a wedding (ok, only the second time ever) and again, it’s not for everyone, but it was certainly fun. The groom flipped the coin and the bride made the call (heads). They didn’t plan that in advance, it simply unfolded that way. Oh, and she won the toss and went first. They finished their vows with a cool ‘high five.’

A great view of the soul train.

These types of charming touches can add a lot. But they have to come from a real place. For some couples perhaps just one little fun little idea is quite enough. But this wedding was a great example of what I always advocate, and that is to be yourselves. Don’t be afraid to change things.

Coin toss (landed on the floor)

In the end the ceremony was still a wedding ceremony, and it was emotional, meaningful and lovely. You know what they say – if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc.  It’s almost impossible to create a wedding ceremony that is not readily recognizable as a wedding ceremony.

'They're in!' a good reason to 'high five'

Finally, I want to mention the amazing venue: The Scranton Cultural Center. This building has elements of Gothic Revival, Romanesque Revival, and Art Deco – it’s quite eclectic – a lot like the couple themselves! No wonder they chose it. Built in the 1920s and beautifully preserved it is just stunning! A great couple deserves a great venue. Congratulations to Nicole and Marc!






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A Brief History of Weddings

As far as I can tell there is no country, culture, religion or tradition that does not celebrate marriage. In this column I’d like to explore the history of weddings, but I’ll confine it to our roots in Western civilization – I couldn’t possibly explore the entire planet, this topic is big enough already!  Here are some highlights.

The earliest evidence of weddings is found to be about 4,350 years ago. Before that anthropologists believe that families were loose groups of about 30 people, with multiple leaders and shared partners. There is good evidence showing a marriage ceremony from about 2350 BC in Mesopotamia. And it spread from there, being embraced by the ancient Hebrews, Greeks and Romans.

The earliest known examples of wedding rings are from ancient Egypt. This tradition, traced back to these ancient Romans and Greeks, was adopted by Christians in Europe in the Middle Ages. The earliest rings were braided or woven out of reeds or leather, but for the rich and powerful, beautiful metal rings have been unearthed, often made of gold. Many museums display them.

Beautiful ancient rings

Tossing rice and carrying bouquets have deep roots as well. Because growing food and producing children was central to survival, rituals involving grains developed.  You can be sure anything involving grains was used to petition the gods for successful crops and successful births. A bride’s bouquet was made of various herbs also meant to promote fertility, but also ward off evil spirits, and ward off the smell of the unwashed. Today fragrant flowers are still used, so take a deep breath and toss the rice!

Contrary to what we see in the movies and television, ancient unions had little or nothing to do with love, or even religion. They were a way to guarantee that the man’s children were truly his, biologically, and thus his property. Marriage also had to do with power and the alliances of families, as well as expanding that all important labor force: the family.

Monogamy is seen as central to marriage, but historically polygamy was very common, especially in Biblical times. But the man with many wives was probably a man of high status, most men had just one. That makes sense statistically, because otherwise there wouldn’t be enough women to go around. Monogamy became the standard somewhere between the sixth and ninth centuries, as the kings and nobility battled it out on this principle with Catholic Church. Guess who won?

Speaking of the church, the next big step in the history of marriage was the rise of Roman Catholicism in Europe. By the eighth century marriage became a church sacrament. In 1563 it was written into canon law.

In an interesting contrast, ancient Judaism also negotiated marriage for alliances and property, but women did have some rights and could actually even get a divorce. The marriage agreement, call the Ketubah, spelled out those rights and is still used today. The belief that men ‘owned’ their wives persisted for centuries in almost every religious sect. Only about 250 years ago did the idea of love in marriage gain traction.

Elizabethan weddings mark the start of most of our modern traditions. Between 1558 and 1603 marriages were mostly still arranged and women could consent at age 12, and men at 14, but some of the customs we are familiar with began then, including the bridesmaids and groomsmen, the processional, a religious officiant, and an extravagant feast.

Orthodox betrothal depicted by Vasily Vladimirovich Pukirev 1862

During our Colonial Era marriage licenses appeared, invitations were sent and the ceremony now took place in the home, although a minister presided, and they held a nice party afterwards.

The Victorian area (1800’s) brought us the famous white wedding dress, along with veils and flowers, and back to church for the ceremony. A small dinner followed the ceremony but a larger breakfast party was given the following day.

Victorian Wedding, 1918, Chicago

The modern wedding as we know it today really took its form after World War II. In an era of prosperity and peace, impressing your friends became important not only for the rich, but for the growing new middle class. A crucial influence was the new mass communication – newspapers and magazines, and eventually television – so that modern couples developed a shared vision of what a wedding should look like, or at least what they were told it should look like.

Modern Bride Magazine

This brief review simply illustrates that we can be quite sure many of our customs and rituals for weddings can be traced way, way back in time. I find that amazing, and strangely wonderful. Human beings – aren’t we something else? Guess we always have been.


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A Case for a Casual Wedding

As more and more couples are looking for authentic ways to celebrate their unions, the variations on weddings grow. A wedding can be anything from a black-tie affair with hundreds of guests, to a simple backyard party, to elopement. Keeping it casual, relaxed, laid-back, and informal, is great, and a real option today. But what exactly does this mean?

These guys look cool and casual.

Here in the Poconos a casual wedding can be a very good fit. Our community tends to be relaxed, and the mountains as a destination, reflect an outdoorsy vibe. If that’s what you’re looking for, have what I call ‘a casual wedding.’

This also works for weddings on a beach, in a garden, a backyard, or park, but I have also seen very elegant and up-scale weddings in all of those settings. For any of these locations be sure to have an excellent rain plan! (I’ve written about that extensively, so I’ll skip it this time)

To have your casual wedding make sense, consider the formality of the ceremony, the style of the décor, type of meal, and most importantly, your expectations. Anything that leaves out a lot of pomp and circumstance, no Here Comes the Bride, or Pachelbel’s Canon could be a casual wedding.

A wedding with children running around is most likely a casual wedding. But don’t misunderstand – this relaxed style can still be very beautiful, even with kids making lots of noise.

How do your guests know what to expect? A clear signal is important –  most people do not feel good if they show up over-dressed or under-dressed. (I know it bothers me when that happens.) You simply have to tell them. Indicating this on the invitation is the first and best step; for example: casual attire, jackets and ties optional – would be a good indicator; or perhaps: ‘join us for our picnic style wedding.’

Simple flowers work for a casual wedding (Photo credit: Susie Forrester)

Invitations themselves speak volumes – the look, and choice of words sets a tone. ‘Come join us as we tie the knot,’ gives a different impression from requesting ‘the pleasure of your company.’  Recycled natural paper presents differently than white card stock trimmed in gold. Also spread the word to family and friends and be specific.

If guests go casual, can a bride still wear a gown? Of course, but probably something more simple and flowy instead of beaded and big. If you love vintage, this is the time to go for it. A wedding dress with cowboy boots is also great for a casual wedding. But whatever the style of the wedding, a bride can always be a bride. She can and should be more dressed up than the guests.

A casual wedding might also involve activities. Have lawn games, or a live band, but instead of the usual wedding band – why not hire a bluegrass group, country band, or something different? Have some food based activities, such as: build your own burger, or a taco bar; have a bonfire, make smores, build your own ice cream sundaes.

A self-serve beverage bar is easy, too, and fits a casual wedding. Just have a few nice big buckets of ice filled with soft drinks and clearly labeled hard stuff.

Flowers have a way of expressing one’s style, so wild bouquets of local blooms would fit better than formally arranged roses.

The best thing about a casual wedding is that you have the choice to have one. Not everyone is cut out for the super fancy stuff. Your wedding is one of the most important milestones in your life, it is important that you feel comfortable with your plans. But however you interpret casual, be sure to communicate that to your guests, so they will feel right at home as well.

Thank you Susie Forrester and Lisa Rhinehart for the fabulous photos!



Posted in Ceremonies and Celebrations, Pocono Weddings, Tips on Weddings, Wedding Ceremonies | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The story of Gretna Green

The story of the blacksmith is charming.

I love wedding traditions from around the world and only recently learned about the town of Gretna Green in Scotland and how it is a mecca for elopement. Of course there is a reason and it is steeped in history.

In the mid 18th Century, the English tightened their laws about who could marry, raising the age to 21, if they didn’t have their parent’s consent, that is. I’m sure many married younger, but now it was illegal without daddy’s approval. Additionally, the wedding had to take place in a church.

But Scottish law was different – in Scotland you could marry quite easily, by the ‘handfasting’ ritual, which we still love today, or simply by declaring your intent, along with two witnesses, both bride and groom being over 16 years of age, and voila! They were married.

Location, location, location: Here in the Poconos we’re not only a beautiful area, but our proximity to New York City and Philadelphia makes us a great elopement destination. And if you are travelling from London, Gretna Green is the first village in Scotland just over the border, conveniently off the main road.  And so it became the place where a couple could easily run to and get married.

Photo credit: Captured by Carrie

The story of Gretna Green has even more charm and here’s the best part: the village blacksmith doubled as the local minister.  Over time he was officiating so many wedding he grew tired of continually changing his clothes and going from his workshop to his church and finally just married couples right there in his shop over the anvil. With a great flourish (and I love a good ending) the blacksmith/minister would bring down his hammer on the anvil, creating a ringing sound heard through the village, to signify the couple’s marriage. This custom grew in fame, of course, as these stories do, and the anvil became known as the ‘marriage anvil.’

Here in the Poconos we have some history, too. I’m thinking of our: heart-shaped tubs, which had a shorter life span and have not passed the test of time.  Those tubs and ‘champagne towers’ were popular in the 50’s and 60’s – not the 1750s and 60s. But our local history goes back at least a little further – to the WWII era when GI’s brought families and girlfriends to our mountains and after the war returned for honeymoons. The first true honeymoon resort opened in in Poconos in 1945.

The Poconos were once known for these.


Meanwhile, back in Scotland, the laws have changed over the years, with age of consent, waiting periods, and other details varying, but ultimately Scottish law has been a boon to elopement. In fact, a ‘Gretna Green marriage’ came to mean a ‘common law’ marriage in England.

Gretna Green has been the elopement destination for English couples all this time, over 250 years, but I’m just finding out about it.  Today it is still popular and it’s the history that adds the romance. I think I need to buy an anvil.

Posted in Ceremonies and Celebrations, Pocono Weddings, Tips on Weddings, Wedding Ceremonies | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment
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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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