Tips for Grooms…


The groom and his guys.

Ask any man what was the most stressful day of his life, and a good many of them will tell you it was their wedding day.  Consider what faced them:  family pressures, silk and chiffon, emotional roller coasters before, during and after the Big Day, not to mention publicly declaring one’s love in front of hundreds of friends and relatives!

Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. Many men tell me they enjoyed the process more than they expected, but only when they understood their role and got involved. Here are some suggestions that will help ease the stress and make the wedding day more meaningful for men.

Get involved with the ceremony preparation:  It’s easy to get caught up in the details surrounding the wedding itself, but the words that will be spoken on your wedding day will take you across a threshold of life.  Be a part of the process – in selecting readings, music and rituals.  When you’ve spent time making the ceremony personally meaningful, you’ll be less likely to feel like an outsider at your own wedding.

Rely on your attendants (aka: groomsmen):  Select people who will pitch in when necessary and who have been with you during other stressful occasions, so that you know that they will help you keep your cool.

The men supporting one another.

Take pressure off your partner:  A bride may think she is a superwoman, planning every last detail, but she will certainly appreciate your interest and your help.  Ask her to give you tasks and perform them well, like arranging for activities for out-of-town guests, booking hotels and cars, coordinating airport runs, and giving directions to the officiant, photographer and other wedding professionals.

Ask for help:  On the day of the wedding, designate someone in your family or wedding party to handle stressors surrounding the wedding: family, guests, wedding professionals, parking, etc., so that you can stay above the fray.

Relaxed and enjoying the big day.

Speak from the heart:  If you are writing your own vows, simply write your promise in your own words. Practice your vows in front of a friend before reading them at the wedding (yes, reading, not memorizing!)  To calm your nerves on the day of the wedding, focus only on the one you love, and let the guests melt away as you pledge your love. Don’t forget to have your officiant be sure both your vows and your partners have a sense of equality. And remember, there is no obligation to write vows, there are many wonderful tried-and-true classic vows to choose from.

Know what’s going on:  Take the time to familiarize yourself with all the preparations and details of the Big Day so that you can answer any questions that arise, and they will! In other words, know all the who, what, where and whens. I think you know they why and how.

Don’t worry about the “perfect wedding”:  There’s no such thing.  Most guests won’t even notice “mistakes”, and even if they do, often such gaffes add charm, humor, and authenticity to the event.

More great guys!

Be present in the moment.  Look at your partner during the vows.  Listen carefully to your readers.  Reflect on the meaning of the symbols you have chosen to include in your ceremony, whether wine, candles, flowers or rings.  Remember this moment in time.

If you’ve come to the end of the column and you’re not the groom, just go ahead and print or email it to him. Grooms, if you’ve read this – congratulations and have a great time at your wedding!


Thank you Lisa Rhinehart  for your gorgeous photos!


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Same-Sex Weddings Aren’t All That Different

Now that marriage equality has come to Pennsylvania, I am getting many inquiries from same-sex couples. It’s an exciting time.

What a great couple!

Massachusetts Chief Justice Margaret Marshall wrote in 2004 that: “Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support…. It is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family.

Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.”

This is exactly why anyone wants to get married, and I’m proud to stand up for equality and be a small part of social change that brings more love into the world. If you have any doubt on this issue I advocate that you always choose to be on the side of love.

So …now that I’m done pontificating: if you’re wondering about how to approach some of the details of same sex marriages – here are a few ideas and pointers, for couples and for guests.

Processional: If they are on-board have the parents escort each partner in. Or have the couple enter together. This is especially great for couples who have been together a long time. Another processional option is to have each partner walk in from a different direction. Again, I’ve also done this with straight couples, bringing up the obvious point that same-sex weddings are not really significantly different than opposite-sex weddings.

Attendants (bridesmaids/groomsmen) – have both men and women standing on either side. In fact, it is no longer required that only men stand with a groom and only woman stand with a bride. For everyone I advocate that you just have the people you want standing with you.

Notice how they organized the attendants!

Ceremony Language: When I’m not pronouncing the couple as ‘husband and wife,’ I’ve settled on ‘good and truly married,’ at least for the moment. This could change, but for now I like this so much I’m using it for straight couples sometimes.

Addressing the issue of same-sex marriage: I always discuss this with the couple –  it can be very meaningful to make a statement about the difficulties, barriers and discrimination that same-sex couples have faced, and the joy and hope for our future with the progress we have made as a society. It takes bravery for a gay or lesbian couple to stand in front of their family and friends and publicly declare their marriage commitment, when there are still so many people who do not accept it.

Guests: Your support means a lot to the couple, but don’t bring up comparisons to heterosexual couple’s weddings. Don’t expect an over-the-top affair, or otherwise stereotype. Keep your expectations down to earth. Go with the flow.

Wedding cards for same-sex couples are readily available these days. The couple will appreciate that you took the time to find the right one!

Guests – please use the couple’s preferred terminology. Not every woman getting married is, or wants to be called, a bride; not every man thinks of himself as a groom. Let the couple guide you in your use of words, and if you’re not sure, ask, or just use their names. And please continue to follow this guideline after the wedding. Not every married woman is a wife. Not every married man is a husband — if someone always refers to her “partner,” do not say, “How’s your wife?” If you find it impossible to respect language preferences, consider living in a cave or uninhabited island.

With the growing acceptance of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage, we open ourselves up to new ways of thinking, and we all learn and grow. Many of the ideas for the minority, that is in this case, for same-sex couples, will influence the majority of people in creative, egalitarian and meaningful ways.


Thank you to Susie Forrester for the beautiful photos!

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The ‘first look’ is a photo or series of photos capturing the moment when the groom sees his bride for the first time (in her gown before the wedding). It can be amazing, wonderful, and heartfelt. It can also serve a useful purpose. And conversely it can be corny, phony, and overly staged.

Waiting for the 'first look'

I love the idea of getting the photos of the couple, family and bridal party done before the ceremony. Everyone looks their best, and it frees up the couple to go directly to the cocktail hour or party. I have occasionally seen photographers take couples away after the ceremony for far too long. Guests are left waiting to greet them, and honestly, its really awkward standing around until the newlyweds to arrive. It’s anti-climatic.

So if you are taking photos before your ceremony, a first look certainly makes a lot of sense.

Photographer extraordinaire Lisa Rhinehart concurs, when she says: “First looks are great because they allow the couple to enjoy cocktail hour with their family and friends and allows them to have the candid, creative photos that mean so much to them – it’s the best of both worlds!  The day flows smoothly, building up to the ceremony, then once the vows are done, it’s time to relax.”

He sees her!

Obviously I agree. But let me add that on the flip side, it puts a lot of pressure on the groom to make a big deal out of seeing his bride. It is in no way a truly candid moment. However, if it’s done in a low-key way, without raising expectations too high, without too much staging, it can be quite beautiful.

... and they embrace!

If you are thinking of having the ‘first look’ photo, please speak with your photographer. Remind her or him that you would like them to keep some distance. Unless you are an actor or model, and used to being the focus of a camera, it is difficult to have it aiming at you and still have an authentic moment.  Think it through and have a good discussion with your photographer. The best photographers will put you at ease and not get in too close.

Some couples would rather see one another for the first time on their weddings day when the bride walks down the aisle. It’s an old tradition and it has its charm for sure! Your photographer will surely capture this moment, and you might say that it’s the original first look. If this is something you’ve always dreamed, if this is for you, don’t let anyone tell you differently. If the couple is not seeing one another before the ceremony, there are still some photos that can still be taken ahead of time. But, as Lisa says, with the right photographer (and she certainly is one) and the right attitude, you can have it all – that special, intimate moment and a photo to capture it.


Thank you Lisa Rhinehart  for letting me use so many of your gorgeous photos!

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Many Choices for Theme Weddings

There are many ways to have a wedding that reflects your style, taste and values. If you have been thinking about a theme wedding, put it at the top of your agenda – because if you choose a theme, it will influence many of the choices that will follow.

A nautical themed wedding.


What is a theme wedding? It’s almost anything you want it to be. The ideas are endless. Interests, from music, sports, romance, movies, travel, Las Vegas, Mexican Fiesta, Roaring Twenties, to more conceptual themes involving cultural background, life-style, or philosophy – all can create a theme wedding that will set your celebration apart. Focusing on the seasons, nature, or a holiday, are more examples. Having a theme can create a memorable experience for you and your guests.

The theme can be expressed in the décor, invitations, food, and even attire; and, as a Celebrant, I have often woven themes into my ceremonies. It has inspired metaphor, poetry, songs and quotations. Not only words, but rituals, and even the location itself can reflect the theme. I have incorporated homemade wine from the family’s tradition of winemaking, performed a sand ceremony on the beach, and officiated in a barn for a western themed wedding, read about zombies, and choreographed a couple to recess under the crossed swords of their groomsmen, just to name a few.

The wedding on the dock.

Here are some theme ideas that may inspire you -

Have each table at the reception represent something meaningful to you, such as: the dog rescue table, the clean air table, the Renaissance table, the Civil War table, or various sports teams, artists, musicians, movies, tv shows or writers. Place some information on the tables regarding your theme or themes. The Mozart table, the Beatles table, the Wild West table – anything goes! This will also help generate conversation for your guests.

Select ideas from your cultural heritage and create information cards with fun facts, special toasts, or symbols placed in the center of the table, with a coordinating centerpiece, of course! Assign a time for each group from every table to stand up and offer a toast – with a tie-in to their table’s theme, of course!


... and the details to go with it.

A theme of thanks, or giving, offers an opportunity to share on your special day. Make a donation to a charity instead of giving favors. Encourage your guests to do the same. Create a small card, perhaps with a ribbon (some causes are symbolized by these ribbons, such as the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness) and include the address and contact information so people can get involved with the cause after the wedding.

Romance and love are always appropriate. Arrive at the reception in a horse-drawn carriage. Have a harpist, string quartet or even opera for music. Use lots of candles and chocolate hearts. Name your tables after famous romantic couples.

The ideas are endless. Have a brainstorming session with your fiancé and friends. With a bit of imagination you may invent a theme wedding of your own that is sure to please.

Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for sharing your beautiful work with Pocono Wedding Talk.

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Little Tips for your Big Day

They say that in the ‘art of marriage,’ the little things are the big things. I wonder if that true for the art of a weddings? Sometimes couples get too caught up in the tiny details and miss the big picture. But there are a few little things I’ve picked up along the way – some little tips for your ceremony that may be helpful.

For men: keep the boutonnieres on the smaller side. A big boutonniere often won’t ‘stay put,’ they tend to fall to the side.

Speaking of flowers, also keep the bouquets small to medium – it makes them easier to carry and hold. Trust me, they can get heavy. If you want to splurge, make it on the flowers themselves not the size of the bouquet. And of course fresh flowers for centerpieces are fantastic, so go ahead and go big on that if you want!

The perfect size bouquet.

Men should consider buying a great suit rather than renting a tux. Unless your wedding is extremely formal, a suit is perfect. You’ll have it for other occasions as well and in that way it’s a good investment. For outdoor, less formal summer weddings, it’s ok to skip the jacket, and just go with suspenders, tie, and/or vest to give it some pazazz. Don’t forget the trendy cool socks.

Cool socks help complete the look.

Vows – if you are writing them yourself, try to keep them under 200 words, or less. Don’t write a book, it will feel like an eternity. Don’t write your entire love story, instead remember to write your promise. If you are choosing more standard vows, you don’t have to say the exact same vow to one another. Instead pick different ones that have the same tone and intent.

When doing a ritual – do it big! Pouring sand? Chose a large vase and fill it up! Using candles? Use lots of them.

Skip the aisle runner, especially outdoors. They can really trip you up sometimes. If you want to decorate the aisle, use petals instead.

Involve your bridal party to show them how much they mean to you by having them surround you in a circle while you exchange rings.

Hire a great photographer and ask everyone to put away their phones and cameras for the ceremony.

If you are giving out bubbles or petals, have your officiant remind everyone to get them ready before the pronouncement. Without a heads-up you won’t be walking down the aisle through them for a beautiful and photogenic moment.

Remind everyone to be sure to get the right effect.

Wedding planning can be overwhelming. The biggest tip of all is don’t sweat the small stuff and your wedding day will be a big success.


Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the wonderful photos





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Do’s and Don’ts for Interfaith Weddings

In the 1950s, 20 percent of marriages in the U.S. were interfaith unions. By the first decade of the 21st century, the rate increased to 45 percent*. So, with so many traditions, customs, beliefs and heritages being blended like never before, it is crucial (and sometimes tricky) to honor and celebrate all that we bring to the altar without compromising the beliefs of the couple or their families.

Interfaith ceremonies are among my very favorites to create.  Perhaps it is because they offer the opportunity to incorporate so many diverse and wonderful elements. And on a personal level, I truly ‘get it.’ The key is to balance those elements, as well as provide clarity. You must understand the meaning, history and use of any religious or cultural ritual, and of course, be respectful, when performing it.

Here I am quite a few years ago, officiating a Catholic/Buddhist wedding

Here are a few do’s and don’ts when saying “I do” in an interfaith wedding.


  • Have family members from each side read a blessing, prayer or perhaps a literary work or poem from their tradition.
  • Offer readings or rituals in the original language and provide translations
  • Personalize religious traditions to reflect your blended family, such as creating and signing an interfaith marriage certificate.
  • Perform one ritual from each religion, for example ‘Sharing the Sign of Peace,’ and ‘Breaking the Glass.’
  • Create your own blessing or prayer reflecting your blended union and read it to your guests.
  • Illustrate each family’s support by having both sets of parents walk their children down the aisle.

Some of the details we included.



  • Step on toes:  respect each family’s ties to their own religious traditions and tactfully and carefully explain how rituals from both heritages will be included.
  • Forget to explain the different religious rituals being used, sometimes the officiant can do this or include it in a program booklet.
  •  Try to satisfy everyone:  remember, the wedding ceremony is ultimately a reflection of you and your spouse.  Be gentle but firm when saying “no” to your families’ requests when necessary.
  • Try to do too much:  you can’t replicate the entire wedding ceremony of each tradition; your guests will be bored and your wedding ceremony will lose some of its intensity.  Careful editing of the ceremony elements is key.

And finally, don’t give up!  If you and your fiancé truly want an interfaith wedding, don’t throw in the towel because the challenge of multiple traditions and family pressures become overwhelming.  You can have it both ways and start your own traditions on the first day of your new life together.

It does take some work, but you can create a wedding, and a family together, by being mindful, respectful, and finding all of the common ground our diverse traditions share.


*Til Faith Do Us Part, Naomi Schaefer Riley

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The Receiving Line

One wedding tradition that is losing popularity is the receiving line. This custom actually dates back to more superstitious times when it was believed that anyone who touched the bride and groom would be blessed with good luck. It later evolved into the practice we are familiar with, especially for large weddings, as a way of insuring that each guest is greeted. It is a nice custom, but it does have its drawbacks.

Here are some pros and cons to consider when deciding whether you wish to have a receiving line, because, it is not required.

On the negative side the receiving line slows everyone down because it creates a big bottleneck of people leaving the ceremony. After sitting through the ceremony (which I hope was lovely and meaningful) guests would like to get up and move around, and perhaps have a snack or beverage, or get out of the sun.

Other negatives are that the line may take at least a ½ hour, and frankly, sometimes the greetings can be awkward.

Instead, to be sure you see all over your guests make a point to visit each and every their table during the reception, and you will have fulfilled the intended purpose of the receiving line, and perhaps in an even more relaxed and meaningful manner.

I recently read a survey that ranked the receiving line as one of the least favorite things at a wedding. So if you are foregoing the receiving line, you are right ‘in line’ with the latest tends.

The receiving line outside the church.

On the plus side it is still a tried and true way to insure the couple greet each and every one of their guests. It is also an important opportunity for loved ones to express their congratulations and good wishes to the couple.

If you are having an outdoor receiving line in the summer – try to be in the shade and consider having beverages or music or add some element to make it more enjoyable for those waiting in line. Or keep the greeters to only the couple and parents, leaving the bridesmaids and groomsmen free. This will make the line go much faster. By the way – it is completely ok to have the attendants in the line or not in the line – either way is totally acceptable.

If you have decided not to have a receiving line, don’t have an unintended receiving line. By this I mean that after recessing, the bridal party finds themselves standing at the back of the ceremony area. Then, if they are unsure of what to do and where to go – guests begin departing, and, viola! a receiving line begins (albeit an unintended one). So plan where you’re headed after that recessional to avoid the pile up!

Whatever you decide, remember, you always have choices – it’s your wedding!

 Thank you Rob Lettieri for the lovely photo

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To DIY or Not to DIY? that is the question!

With all the Pinterest pages, facebook posts, and the newest wedding gurus filling our heads with ideas, its difficult not to get caught up in a million cool little details you must have for your wedding. The rustic signage, the hay bales, the mason jars, the table numbers, and the amazing arbor your beloved will surely build for you – each one calling you. How do you keep yourself from going crazy?

A simple but beautiful place setting.

The simplest answer is to only do it yourself if it is something you actually know how to do yourself. Don’t decide to create or craft something if you’ve never done this before. Countless times people have visited my home and seen a piece of art created by a friend of mine and said: ‘I could do that.’ To which I reply – ‘no, no you couldn’t.’

Things can look deceptively simple when they are not.  In fact, sometimes that is the hallmark of good work, the simplicity. But well made crafts take experience and skill. Of course most of us can put candy in a bag for favors, even me, and that’s fine, go for it! But please don’t take on a major project unless you truly have the skill set.

Leave the complex stuff to the professionals. It really is worth paying talented people to do what they do best. If you are trying to save money with the DIY approach, it usually doesn’t work out that way.

And remember, there are many things that, instead of doing it yourself, you can simply do without. Wedding programs are one of those things. Save-the-dates are another. Many little dodads, or ‘chotchkies,’ that in the end really don’t matter. What does matter is a quality wedding ceremony, family and friends, good food and music, and fantastic photographs.

Some professional details.

Centerpieces are tricky. You can do-it-yourself but a truly professional floral arrangement is something to behold. Candles can always work (indoors, that is). Just remember that all the spray-paint and sparkly stuff looks great in the photos, but sometimes turns out quite tacky.

If you think you’d like to try your hand at one of the many ideas out there, do so well in advance. But do exactly that – try it – and be open to the idea that it may not work. Don’t leave it to just before the wedding, assuming you’ll provide the centerpiece, ceremony décor, or other items, only to find you can’t pull it off. The week before the wedding is often an emotional whirlwind.

Just about every couple I’ve married has told me that wedding planning was more work and more difficult than they’d anticipated. Why make it any harder on yourself?

Gorgeous professional centerpiece.

Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the wonderful photos

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Cool thoughts on a hot day

Summer’s in full swing here in the Poconos. It’s pretty hot, so I thought I’d write about something cool: fall and winter weddings. After all, now is the time to make plans (if you haven’t already!)

Fall is rich with color and the fullness of harvest, and winter, in contrast, is more sparse. Look carefully at your date and try to assess what will work best. I once attended a late fall wedding that the couple had decorated with a winter theme. It turned out to be quite a warm day and the entire décor felt out-of-place. Autumn is like that – you just never know what you’ll get. On October 31 it could be 80degrees of 30 degrees. So you just have to prepare for options, especially if you are planning some time outdoors.

Autumn makes a beautiful backdrop.

Remember that while you may not mind being outside in the cold, some of your guests, especially older family members, may mind quite a bit.

Here are some tips for the cooler weather wedding.

For outdoor ceremonies serve warm beverages. Indoors, how about a hot chocolate ‘bar’ to make your own, including marshmallows, caramel, and liquors such as Kahlua, Rum, Bailey’s or Peppermint Schnapps all compliment hot beverages.

A basket of blankets is also great. Collect them from your friends, roll them up, tie with a ribbon and put in a basket. Practically free but very usefull!

Another beautiful Lisa Rhinehart photograph

Is a bonfire possible? There’s nothing quite like it, complete with toasted marshmallows.  Don’t forget the smoores.

Toasted marshmallows!!

Plan a seasonal menu with a hearty soups, county style bread, and classic comfort foods.

Be sure to have beautiful shawls for your bridesmaids and a cool looking ‘shrug’ for warmth for the bride, in case it is cold. Some venue have outdoor gas heaters you can rent. They are very cozy.

In straddling the seasons, between fall and winter, remember that simple white, black and white, or brown and white, always works. I have quite a few November weddings – is that a fall or winter wedding? Darned if I know.

A cozy ceremony in front of a fireplace is great – just don’t stage it too close – I’ve had that experience and it’s not fun! It looked amazing, but we were really, really hot standing there.

Arrive in a horse drawn carriage and take your guests for a hayride, to capture that seasonal feel.

Consider a bouquet of wheat sheaves or other classic dried flowers, also great for the décor.

Bring some boots for extended times outdoors for picture taking.

Embrace the changes of the seasons.

Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the wonderful photos

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Unusual or too far out?

I have officiated some unusual and unique weddings. How far out is too far? I don’t know the answer to that, but the weddings I’ve done in various locations, with a variety of themes, and seemed reasonable (and fun) to me.

Marrying people at the top of a mountain and by waterfalls has been absolutely wonderful – but remember this is not something that can be done with a lot of guests.

By a waterfall - louder than you may realize!

The challenges for extreme locations are seating and hearing what is going on. These are best for elopements or very small groups. Sometimes even getting in and out can be a problem. All of the locations that I officiated at were off-the-beaten-path and required some amount of special transportation or hiking.

The ocean is also loud, the sand is hot, but its still great.

There is a wonderful tree-house in Nay Aug park in Scranton – it’s very cool – and I’m happy to say I have officiated there! Don’t forget the woods and the beach. Of course in the Poconos we don’t have the ocean, that’s why I once travel to the New Jersey shore. I just wanted to have that experience. However, we do have lakes and rivers here, and I’ve officiated by the water quite a few times.

On the dock by the lake!

For theme weddings I’ve officiated for a truly romantic couple who drew their inspiration from the world or wizards, warlocks and the Renaissance. They wore period clothing and recessed under the crossed swords of their bridesmaids and groomsmen!  I had a couple who used their passion for hunting and nature as a theme and wore camo inspired dresses and camo vests for the men, and carried their theme throughout the entire celebration. And I once officiated a wedding in the Jim Thorp Jail – not for inmates, it’s an historic site. I almost forgot: there was the wedding in the couple’s stables (they were equestrians) and on the roof of Skytop for two pilots.

Yes, that is the cell door in the jail.

I created a musical wedding incorporating the bride’s choral group. The singing functioned as a ‘Greek Chorus,’ the collective voice that helped bring out the themes through short musical interludes.

Cool 'camo' vests for the guys.

There was the vampire inspired ceremony, with a small nod to that passion, through a reading and a few humorous references. They did not dress as vampires, but did have a few subtle touches here and there.

I can’t remember every interesting place I’ve officiated, and I wish I had photos of them all, but I do know they all had their own magic, and I never felt any of it was inappropriate.

Everyone wore the camo.

I have read about some pretty extreme ceremonies. There are nude weddings, and I actually once got an inquiry about that, but to my relief, they never followed up.

I’ve also read about fairy-tale weddings, under-water weddings, hot air balloon weddings, sky-diving weddings, and all sorts of extreme places and ways to say “I do.”

So what is weird and what is wonderful? Like, beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder.


Thank you JF+AB Photography for the photo for the camp wedding. see them all here! 

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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. Follow her on Pinterest, ... Read Full
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