Jumping the Broom

There are many interesting historic and symbolic ideas connected to the ritual known as ‘Jumping the Broom.’

The story that slaves invented this ritual is common, but we now understand that it was actually a custom brought here by enslaved Africans. Historians are not in complete agreement, but most agree that Jumping the Broom dates back to before the first Europeans visited West Africa. According to the African-American Registry the broom, as a wedding symbol, originated in Ghana.

The questions is – for slaves was it used because they were not legally allowed to marry, or were they simply following their traditional customs? I’m not a historian but I’m thinking it could be a combination of these ideas. Either way it is both an act of defiance and cultural identity. I like that!

Painting by Christy Keeler

Jumping the Broom was given a big pop culture boost when it was included in Alex Haley’s “Roots,” the popular book and TV series in the late 1970’s.

What do you need to know about incorporating this custom today?

Jumping the Broom at Harmony Gardens (Garth Woods photo)

In jumping over the broom the couple physically and spiritually crosses a threshold into the land of matrimony. It marks the beginning of making a home together. It symbolizes the sweeping away of the old and the welcoming of the new; the sweeping away of all negative energy, making way for all things that are good to come into your lives. It is also a call of support for the marriage from the entire community of family and friends. You might say they begin their new life together with a clean sweep! It does not, in our modern world, represent the woman’s agreement to clean the house!

Sometimes couples create their own brooms, or you can purchase a decorated broom ready-made. The brooms are usually outfitted with silk ribbons, fresh or silk flowers, bows, beads and more.

The couple brought this broom for their ceremony!

You don’t have to be African-American – you might be Caribbean, or from other countries where people of color wound up after the African diaspora and Middle Passage when Africans were stolen and taken to many places

I recently officiated for a bride and groom from Jamaica and Barbados where Christian traditions and ancestral rites from Africa blended a bit more harmoniously and they were excited to jump the broom.

If you are not African or African-American, can you Jump the Broom? Some people feel it is offense and that cultural appropriation – the borrowing customs from another culture and using them – is disrespectful. Others disagree and feel it is a way to honor and respect another culture, by sharing their rituals, symbols or styles. I can’t answer that question for you, but I do feel when something is done with a spirit of love and respect it can’t be too bad.

Who can jump? Photo courtesy of "Weareforeeachother.com"

Interestingly broom jumping is also practiced by other groups and in different religions around the world with variations. Wiccans and Gypsies are among some of the groups who developed their own broom-jumping tradition. I love how diverse groups have come up with similar symbols, whether they borrowed from another culture, or come up with them on their own. The Irish have a tradition of jumping over an oak branch. There are many shared and universal symbols. Rings, for example, are used in almost every culture, religion and tradition. I recently wrote about the universality of circles.

Before marriage equality became the law of the land, giving marriage rights to all couples, I had a straight couple who chose to Jump the Broom as a statement of support for same-sex couples. It was a powerful part of their ceremony, and as in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!”

Jumping the Broom is a joyous ritual and I love putting it at the end of the ceremony and seeing the couple jump into their new life together as a married couple!

   Thank you  Garth Woods and weareforeachother.com


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The Symbol of the Circle

Weddings are one of the most symbolic days in anyone’s life. We use many elements in weddings, whether religious, spiritual or secular, to help express the meaning of this big milestone in life. It’s a time to dig deep.

Sometimes something very simple can be inspiriting: the circle, for example, a symbol that is quite universal. The circle is often referenced during the exchange of rings – and I’ll get to that in a minute – but it could be incorporated in other ways as well. Let’s explore the angles first – oh, wait – there are not angles in a circle.

The pebbles create circles. (photo: Garth Woods)

The circle is a symbol in almost every religion and culture. It represents many ideas – totality, wholeness, perfection – from the self to the infinite. It can stand for eternity, timelessness, all cyclic movement, and even God. It clearly can represent the sun, the planets and even the universe. From science and mathematics, to nature, music and art, a circle is a most basic yet strong shape.

We have circles of friends, and in music there is the circle of fifths (a visual representation of the relationship of keys). Who can forget ‘The Circle of Life’ from the Lion King? Or one I actually love more, Joni Mitchell’s ‘Circle Game.’

In Hinduism the mandala depicts the circle to represent the universe, and in Zen Buddhism it symbolizes absolute enlightenment and mu (the void).

Circles of healing.

Long ago, in pagan cultures, during the dark days of winter, people burned a wheel and prayed for the return of light. During the Reformation, seeing the circular wheel as a symbol of the eternal, unchanging nature of God, Christians may have appropriated this symbol for Advent. To symbolize God’s gift of life, they covered the wheel with greens, and to symbolize the light brought into the world by Christ, they added candles. And so we have the Christmas wreath!

This is an ancient Jewish wedding tradition of the bride walking in a circle around the groom. Originally this was meant to show that he was the center of her world – but in today’s modern world it is more of a promise to protect and couples often do this reciprocally.

I have created several rituals involving circles. One is tossing pebbles into a body of water – great for a wedding by a calm lake. Here’s where the circle comes in: I speak of how the pebbles create rings in the water, circles, that touch one another, just as we all touch one another. I ask that we think of how the circles cross and re-cross one another, just as our love touches those around us, whether we realize it or not.

Their paper boats also create circles (photo: Lisa Rhinehart)

I have had couples who set up their seating for the ceremony in a circle, and I once had a couple walk in a circle around their guests. I have also orchestrated having attendants form a circle around the couple as they exchanged rings, encircling them with their love and support.

For me, it’s all about the circle of love, the circle of family and community and the circle of support, that draws us all together.

Of course there is that classic explanation about the wedding ring – that the ring is a circle, with no beginning and no end, representing never-ending love. I’ve heard and said this so many times, I must admit I’m a bit tired of it, but in truth it is a beautiful idea.

One simple shape, many concepts and interpretations. So it is with a wedding ceremony. The intention is to join up together in this life-long journey, but the ways to represent this idea are endless.

Setting your chairs in a circle is lovely.

   Thank you Lisa Rhinehart and Garth Woods


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Big day, big dress, big deal (Read this before you buy one)

A wedding gown is something that looms large in the hearts and minds of many women. It has grown out of the princess myth and may cause some women anguish, and others amazing joy. But whatever your views, if you are a bride, you are probably looking for the perfect dress for your big day. It can be a highly emotionally charged decision.

Your dress may be full-length, tea-length and even short. Maybe it will have a train. Will it be full, a ball gown or a mermaid style, or perhaps sleek and form fitting, a sheath, A-line, or something in between?

A gorgeous dress!!

As stunning as you may look in it, it’s important to think about your comfort. Trying it on in a store is not the same as wearing it for hours. I advocate women be comfortable on their wedding day. Really comfortable! Because on one of the best days of your life, don’t you want to feel great? So try not to choose a dress that will confine your movements.

Imagine the entire evening on your feet, visiting with your guests, dancing the night away, as well as eating and probably some drinking, too. Can you do all that if you are trussed up tightly, of if you have crinolines, pounds of beading, and fabric for miles?

1920s inspired dress.

This isn’t the Victorian era and no modern woman wants to be corseted so tightly that she is unable to eat, breath or move. But this is exactly how some wedding gowns are designed. To confine.

Here’s some history. The dreadful corset originated in France, around 1580-1600. Historians tell us that inside a corset a woman’s body was wired, padded, and completely distorted. There are many stories of women gasping for air and fainting because of being tied up in that thing. The corset was undoubtedly a danger to health because it pushed against the rib cage, dug into the stomach, and put pressure on organs. In the early 1800s, Napoleon commented that the corset “is the murderer of the human race.”

Wedding gowns themselves are a fairly modern construct. For most of history women rarely even purchased a special dress for their wedding day. Then in Victorian era (1837–1901) dresses began to follow the styles of the day. By the 1920s, the height of fashion in my opinion, women wore stunning beaded dresses that, to my eye, also look to be quite comfortable.

A 'summer' Corset!

During World War II it did not seem right for couples to dress lavishly with a war going on, so it was not until after that, really beginning in the 1950s that the wedding dresses we now know became the thing.

So back to YOUR wedding gown – knowing all that, it might still be hard to resist a gorgeous wedding gown even if it does present problems of comfort and movement.

Here’s a question: how do you answer the call of nature in a voluminous dress?

A few years ago I wrote about the bridal diaper. It’s pretty funny actually, and I think some women may have actually used them. I have just one work for that: YUK!

Recently, however, I saw a better solution – and it comes to us from a local Pocono woman!  She invented the ‘Bridal Buddy.’ It is simply a slip you put under your dress, you gather up your dress in it, and tie it up. Then you can use the toilet without worry of your gown dragging around and possibly getting soiled. What a clever idea.

Brilliant! I applaud this young woman whose name is Heather Stenlake and she hails from our west end, in Monroe County, PA. She was featured in this newspaper back in October last year and I want to give her another shout-out.

Ready for everything?

Seriously, please do think about the practical aspects of enjoying your wedding when you shop for a dress.


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Wedding Rules for the Digital Age

The unplugged wedding already has a lot of traction. Taking photos, videos and generally playing with your smart phone during a wedding ceremony is just plain rude. Bottom line – don’t let people take photos during the ceremony – leave it to the professionals or designated people. Not only can it ruin the official photos, it distracts from being in the moment.

Get it? Photo: Diana Lewkowicz

But in this digital age there’s more to think about than that. There are so many ways we interact online. From hashtags to Instagram – what are the dos and don’ts for today’s weddings?

Couples need to figure it all out ahead of time and then communicate their wishes clearly with their guests. Here are some of the issues and a few solutions, too!

If you have a wedding specific hastag, let everyone know about it. That is easily accomplished with some cute signage. That way all the fun photos (taken after the ceremony of course) will be accessible on Twitter, Instagram and any specific photo sharing site you might choose. There are lots of apps for this, like Wedding Snap, GuestShots, WedSocial, and a ton more!  The hashtag brings them all together.

When choosing your hashtag keep it simple but unique – something people will remember. Note that the “&” sign doesn’t work on Instagram, so make it #JoeAndJoan not #Joe&Joan. Then check to be sure no one has already used the same hashtag or your photos will wind up grouped with theirs.  #LoisHeckmanCelebrant – Notice how the capital letters help you read it.

What is YOUR hashtag?

An excellent use of technology is to pin your location on a Google Map to share with your guests. Send the link by email and everyone will find their way!

Another good use for digital communication is a ‘save the date’ message. You can include any additional information about the wedding (such as things to do and places to stay) and of course gift registries on-line. However, DO NOT email invitations or thank you notes. That is the place for good old-fashioned paper.

Live-streaming your wedding is a way to include guests who will not be able to attend. It’s especially wonderful for loved ones too far to make the trip. Or a family member in a nursing home (arrange this ahead of time with staff) – how thrilled they will be to see some of the action!

Brides and grooms: don’t update your Facebook status at the altar-  its been done – it’s old news and no longer cute.

Easy to do - and worthwhile.

Guests: don’t text or tweet about what you did or didn’t like at the wedding – it will come back to bite you!

Everyone: enjoy a few selfies for sure, but don’t endless take photos of yourself and your friends. Try to actually have conversations. Don’t tweet every moment of the event. It’s both annoying and makes others feel left out.

Brides and women in general – don’t tuck your cell phone into your cleavage. Yuk! Carry a clutch purse, not a phone!

I love the internet and I hate the internet. It’s a blessing and a curse. Use technology to enhance not distract from your wedding. #GoodLuckWithThat.


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The Joys and Perils of a Small Wedding

Not everyone wants to have a great big wedding. That can be for many reasons. The planning process itself can be quite overwhelming, and I’ve frequently been told that it was more work than imagined. The average number of guests invited to a wedding is 178. I’d call a small wedding anything under 50 guests. It could as little as 20 or 10. A smaller wedding can be intimate, cozy and lots of fun, too.

Small wedding at big venue!

Financial concerns are important, of course. The average wedding in the United States costs $26,500, but many couples do spend less than $10,000, not including the cost for a honeymoon.

You may wish to save money and a limited number of guests will certainly help with that. Use the money saved towards a down payment on your new home, a car, the honeymoon, or donate to a worthy cause. Or another way to look at it is with fewer guests you can splurge on a top quality menu, and all the bells and whistles of your dreams.

Perhaps you’re just shy or very private and don’t enjoy large crowds or parties. A big affair can be quite hectic, and the pressure is on to dance, to meet and greet, and to be charming. You might prefer a wedding where you kick back and enjoy being a few close family members and some friends. That’s another nice perk of the small wedding – the opportunity to spend more time with your guests. It’s not so much as a whirlwind, but more of a savoring.

Having fun with your guests.

A small wedding can be held anywhere and be anything: from your backyard to the Plaza on Fifth Avenue. Don’t rule out some of our area’s top resorts, they have packages for small wedding parties, too.

By having a smaller group of people you may want to get your guests involved with activities such as outdoor games, toasting marshmallows, and celebrating in unusual but meaningful ways. Instead of dancing, there might be singing or a jam session. Who knows? If it suits your style, why not?

A small wedding can relieve you of having to choose attendants. It’s perfectly ok to stand at the altar without those bridesmaids and groomsmen. That way you avoid the tough choice between your sister and your best friend, or your two brothers. After all, you may say they are both Best Men, but one will stand next to you and one will not. When no one stands there with you – problem solved!

Very cozy at Harmony Gardens.

For a smaller wedding you can skip the rehearsal, too, if you wish. In fact even for larger weddings you can skip the rehearsal. Its not really rocket science, but the rehearsal dinner is often the real motivation behind the rehearsal itself. Although I’m not the biggest fan of the rehearsal, it can be an important opportunity for families who have never met to get together before the big day.

A small wedding doesn’t mean you can’t dress up. But it also somehow frees you to dress down as well.

Couples embarking on a second or third marriage sometimes feel they shouldn’t celebrate with a big wedding. And while I understand that instinct, they certainly do have the right to celebrate finding love again – in fact, what better reason? But it’s true that a smaller wedding might be perfect for remarriage or an older couple.

If this all sounds quite wonderful – beware! You may experience some backlash. Those who are not invited may feel snubbed or genuinely hurt. People may make inappropriate judgments about this decision. Your family may be upset that the extended family won’t be attending. Others may be hurt that after you attended their wedding the invitation was not reciprocated.

Be yourself at a smaller wedding.

If you really want to keep it small – you can elope. Check out my website for ideas about that; and for more ideas for a small ot tiny wedding see my Pinterest board: Small and Tiny Weddings.

People will be supportive or upset about your choice to have a smaller wedding – but in the end it is up to each couple to have their wedding in the style that suits them the best.


Photos by Garth Woods – thank you Garth!

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Navigating Interfaith Weddings

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 either partners or their families.

According to the Pew Research Center almost four-in-ten Americans (39%) who have married since 2010 have a spouse who is in a different religious group. I often officiate interfaith weddings – it is one of my favorite types of ceremonies to create. When two (or more) faiths come together, the ceremony needs to blend them in an equal and respectful way.

Incorporating elements from our religion or culture is the way to honor our family’s history, and it guides us towards the future. Whether based on your sincere religious beliefs or because you want to show respect for your family – the elements should clearly represent each faith.

Readings or rituals chosen should be accessible and understandable to those not familiar with them. I always explain ritualistic acts, and never assume guests are familiar with what is being said or done.

I often create a unity ritual combining both faiths. For example –  sharing of a cup of wine using a Jewish ‘kiddush cup’ or Hebrew wine blessing as well as referencing communion and the importance of wine in Christianity.  Another option is to choose one ritual from each tradition such as a unity candle, and then breaking the glass, or Sharing the Peace and using a Chuppah.

Sharing the Wine (photo credit: Wesley Works)

Clearly these are Christian/Jewish weddings, but I have officiated for Buddhist/Christian couples and Buddhist/Jewish couples, as well as a Muslim/Christian couple, a Jain/Jewish couple, A Sikh/Christian couple, Hindu/Catholic couple, and a few others I can’t recall right now!

A Kiddush Cup (photo: Rhinehart Photography)

Here are more ideas when saying ‘I do’ in an interfaith wedding.

Have family members from each side read a blessing or prayer from their religious tradition. Be sure to provide translations and explanations of any rituals performed especially if they are in traditional languages such as Hebrew, Arabic, Sanskrit, etc.

Create your own blessing or prayer reflecting your blended union and read it to your guests. Or illustrate each family’s support by having both sets of parents walk their children down the aisle.

But don’t try to satisfy everyone. Remember, the wedding ceremony is ultimately a reflection of you and your partner.  Be gentle but firm when saying “no” to your families’ requests.

Remember, you can’t replicate the entire wedding ceremony from each tradition; your guests will be bored and your wedding ceremony will lose some of its intensity.  Careful editing is key.

Altar table from a Catholic/Buddhist wedding I performed.

And finally, don’t give up!  If you and your fiancé truly want an interfaith wedding, you can have it both ways. In fact it is a wonderful opportunity to start your own new 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 the common ground our diverse great traditions share.




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Let Us Eat Cake!

A beautiful cake.

Wedding cakes have been around for ages. There is not only history but also symbolism to go along with each slice. Its roots are from the Roman era, when bread was used. The groom would hold the bread over the bride’s head and break off a piece symbolizing her virginal state and his dominance over her. Ugh! But still, we can easily see where this leads and how it has evolved into today’s traditions.

As weddings developed, sharing the bread (or cake) with everyone showed the guests’ support of the union, and couples’ appreciation for their guests. I believe this is still true today.

Cutting the cake together

In Medieval England bread-like cakes began to evolve into the sweet flour-based food we now know. It was there that a stack of sweet buns was piled high and the couple would try to kiss over the pile; if they succeeded they would be blessed with many children. The higher the stack of buns the more status was attached to the families (and the more difficult to kiss without knocking it down). And again, as with many rituals, it was said to bring prosperity and good luck. The big stack-o-buns didn’t last long, for obvious reasons; I think we see why it would fall out of favor.

During the 17th century until about the early 19th century, wedding pie became the thing. A fun ritual with pie involved the bride hiding her ring inside and the woman who got the slice with the ring in it was the next to get married. Similar to tossing the bouquet today, because who wants to put her ring in a pie?

An unusual topper.

Cutting the cake, like many centuries-old traditions, such as tossing rice, originally symbolized fertility. The growing of crops (and babies) was of the upmost importance in ancient times; survival depended on it. As is so often the case, the ritualistic action remains but the meaning has changed, and cutting the cake remains a popular part of weddings. The groom hands his bride the first slice to symbolize sharing and support.

Couples often cut through the cake together, hand over hand. It mattered once, long ago, but I don’t want to place any meaning on who might put their hand on top.

Custom made for the couple.

The cake smashing is something I don’t care for, but I know some couples see it as fun and funny. I suppose it depends on how its done – if it comes off as disrespectful or aggressive, I don’t like it, but I understand that many couples do it with a great sense of humor and love, and then it can be sweet. I’ll try to stay open-minded on this.

Cake toppers came into fashion in the 1950s here in America. They began as a depiction of the couple in their formal attire but we now have all kinds of unusual toppers, sometimes the crazier the better. You can represent your pets or your passions on top of your cake. Custom made toppers can be created to look like you, or just about anything else.

Another adorable topper.

Wedding cakes have been symbolic from the start and still are today. Remember that when you choose your cake, and then cut and share your cake, and you will enjoy this tradition all the more, along with its obvious deliciousness.

Nice alternative to cake smashing.


Thank you Lisa Rhinehart Photography  for the gorgeous photos.


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Spring is a time to think about renew of vows

Spring is the time of re-birth and renewal. Nature comes alive again. The days grow longer and we are filled with a spirit of hope.

It’s a great time to think about renewing wedding vows. A renewal of vows is a beautiful ritual and can be done at any point in a marriage, but I always think its best on a special anniversary. It is not only a romantic and serious occasion, but can be great excuse for a party.

Be as formal or casual as you wish!

There are many reasons couples choose to do this. One of my favorite reasons is to include their children. The ceremony becomes not only a re-commitment to their love and marriage, but to the entire family.

There are couples that, for many reasons, did not have the opportunity to have a marriage ceremony or celebration with family and friends. Maybe they quietly went to a courthouse or couldn’t afford the wedding of their dreams. This is another good reason to renew vows.

A couple who has come through a difficult time, a health issue or survived a disaster, may want to reaffirm their marriage. Life-changing experiences tend to make us appreciate what we have, bringing us closer, and realizing that our marriage is worth celebrating.

You might want to travel to an exotic location to renew your vows, enjoying the honeymoon you couldn’t afford way back when.

You can be as formal or casual as you wish – from a swanky party to a backyard barbeque.

A casual renewal of vows at Harmony Gardens

So how does this work? Some have asked if they should say their original vows (if they even remember what they were) or create new ones. I like to mark a milestone like this with fresh eyes. It’s a chance to a say a promise that honors the past as well as moves the couple forward. However it is effective and meaningful to reference your marriage ceremony in different ways. The words spoken can recap highlights of the marriage, honor family past and present and offer blessings or good wishes as the couple vows to continue forward in their life together.

Great little sign (Tiffany Kelley Photography)

Renewing of vows is not a legal act whatsoever, but I’ve read that some officiants might want to see your marriage license before performing the ceremony. I suppose it just depends on the language used in the ceremony. I would never ‘pronounce’ someone as married if I didn’t know for sure that they were. But to me, this is not a case of ‘pronouncement’ anyway – I’d use different language all together. It’s not a wedding rehash, but an acknowledgement of the triumph of being married for so many years (and as those of us who’ve been married for a long time know, that is quite an achievement.)

Rededicating your rings is a nice element to include. Regular readers of Pocono Wedding Talk know I love rituals and you couldn’t ask for a better occasion to do so.  Or maybe you’d like new rings.

A family renewal of vows! David W. Coulter Photography

You can evoke a wedding ceremony by entering down an aisle – but why not do it together? But your renewal of vows does not have to be structured like a wedding ceremony – you don’t need attendants, flower girls or ring bearers, or anything like that at all. But you can! It’s all up to you this time.

And that brings me to another great reason to renew your vows – you get to do it your way, on your own terms. Perhaps that wasn’t the case when you were younger, and thought you had to follow all the traditional roles and rules.

Finally – the couple should pay for the party and all expenses involved. And make it clear that no gifts are allowed!



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Candles Send a Powerful Message

Candles are used the world over, not simply for light – they have clear and universal symbolism. Unity candles for wedding ceremonies are popular for this very reason, but I don’t get to incorporate them often. That’s because so many ceremonies I officiate are outdoors. Candles outdoors just don’t work very well, and can blow out (bad symbolism indeed). Trust me – I learned this the hard way!  Also consider the lessened impact in daylight. For the best results use candles indoors, and the darker it is the greater the impact. Logical, right?

Gorgeous photo by Wallflower Photography

Although the unity candle is often done in church, it is not a religious-based ritual. While candles are used in churches, synagogues, and almost every house of worship, there is no specific Christian rite involving candles specifically for weddings.

So where did this come from? It began only 30, or maybe 40 years ago. It seems to be principally an American thing. It is possible that the makers (and sellers) of candles helped popularize this – selling unity candle sets, but you certainly don’t need to buy a special set of candles! Just two tapers and a pillar candle for a few dollars will work fine. In fact, you might add even more meaning and interest by incorporating your own candleholders, perhaps something from your family.

A fabulous shot of the unity candle by Lisa Rhinehart Photography

There are several ways do a Unity Candle ritual. At its simplest – each partner lights a taper candle and together they light the larger one, which is designated as the marriage candle.

A popular variation is to have the mothers light taper candles, and then use the flame from those candles to light their children’ candles. The couple then lights the large candle. Four tapers instead of two. You can expand upon this and incorporate more people, parents, grandparents, older children – but don’t let it get out of hand.

When I have the opportunity to include a unity candle ritual I often talk about how the tapers represent the couple as individuals, who they are and what they bring to their marriage. Then when they join them to light the Marriage Candle they create something bigger and brighter together.

I’m not of fan of the idea of two people merging into one, because in marriage we do no give up our identity, so I ask the couple not blow out their individual candles, but to only bring the two candles together to light the third.

Sometimes I include words that speak to the future – should the couple lose their way from time to time, they can take a moment and light a candle together, and remember their wedding day, when they lit candles and their love burned so brightly. It is powerful to recall the wedding ritual and rekindle your love.

I’ve used candles in many other ways. For a wedding I officiated on a stage in a theater I created something dramatic. As the bridesmaids and groomsmen arrived at the stage, each lit a votive style candle, then continued up steps onto the stage, to their places for the ceremony. Those candles stayed lit through out the ceremony, like old-fashioned footlights! It created a gorgeous effect and represented the support of the attendants. I’m sure I must have referenced it somehow in the ceremony, but actions do speak louder than words.

Candles are powerful for funerals and memorial ceremonies as well. A medieval mystic wrote: ‘From every human being there rises a light that reaches straight to heaven.’

Candles have universal symbolism


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Questions and answers for bridesmaids and groomsmen

I want to talk about bridesmaids and groomsmen, but first let’s address the terminology itself. Bridesmaid… you are the ‘maid’ or assistant to the bride, assisting her in all things helping her dress or fetching things. Ok. That’s not horrible – its fun to help out your best girlfriend or sister. Groomsmen. Kind of the same thing, probably minus helping a man get dressed, except maybe helping him tie a tie.

Gorgeous bridesmaids!

I prefer the gender neutral term ‘attendants,’ because in our modern world you can have anyone you wish standing with you at the ceremony. That’s why I often refer to the ‘best woman’ – just like ‘best man.’ Yes, I’m being politically correct, because I’m keeping all options on the table. I don’t want to assume anything when it comes to both gender and who’s your best buddy. And you shouldn’t either.

Once couples realize they can have the person that matters the most to them stand right by their side, it is freeing. A bride may want her brother next to her, or a groom may want a sister. See what I mean?

Now back to those duties of the attendants, or whatever you want to call them, beyond standing there looking awesome?

Awesome groomsmen.

There are a few questions that come up regularly from these chosen ones:

Who are the other bridesmaids/groomsmen?
Do I have input into the clothing selections?
Am I expected to pay for the special clothes or offer to pay?

The answer to all of these questions is just ask! And be specific, because it varies from wedding to wedding, so don’t assume what happened in another wedding will be the case again. But typically you pay for your own dress or suit.

The best man and best woman are the team captains. They’ll do the speech making and keep you in the loop about activities.

Not all attendants will be living close by, so consider creating a chat group, or start a text thread or other form of group communication – so everyone shares the same information.

Some advice for the couple in guiding your attendants: use the Goldilocks method – not too much or too little, give just the right amount of guidance. Here’s an example: Suppose you are letting women chose their own dresses – telling them to pick just any dress is not helpful. That’s too little. Give them a few parameters such as color pallet, length and how dressy it should be. But too much control isn’t good either. Don’t pick one style that won’t work for everyone, that’s too much. Just right would be showing them a few different styles and examples.

Speaking of dresses, the average cost is $150 and a man’s suit can be more. Tux rentals are about the same, so it’s a much better investment to buy something. I often advocate for the suit purchase not the tux rental, unless it’s a formal wedding.

If you can’t afford the costs involved, and it does get expensive, with clothes, hotels, gifts, and transportation, be honest with the couple. I know it’s difficult, but it is better for them to understand why you are declining the honor of being in their bridal party, than think you don’t care about them.


The attendants!

And now, on to your duties. Except to help with any shower and/or bachelor or bachelorette party. You should try to attend the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. Groomsmen often act as greeters at the ceremony, but again, bend any rules you wish. Pitch in. Help out.

But the greatest gift you can give to the bride or groom is to be there for them, in a calm, thoughtful manner. Give them your genuine attention. Listen. Be supportive. Couples about to marry often get nervous and sometimes even doubtful. That’s normal. Let them know you believe in them.

And finally, don’t get plastered and make an ass of yourself at the reception. And if you see your bride or groom drinking too much – get them some water! Quickly please. That’s a great job for any attendant.

Thank you Lisa Rhinehart Photography  for these gorgeous photos.


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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