Please Don’t Say This to the Newly Engaged

Congratulations! That’s what we say when we hear the big news that someone is engaged to be married. It is the proper and right thing to say. It means we are acknowledging joy and wishing them happiness.

Newly engaged couples get bombarded with questions. Let them have some time to simply enjoy this special time. For some of us, myself included, it’s hard to keep our mouths shut! So here are some suggestions for things not to say to the newly engaged.

If they haven’t known one another long, please don’t ask them ‘what’s the rush’ or ‘are you pregnant?’ This is none of your business. Neither are their future childbearing plans.

Less obvious however is don’t ask if they’ve picked a date yet. If they have, they’ll tell you, but their family is probably already hounding them on this one.

Do not inquire about their wedding budget. Because the cost of weddings is discussed so often in the media, it begins to feel ok to ask. But it’s not. Don’t tell them what they should do for their wedding. Don’t suggest venues, themes or anything at all, unless asked. Don’t start talking about your own wedding experiences, especially anything that went wrong. Weddings are not a competition.

And don’t ask about the size or cost of the ring.

Am I invited? You’ll have to wait to find out, won’t you?

If they are a same-sex couple don’t start telling them how much you support ‘their’ rights, and try to engage them in a discussion about their ‘gay’ marriage. At this point in time, it is no longer ‘gay’ marriage, its just marriage.

Don’t ask if they are sure their fiancé is ‘the one’? Unless there are abusive or controlling behaviors you are picking up on (aka: domestic violence) don’t question their decision. Please know that in relationship abuse, most partners will come to the defense of the abuser any way, usually out of shame or as a means of self-protection. If you do feel that could be happening, simply make a positive statement in support of equality in relationships, sharing of decision-making and the hope that the person’s future spouse will treat them well. It could get them thinking about what a good relationship should actually look like.  But this is another discussion entirely!

It is completely normal for engaged couples to feel nervous, don’t add to that stress. Emotions are running high  – joy, anxiety, happiness, confusion, its all part of this big moment in life. A newly engaged person may not be quite clear themselves about how they feel. Cut them a break!

Let's toast to that! (Garth Woods Photography)

Don’t tell them they are lucky – luck is winning the lottery. People work hard to make relationships work.

So what’s left besides ‘congratulations?’ Just that you are happy for them and wish the all the best. Offer to take them out for a drink or dinner, enjoy time together and do something that is NOT wedding planning. That may not seem like a lot, but it is!

Thank you Garth Woods for the beautiful photos


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With This Ring Comes a Lot of Legend

Exchanging rings is a beautiful element in the wedding ceremony. After a couple has spoken their vows, giving each other a ring ‘seals the deal.’ It’s a visual representation of the promises spoken.

There are many stories and myths about the ‘ring finger.’ No one really knows for sure, but lots of expensive jewelry gets put on that third finger of the left hand.

The ring finger.

One long held belief is that there is a vein in that finger, on the left hand, that runs directly to the heart and placing the ring there makes a strong connection. But any study of anatomy will quickly show us this isn’t true. But let’s not mess up a good story; tradition rules and we can’t simply place the ring on just any old finger, so we are staying with that. The left hand, third finger (some call it the fourth, counting the thumb) is even called the ‘ring finger.’

Interestingly, some countries such as Spain, Venezuela, Peru, India, Norway and Denmark wear wedding bands on the right hand, although still on the third finger. Their choice of the right hand is because it is the more dominant of the two, symbolizing the strength of the marriage.


Putting the ring on.

Wedding rings were exclusively for women up until the early 20th century. I’m sure the reason is obvious – property and ownership. But it is also a visual mark of status.  One way to think about the mark of possession is simply the man’s dominance, aka: ownership of the woman. But a slightly different way to look at it is the woman possessing something valuable given by the man, especially because precious metals are used for rings. Today we really don’t think of either of these reasons to wear rings. We wear them to express the pride of our commitment.

She gets one to add to her engagement ring and he gets one.

In our modern world, both partners usually give and receive rings, and we used to call that the ‘double-ring ceremony,’ but it is now so standard here in the United States, we don’t even point that out anymore. With all the hundreds of wedding I have officiated I have never once had a man not put on a wedding band. I did have one couple chose tattoos instead of rings. However, outside of our country it is still fairly common to find just the woman wearing a wedding ring.

For the ceremony it’s a simple ritual. Place the ring on the tip of the partner’s finger, say the ‘ring vow’ and slide the ring on. Something as simple and classic as ‘with this ring, I thee wed,’ works perfectly, but one can also get quite elaborate with the ring vow. Sliding that ring on, however, is not as simple. If you are outdoors and fingers are swollen with the heat, the few extra seconds of wiggling that ring on can feel like an eternity. Brides, grooms – don’t be embarrassed by this sticky moment. It’s totally normal. When do you ever put a ring on someone else’s hand?

The Irish and Celtic culture, so rich with symbols naturally have a special ring. The Claddagh is interesting in that can be used as an engagement ring, wedding ring, or friendship ring. Wearing it on the right or left hand, and which direction it faces, tells people it’s function. The design, featuring a pair of clasped hands, a heart and a crown, represents friendship, love and loyalty. The Claddagh ring was first seen in Ireland in the 17th century, and there are many legends about its protective powers. There are other Celtic designs as well.

Saying the Ring Vow.

People love to talk about the ring being a circle and how it symbolizes endless love. Circles are symbolic in most cultures over thousands of years. That’s fine – any symbolism one can impart in a ceremony is great as far as I’m concerned. Rings are often blessed – by clergy, family, or celebrants like myself. I had a groom who lost his wedding ring on his honeymoon. When they returned they bought a new ring and asked me to re-dedicate it for them, which I was more than happy to do. We had a private ceremony and it was lovely. It’s pretty awesome to think about the ring being something you will wear pretty much forever!

Ultimately all that matters is what it means to you. I hope you wear your ring with pride, indicating your gratitude at having found a loving and supportive spouse.


Thank you Lisa Rhinehart Photography



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One little rule for your wedding ceremony

I don’t have a lot of rules about wedding ceremonies. I don’t tell couples what they should believe or what their ceremony should include. I’m fond of saying my one rule is ‘no candles outdoors,’ but in reality I do have another rule, and I’ll get it in a minute. But first I want to talk about what a wedding ceremony is supposed to include. Are there rules, written and unwritten, about what must be said in a marriage ceremony?

Reading her vows. (Photo: Garth Woods)

Collective wisdom tells us there are a several elements that really should be in the ceremony, however these are not legally required in most places. They are as follows…

The officiant should state the names of the couple. Seems obvious, right?

The monitum, also known as the ‘statement of intention’, or as I like to call it, ‘the asking,’ is the part where the officiant asks the couple if they want to go forward and they reply with the ‘I do’ (or something in the affirmative). It’s considered a legal warning, but again, there is no specific part in the law here in Pennsylvania that actually requires it.  Still, it’s a good thing to include.

There is the declaration of marriage, or pronouncement, such as I now pronounce you husband and wife, or I now declare you to be married. I consider this essential.

Signing the marriage license is perhaps the most important part in making a marriage legal, and no officiant should ever be pronouncing a couple married if there is no license.

Written, not memorized.

None of these elements (except the license) are required in Pennsylvania, but that varies from state to state and country to country. I do like to include all of them. I feel each has a very meaningful place in a wedding ceremony. But when it comes to one other element, the vows, things can get tricky.

People often confuse the vow and the monitum. They are not the same thing. The vow is your promise – each partner promising, out loud, to be a best friend, companion, faithful partner, etc. More traditionally people say ‘until death do us part’, but I like the word ‘forevermore’ a little better. There are endless variations on vows and they don’t have to take that tradition form at all, but a promise should be said.

So, a vow is not the ‘I do’ – however I have had a few couples request that we they only say the ‘I do.’ I try to encourage them to exchange vows, explaining the difference and the importance of making their promise to one another, but I haven’t always been able to do that. And since there is no legal requirement they do that, I don’t push too hard.

Signing the license! (photo: Garth Woods)

A few times couples sent me their idea of vows, that turned out to be in the form of the statement of intent, and I was able to rearrange them into both the asking and a vow exchange in a way that made them happy.

Ok, so here it is, my one little rule on this topic: NO MEMORIZING VOWS! You can state your vow in the repeat after me method, or read them to one another. Trying to memorize your vows at such an emotionally charged time in your life is just too difficult. But if you are set on doing it – please have a written copy at the ready!

Reading her vow. (Photo: Garth Woods)

I once had a groom who was an actor and was absolutely certain he could memorize his vows. When we came to that moment in the ceremony I saw a look of panic on his face, and I smoothly pulled out his printed vows and handed them to him. A look of relief flooded his face and since then I always remind people of my little rule: do not assume you can memorize your vows. It’s just too much pressure, and you don’t need that.



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Wine Rituals – one of my all time favorites

One of my favorite rituals, and one I consider to be a classic is one involving wine. There are many good reasons to love it. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote: Good wine is a necessity of life for me. And good old Ben Franklin wrote: Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.

Photo: Rhinehart Photography

If you enjoy wine, sharing wine as a symbol of unity in your wedding ceremony could be perfect. Love of wine alone is a good enough reason to incorporate this, but there are many more levels of meaning that can be folded into this act. Culture, history, religion and even science all play a part.

There really is so much to say about wine! We find references to wine in the Bible, and Noah, you may recall, planted a vineyard as soon as the flood receded. Wise man! Psalms refers to wine saying it ‘gladdens the heart’, but most profoundly wine is the very the presence of the Divine Spirit on earth through the Holy Eucharist.

Photo: Melissa Kelly

Wine is also part of Jewish tradition and ritual. So whether it is Shabbat or Communion, wine is certainly a strong spiritual symbol, a symbol of the earth’s bounty, a symbol of prosperity and joy, an affirmation of life. This makes it a wonderful ritual for interfaith couples.

You can easily tie in countries or places of origin; for example, for families with French or Italian heritage, why not mention how fine wines have been made in those regions for hundreds of years, or for Californians or upstate New Yorkers where there are wine regions as well. Even here in Poconos we have lots of wineries, and when I officiate at many of them I’ll always suggest a wine sharing ritual – its just such a natural thing to do.

If religion or culture doesn’t resonate, remember science, too, plays a part. After all chemistry is involved in making wine as it is in love. It takes a unique and complex mixture to create the right results. A poet once said ‘The whole universe is in a glass of wine.’ Perhaps this means that in wine we see a microcosm, in that all life is like fermentation because it is based on interaction.

Photo: Garth Woods

Among the many ancient stories – one legend I love to tell comes from Persia, and says that wine was invented when a woman, plagued by a headache, drank fermented juice from a jar of grapes. After drinking it, she became relaxed and at ease, eventually falling asleep and woke up cured.

Greek Mythology, however, says that wine was invented by Dionysus, who was appropriately named the God of Wine, Intoxication, and Fertility. I think we can assume that probably explains the Greek’s booming population at that time.

So while the Persians and Greeks disagree on who invented wine, chances are they both were happy that it was invented by someone! And so are we.

So share the cup of wine, representing the cup of life, as a meaningful wedding ritual. And with it you share all the future holds for you, both sweet and bitter, because wine and marriage, are complex. As Pliny The Elder [A.D.23-79] wrote: In wine there is truth.



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When Old Flames Burn Anew

I love it when science and research back up what I already suspect. More often than you might guess, I’ve officiated for couples who were sweethearts at a young age, went their separate ways, and then reunited much later in life. The CBS Sunday Morning show recently did a story on this and it reminded me of many of the couples I have known.

The research behind this began when Dr. Nancy Kalish was teaching psychology at the University of California1993, and she began wondering about her college boyfriend. She assumed that in reconnecting, the troubles of their past would still exist. But she was wrong. When they reconnected, to her surprise she found quite the opposite. This led her to study what she calls the Lost-Love Project. It confirmed that re-found love relationships are extremely successful. This is because of what she calls the Romeo and Juliet effect – that young love imprints itself on our impressionable brains in a profound way. This makes complete sense to me! If your first love was a deep one, it will certainly stay with you in many ways. Old flames burn bright!

When two adults are free to reconnect it can be a most wonderful thing. However, let’s be honest – sometimes one person is not yet ready, perhaps still in another relationship – and this can cause problems. But people often risk a lot to be together, especially when this kind of rekindled connection is so strong.

I have heard many stories from couples I officiated for, and I have noticed how quickly they fell back in love. But now, with the growth and wisdom that age brings, the couple can go forward in ways they couldn’t in their youth. It’s quite beautiful, really.

One of my brides recently shared with me that she wouldn’t trade one moment of her life, and was grateful for her first marriage and her children, as she now entered this second marriage with her childhood sweetheart. She felt that her path was the way it needed to be, and she has no regrets.

The groom told me he’d been in love with the bride all his life. He never forgot her and even though he had married and raised a family with another woman, who he loved and respected, this first love was always somehow still on his mind.

Many things can lead people back together. Sometimes it’s the death of a spouse that leads one to search out a long-lost love.The internet is certainly responsible for many long-lost lovers finding one another. Facebook alone has probably re-united more couples than we can imagine, and of course school reunions, and just plain old google.

A study conducted at the University of California at Berkeley, where Jennifer Beer, then a graduate student, analyzed the first-love stories of 303 Berkeley students, back in 1997, found that when past lovers married each other, their divorce rate after four years was no more than 1.5 percent.  And while second marriages are relatively fragile in general, with nearly one-quarter of all couples who remarry getting divorced again within five years, these re-found relationships are the exception.

It really is an amazing phenomenon, one that glows with romance. A heart broken in high school can become a heart mended in mid-life. While it all sounds like a chick-flick, it’s just true. These couples feel they have been given a second chance and are deeply grateful for it. As a celebrant I adore telling their stories and helping them express their joy and gratitude.

Thank you Lisa Rhinehart Photography


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Fresh Ideas for Creative Couples

Following wedding trends isn’t my passion. Mostly, I really like to focus on the meaning of the wedding and marriage. But I must admit it is fun to look at what different couples are doing from time to time, and I have found a few ideas to share.

Great touches for a barn wedding.

Here’s an easy and simple one: At the reception, instead of two chairs for the newlyweds why not use a love seat? How cozy and cute is that?

Have a Dixieland, Mardi Gras Brass Band, Mariachi band or other musicians who can be mobile, to lead you out of the ceremony or into the reception. Bagpipers do this all the time. I love this! Or how about entering (or exiting) on a motorcycle, tandem bike, horses, fire truck (yes, I had a couple do that one!) or other special mode of transportation.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – non-matching bridesmaids dresses are fabulous! I don’t know why I love it so much, but when the colors blend it just looks cool. Also it allows the women to choose what they truly want to wear. No small thing.

Fireworks! What a great ending to a special evening, or have them for the kiss at the conclusion of the ceremony. Confetti cannons are great for the kiss as well!

Unusual locations make fabulous photos.

Unusual venues. Weddings can take place in art galleries and museums, universities, libraries, parks (make sure there’s a back-up rain plan, though) conservatories or botanical gardens. I’ve officiated in a tree house and in a horse stable. I’ve also officiated weddings in theaters – at Penn’s Peak, the Civic Theatre of Allentown, the Mauch Chunk Opera House, the Shawnee Playhouse, and probably a few more I can’t remember.

And of course barns! The barn wedding is no longer unusual, but it is still terrific. Barns can mean many things, but if it means farm, you could consider an orchard for the ceremony location. To complete the barn wedding feel, plan a hayride and other outdoor activities; hire a bluegrass band to play through the day!

The barn wedding is always fabulous.

Party first, ceremony second. Yes, you can do this. Or perhaps just the cocktail hour first, then the ceremony followed by the reception or full meal. It’s a great way to relax before the nuptials, and not over eat, at least not all at once!

And for the ceremony itself – include rituals that reflect your theme and your worldview. Use elements from nature – pebbles, branches, water and trees; it is both beautiful and meaningful. I’ve written about rituals endlessly in Pocono Wedding Talk, but I can’t stress enough how much personalized ritualistic elements add to the ceremony experience.

Support a social cause, issue or anything meaningful to you. Couples can dedicate their wedding to a family member with a difficult diagnosis by asking for donations to finding the cure, rather than gifts for themselves. This is especially great for (somewhat) older couples who don’t really need more ‘stuff’. Think of it as “I give” along with “I do.”  Help the homeless by asking for a day’s wages from each guest for your local shelter. Or if you don’t want to your guests to give, you can give favors that support a cause.

Your wedding can be an exciting and fun expression of your values and love as you begin the journey of lifetime.

An amazing location for a wedding.


Thank you Mindy Lipcavage Photography and Lisa Rhinehart Photography

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Considering a Destination Wedding

Are you thinking of having a destination wedding? If so, here are some things to consider.

Make sure those closest to you, most often parents, are on board before going too far. And let’s not kid ourselves, this is an expensive undertaking – so don’t choose a pricey adventure your family and friends cannot afford. Your fantasy should not be another’s anguish.

So, if everyone’s ok and can afford it – let’s go!

There really is nothing quite like a wedding on the beach!

Check out your preferred locations ahead of time. If you’ve never been there, take a trip and scout it out. You may want to consider off-season for fewer crowds and better rates, but take the weather into consideration. It could be monsoon season.

A destination wedding doesn’t necessarily mean an exotic location. If you live here in Poconos you may just want to go to New York City or to the New Jersey shore. It’s a change of scenery and that what makes it fun! For families scattered around the country, the Poconos is indeed a great destination location. We have many great hotels and resorts in different price ranges. (Stroudsmoor, Mountain Springs Lake, Skytop, Shawnee Inn, Pocono Manor, all come to mind)

The bride overlooking the city of Baltimore

Longer lead times are a must, so be mindful of your time line. Guests need to prepare, sometimes by taking time off from work, getting their transportation figured out, perhaps finding babysitting or pet sitting. There are a lot of special arrangements people make to join you on this big day, and especially when it’s not exactly located around the corner. I hope you will deeply appreciate that.

Once you’ve chosen a location make sure you have your specifics in writing, with all the details, in case you arrive and something is not as promised. Charge as much as possible – so you’ll have yet another way of holding vendors accountable in case of conflicts. And don’t forget to call your credit card company before departing – when they see unusual charges they might shut down your account. Give your credit card company a heads up!

Research local marriage requirements. I have had many couples coming to the Poconos for their destination wedding and I was able to help prepare them. In PA there is a three-day waiting period before your license is valid to use. Every state and every country is different. Our three-day waiting period doesn’t mean you physically have to be here, but you need to go together to apply for the license sometime between 60 days to 3 days before the ceremony date.

The ceremony set by the water.

Some countries have a residency requirement (for example, 24 hours in Turks and Caicos and 7 days in England), which means you must be in the country for a certain length of time before your ceremony. France requires you to arrive at least 40 days before you marry!

Provide your guests with lots of helpful information. If you can, try to obtain group discount rates. Help make it as easy and affordable as possible. A comprehensive travel package is a must, using either a packet to mail to them, or creating a website to explain all the details.

Upon their arrival have lots of activities for them, and backup activities for those activities. A great welcome basket is nice, including things like beach passes, tickets to events or vouchers for bicycles, beach equipment, tours, or other fun stuff. They’ve spent a lot of money to be with you, give them something substantial.

A destination wedding is the perfect scenario for a great wedding planner, someone who knows the ins and outs of this undertaking. There are several professional organizations, and the venue of your choice should have some local recommendations. Whoever you choose, make sure she has done this before – check out her experience.

Destination: New York City!

When I recently wrote about bridechillas versus bridezillas, I certainly wasn’t thinking of destination weddings. For a destination wedding you must be focused and not too laid back and you can’t be so high strung that you can’t go with the flow.

Planning a destination wedding isn’t for everyone, in fact it’s for very few people, but for some couples and their friends and families, it could fantastic. I’m hoping some cool couple invites me along to be come along and be their celebrant for their destination wedding some day!


Sky and sand and the couple.


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

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Changing your name has changed with the times

Upon marriage, many women in our modern world do not change their last name to their husbands’ name. It’s not only a lot of work, taking care of all those legal documents, but it’s a big adjustment – to think of yourself and tell everyone else your new name. I’ve been there and done that. It’s confusing for quite a while. This is an important topic and an important decision for many women.

Names are so core to our identity.

One of the main reasons women do choose to change their name is for the sake of children. Having one family name is so much easier and projects unity.

The hyphenated name solution is losing popularity – it’s just too unwieldy.  It was popular in the ’80s and early ’90s, but, as NPR put it, it became “less of a feminist statement and more of a bureaucratic nightmare.” Also, there’s the fact that, frankly, most people don’t want to use a cumbersome long name. And going forward it’s as if you’re pushing the name-change decisions to the next generation.

There are other reasons to change your name – and one that is obvious but people don’t like to talk about, is that you just don’t like your own last name. Maybe your name is long, difficult to spell or hard to pronounce. Perhaps it’s the name of an estranged father with unhappy connotations. Your spouse may have an easier or more likeable name. Which leads me to something that I think should be taking place more often, but doesn’t. Why don’t more men change their names to the woman’s last name? I know one man who did that. One. And he did it out of political conviction, solidarity with feminism.

I do like the idea of creating a totally new name, often a combination of the two names. I know of only a few couples that have done that.

Keeping your last name can be an important business or career decision. If you have already established your professional life you may cause confusion among clients and colleagues, supervisors, fans, followers and such.

The trend is shifting toward keeping one’s own name. The New York Times wedding announcements (which admittedly covers a select, less representative share of women) illustrated that. Last year they reported 29.5 percent of women in the wedding pages kept their name, up from 26 percent in 2000 and a recent low of 16.2 percent in 1990.

It is a big decision, and one that men never even ask themselves. But you may be surprised to learn this hasn’t been the custom everywhere.  Women in China and Taiwan do not legally change their names upon marriage. According to Wikipedia, women in Iran do not change their names. In Mexico women typically take their husband’s name, but only in addition to their maiden name (their father’s surname).

Will she or won't she... change her name?

Changing your name does have a history that connotates ownership. As recently as the 1960’s and 70’s there were still places in our country where women weren’t allowed to get their own credit cards or open their own bank account without their husbands’ permission.

Names have power. There’s no denying it. They can indicate your cultural background and place in society, and let’s never forget that slaves brought to our country were forced to give up their names, as one more way to control them.

On the flip side, taking a new name can signal a new beginning and be a harbinger of great things to come.

Fortunately in our open and pluralistic society women have the choice of whether or not, not only to change their name, but to have children and even to marry at all. And happily in American these decisions are left only to that person, herself. It’s a great discussion to have with your spouse and a decision that is more difficult than some might imagine.


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

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Bridezilla or Bridechilla? Can you be too laid back?

I was speaking with a bride recently who referred to herself as a Bridechilla, which I found both hilarious and wonderful.

According to the Urban Dictionary a Bridechilla is a bride that remains calm, cool, and collected during her entire wedding experience. Bridechillas never use phrases such as ‘my day, the most important day of my life, don’t ruin my day, etc.’ A Bridechilla is not defined by her wedding, rather she is likely taking part in the experience. Bridechilla is an antonym of Bridezilla.

A chilled out bride for sure.

Given the choice between the two, I’ll take Bridechilla every time – but there can be a happy medium. No rehearsal – you’ll get no argument from me! No wedding programs, no big deal. But you do have to take care of business. My Bridechilla told me she hadn’t made any plans for her guests who were coming for the entire weekend. That’s perhaps just a little too laid back. If you’re a Bridechilla you might want to hire a coordinator or choose a venue that takes care of all the details that you don’t wish to bother with.

Don’t chill out so much that you don’t offer some direction to your bridesmaids, groomsmen and families. By saying you don’t care what they wear, you’re actually making life a little more difficult for them. Please give them some parameters. Pick some colors or a theme that’s appealing. Suggest things like: ‘please wear a casual dress in some shade of green’, or ‘our wedding will have a laid-back country picnic feel’, or ‘it’s autumn, so fall colors are always great!’ Let them know what to expect. Perhaps it gets cool in the evening so inform your wedding party and guests what to expect weather-wise. Really, you’re just helping them out.

A relaxed couple.

If you think having bridesmaids and groomsmen is a hassle and doesn’t suit your style, makes reassure your friends and family that you love them but have chosen not to have attendants, not because you don’t want their support, but for simplicity’s sake. Your ‘chill’ should not become their angst.

Let’s all remember that a bride who is decisive, takes control is not necessarily a Bridezilla. Please don’t label women just because they have opinions. A Bridezilla is one who truly is a control freak, and expresses that with inappropriate behaviors, not a bride who sets boundaries and makes decisions. Bridezilla thinks the world revolves around her wedding.

Breathing in the moments.

But most importantly being a Bridechilla is about your frame of mind. It’s an attitude, a way of looking at life. What I sometimes call the ‘zen of weddings.’  It means remembering what’s important and letting go of the rest. Your wedding is the beginning of your marriage. It’s a party, too, but also a moment to stop and honor the love two people share.

Be chill, but take care of business, and it will be a beautiful thing!


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

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Some Traditions That Can Change

I try to be a positive person, but if I’m being completely honest, I’m not always that way. And while I love being a celebrant there are a few things about weddings I would like to see change.

Occasionally a couple will ask me to leave out the ‘obey’ part in the wedding vows, to which I reply, “I’ve never said that in my life, and never will.” We all laugh in relief, and are happy to be on the same page.

There a few other traditions I’m not particularly fond of. The other big one is what is known as the ‘objection statement’ – you know, that part you’ve heard (probably in the movies) that goes something like: ‘if anyone here knows any reason why these two should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace.’ That’s another one I can guarantee you’ll never hear me say.

But those are easy. There are some other wedding traditions that are good for some couples, but don’t fit for others. Here are a few I wouldn’t mind letting go or changing.

Your wedding dress has to be white. No, no it doesn’t. Queen Victoria started that tradition but we’re in the 21ste century. Speaking of white dresses, who made the rule that only the bride can wear white. That, too, is just silly. Wear whatever color or colors you wish!

Beautiful bride in black.

Aisle runners. Please don’t use them outdoors, it’s a recipe for disaster. If you use it indoors it can work, but is often very awkward to roll out. If not completely flat and preferably solidly attached to the floor, it can also trip anyone walking on it. On the grass I can almost guarantee it will trip someone.

Bridesmaids for the bride, groomsmen for the groom. I like the idea of having the people who mean the most to you stand by you. For many women it could be a brother or male friend, and for a man it could be a sister or female friend – why must your sibling stand with your partner and not with you? If you have a same-sex couple the point becomes ever more clear. Would two women only have women attendants or two men only have men – no! They will have whoever they wish standing by them. So should we all!

Bouquet toss. This can cause anxiety for your guests, because it makes a statement that single women are longing to be married and hope to be next. Many women don’t want to be married or aren’t ready.  There’s a lot of great things you can do with a bouquet – preserve it, remove the flowers and give them to people in token of appreciation, leave it on the grave of a loved one, or just take it home. Or throw it but give it new meaning – say whoever catches it has good luck for year! There, problem solved.

The garter ritual, complete with the stripper song, with all your guests watching, can be a little embarrassing, in fact, I’m embarrassed watching the performance but then again, I’m easily embarrassed. Some folks have a terrific time with it, and they’re probably better sports than I am.

The couple not seeing one another before the ceremony. Ok, I’m fine with this, too, but you can see each other if you want to, and the ‘first look’ photo is a nice moment. Beyond a photo op, seeing one another before the ceremony can help calm the nerves and take away at least some of the anxiety. Plus if you take some of your photos before the ceremony you might actually get to go to cocktail hour and enjoy being with your guests!

Spending more time with loved ones? Now that’s a great tradition to establish.


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

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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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