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.


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When and Why to Elope

There are a growing number of couples choosing to elope. Elopement used to mean sneaking away to get married without the parents knowing. It was secretive and hurried.  It didn’t have the best connotation. But today couples choose to elope for good reasons.

Some couples elope to avoid conflict. Family can be complicated. I recall one couple who had planned a nice backyard wedding at their home for their families and friends. It was a second marriage for both, and each one had several children. One day I received a call from them, asking if they could just come to my garden, just the two of them, and would I marry them. Well, of course you know I would. The drama had just become too much! So that’s what they did, and they were quite happy. Later, they told me, they had a party to celebrate – but eliminating the wedding part made things much easier. Somehow adding ‘wedding’ to ‘party’ makes people go crazy. It shouldn’t, but it does -sometimes. Elopement really does avoid a lot of stress.

A beautiful elopement at Harmony Gardens.

Another important reason to elope is the expense. If you cannot afford a lavish wedding you probably shouldn’t have one. Starting a marriage in debt for a party isn’t the best idea. Or maybe you can afford it, but you choose to use that money for something else – like the honeymoon trip of a lifetime, or a down payment on a home.

The elopement itself can be a romantic adventure and honeymoon rolled into one. I have friends who eloped in Mexico and had a blast. I have my own little ceremony garden (Harmony Gardens) here in the Poconos, and lots of couples come to elope here. I give them ideas for places to stay and things to do, and they create a mini-get-away. I’ve also had couples who just want to keep it really simple, I officiate a lovely little low-key ceremony, sign the marriage license, and off they go! Nothing fancy, but still meaningful. See, that’s the beauty of it – on your own terms.

Some of the couples I’ve married stay at any of several beautiful local resorts – places where other couples have large weddings. Instead, they ‘elopers’ enjoy the same amenities, from the hot-tubs and spa treatments, to gorgeous rooms and lovely meals, just keeping it all to themselves. Mountain Springs Lake has gorgeous private cabins, Skytop Lodge is romantic with lots of outdoor activities, Stroudsmoor Country Inn has great accommodations and a restaurant on site and the Shawnee Inn is right on the Delaware River.

When you elope you get to do so in your own style. Some women choose to wear a wedding gown, but others do not. You can be as casual or formal as you wish. There is no reason why you can’t have all the glamour: the dress, the flowers, the rings – just without the guests! And on the other hand, just something fun, funky or casual is fine.

With the baby, it still feels like elopement.

Keeping it simple is another motivation for elopement, especially if you are more laid-back, or even shy. If you don’t enjoy people making a fuss over you or being the center of attention a wedding can certainly create anxiety.

Planned elopements sometimes evolve into small weddings. Not that unusual. I get calls from couples who wonder if it would be ok to have a few people attend after all. You know the answer is yes! Somehow they realize they just don’t feel right depriving their parents or other important people the opportunity to be a part of this important milestone.

An example that comes to mind: two brides who, intending to be secretive, let the cat out of the bag. When their friends found out they were to be married they jokingly threatened to hide in the woods, if they couldn’t be there. The couple relented and everything turned out amazing. We’re talking about all of eight guests – but what fun!

An elopement is intimate and romantic.

So I write this today to encourage everyone to find the appropriate way to tie-the-knot. It’s your wedding and your marriage and your life. You need not force yourself into something that simply isn’t for you. Eloping could be the solution.

Inform your family with a photo!


  Thank you Garth Woods for the beautiful photos of Harmony Gardens.

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Revisiting the Green Wedding Trend

Call it ‘green,’ call it ‘environmental,’ call it ‘eco’-friendly,’ or call it common sense, there is still a lot of buzz about how it and how it applies to weddings. I hope people will continue to remain conscious of reducing, reusing and recycling. Eco-friendly isn’t a fad, its way to implement practices that will lead to healthier living for the planet and its inhabitants. An eco-friendly wedding is a way to express those values and make a difference. There are many ways to ‘green’ your wedding.

First the bad news. Being responsible isn’t just choosing environmentally friendly materials its also being aware of what not to do. I recently read about how balloon releases have deadly consequences on the environment. I must admit I hadn’t thought about it, but once you do stop and think, you might not want to use them. Here’s the deal: balloons fall back to the earth and animals can ingest them and die from the balloon blocking its digestive tract. There are some balloons made of biodegradable material, but still, before they do break down, well, there they are. Likewise, ribbons or strings tied to the balloons can last years and become entangled in any animal that comes in contact with it. At a minimum they just create more trash.

Don't contribute to the problem.

I’d also been briefly enamored of sky lanterns, until I l began to understand that they, too, return to earth as litter. Again, beware even those marketed as ‘biodegradable’ or ‘earth- friendly.’  Sky lanterns are made with treated paper, wires and/or a bamboo ring. They can travel for miles and will come down as dangerous litter. Not surprising – sky lanterns have caused fires. These flaming aerial devices have also caused serious burns to humans and have killed animals that eat the litter or become entangled in their fallen remains. Entire countries have banned the use of sky lanterns.

Who doesn’t love sparklers? Sorry to be a downer, but when checking out sparklers I learned that they contain heavy metals that are harmful to the environment. Plus there is some risk of injury. Geez? Is there nothing we can use?

An eco-friendly favor.


Here’s the good news: Alternatives to balloons and sky lanterns include the trusty old bubbles (pick up those plastic bottles, though, and recycle them) lighting candles, and using flowers and petals. Confetti cannons are cool, and I don’t see much of a down side to them.

Other eco-friendly tips include the following:

For gifts and centerpieces use potted herbs, cactus, or other interesting plants instead of cut flowers for centerpieces with the added bonus of having guests take the home.

Have the ceremony and reception at the same location, reducing travel, gas, and cost.

Let the bridesmaids pick their own dresses, ones they will be able to wear again.

Forget disposables such as cameras that get tossed and all the plastic flatware and glasses. Instead use real china, flatware, cloth napkins and glasses – it looks so much better anyway!

Choose consumable favors such as jam, jelly, maple syrup, candy, free-trade coffee, handmade soaps, or anything folks will actually use. Buy them locally! Or donate to a charity instead of favors.

Something useful makes a great favor.

Paperless invites are beginning to be more acceptable. If you must mail an invite, include a website with lots of details, to cut-down on the paper.

Offer group transportation – it will not only cut down on gas and pollution, it will allow your guests to enjoy a drink or two without worry!

Lots of bloggers talk about vintage clothes – but I know it is difficult. You can make that happen, but it takes lots of patience. An easier eco-route for dresses is to borrow or buy used (or should I say: pre-worn). There are many wonderful sources of beautiful used wedding gowns. Think about it – it was worn only once, then dry cleaned and is most likely exactly like new! You save tons of money. After the wedding you can donate your dress to a number of charity organizations, or resell it.

Some nursing homes and hospitals accept flowers from weddings to distribute to their residents.

Everything you buy or rent comes from somewhere – so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Does this venue recycle? Where was this made, did it ship from a distance, or even worse – was it made by children or slave labor?

Is it going to change the world? No. But it’s nice to bring a consciousness to your wedding and remember you are part of something larger. Your ‘big day’ is about you, of course, but it’s also about your place in the world.


Thank you Lisa Rhinehart Photography  for the photos.


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Finding your favorite wedding things

A while ago I wrote about wedding traditions I can do without. That was as close to controversial as this column gets. Some people really appreciated my point of view, but a few others did not. Today’s column is about my very favorite wedding things. That should make everyone happy! So here they are:

I love really intimate ceremonies. Not everyone is destined for a large wedding celebration, and elopements and tiny weddings inspire me. It allows for even more guest participation, as I just mentioned.

Lisa Rhinehart Photography

Guest participation – it’s good to share the love. Finding ways to have your guests interact in the ceremony clearly tells them you value their support and conversely, gives guests a chance to express their love for you. This can be accomplished in many ways such as community vows, Sharing the Sign of Peace, or writing down wishes for a ‘wish jar.’ For small weddings I’ve had guests pass wine and even beer to share. You might consider a big group cheer or group singing.

I love bagpipes, really, I do.

Regular readers know I love rituals – but to rise to the level of ‘favorite thing’ the ritual has to hold specific and special meaning. For example: a nature loving couple I officiated for combined a water sharing ritual with watering a tree. And while neither of these are ground breaking ideas, it fit the couple so well – it was just perfect. I wrote about their love of nature and of all things connected to water, and included this favorite reading to illuminate those ideas.

“See Clearly” (Lao Tzu – China – founder of Taoism) 

Your love is a great mystery.

It is like an eternal lake

Whose waters are always still and clear like glass.

Looking into it you can see

The truth about your life.

It is like a deep well

Whose waters are cool and pure.

Drinking from it you can be reborn.

You do not have to stir the waters

Or dig the well.

Merely see yourself clearly

and drink deeply.

And while mentioning favorites things, I would be remiss if I didn’t add dogs in weddings! Not easy to do, for so many reasons, but it certainly can be great. If your best canine can’t be with you, consider using photos in a wedding program or for table signage.

Creative use of favorite things - gardening.

Music that makes a strong statement is always at the top of my list. I really love bagpipes in weddings for those Irish, Scottish and Celtic folks. The right song or the right combination of instruments can make a ceremony sing, with or without a vocalist. I haven’t yet had a wedding with an accordion, but, I’m not kidding, I’d love to see that.

Fresh and unique in décor, especially when it reflects a couple’s passions – go on my list as well. I’ve seen old books used effectively, as well as pinwheels symbolizing wind power, seashells, guitars, wine and beer bottles, corks and labels, old photos and fishing and gardening paraphernalia.

Whatever inspires, whatever your favorites things, I hope you can find a way to infuse it into your wedding.

Wine corks - Lisa Rhinehart Photography




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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