The Bride Wore Black - Breaking with Tradition

I write often about reimagining traditions, and switching things up. There are almost no rules regarding weddings. What few rules there are, I’ll explain in a minute. But as to breaking the rules – here’s a great example: brides – you do know you don’t have to wear white, right?

So many of our wedding traditions seem etched in stone, but are really nothing more than customs, habits, conventions and even folklore. Sometimes it’s fun to break the rules, but which ones?

I would not encourage anyone to break with the tradition of saying their vows or exchanging rings, although, technically speaking, this is not required, at least under Pennsylvania law. Remember, marriage is controlled by the states, and each state does it a little differently.  It is, however, ‘generally accepted wisdom’ that the couple should agree (the “I do” part) and exchange words of promise to finalize the marriage. The other element, again, not required in PA, but feels essential, is the pronouncement. I feel pretty strongly everyone should include vows and that I pronounce the couple as married.

When you say yes, and put it in words, you put out into the universe, and this is powerful. Saying something out loud, rather than just thinking it, truly is different for most everything. You may think something nasty about someone you dislike, but saying it – that’s a whole different story. With vows, it helps create change inside you, and that is exactly what a ceremony is meant to do. If a couple has some kind of problem with this, I’ll explore it with them and see what we can come up with, while still having them publically acknowledge their intent. One groom I worked with stuttered and was nervous about speaking his part out loud, so they decided to speak the vows together, in unison. That worked beautifully. I loved it and more importantly, so did they.

Think about this: vows often say something like ‘for as long as we both shall live,’ yet the legal system does not forbid you from divorcing just because you said that. In the same way, in civil marriage, meaning under the law (not in a religious sense) you are not required to make that promise. You sign papers; it is a legal agreement, and it can be legally un-done. But since almost all couples marry because they are in love, they really do want to make that promise to each other, and that is a beautiful, wonderful, joyous and amazing thing. Love is the best!

The law simple defines who is legal in each state to officiate, and that the legal person be present to witness the couple declare their intent, and then sign and return the marriage license. In Pennsylvania, there are no other witnesses required. People are very surprised by this, but it’s true. This makes PA a great place to elope!

Another tradition for vows, is that the groom goes first; but why? I’m guessing there is no reason other than men being given preference. There really is no compelling reason what-so-ever, and as I’ve often noted, same-sex marriages are teaching us a lot of about our gender assumptions.

Speaking of gender roles, the bridesmaids/groomsmen thing is getting an overhaul as well, with many couples having both men and women stand by them. Choosing your attendants (as I prefer to call them) based on your relationship with them, not their gender, is great! Many a bride wants her brother or other man to stand by her, and conversely, the same is true for a groom.

Back to that white dress…. Most women do want one, but those I’ve seen who broke with that tradition were beautiful brides, too, and still, in the end, they were married!



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Some sweet things that are not cake!

Some of the sweetest moments in weddings I’ve officiated did not come from the mind of me – but from the couples’ themselves. That is the beauty of celebrant work – it’s about listening to those we represent and making sure they are heard. At each ceremony, I consider myself their voice. I create a script based on that idea, but some stories are especially memorable, and I’d like to share a few of those very touching moments.

Recently I got to read from read a letter written by the groom’s mother. Knowing she would not make it to the wedding before she died, she wrote them a wonderful, heartfelt and savvy letter. I was honored to read excerpts from it. But wanting to be sure to have the balance I always seek, I asked for some advice from the bride’s side of the family to include as well. This was appreciated. Now, I did facilitate that part, but those meaningful moments in the ceremony came directly from the family, and you can be sure it was very moving.


People will differ on ways to honor those who have passed, some people find it too sad or feel it inappropriate for a wedding. There’s no right or wrong answer to this, but I think it’s important, so I always suggest a few ideas on how to do this. I want them to at least think about it and have the choice. The most inspiring part of a remembrance in the ceremony are the anecdotes. A great example is the story of the deceased grandfather who gave up his corporate job to become an artist – the family loved hearing about this.

On the lighter side, another special ceremony completely inspired by the couple was what I’d call a Disney wedding (not the location – but Disney inspired). The challenge is always figuring out just how far to go with something like this. I created a special final blessing for them, and I think I managed to hit all the right notes with quotes from their favorite Disney characters.

A couple who had a wine box ceremony added their own sweet touch. This is the ritual where the couple puts a bottle of wine and sometimes letters to one another into a box for the future. This couple asked if their parents could also write letters to add to the box.  I thought it was a wonderful idea. The box should be opened, wine drunk and letters read, on an anniversary or if the couple hits a rough patch. It’s meant to remind them of the love that brought them together.

Another couple had all of their guests create little versions of their sand ceremony as a keepsake. They were a same-sex couple and rather than just the usual two colors for each of them, they used all the colors of the rainbow for the sand. I still have mine!

Sometimes the couple comes up with their own interesting or unusual selections for readings, and that is always very welcome. I recently included an excerpt from the opera Einstein on the Beach – the one entitled Lovers on a Park Bench. This was previously unknown to me, but they were fans. The words are tender and touching.

Samuel M. Johnson: Lovers on a Park Bench

Two lovers sat on a park bench, with their bodies touching each other, holding hands in the moonlight.

There was silence between them. So profound was their love for each other, they needed no words to expres

s it. And so they sat in silence, on a park bench, with their bodies touching, holding hands in the moonlight.

Finally, she spoke. “Do you love me?” she asked. “You know I love you, darling,” he replied. “I love you more than tongue can tell. You are the light of my life, my sun, moon and stars. You are my everything. Without you, I have no reason for being.”

Again there was silence as the two lovers sat on a park bench, their bodies touching, holding hands in the moonlight. Once more she spoke. “How much do you love me?” she asked. He answered: “How much do I love you? Count the stars in the sky. Measure the waters of the oceans with a teaspoon. Number the grains of sand on the sea shore. Impossible, you say?”

A reading like this takes a special reader, and it was beautiful to see it done right.  Remember that you can inspire any ceremony you are lucky enough to be a part of – all it takes is some thoughtful honesty. Dig deep.




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Military Weddings – I salute you!

I’ve had the honor of officiating for many service members, active duty, reserve or veteran. When speaking with the engaged person (most often a man, but I’ve had several women service members, too) I also ask them about their families. It’s not uncommon that those serving are following in the footsteps of parents and/or grandparents.

I want to honor their service in meaningful ways – whether Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.

I like to include something in the ceremony recognizing their service along with some history of the family and even guests, if applicable. I want to go beyond ‘thank you for your service,’ which has become so clichéd as to have little meaning left. The sacrifices any service member makes, along with their partner and family, deserves to be honored. It’s who they are and because a wedding is a celebration not only of the love the couple share, but their individuality as well, it’s part of the journey worth telling.

The tradition of having the attendants or ushers create an arch for the newlyweds to pass through is a well-known. It is the highlight of any military wedding and a great visual. It’s not mandatory but certainly memorable, but many couples are not lucky enough to have a large enough group to pull this off, unless getting married on base.

The arch can be swords, sabers or rifles. However, for swords and sabers it has to be performed by commissioned officers, since they are the only one’s permitted to carry them. Enlisted personnel, however, can form the arch with rifles. Military personnel who do not bear arms simply salute.

The wedding arch honors differs slightly among the branches of the Armed Forces, but usually the person most senior in rank commands, “Draw swords,” and of course, they do. Their swords raised, they touch tips with blades facing away from the couple, to form that arch under which the couple will pass.

After the newlyweds recess under the arch, the senior usher commands, “Return swords”.

All members of the bridal party wait until the swords are returned to their scabbards before they proceed. Only the bride and groom pass under the Arch of Swords!

Not every service person wears their uniform for the wedding but I must say I think a groom does look great in uniform for his wedding! The uniform is white in summer or dress blues in winter, and a bride she may choose her ceremonial uniform as well, but many choose a traditional wedding dress.

For invitations use the military person’s rank if it is captain or higher in the Army and lieutenant senior grade or higher in the Navy.

It is also traditional for the wedding cake to be cut with a saber or other type of military sword. Be careful with that!

Here’s a tip: boutonnieres are not put on uniforms, but a bride can carry a bouquet even is she’s wearing her uniform.

Another nice detail is to use dog tags either attached to the bouquet, for a photo with your rings or in some other creative way.

Incorporating flags is an obvious choice  – the US Flag, of course, but also those specific to the branch of service. Perhaps the flags from the branches of the service would be nice on tables.

Patriotic touches are more than appropriate as well. I had one military couple (both bride and groom were serving) who used a red, white and blue theme and had confetti cannons shot off for the recessional instead of the saber arch.

The official colors of the Armed Services are as follows, so you know what to do!

Army  – Black & Gold

Navy – Blue & Gold

Air Force – Ultramarine Blue & Gold

Marines – Scarlet & Gold

Coast Guard – White, and shades of blue and red known as CG Blue and CG Red

To our engaged members of the military: I salute you!

THANK YOU Lisa Rhinehart for all the use of your fabulous photography

Todays column also includes some great photos by Nereida Castillo


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The Art of Wedding

In his beloved poem The Art of Marriage, Wilferd Arlan Peterson writes ‘the little things are the big things.’ And while he’s talking about how to make a relationship work in the long run, I feel the same way about the wedding itself. I’m not talking about the color of the table linens – but how other choices express what this important day means.

There are many ways to show how you value your family and friends, and many words and ways to express what your marriage commitment means to the two of you.

From time to time people ask me if I say the words about ‘anyone objecting’ to the marriage. You know, the ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’ part. I’m also occasionally asked about the ‘love, honor and obey’ line. I never use either of those phrases. And while there is a theological argument for the obey part, I am not a theologian, nor do I care for that justification. I think most of us prefer not to use that particular word at all.

Even ‘who gives this woman’ doesn’t resonate for me, but from time to time I’ve been asked to include it, and I have. After a respectful conversation with a bride or a dad, we have most often worked out a more modern alternative. Simply substituting ‘presents’ for ‘gives’ makes a nice change. When presented with alternatives people are usually happy. It’s just that they never really gave it much thought. But that’s my job, and I’m here to help. And this is what I mean by the little things being the big things.

As weddings continue to evolve, here are a few more thoughts on the art of the wedding.

While a father often has the honor of walking his daughter down the aisle, and there is nothing wrong with that at all, why not include mom, too? Consider thanking parents or other special family members in some special way. Toasts are great, but you can go further. Add a special thank you right in your ceremony. Present them with gifts; they don’t have to cost a lot of money, it is a symbolic act.

Speaking of gifts, if you are giving gifts to your bridal party, make sure they are relevant. People always say that it’s not the cost it’s the meaning. Let me illustrate that: a pair of cufflinks for a guy who only wears flannel shirts is no gift at all.

Seating is another detail that matters. It is truly a daunting task. Perhaps that’s why I feel so attracted to the long farm table trend. Everyone together at one big table puts everyone on equal ground. Yes, you still have to decide who sits next to whom, but that’s not nearly as difficult as working out many separate tables. I always feel a little second class when I’m at the table all the way in the back, although I completely understand everyone can’t sit next to the couple.

Yes, the little things in the wedding can be the big things. The details you choose reflect something about who you are. When making financial choices, ask yourself: why do I want this, why do I need this, and what does it say about us? When choosing how to marry, who will officiate, do the same. Is a wedding a display, or is it something more?

Each choice you make can be guided by these simple questions. If the answer is that it brings more joy and meaning, then it’s probably a good choice!


THANK YOU Lisa Rhinehart for all the gorgeous photos. Lisa was chosen as one of the top 50 wedding photographers world-wide.


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What’s Love Got To Do With It?

I’ve been officiating weddings and writing about them for a long time now. I have a simple topic today, one that we think is at the heart of it all. Why get married? In our modern world couples can live together and raise families without being married. The stigma of ‘out-of-wedlock’ is, for the most, part gone. Women no longer need men as protectors, for financial security, and many other reasons women married back in the olden days.

A few quick facts on women’s rights in America: It wasn’t until 1838 that New York State was the first to make it legal for a single woman to own property. Before 1978 a woman could be fired for being pregnant. A woman couldn’t even get her own credit card until 1974! Yes, the good old days.

Now that women have (almost) gained equal rights – why would women want to get married? And for that matter, why do men? The answer today is quite different than years past. Marriage still matters, but for new reasons. We may not need it, but many women and men want it. Even Gloria Steinem, the feminist icon who once dismissed marriage as an institution that destroys relationships, married at the age of 66.

I think the very best reason is the emotional security it can provide. I often speak of roots and wings. Marriage gives you roots, a strong base from which you can grow and spread your wings.

On the emotional side of the equation, there is love. Declaring your love and commitment before family and friends is powerful. When you put your intention out into the universe, when you speak your vows out loud, you are making it more ‘real.’ It is very powerful stuff.

There are practical and important reasons as well. To be able to make decisions for your spouse, especially about life and death, is clearly a big deal. And social security death benefits are only offered to married couples. It would be a shame to lose all the money your partner earned and put into that account upon his or her death, because you weren’t legally married.

Married men live longer. Check it out – it’s true!

And then there are children. While a child is better off with one parent when the other is abusive or cruel, two good parents is a wonderful thing. Statistically children from two-parent homes do better in school and in life. Maybe for the exact same reason the couples themselves benefit from marriage: that sense of security. Shared tasks or division of labor, also helps. Family is a lot of work. All this only pertains to a healthy home, of course. I think I said that already!

The idea of marrying for love is fairly recent. Until about the mid-nineteenth century, marriage was a business deal, an arranged alliance for the benefit of families, land and money. “If love could grow out of it, that was wonderful,” says Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History. “But that was gravy.”

The Age of Enlightenment brought love and marriage together, when Romanticism came into fashion around the same time. Passion mattered now. And love reigned supreme. It still does.

By the way, same-sex marriage isn’t anything new. Did you know that in 13th century, male-bonding ceremonies were common in churches across the Mediterranean?  Twelfth-century ceremonies for same-sex unions —  known as “spiritual brotherhoods” — included marriage prayers, joining of hands at the altar, and a ceremonial kiss. Sounds like marriage to me.

Around the world people have always found ways to strength their bonds, and ‘tie the knot’, even literally tying a knot.  Not much is new under the sun, but everything also evolves with time.

Yes, marriage still holds real meaning, even if that meaning has changed over time.

In her poem, Why Marriage, Mari Nicol-Haining writes:

Because to the depths of me, I long to love one person,
With all my heart, my soul, my mind, my body…

Because I need a forever friend to trust with the intimacies of me,
Who won’t hold them against me,
Who loves me when I’m unlikable,
Who sees the small child in me, and
Who looks for the divine potential of me…

Because I need to cuddle in the warmth of the night
With someone who thanks God for me,
With someone I feel blessed to hold…

Because marriage means opportunity
To grow in love in friendship…

Because marriage is a discipline
To be added to a list of achievements…

Because marriages do not fail, people fail
When they enter into marriage
Expecting another to make them whole…

Because, knowing this,
I promise myself to take full responsibility
For my spiritual, mental and physical wholeness
I create me,
I take half of the responsibility for my marriage
Together we create our marriage…

Because with this understanding
The possibilities are limitless.

I hope you enjoy seeing a few photos of me officiating – all by Garth Woods 


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A Hodge-Podge of Some Fun, Funky and Fabulous Wedding Ideas

May I be frivolous for one column? I’m told I’m too serious sometimes, so I set out to look for some new wedding ideas. Is it even possible? With so much written about weddings, could I find something I hadn’t seen before? I’m not claiming these are unheard of, or ground breaking… but they do feel fresh, at least to me.

And now, drum roll please, for some ideas I found and some, I admit, I made up myself.

Door prizes instead of favors was something that I’d never heard of before – and initially thought it was very cute. But on second thought, it could result in some guests feeling left out. At a joyous occasion can’t we all be winners? So maybe an Oprah style surprise – ‘you get a car, and you get a car’… or a lottery ticket, or other less costly prize.

Centerpieces to go. Again, not new, but here’s a twist: place a beautiful grouping of candles in candleholders in the center of each table, and then let everyone know to take one home.

Bring the indoors outside using furniture such as tables, bureaus or sofas and chairs.

Not just dancing – but games! In the same way a DJ will sometimes ask who’s been married the longest, or who’s traveled the furthest – you can set up different questions at each table, and then have each table ‘report’ on their findings.

Not just music – but entertainment. How about a circus theme? Hire a magician, stilt walkers, or acrobats and have them weave through the crowd. Hire a fortunate teller (only good fortunes, of course).

Buy or rent a tandem bike (a bicycle built for two) – decorate it – and make your get-away on it after the ceremony or reception.

Rent a bouncy house! Too far?

Theme weddings are always fun. While, not a new idea, they are not done enough! How about cowgirls and cowboys,1920s jazz glamour, or would you like a 60’s style hippie wedding? Try a library theme complete with books and library card invitations for all of you passionate readers out there. Boarding passes, suitcases and tickets for those who love travel. Music lovers – find a way to use old records, sheet music, and song titles. Love board games? Build your theme on one specific game – Monopoly? Life? Are you a foodie? Go with small plates, and set your reception up as a tasting. The same goes for wine and craft beer. And of course, don’t forget nerd-dom – sci-fi and all that does along with it.

Love the ocean and have history with beach vacations? Start collecting shells, pebbles and beach glass now to adore the tables or fill up glass vases.

And then there’s sports – with endless possibilities for teams, memorabilia, and equipment.

Because this is Pocono Wedding Talk, what about a Pocono themed wedding? Use some made-in-the-Poconos products, and add some kitchy Pocono tourist items such as mugs, plates, glasses and other classic souvenirs to create centerpieces and keepsakes. Just add antlers, pinecones and stir.

Remember to incorporate culture if you can. Is there a traditional dance from your family? Be sure to find a way to work that in. From the tarantella to jigs – give the party a distinctive flavor. Or use an Indian print, a clan tartan, or African kente cloth in your décor from a pillow for the ring-bearer, table runners, and even Cummerbunds.

Creativity and inspiration can overcome a lot – changing the mundane to the fabulous, and can also save you money! You certainly don’t have to spend a fortune to have a unique wedding celebration. Sometimes you just wanna have fun. Adding some silly ideas that suit you is always a good idea, especially if it’s just for a photo shoot, or perhaps to add that certain element of surprise to your ‘big day.’


THANK YOU Lisa Rhinehart for all the gorgeous photos. Lisa was chosen as one of the top 50 wedding photographers world-wide.


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When The Divorce Doesn’t Work Out

Sometimes the twisting roads of life lead to divorce. When we promise ‘for better or worse’ – we understand the intent. But it is hard to stick by your partner when those bad times are abuse, cheating, or simply going in completely opposite directions. Family problems such as special needs children, or illnesses, can also break people apart.  And let me state clearly that if there is domestic violence, yes, please do divorce.

But when it is for other reasons, counselling, or spending time apart can help, and occasionally couples find their way back to one another. When that happens, they might even decide to get married again.

I am no expert, but its seems obvious that after many years, each partner may drift in a different direction. They stop communicating. There are countless frustrations in marriage. No one claims it’s easy. What are called ‘irreconcilable differences’ occur, but reconciliation is possible.  After a separation, the spark can be reignited.

One famous remarriage was Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who were married to one another twice. But then again, that didn’t really work out for them. Other famous couples who married the same person twice include: Natalie Wood, who was first married to Robert Wagner from 1957–1962, and then again from 1972 until her death in 1981. Melanie Griffith was first married to Don Johnson for six months in 1996, and then again from 1989–1996; and Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was first married to fellow artist Diego Rivera from 1929-1939 – they remarried in 1940 and remained together until her death in 1954.

Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera

There are no statistics on how many divorced couples remarry one another, or how well it works out. No one seems to have paid much attention to this phenomenon. Granted it’s rare, but still worth our consideration.

I have officiated for couples who were marrying their ‘ex. As British novelist Iris Murdoch put it: ‘Falling out of love is chiefly a matter of forgetting how charming someone is.’

It’s not my role as a Celebrant to delve too deeply into the reasons a couple is marrying or re-marrying, but they often volunteer lots of information. The main reason for reconciliation that I’ve heard is that they needed time apart to grow. They now feel more prepared; they understand one another and themselves much better. Often, they married very young (in some cases together since Junior High School).

Another reason to re-marry is to provide children with a stable two parent home – but this in itself is probably not enough if the same underlying issues remain.

When a couple has rekindled their spark, found understanding, and if they value what they had as a couple, then re-marrying could be right. Maybe they acted too quickly when they divorced, and often times they say they never really stopped loving one another.

Now as they go forward they will need to let go of past grievances. The do’s and don’ts for this type of wedding easy: keep it simple! And what the heck do we, as friends or family, say to this couple? Especially if you have given your ear to one partner and supported them as they bashed their former spouse, you may find yourself in the awkward position of having to tell them you really didn’t quite mean all that. My advice on this is the same: keep it simple. Just tell your friend or family member you’re glad they worked it out and that you’re encouraged that love can prevail in the end.

The same goes for me as their Celebrant. I will focus on their love and recommitment and help them celebrate this new beginning as they make it legal and tie the knot.

None of us know where our paths will lead us, so let’s try hard not to be too judgmental. Let hope live!


THANK YOU Lisa Rhinehart for all the gorgeous photos. Lisa was chosen as one of the top 50 wedding photographers world-wide.




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When Style Comes from Within, It Comes Out Right.

Fashion comes and goes, but love never goes out of style. Your wedding celebration can reflect the timelessness of love and marriage combined with your own personal taste.

‘Style’ is defined as a manner of doing or presenting things, especially a fashionable one. And whatever your style, whatever decisions you make about the ‘look’ of your wedding, remember how important it is to stay true to yourself. You want to feel like yourself and look like yourself on your big day – and be comfortable in your own skin.

Consider these descriptions of style: laid-back, timeless, offbeat, eclectic, contemporary, clean, antique, elegant, rustic, charming – and any combination of those words.

Don’t forget that the ceremony is the heart and soul of your day, so be sure to explore that with your officiant to include those personal touches as well.  Have I mentioned that before? J Thanking family, personal vows, sharing stories about your journey, any of these can be incorporated into almost any wedding ceremony.

Break a few rules. Brides don’t have to wear white! Mix up your bridesmaids and groomsmen, or as I prefer to call them – attendants – having women and men standing with whichever partner they are connected to; or sort them any way you wish.

Here in the Poconos rustic is always a good fit, and combining it with elegant works well. There are countless ideas for the rustic weddings. To name two I like: using an old canoe or rowboat to put your drinks in, and using burlap trimmed with lace for table runners. And while we’re talking about tables, consider the long family-style for seating at a meal. Choose natural flowers, in wild loose arrangements. Use vintage bottles for centerpieces.

Perhaps you prefer a more formal and timeless style. You can never go wrong with a black and white theme. Tuxedoes never go out of style.

Maybe like me, you love all of the above! All kinds of styles appeal to you. How do you narrow it down? Pinterest (yes, it’s still a thing) can help you with this. Collect the ideas you love and see which ones keep coming up again and again. Think about what the style says about your lives? Are you and your fiancé outdoorsy people? Do you love getting dressed up or are you always in jeans?

Don’t give into the temptations that weddings can present. Don’t think you must wear, say, or do something that doesn’t suit you. I have seen many couples look uncomfortable in their very formal wedding clothes and hairstyles. Perhaps that’s why so many men are now pairing sneakers with their suits, or jeans with shirts, ties and vests. I’d like to see more brides wearing gowns that are comfortable and flattering, and I think the trend is going in that direction.

Take the time to enjoy the process, work with your partner and family to make decisions that take everyone’s needs into consideration. If you are having a big wedding, then you need to think big picture. Will your plans inconvenience people, will it be too expensive for people you care about to attend? Are you putting too many expectations on yourself and your friends?

Be considerate and be generous. Share the love. This big day is the start of something big, start it off right. When your wedding style comes from within, it comes out right!

THANK YOU Lisa Rhinehart for all the gorgeous photos. Lisa was chosen as one of the top 50 wedding photographers world-wide.




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Let Us Eat Cake

So many wedding traditions have long histories, and interesting origins. Bouquets, rings, and white wedding gowns… they all come from somewhere, and I’ve written about a lot of it.

Today I take on cake. Our classic tradition of serving cake for weddings comes from two different sources. First Ancient Rome – one of the prime sources of Western culture – where bread was broken over a bride’s head to bring good luck. Bread has always been a strong symbol because it signifies sustenance, and for ancient cultures that meant survival. I recently wrote about the Eastern European bread and salt ritual – a great example of that.

The Roman wedding ceremony was finalized with the bread (aka: cake) made of wheat or barley, and whatever crumbs fell were gathered up by guests as tokens of good luck. How do we know this? The Roman poet Lucretius wrote about it.

Moving closer to our own style of cake as ritual, in England and early American, we’re talking 1700’s here, cake was a sign of social status, as it was quite the luxury, and so including one in one’s wedding was prestigious. How better to celebrate than with something so special, decadent and delicious? These cakes were often fruit cakes, but iced with tiers much like the ones we see today.  Even the icing itself holds significant, being traditionally white, which for some reason was a symbol of money.

The cutting of the cake is a big deal and certainly echoes that breaking bread over the bride’s head thing.  It could represent breaking the virginity of the bride! No comment on that. It also marked the beginning of a husband’s power over his bride and meant to ensure fertility, which to be fair, meant survival. Again, this is old stuff, so we’ll just let it slide. There are other interpretations of course, such as the cake ritual simply representing good fortune in the future.

Sharing the cake (not mere crumbs) developed naturally from there, as guests hoped to cash in on all that it represented and get a slice of the rare treat. They really seemed to put a lot of faith in cake in the olden days.

As the custom moved forward over time it became just one more normal wedding tradition, but turning down a piece of wedding cake was, and sometimes still may be, just plain rude.

In 1882 the modern wedding cake was born when Prince Leopold, an English Duke, had a cake made that we would absolutely recognize today. After this, the layered cake became popular, topped with luscious dense icing and stacked in tiers.

All modern wedding things seem to have a Queen Victoria connection. She used that white icing for her cake, which became known as ‘royal icing.’ Everyone followed what Queen Victoria did, her influence was enormous. Actual pieces of Queen Victoria’s cake were on display at Windsor Castle, and a slice of cake from her daughter, Princess Louise, was even auctioned. How the heck did they preserve cake that long ago without a freezer?

It’s awesome to think about how for centuries weddings have included cake and different cultures all added their own twists to this tradition. I am not going to comment on how some couples smash cake into each other’s faces, other than to say if it is done by mutual agreement I’m ok with that.

Cake toppers are very popular and have become creative and trendy. Here in the U.S. in the 1950s we first saw the bride and groom figures on top of the cake. There are lots of variations today, from the ridiculous to the sublime. You can even have one custom made to look just like you, or even your pets. I have my parents cake topper in my home and I treasure it.

A photo of your wedding cake is a must-have!  And when we say something ‘takes the cake’ it’s quite the prize indeed.


THANK YOU Lisa Rhinehart for all the gorgeous photos. Lisa was chosen as one of the top 50 wedding photographers world-wide.


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Engaging Thoughts

Once you’re engaged people will ask you all kinds of questions, even some inappropriate questions. Be prepared and keep a sense of humor.

There’s always some joker who just has to say something about the ‘old ball and chain,’ or how you finally hooked him, or locked it down, or nice job! Locking him down is directed at women, the assumption being we want to catch a man. And getting caught – well, sorry guys, your life is over (contrary to science and general happiness). They all imply that marriage means giving up freedom, again, especially for men. People act as though getting engaged was a chore, or a goal to be accomplished, instead of two people in love, coming together, and making the decision to commitment to marriage.

While many women still want a surprise proposal, it’s pretty clear they have either openly discussed marriage with their partner, or they have danced around the subject. A proposal rarely comes out of nowhere.

Same-sex couples are free to break the gender stereotypes (man proposes to woman, woman accepts, her life is now complete). And then there are women who propose to men – and this is more common than we realize, but not often talked about.

Next might come questions and comments about your looks, your weight, your dress, and other personal choices and details. Ok, it’s fun to look at dresses and talk about it all, but the pressure for a bride to simply glow, and be magnificent, can be just too much. Can’t she just be herself without sparkly eye shadow (if that’s not her thing) or false eyelashes, or a complete make-over? Why would someone want to make herself different? The person your partner fell in love with is the person who should show up at the altar. Not that you can’t dress up, do your hair, and all that good stuff, but should a woman complete re-do everything about herself?

Please don’t ask newly engaged couples if they are planning to have children. It’s really not your business.

How can you get through the gauntlet of questions?  If you or someone you know has recently become engaged, I hope this column brings awareness that will help prepare someone for the coming tide of inquiry. Then you can decide what information you are ready to share, and just plead the 5th for the rest of them.

Every couple should talk over how they envision their wedding, and then be ready to thank everyone for their suggestions and tell them ‘you appreciate their kindness, but you’ve got this’.

Or ‘it’s just too early, you’re not making plans yet’, or ‘no, you haven’t even set a date’, or ‘we’ll let you know soon’. Just have your sound bite ready.

And finally, sometimes a friend or family member will actually come up with an awesome idea. Don’t close yourself off from everyone’s input, just don’t let it overwhelm you. You can plan for your big day, but more importantly, you should plan for your marriage.

THANK YOU Lisa Rhinehart for all the gorgeous photos. Lisa was chosen as one of the top 50 wedding photographers world-wide.


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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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