Love at any age …

Let’s talk about marriage when the couple is over a certain age. What age? Good question. Over 40? Over 50? Over 60? Yes, all of the above. There is no expiration date on love.

After divorce or loss of a spouse some people are not interested in finding another life partner. Others know they need to be paired up. We’re all different. But one thing I have learned from working with older couples, is there can sometimes be a hesitancy to fully celebrate this milestone. It might be because of children, or just the perception of being judged by society.

But when you find love, no matter what stage of life, it is wonderful, and regardless of previous relationships, marriage is an important rite of passage. Having said that, I do agree, it can, and dare I say ‘should’ be less extravagant.  There are ways to tone it down, when it’s not the first time around. Here are few things to think about.

If there are children, even adult children, it’s great to include them in various ways. Your kids can walk down the aisle with you – both partners – there is no need to confine this to a bride. A man can walk with his children as well. You might ask teen or adult children to share readings in the ceremony. Holding the rings is tried and true. And more creatively, how about having them say their own ‘I do’ in support of the new marriage or new step-siblings, and conversely you can say an ‘I do’ to them, pledging your continued love and support even as the family changes. This is especially important if the children still live at home.

Keeping it less formal feels right. A luncheon instead of a dinner, or a buffet instead of a sit-down meal, keeps is so.

You’re free to not wear tuxedos and gowns, and that can be quite a relief. You are also free from having to choose bridesmaids and groomsmen. Really not necessary at this stage. Maybe just have one best person each, or again, the children can stand with you…. or not.

Your vows might take a different tone at this stage in life. They might include words about the importance of having found love again, and how hopeful it is to find a partner in life. You may want to acknowledge the long road to where you are. You are mature now and you understand what marriage means.

And then there is elopement. I recently officiated for a couple who didn’t want to deal with the whole family scene, yet still had all the beautiful details including live music, photographer and videographer, a beautiful location and me – and that’s it! No guests. It was awesome.

Young love can be breathless, but older love has depth. Celebrate that!


photo credits: Garth Woods

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Variations on a Theme

There is an interesting intersection of the many customs and rituals of weddings. One with surprising commonalities is the African-American ‘jumping the broom’ and the Celtic ‘jumping the oak branch’. But today I want to talk about a tradition used in wedding ceremonies in Spain, Latin American countries, and the Philippines:The ‘arras’ or 13 Coins, sometimes even simply called ‘wedding coins.’ This is another great example of the many ‘unity’ rituals performed all over the world.

Coins boxes made by one of my brides!

I’ve had the good fortune to perform the 13 Coins ritual in a few different situations, giving each one its own unique interpretation. Although I’ve written about this tradition before, a few years ago, today I’m going to share variations. These twists or modern takes on the ancient custom illustrate how rituals can be changed to fit any couple and the times we live in.

Traditionally the priest blesses the coins, hands them to the groom, who repeats the words, such as: ‘all that I have is yours, and all that you have is mine.’ For modern couples I have added words and asked the couple to pass the coins back and forth, each one making a promise to the other. After all, why should it only be the man promising support? Doesn’t the woman also have an equal role? I don’t believe it is just money we’re talking about, but emotional support, too. Two brides, or two grooms? Not a problem. Today it’s all about equality, at least I hope so.

If there is no priest blessing the coins, it would be an honor to invite a friend or family member hold the coins through the ceremony and bring them forward as needed. The coins can be blessed, and again, asking a someone to do that is an honor, but they don’t have to be.

Additional promises can be added – something like: ‘I give you these coins as a symbol of my heritage and my love and commitment to you.’ There is no requirement that specific words be used in this tradition making it very open to new interpretations.

It looks nice when one partner cups their hands and the other dramatically pours the coins into them from a few inches above. Don’t just hand the person those coins, pour them with panache.

If one or both partners are fluent Spanish speakers they can repeat in Spanish, but since I don’t speak Spanish, I’ll say it in English. In any bi-lingual group, it’s always good to have translations anyway!

The coins themselves offer opportunities. You might choose coins from different countries, whether county of family origin, or even countries you’ve visited. I have included sobriety coins from AA. There are many ways to express something additional with those coins.

Sometimes there are heirloom coins in a family, especially when they are actual gold coins. Using gold coins, by the way, is traced back to an ancient Roman custom of breaking gold or silver, one half to be kept by the woman and the other half by the man, as a pledge of marriage, but the custom of the giving of these wedding coins originated in Spain and spread from there. The gold coins are sometimes presented in an ornate box or on a gift tray, historically representing the bride’s dowry. Still to this day the custom certainly represents wishes for prosperity.

Modern couples are looking for more personalized ceremonies to express who they are and what they believe. Taking an old tradition and reimagining it is a great way to do just that.


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Understanding Pagan Rituals

There is often a misunderstanding about what pagan, wiccan, and nature- based ceremonies are all about. Occasionally I have requests to include pagan rituals in weddings and I’m happy to do so. Now, I am no expert, and certainly am not conducting a true Wiccan or Pagan wedding ceremony, but it is fun to include an element or two from these traditions. They are quite lovely in many ways. Fear not!

But first the language: Paganism is the wider term that can embrace many things, from Wicca, a nature-oriented faith, Druidry, which are ancient Celtic practices, or even Asatru, which is a sort of reconstruction of Northern European pre-Christian beliefs (think: Vikings). These beliefs go back thousands of year and pre-date Christianity.

When people ask about Celtic traditions, they are often honoring their Irish or other countries and locations, their family roots, but when they use the word ‘pagan’ they are not identifying heritage as much as beliefs. There is also the term Celtic Paganism. No matter what you call them, these practices originally took place between 500 BCE and 500 CE.

Native American traditions are loosely associated, because they also share a reverence for nature and have an overlap of symbolism and ritual. I love how that happens!

Handfastingis probably the best known of the Celtic traditions that is still popular. It is thought to originally be more of an engagement ritual, but has evolved into a wedding ritual. It is as simple as the name implies – the couple’s hands are tied together (tying the knot), some words are said, and the knot untied. There are countless variations.

Blessing the Space, or creating a sacred space, is exactly what is sounds like. This can be done in many ways, but most dramatically by conducting a smudging  – which is waving smoke around.  It signifies cleansing the area. Sage is most often used, and sometimes cedar or the herb sweetgrass. This custom is not only pagan but done in some Native American cultures. It is fascinating to see how in different places and times, humans devise similar or even identical traditions or adapt them from coming into contact with the ideas. Some other variations include places stones on the ground, creating a circle with items such as flowers, stones or even candles. Mainstream religions also bless spaces but perhaps not so dramatically.

Jumping the Broom, is a ritual most Americans think of as an African-American one, but it can also be Celtic or Wiccan and signifies crossing the threshold and entering your new life together. When you think of a groom carrying his bride over the threshold of the doorway you see exactly the same symbolism. Additionally, brooms can sweep out the old, or clean or cleanse, and that, too, has meaning when beginning a marriage. Again, we see a cross-pollination and similar symbolism in places quite far from one another in place and time. This is one of the most fascinating things about rituals.

Calling the Quarters, also known as the Four Directions, assigns properties to North, South, East and West. It can also intersection with the elements or earth, air, water and fire

Earth coordinates to North, representing the physical realm with the qualities of good health, a happy home, groundedness, and fertility.

Air is East, the mental realm of wisdom, symbolizing good communication, learning, and intellectual growth.

Fire is South, the action realm representing creativity, harmony, sensuality, and vitality.

Water is West, the emotional realm, with the qualities of understanding, emotional support, intuition, and friendship.

You can well imagine how all of those characteristics would be important in any relationship and why one might invoke them in a wedding.

Including any of these ancient traditions into a modern marriage can be interesting and meaningful. It doesn’t mean you are turning away from your faith tradition or family roots. It is a way to connect to something much older or connect to the earth.


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Sand Stories: Exploring a Modern Ritual

I find that I am often writing about ancient traditions, the deep roots of weddings, and the connections between culture, religions, and the way all this has evolved. But there are a few modern rituals as well, ones that not all that old at all. There is the wine box, with or without the exchange of letters, water rituals, and tree or plant rituals, and one of the most popular is the sand ceremony.

There is no consensus, but there are several explanations for the sand ceremony, which is, of course, the action of pouring sand together, represents joining of the two people. The many grains of sand are meant to symbolize all the thoughts, feelings and experiences you bring with you to the marriage. The couple pours their two containers of different colors of sand into one, and creates something bigger and more beautiful. I’m fond of adding that you do not give up your individuality in marriage. I’m not a fan of the ‘now we are one’ concept. You are still two people, but on the same path together, side by side.

It’s a great choice for a non-religious ceremony, and also resonates for people who love nature, the beach, the earth, science, or any number of connotations that can be readily seen in sand. As Rachel Carson wrote: In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.

I always adjust the description of any ritual to be sure it fits the couple, and have, from time to time, added words about the uses of sand – from making concrete and building a strong foundation, or making glass. I have referenced science, vacations, hobbies, or anything that draws the couple to the sand.

Here’s what I’ve gathered about this history of this very down-to-earth ritual. There is the Hawaiian story – whichmaintains that Hawaiian couples entering into a committed union, would scoop sand from the beach and combine their individual handfuls into a container as a symbol of their marriage. That is the essence of the sand ceremony, and placing it on beaches in Hawaii makes sense.

There is the California story, which draws from the hippie days of the 1960s, with couples marrying on the beaches and creating non-traditional ceremonies. Because, the good old ‘Unity Candle’ would absolutely not work in the wind by the ocean, and perhaps looking for something different, someone came up with this. Or maybe someone had seen in it Hawaii. And it is a great alternative to candles, by the way.

There are some who think there may be an ancient connection after all -  to pagan ceremonies or even Hebrew traditions. The Biblical Salt Covenant could actually be the inspiration for the Sand Ceremony – sand and salt both being granules that are mixed together. In Jewish culture, salt was used as a symbolic bond between husband and wife, and also used it in rituals of reconciliation and to celebrate adoption. Salt itself has a rich metaphoric usage.

I really love how the sand ceremony is perfect to symbolize the blending of families. You can have children pick their own colors, and everyone can participate in pouring ‘their’ sand into a large family vase – and see themselves as part of something bigger, yet still retaining their individuality. I’ve also used it with parents, pouring a foundation for their children who are getting married. There are lots of useful variations with the sand.

There are fancy sets you can buy, or you can use everyday objects. I’ve had couples use mason jars and couples have engraved crystal.

Whether this is new to you, or old hat, the Sand Ceremony works!


thank you GARTH WOODS for the beautiful photography   

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Wedding Wallflowers

8 Tips for Shy Brides or Grooms

I’ve spoken with many couples who were concerned about being the center of attention on their wedding day, for both the ceremony and the celebration. It’s a bit ironic, because the wedding is really all about the couple. But for shy, introverted people, it can be terrifying. Large social gatherings can be stressful for many people. It’s not unusual, and there is nothing wrong with being uncomfortable in the spotlight.

A wedding should not be an ordeal, but sometimes it is. Our culture puts so much pressure on people, with a very homogenous idea of how this should all look and feel. The best day of your life? The day you’ve been waiting for, forever? That’s a high bar indeed! Your wedding does not have to be like other weddings, whether friend’s weddings or in magazines, movies or television. It is unrealistic. It’s crazy.

I have a few suggestions for you, if this is sounds familiar.

1. The ‘first look’ phenomena will really help – seeing each other for the first time on the big day can be stressful. A first look, a private moment together (with or without photography) can help with the jitters.

2. Skip the ‘first dance’ completely. If you wish, replace it with something else, like an anniversary dance, or just have everyone join in. The couple in the spotlight dancing for the first time as married, blah blah blah – it is not necessary. Let your band or DJ know – and stick to it – don’t let them tell you otherwise. They work for you, not the other way around.

3. Speaking of music, you don’t have to throw a big dance party if it’s not your style. You might choose a duo or trio to play some quieter selections. This can be very sophisticated. A luncheon instead of a dinner tends to be more casual, too, which can also help.

4. Choose clothing that feels like you. Don’t get pressured into a big gown or tuxedo if you don’t feel comfortable in it. The same goes for hair and make-up. It’s not a glamor shoot.

5. Limit the guest list. A smaller wedding will be easier to deal with. What’s a smaller wedding? Good question! Under 100? Under 50?  Or even very, very small. Speaking of numbers, keep the attendants, (bridesmaids/groomsmen) to a minimum, too, or have none at all. Yes, it is totally ok NOT to have these specially selected people stand with you. The entire bridal-party situation can lead to lots of stressful interpersonal conflicts and anxieties. You really can get married without this.

6. The ’sweetheart’ table is the table just for the couple at the reception, the one where they sit by themselves. Perhaps it’s better to sit at a group table with closest family and friends, rather than be isolated. Come to think of it, this is a good choice for lots of couples. Being at your own table cuts you off and plays into the isolation, and you may wind up feeling alone at your own wedding. My intent here is to suggest things that will help you feel a part of your own weddingwithout the stress, not to have you run away from it…

7. …but you can have a designated retreat location for the two of you. If you get totally frazzled at your reception, take five or ten minutes and go to your special place and take a breath, then go back to it.

8. Giving a speech at your own wedding is not required. If you feel you must do it, write it ahead of time. Instead, visit each table and simply thank them for coming. That truly is enough. Your guests are coming to support you. They know you, and love you, so likely they understand you are shy. A simple ‘thank you for coming today’ is really just fine. Your guests will say lots of nice things – smile and nod your head.

Staying true to yourselves, and limiting stressful situations, will enhance your comfort level and even save money. You should have a wedding that works for you. And if you can’t, consider eloping! I’m always available.

  thanks to Lisa Rhinehart rhinehartphotography


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Rituals to Pledge Love – Learning about Shintoism

The longer I officiate weddings, the more I recognize and appreciate the commonalities, connections and universalities of the human experience. As the old saying goes: ‘you learn something new every day,’ to which I might add: I hope so.

I recently worked with a couple who followed a Buddhist spiritual path alongside Shintoism. These belief systems are the two major religions of Japan, are not incompatible in the least. In fact, they are very interconnected. So I was anxious to learn more and see what elements might be incorporated into their wedding ceremony.

Shintoism is a religion that may go back as long ago as 1,000 BCE and is still practiced today by at least five million people. The basic tenants are a belief in spirits known as ‘Kami’ that live in our natural world, in plants and animals, even mountains, rivers or rocks, and people here and gone. In other words, all of the world is sacred. All of these spirits are important but the most important kami is called Amaterasu, the sun goddess.

There is no strict doctrine or dogma in Shintoism, but there are teachings, grouped into scriptures that include (as do all religions) creation stories, and instructions for life. Much of this wisdom centers around respect for ancestors, the virtue of being sincere and doing good in the world.

A Shinto wedding incorporates some awesome elements, including a sakéritual, something I can readily relate to, having created many wine (or other beverage) sharing rituals. The saké, which is rice wine, is very traditionally Japanese – and here we see that deep intertwining of Japanese culture and Shinto ritual. The couple drinks the sacredsakéfrom the same glass to symbolism their promise. I am also a fan of having the couple drink from the same glass, because it clearly represents sharing your future. You are drinking together from the cup of life! You are promising to share all the sweetness and whatever bitterness it contains, which is what marriage is all about.

Some of the other rituals in Shinto wedding also feel familiar and appealing. The‘steps to pledge love’ I found extremely cool. This is simply when the couple walks together up the steps to the Shinto shrine, where the priest will marry them. A shrine maiden carries a red umbrella, also familiar in non-Shinto Japanese weddings. The color red in Japan is important, symbolizes life, and wards off evil spirits, plus it conveniently keeps the bride dry if it happens to rain. The umbrella is quite large but carried by man in non-Shinto weddings. But in either case they follow the bride in a wedding procession.

Another element is the purification ceremony, where the priest purifies the couple, cleansing them of the unconscious sins of daily life. I like this because it’s valuable to recognize that we don’t always do or think the right things, sometimes without even realizing it. Not surprising, many faiths incorporate ritual washings, too, including Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Islam, the Bahá’í Faith, Taoism, and even the Rastafari movement. I just recently worked with a Christian couple who washed either other’s feet as part of their wedding ceremony. It was beautifully humbling.

The ‘norito’ is the Shinto document declaring the couple’s marriage intent, and promising a happy lifetime. And again, most every culture and religion has something similar.

Brides usually wear a traditional kimono, in all-white, representing purity. And men, too, wear a traditional kimono with their family crest. Yes, men have kimonos.

Shinto shrines are quite beautiful and there are about 80,000 in Japan. They can be visited by tourists, and if you travel to Japan you don’t want to miss seeing at least one. These shrines are not to be confused with Buddhist temples. All entering the shrine must purify their hands and mouths at the water pavilion. At the altar, bow and clap your hands twice, then bow once to pray.

Previously knowing so little about Shintoism (how did I miss this in religious studies in college?) I am now inspired by their rituals and will be influenced by them in the future, no doubt.


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Eight ideas for Letting Go

How do you let go of the things that do not matter? This is a big question in life, but I am, however, just going to talk about it in relation to weddings.

All you really need to get married is a marriage license and someone to officiate the “I dos” and sign the license – not including, of course, a loving partner! Everything else is an extra. Those extras can keep adding up until the wedding becomes something larger than life.

I am not advocating you skip customs or traditions that mean something to you, but just reminding people that there are a few things you can trim from the ‘to-do’ list, and trim down the stress. Letting go is easier said than done, but here are a few suggestions of things you could let go of,if you wish.

Eliminating some of these non-essentials can save you time, money and aggravation! Here are some wedding extras that could be skipped:

1. Wedding Program – if you are just listing the ‘order of service’ you are wasting time and paper. This type of program only encourages people to check off items as the ceremony progresses and leaves nothing for a surprise. Let the ceremony unfold naturally.

2. Favors – Have you ever received a favor at a wedding that meant anything to you, that you used, saved, or enjoyed? No? Me neither.

3. Bouquets for mothers – Don’t know where this idea came from, but why are moms now carrying bouquets? Corsages are more than enough – and please be aware that many dresses do not take well to pinning something to them. Do you like those wrist corsages? No. Me neither.

4. Fancy ring box – not needed. Enough said.

5. A dinner menu on the table – definitely not needed.

6. Robes for bridesmaids – nice and quite the indulgence….but…although this is a very nice as a gift for your ‘girls’, don’t have them embroidered with your name and/or wedding date, or even ‘bridesmaid,’ if you expect the women to use them in the future.

7. Chair decorations – are not necessary and can even make the room too fussy. You can save some time and money skipping this one. Unless the chairs are beat-up and need covers, then by all means cover them. You may just want to decorate the newlywed’s chairs instead.

8. And here is a really radical idea – do not have attendants, you know – bridesmaids and groomsmen. I know people totally expect this, but it really isn’t necessary. Explain to your friends and family you don’t want to have to choose between them all, who will be the ‘best’ man or woman, and who gets to stand with you. And think about how keeping it simple makes a statement – that the wedding is about the two of you. Eliminating attendants isn’t for most people, but is does eliminate a lot of stress and saves money, too.

I don’t want to come off as negative, but I do want to remind you that although any of these things can be WONDERFUL to include, you certainly do not needthem. If your wedding planning is getting out of hand, ask yourself what you can let go of, and then do it. Take a breath and remember why you’re getting married. Then pop the champagne! Don’t let go of that!


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Mazel Tov!

A Look at Jewish Wedding Rituals and Some Modern Updates

Today I’m going to share a brief explanation of some popular, and some lesser known wedding rituals in the Jewish tradition. Additionally, I also explain how I might reinterpret them for modern couples, whether culturally Jewish (but non-practicing), same-sex couples, and interfaith couples.

Perhaps the best known and most beloved Jewish wedding tradition is the ‘Breaking the Glass’which done at the end of the ceremony. This custom, and that is exactly what it is, it is not a religious rite, has many explanations. No one seems to know the exact origin but a minor religious connection is that it is said to represent the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the most holy place in all of Jewish history. With that explanation, I might add that without one’s history your life is not complete.

I like the idea that it represents the fragility of life and love, and that it reminds us that we need to care for each other. Breaking the glass into pieces can signify that marriage should be as difficult to break apart as it would be to put back the pieces of broken glass. Some say the number of pieces represent the number of years you’ll be married. I also prefer the idea that when you break the glass, it you cannot undo that act, and so should it be in marriage. There are several other stories about this custom, but the best part of stepping on the glass (which is wrapped in a cloth) is when everyone shouts ‘Mazel Tov,’ meaning good luck, after the feat is accomplished (pun intended).

To modernize this tradition some couples are breaking the glass together, and it doesn’t just have to be a man who does the stomping, I have had brides also do it. Breaking the Glass is a great way to end a ceremony!

The chuppah (there are many alternate spellings, as this is a transliteration from Hebrew) is another well-known element of a Jewish wedding. The chuppah is the canopy that the couple, and often their parents, stand under for the ceremony. It represents the home, and the protection and safety that should reside within your home. It is held up by four poles, and sometimes people actually hold those, even walking it in. Dramatic indeed. It can be difficult to hold the chuppah through the entire ceremony, though, so be sure the poles are long enough to put on the ground and still be able to stand underneath. Most often it is set up ahead of time at the altar area. There are no specific requirements other than that it covers you, or you stand under it, and couples can create their own chuppah, as elaborately or simple as they wish. I’ve seen some really beautiful chuppahs! Some couples use an existing arbor at a venue to represent the chuppah, and that’s ok, too.

The ‘circling ceremony’ is an ancient custom in which the bride walks around, or circles, the groom seven times. It may or may not coordinate to the ‘seven blessings’ (another tradition). It is said to demonstrate that the groom is the center of her life, or that she is the keeper of the home. There are some more egalitarian interpretations of this, and I have also created my own modern re-interpretations of this as well. For example, the groom may circle the bride, then the bride circles the groom. For same-sex couples you could the same thing.  I have written text that defines (or redefines) this ritual act as symbolizing that the bride will protect her husband, and have an equal role in the home, just as he agrees to protect her.

The seven blessings are part of a religious Jewish ceremony, and it’s a nice touch to have friends or relatives read them. They are part of a worship service, exalting God, but I have also adapted them in modern ways. So rather than saying, for example: ‘Blessed are you God, who create life,’ I might say ‘May you be blessed with generosity and giving with each other.’ And then six more variations!

The Ketubah is the marriage contract with ancient roots as well. Historically it spelled out the rights of the woman in the marriage, which I always take to be quite progressive for ancient times. Today many couples choose a Ketubah for symbolism and beauty. Many are works of art, and there are even inter-faith Katubahs. This tradition is one that adapts to modern times rather well, because it is already based in giving women rights.

There are other customs and traditions, but those are my favorites. Wine sharing and blessings can be included, and it is traditional for the couple’s parents escort them in. The veiling ceremony is when the groom sees the bride for the first time. The groom looks at his bride, they share a brief moment, and then he covers her with her veil. I’m not a fan of this one. I do like when the groom wraps his prayer shawl around the bride’s shoulders as a symbol of unity.

If not getting married in synagogue, a couple can still incorporate one or more of these rituals. These beautiful and rich traditions add depth to any ceremony when one or both of the partners identify with Jewish heritage.

     Thank you Lisa Rhinehart

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An Untraditional Royal Wedding!

You’ve probably heard the news – there’s going to be a Royal Wedding! I’ve never been a follower or fan of the whole British Royalty thing – but I do love weddings, and there are a few observations about the upcoming marriage of His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales (aka: Prince Harry) and Meghan Markle.

Meghan & Harry

We know modern weddings can be expensive, but the cost of their celebration is estimated at $45 million; but, to be fair, a lot of that goes to security.  In most ways, it will be a very royal affair, with fancy hats, ridiculously gorgeous flowers, and I’m sure the wedding dress will be amazing as well. With a backdrop of Windsor Castle how could this anything but a fairy-tale wedding? They will have a traditional wedding breakfast after the morning ceremony, though. Not quite American style, that’s for sure, but it won’t be breakfast as we think of it.

Yes, it will certainly be elaborate, but in a few ways the couple has made real breaks from tradition, and I applaud them for it. After all, the soon to be Princess is a modern and American woman. Ms Markle is already unusual for what Brits are used to in Royal couplings. But being charming, smart, and beautiful, she has won them over, or at least most of them. There are always some haters, we’ve come to expect that today, unfortunately.

By any other standard their wedding would never be considered low-key, but by royal standards it will indeed.  Some of the modern changes include Ms. Markle having her mother escort her down the aisle. We simple commoners may find this quite normal, but it certainly is a break from royal traditions – and if royalty is about anything at all, it’s about tradition.

Kate & William on the balcony

The couple is also prioritizing friends and family over guests with titles and dignitaries, however it is expected that there will be many celebrities attending. Given that Ms. Markle is an actress this is not surprising.

They have chosen a smaller chapel than previous royal weddings.  It will be held in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. I’m sure it’s a dump! They are also forgoing the ‘balcony kiss’ for the public, as well as ditching the carriage processional though London.

Remember, Queen Victoria started so much of how we think about modern weddings, and I’ve referenced her many times in this column. She, too, wanted it simple, but that was not going to happen. Victoria, whose name is even given to the era, is the one who gave us the white wedding gown, which she wore with gorgeous accessories such as jewelry and gloves. She wore a wreath of myrtle and orange blossoms on her head, however, I have not seen that recently. She popularized the wedding cake, and had 12 bridesmaids.

The Wedding of Queen Victoria

Many of us are old enough to remember Prince Charles marrying Diana Spencer at St Paul’s Cathedral. Her dress, was, in my opinion, hideous, although I may not have thought so at the time. Some fashions do not quite pass the test of time. But 750 million people watched the ceremony on TV and 600,000 people filled the streets of London to get a glimpse of the couple. I guess that tells us just how popular Royal Weddings can be. Then followed Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, Prince Edward and who even remembers her name, Prince Charles famously marrying Camilla Parker-Bowles, which was scandalous indeed. Prince William married Catherine Middleton, in 2011, yet another commoner!

So, for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, tune in on May 19thunless you plan to attend. After all, she is American and so are we, I’m sure we’ll be welcomed, although I heard the President is not.


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Let’s go to Brazil

I recently officiated for a bride from Brazil and it led me to explore the wedding traditions of that vibrant country.

When we think about Brazil from our perspective here in the U.S. we often think of the excitement and their world-famous Carnival or Ipanema beach.But there is more to Brazil than that.

Brazil is the largest country in South and Latin America, with over 208 million people, making it the fifth-largest county by area and the sixth-largest by population. Although the rest of South and Latin America speak Spanish, Brazilians speak Portuguese.

Their wedding ceremonies are most often in the church, as most of the country practices Roman Catholicism, having the largest number of Catholics in the world. So, the ceremony is something many Americans would be familiar with.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Brazil since May 2013, and clearly those weddings will not be held in the church.  So, what other options are there? In Brazil, notaries can officiate marriages, so many people are becoming notaries and officiating weddings in many of the amazing locations around this beautiful country.

 It is the custom in Brazil for both brides and grooms to wear engagement rings. And as often the case here, couples usually do not see each other before the ceremony. The groom arrives at the church first and the bride is expected be a little late, to add to the drama, no doubt.

Bridesmaids each wear a different color, instead of matching colors, and the brighter, the better. Now, there’s that Brazilian flare! We’ve been mixing it up here lately, too. I love the idea of dresses that don’t exactly match but somehow work together.

photo: Vanessa Abbud

No Brazilian wedding celebration would be complete, without the great music of this country, which is famous for samba and bossa nova.
bem casadosis a delicious sweet treat (which looks a lot like a macaron) and is often given as a favor at Brazilian weddings, probably because the name translates to “good marriage.”

In keeping with the Brazilian spirit, a wedding is an elaborate and festive occasion, and gold shoes are popular for the bride. There is lots of pre-wedding pampering going on for the women.

The night before the wedding the groom’s tie is cut up in pieces and those pieces are auctioned off at the reception. This is the job of the best man, and the money is meant on help with the couple’s honeymoon.

Extra cash is also raised with that gold shoe belonging to the bride. She puts it in the center of the dance floor and guests drop money in, as a form of well-wishes, that the couple’s financial future but prosperous.

One old tradition is the ‘donkey taming.’ This entails a groom doing just that: taming a donkey. This shows he is trustworthy and responsible. I hope it doesn’t represent taming his bride, but historically that could be the case. Today it is done in fun, and donkeys are sometimes incorporated in weddings, where they can carry flowers, escort the bride, or other photo opportunities.  Please have your donkeys dressed up. Donkeys are adorable, but apparently ubiquitous in Brazil, so much so that they are sometimes considered a problem.

For the wedding I recently created, to honor the bride’s Brazilian heritage, the couple each read their vows in Portuguese and in English.

From white-sand beaches, rainforests and rhythm-filled metropolises, with its legendary biodiversity, Brazil would be an amazing place to visit, and have a wedding. Please take me with you!

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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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