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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Kilts, Bridescake and Cheese

Ancient and Unusual Scottish Wedding Traditions

While every culture has its traditions and it’s fun to explore them, the Celtic wedding customs are especially appealing to me. Breaking down the term Celtic – it generally refers to the languages and respective cultures of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, and Brittany.

I have already written about many Celtic traditions, especially for Irish and Scottish weddings, and last year when I took a trip to Edinburgh (highly recommended, by the way) I did some research and wrote a column on it. I’ve shared information about handfasting, bells, the oak branch, the Claddagh ring, good luck horseshoes, Irish music, Irish blessings,and other cool traditions that are still actively used.

But recently, I learned more about some of very unique ancientScottish marriage customs, most of them left in the ash heap of history. I’m going to share some of these almost forgotten traditions, at least as I have learned about them. Why? Because they’re intriguing, and entertaining.

To begin, I found this: in Gaelic it’s called therèiteach, and it is something we see in almost every culture – an agreement between the couple. When it was done in Scotland it would take place a few weeks before the ceremony, at the home of the bride’s father. Now here’s the crazy part we might not imagine doing today: Friends of the bride and groom would be there, and a series of ‘false brides’ would be brought in to be presented to the groom. Hilarity ensued, especially because they always included a married or elderly women.

Another odd custom was to have afriend of the groom ask for the bride’s hand in marriage on his behalf. Here’s the twist for this one: the bride would be referred to, not by name, but as something else. This ‘something else’ often related to the bride’s family’s trade, so, for example, if she was from a farm family, she might be referred to as a lamb. The groom’s friend would promise the groom would take good care of the lamb.  This would all be done in a very good-natured way, apparently. Not meant to dehumanize the woman, I presume, just lighthearted word play.  At least I hope so.

The foot washing tradition is something we see in many different cultures. The ancient Scottish take on this was to have fiends of the bride wash her feet in a tender and symbolic act of cleansing. Treatment of the groom, however, was a little different. His feet were covered in soot and feathers. Soot represented hearth and home and was thought to be lucky. Over time, this tradition evolved to include other substances, such as boot polish, tar, molasses, eggs and flour. Then, it got really out of hand and no longer were just the feet blackened. The groom (and sometimes the bride) would be covered from head to foot in all sorts of messy substances. This is still done sometimes – but probably best not on the wedding day.

Another old custom is what was called the ‘bridescake.’ Today we recognize it as simple the wedding cake. But this cake was made by the bride’s mother and was usually just a scone or shortbread. Here’s the fun part: part of the cake was broken over the bride’s head, signifying, as so many ancient rituals did, fruitfulness or fertility. I would love to do something like this in a wedding, but I don’t think any brides want to be covered in cake before the reception. We could, however, hold up an umbrella.

And finally, the old Scottish ‘cheese prank.’ This involves putting some preferably strong- smelling cheese between towels or fabric and placing in the wedding bed for good luck. Why is sleeping on cheese good luck? I have no idea.

Some of these traditions were done up to the 1920s which is why there is some good documentation. However, I don’t believe most of these still take place, except the ‘blackening’ thing. Maybe we’ll see a revival of some of these customs, who knows?

All cultures provide food and drink to celebrate marriage and in rural Scotland celebrations were held at home, with friends and neighbors preparing for weeks for this wedding feast. It’s good to know that some good things never change, and I’ll drink to that!






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When Actions Speak Louder…

I write a lot about customs and rituals; why am I always going on about this? What does it even mean, and why is it important?

Rituals are actions and words that are performed repeatedly and represent something specific. Something as simple as walking down the aisle at a wedding is a ritual. Symbols are the physical representation of ideas and thoughts. And both, either separate or together, move us beyond words. Symbols and rituals have been a part of all cultures for as long as… well, culture has existed. The Roman Catholic Church has amazing, old and mesmerizing rituals, and a lot of people tell me that is one reason they attend church.

Many rituals are tied directly to location, that is, countries, regions, and language, and others tied more to religion, where they have always played a huge role.  Rituals add a sort of magic, they allow the imagination to soar and connect us in ways mere words do not. In themselves, rituals and symbols do not hold power, it’s how they are used by us humans. They clearly have been used for better and for worse.

For weddings, as in the afore mentioned walk down the aisle, ritual is very important. That is because it connects us to the past while also creating a bridge into the future, which is exactly what needs to be done for an important milestone in life.

And while rituals can come from your background, whether faith tradition, culture, or your spirituality, how you see life and the greater world around us, rituals can also come have roots in your interests or passions. That is something quite different from the traditional, prescribed way of doing things. Ritual that is modern, quirky, and outside of the norm, can still be a ritual.

Take Water for example

Water has great meaning in religion, from baptism and holy water, to the sacred Ganges River in India, water is an ancient symbol. But it could also mean a lot to you if you love to be by the water, fish, or enjoy water sports. You may be concerned about the environment and the importance of access to clean water. I know many people find peace simply sitting by water, whether a river, lake, stream or ocean. I know I do.

If your wedding is taking place by the water – what an amazing opportunity to talk about that symbolism, even without necessarily doing any ritualistic action. I have, however, used a near-by body of water, by tossing pebbles into it after the ceremony, representing wishes, or blessing, or sending prayers into the universe, noting our place in nature and the world.

I also love using water as a symbol in a ritual, in fact, anything that relates to nature always appeals to me. But when I create a wedding, it isn’t about me. (Just needed to be sure to say that!) So, if the couple relates to water, we’ll explore it. How? It could something like sharing a drink of water, watering a plant or tree, pouring water back and forth, anointing, almost anything can be turned into a meaningful ritual given the right symbolism. It has to fit.

Water can be used for washing feet, in an ancient tradition that symbolizes being humble, serving another, and of course, purity. In Christianity, it specifically represents of the love Christ showed for his disciples when he washed their feet. I found it especially moving when Pope Frances washed the feet on immigrants, including Muslims, Hindus, Catholic and Coptic Christians.

In Judaism, it is customary for mourners to wash their hands upon leaving the cemetery as a symbol of spiritual cleansing. And in Islam ritual cleansing with water is done to the hands, mouth, nostrils, arms, head and feet and is an important part of ritual purity before prayer. In all these traditions, water is a beautiful symbol of humility, devotion and caring.

Water or wine, ancient or modern, religious or secular, ritual is the language of ceremony.

     Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the use of your wonderful photography

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The Evolution of the Processional

The processional: the first big moment of the wedding. It’s dramatic, with all eyes on that walk down the aisle.  There are some standards and rules that are easy to find in, for example, the Catholic Church, or other traditional services and settings. And, no matter what the traditional order of entrance, we’re most used to seeing the groom waiting at the altar for his bride to make her big entrance. But what if it’s two brides or two grooms?

One of the biggest and very positive effects gay weddings are having on straight weddings, is allowing us to think differently about the processional.

At this point in time, is there really any difference at all between a straight couple or a gay couples’ wedding?  I’m fond of saying there is no difference, but that isn’t entirely true.

There are a few nuisances to consider, and the processional is one of them.

In the end, everyone has the choice to create a different style processional, if they so desire. If you are not within the confines of a specific tradition, which maydictate exactly how that will go (and be sure ask about it if you’d like something different)the processional can be changed up in exciting new ways. With modern weddings, we have the opportunity to bend or break the rules. Don’t panic. You’ll still be married even if your processional is a bit different.

I understand that, for most people, the bride’s entrance is a moment she, and maybe her entire family, has been waiting for a lifetime. A father escorting his daughter down the aisle might his dream as well as hers, and a beautiful moment for sure. But it is not always an option. Sometimes there is no father in the picture, or for many reasons, it just may not work.

I have learned that when we break from traditions, for good reasons, we can enhance our experience, whether straight or gay.  Creating something that reflects who we are, and being authentic, is worth the time and thought.

There are a couple of ways to approach this.  Let’s break it down.

Photo credit: Garth Woods

The couple enters together. This is one of my favorite ways for any couple to enter. And it works well, not only for same-sex couples, but for anyone, and especially for an older couple who may have had a more traditional experience the first time around. It clearly symbolizes equality, and partnership, and if there are children involved, walking in with the kids is also great. As they enter, I might say, ‘please stand to greet the happy couple’, or ‘please welcome our brides’ (or grooms).

Two aisles– Instead of a center aisle, each partner can enter along the sides and meet at front,  or have two aisles created if space permits. Coming up next year and I have couple at a fancy resort, who worked out entering the ceremony space not just along the sides of the chairs, but from completely different locations, utilizing the entrances available at the venue. It is going to be very effective and dramatic. If escorted by a parent or parents, everyone meets and the front, with hugs and kisses all around and then the parents can take their seats.

Separately, down one aisle. Many people and many places are not happy if there is no center aisle, or can’t imagine creating two aisles. But if both partners are entering down the center aisle, it becomes tricky when deciding who enters first. Someone has to go first. I’m often relieved when the couple already has a clear idea about that, but if not, it has to be decided. Flip a coin maybe?

I have had a few same sex couples who chose to have one partner wait at the front and the other enter, perhaps feeling it is the traditional way to do it, and there is nothing wrong with that, either.

As to the rest of the processional – the attendants, aka: ‘bridal party’ – the good news is many young couples today are mixing it up. The people standing with you need not be dependent on their gender, but rather their relationship to you.  And how they enter can be interesting. aaI like alternating each attendant, as they enter, and having them peel off, left and right, each going to stand by ‘their’ person. They can also enter in pairs, and there’s nothing wrong with two men or two women entering as a ‘pair.’  If they enter separately they might then recess as couples. When there is an uneven number, have a best person walk alone, or space permitting, three people can walk out together. Attendants can also escort single parents, grandparents, or anyone who needs help, seat them, and then stand at the front.

The processional can be as innovative as you want it to be, and it will start the ceremony and the big day with a refreshing outlook.


     Thank you Lisa Rhinehart   and Garth Woods,  for the use of your wonderful photography



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To Gift or not to Gift – a brief history

Wedding gifts have been around for a long time, and are thought to have roots in the ‘bride price’ or dowry that was paid to the bride’s family. That usually included land, animals, money, or other forms of what is called ‘historic wealth’ – not exactly a gift, more of a negotiation. The first recorded dowry was thought to be given in 3,000 B.C.

A few thousand years passed and the marriage chest shows up – this was to hold a women’s worldly goods, the things she would bring with her when she marries, adding, one presumes, to her value.

Skipping ahead quite a bit, because I need to get there, we come to the 1920’s when Macy’s Department Store cleverly thought up the gift registry. Crystal, silver, and china were common things to include, and picking out the right china pattern, and other tableware, was essential for brides of yesteryear.

The registry is still popular, but increasingly common is for guests to stray from the registry, expressing their individuality through their gift. I know I do. And also, very commonly, just gifting money. You can’t go wrong with money. With many couples already living together before marriage, all those classic items, such tableware or the toaster, are not needed.

Gift giving has expanded, with gifts for the wedding party, from the couple –  giving attendants a token of thanks. I get that, although it isn’t completely necessary. And taking it even further, couples getting married now sometimes give each other gifts. This is done either on the eve of the wedding or on their wedding day. When did this become a thing? Isn’t there enough expense?

The exchange of gifts between the couple is not, as one blog put it, a ‘time honored’ tradition, even though gift giving itself clearly has a long history.

And there is a potential downside to this. I would not want either partner feeling bad about a gift whether given or received. A gift should make you feel good, but sometimes it disappoints and that is worse than no gift.

Couples really need to talk this over and if they do, perhaps they will decide to forgo it completely. It can be a set up for disappointment. One partner may expect something extravagant, romantic or very personal and the other choose something practical, even humorous, or inexpensive, and even if still meaningful, might be a let-down. Maybe together a couple can choose a charity to donate to as their first gift as a married couple.

Don’t get me wrong – if you do decide to exchange gifts, it certainly can be a tender moment. I’m only saying don’t feel pressured to do this ‘new tradition.’

The way couples might go about this is to send someone to deliver the gift, not exchanging it directly. That’s pretty cool. Some of the gifts suggested for a bride or groom to exchange are keepsake boxes, jewelry, (for men – cufflinks, watches) a monogramed handkerchief for those tears, or something engraved, and of course the exchange of letters, or cards, which I don’t really count in the same way.

Writing a note, letter or getting a card from your soon-to-be spouse, can be meaningful and even cathartic. The art of letter writing is being lost and I, for one, think letters are wonderful. Letters are great to exchange if you are doing the ‘first look.’

There is so much gift giving for a wedding, it can get out of hand. I’m told even parents sometimes give their children gifts on their wedding day.

But one gift that should be given, always, is from a guest to the couple. That we cannot leave out. All the rest of it, please talk it over, it’s not really required.

     Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the use of your wonderful photography

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A Marvelous Living Side-by-Side

When working with a couple on their wedding ceremony, I always ask about their family backgrounds. Sometimes it doesn’t resonate for them, it just isn’t important, many identify as a big mix, which they call simply, American. But for others, the history of their families does matter.

With about 58 million Americans claiming to be solely or partially of German descent, I want to talk about German customs. That’s a large number of Americans with ancestors who immigrated from Germany, about 17% of the total U.S. population, so it comes up a lot. It’s especially true here in Pennsylvania, where we have ‘Pennsylvania Dutch,’ a term, by the way, that came about because the word ‘Deutsch,’ meaning German, sounds like ‘Dutch.’

Quite a while ago I wrote about the custom of ‘sawing the log’ – so I won’t go into too much detail on that. But simply stated, it involves the couple using a two-person saw, to saw the log in half. This action shows cooperation and taking on the first difficult task as a married couple. Although it’s usually done after the ceremony I have done this right in the ceremony itself – which was quite fun!

In contemporary Germany, one can have either a civil ceremony or a religious one, and about 70% of Germans are Christians. In earlier times, a horse-drawn carriage with black horses brought the couple to and from the church. I love this! But today, limousines are used, just like here. I would sure love to see the horses, though, anytime, anywhere.

Here is an interesting German church ritual. When the priest joins the hands of the couple, a pre-planned struggle ensues. The bride tries to get the upper hand, and the groom does the same. This is sometimes settled by the priest placing the man’s hand uppermost. One of the pair, generally the bride, then tries to put her foot on top of the groom’s shoe with the same purpose. Then when the couple kneels during the ceremony, the groom might kneel on the hem of the bride’s gown, to symbolize he will keep her in order.  BUT – the bride may then step on his foot when she rises, to assert herself. This sounds pretty wild, yet seems to balance itself out.  It speaks to the classic ‘battle of the sexes,’ and I hope with modern couples it is done strictly in jest. A healthy relationship does not depend on someone having the upper hand or struggling for it. Having said that, I might not mind adapting this in some way, because it is kind of crazy and fun. I could see it ending up with them simply joining hands. Could be cute, what do you think?

Germans tend not to have attendants, that is, bridesmaids and groomsmen, or occasionally just one, but most often, none. Flower girls are popular, though.

Besides the flowers for the bride and in church, the hood of the wedding car is decorated with lots of flowers. May is the most popular month. After the wedding, a car procession is formed and drives through town honking their horns – others honk back wishing the couple good luck. We used to do this here, but it seems to have fallen out of favor.

Junggesellenabschied is a mouthful, but means that a few days before the wedding the groom and his male friends go to a pub to drink and have fun, so I guess it’s simply the bachelor party. Anything that involves German beer is ok in my book!

And polterabend is another German wedding custom — a big, all-night party prior to the wedding itself — where guests smash porcelain objects in order to bring luck to the couple’s marriage. It reminds me of the Jewish custom of ‘breaking the glass,’ and I’d love to incorporate breaking a piece of pottery into a German wedding ceremony.

Kidnapping of the bride – I wrote about this in depth recently, but I didn’t realize is was also popular in Germany. In fact, in some areas (mostly in small villages) friends still kidnap the bride and the groom has to find her. Hide and seek for adults. Normally, he has to search in a lot of pubs and invite all people in there to attend the wedding, or pay the whole bill. Sometimes this ritual ends badly.

Germans wear their matching wedding bands on their right hands. And diamond engagement rings aren’t really a thing in Germany, by the way.

There is lots to draw upon for German ancestry.  From my perspective as a Celebrant, I always look for meaningful readings from a culture, and Rainer Maria Rilke is considered one of the greatest poets of the German language. There are many quotes from him I have frequently used.

I leave you with this one: ‘The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.’


Thank you Lisa Rhinehart   and Kathryn Croskey  for the great photos.

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One to Remember

Your special, lucky wedding date

There are many reasons an engaged couple chooses a specific date for their wedding. They might think of the time of year, the season they prefer, and zero in on a date. Then, when they have found the location, they might discover their chosen date is not available and accept another. It helps to be flexible with that. But sometimes one’s heart is set on a specific date, for any number of reasons.

Numbers themselves can be interesting. There are those ‘lucky number’ dates. In the past, I officiated on 1/6/16 and 1/7/17, and other especially interesting sounding numbers. Some of the quirky numbers this year would be: 1/8/18 (already past), but 8/1/18 sounds good, or 8/18/18 maybe. I just booked 10/10/2020. Yikes!

Seven is considered a lucky number, maybe because there are seven seas, seven heavens (or seventh heaven), seven continents, seven colors in a rainbow, seven days in a week, the seven wonders of the world, and so on.

In Chinese culture the numbers 68 and 9 are generally considered to be auspicious, while 4 and 7 are not, so there goes that seven. The Chinese believe double digits are extra lucky and number 8 has long been regarded as the luckiest number because it sounds like the word for ‘fortune,’ and so it will bring good fortune and prosperity.

In Jewish numerology, known as ‘gematria’- the number 18 stands for “life”, because the Hebrew letters that spell chai meaning ‘life’ or ‘living,’ add up to 18. You have probably heard the expression ‘L-Chaim’ as a toast, which means ‘to life!’  Thirty-six is important for a couple because 2×18=36, representing “two lives”.

Once I started looking into this more, I discovered, not surprisingly, that almost every culture or country has their own special numbers. A very interesting example is 666, which is supposed to symbolize ‘the beast’ or the Devil, so is unlucky in USA, UK, Brazil, or any predominately Christian country. But I was surprised to learn that in China, 666 can mean “everything going smoothly” and is often be seen in neon or on store signs. Perhaps like our ’10-4’ from the CB radio days.
Obviously, there are other and probably more important considerations besides numerology when choosing your date! You may consider it lucky to simply get the date you chose at the venue you chose. I’ve often heard from couples that they were surprised that their preferred location was booked up so far in advance.

Last minute weddings are fine, but you’d better be flexible. I’ve had a few on weekdays for that very reason. Speaking of off –peak, it’s true that many resorts and hotels have a slightly discounted price for Fridays and Sundays. I don’t see anything wrong with having your wedding then, and if it helps you be where you want to be, or helps your budget, all the better. Just remember to consider guests who are travelling to be with you when planning your schedule.

Most people do not choose a holiday weekend, but then again, some couples deliberately choose holidays. I married two military members who chose the 4th of July weekend, and we created a celebration that reflected not only their love for each other, but their love of country.

I’ve officiate weddings on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and included something to honor that. I made sure to recognize all the mothers (or fathers) who were attending. One wedding on Mother’s Day involved the bride giving a rose to every mom attending. That was beautiful.

Another good example of a holiday wedding is a Christmas time wedding, offering all kinds of opportunities for décor and other themed ideas.

Would you get married on your birthday, or your partners birthday? Probably not, you might get short changed with presents for the rest of your life. On the other hand, its one less date to remember. I’m kidding…. sort of.

What about someone else’s anniversary? Usually having your anniversary coincide with a parent or sibling’s anniversary isn’t the best idea, but I can imagine circumstances where it would work. If you have an especially excellent relationship and talk to the other couple first and they agree, why not? More appropriate perhaps, is a grandparents’ anniversary date.

Whatever date you choose, it will be YOUR date and one to remember.


     Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the use of your wonderful photography

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Summer dreams

As I sit at my computer watching more snow fall, my thoughts can’t help but drift to warm summer days, and I’m glad I’m not going anywhere to officiate a wedding in a foot of snow.

But once I get past the nostalgia, I remember that weddings on a really hot day may bring their own problems, as well. There truly is such a thing as too much of a good thing! You have to be prepared for too much heat, too many insects, sweaty armpits and clothing, men in black jackets, and sun in your eyes.

One thing I don’t see enough of in summer weddings is ice cream! We need more ice cream, gelato, sorbet, snow cones and other cool treats for summertime joy! Tubs filled with ice holding interesting sodas or sparking water, is sure to be appreciated as well.

Big umbrellas! If you are having an outdoor ceremony, cocktail hour or the entire affair out in the sun, consider having large patio-style umbrellas to create some shade. If your ceremony is set up in a sunny spot, have parasols available for guests to use.

Be sure to let your guests know what’s happening. If it is going to be outdoors, clearly inform them about how to dress and what to expect.

Timing is everything. Try to schedule your nuptials so you are not outdoors during the hottest part of the day, but also remember that sundown is a time that seems to bring out most flying critters. Provide bug spray – although I’m not a fan of chemicals – there are some good options out there.

Pick summer-themed music – such as beach songs, or just songs that remind us of summer or have lyrics about summer, to savor the time of year all the more. There are a lot to choose from. I like Sunny Afternoon by the Kinks, but I’m from that generation. You can include Beach Boys tunes, or go really old-school with Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer, or Summer Breeze.

Get the air moving with giant fans – they are rentable. You may want them if you are under a tent.

A pale color pallet is always summery, or even all white. And be open to men not wearing jackets.

As for my role, I always love to reference something relevant, so I may reference the weather, the time of year, especially if it has meaning for the couple. For example: ‘James and Jess met on a hot summer day, much like this one, six years ago.’

I may find a poem about summer, or excerpt from literature. In Loves Journey by Amanda Prescott she writes: ‘When the days wear long and it seems I can barely hold on, I close my eyes and think of you. And just as the warmth of the sun touches my skin, I recall how you have touched my heart.’

Let us dream on!

     Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the use of your wonderful photography


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500 and still going

This marks my 500th column for Pocono Wedding Talk. I can hardly believe it myself. People often ask me how I continue to come up with topics to explore. The answer is, I don’t know. I ask myself: why keep writing? I do have an answer to that. It is because I love being a celebrant and offering my little alternative perspective on the world of weddings. If this column has helped a few people over the years, that would make me extremely happy.

Because of the nature of weddings, I’m guessing that readers of this space come and go. If you’re about to be married, your children are about to be married, or your friends are about to be married, you may be more passionate about the topic of weddings at a particular time in your life. Thank you for checking this out.

Rhinehart Photography

But I’ve also had people tell me that although they are not involved in a wedding, they still read the column. Thank you to those people, too.

After 500 articles, I can’t say I haven’t revisited topics, or even from time to time reposted a column or two, especially one of my all-time favorites about wedding programs. I sometimes send that column to couples I’m working with, when I received an email from them asking for ‘the order of service.’ I know they want to do a program and likely intend to outline the ceremony. To which I advise – please don’t do that. This perennial column offers alternatives.

Other favorite topics over the years include talking about the emergence of LGBT weddings. The time frame for this column coincided with the legal battles for the right of gay people to marry and the ultimate win. Now-a-days gay weddings are just … well, weddings. Still, it was exciting to be on the cusp of change, and to be on the right side of history.

Another topic I enjoy writing about comes in many forms, in fact, it is the very theme, or sub-text, for much of this space –  it is how to be true to yourself when planning your wedding festivities.

Photo: Garth Woods

When travelling to other countries I always research their wedding traditions and have had a lot of fun writing about that. From Norway, to Portugal and Spain, to Morocco to Scotland and the UK, I’ve learned a lot about how other countries celebrate their marriage rites. And the many unusual and cool rituals from places I’ve never been – those have been explored, too. Customs and traditions are kind of my ‘thing.’ I’ve also written about weddings I’ve created, especially those that are a little out-of-the-ordinary. People always ask about that.

Religious, spiritual or secular is another topic I delve into often. The differing beliefs people hold can cause turmoil when trying to navigate the rite of passage that is a wedding. I hope I can help sort that out.

Remarriage, whether after the death of a spouse or a divorce, is another meaningful subject, along with including children in the ceremony in more meaningful ways.

You can always scroll back through columns either on the Pocono Record website, or on my website, if you are looking for a specific topic. And if there’s something you’d like me to think about, and write about, I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks to my current editor Ashley who does a great job and the Pocono Record for allowing me to be myself. And of course, 500 thanks to readers of these articles. I, too, benefit from the writing process. It keeps me engaged and continuing to develop my own thinking as a celebrant, and at my, let’s say, mature age, keeps my brain in gear.



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The Quiet Wedding

No two couples are alike, and not everyone wants a big fuss made over their nuptials, yet they still recognize that it is truly one of life’s big milestones and worthy of celebration. At least I hope they do.

When I hear a request for a ceremony that is ‘short and sweet’ it is often because the couple has never witnessed or imagined a personalized ceremony. They are trying to avoid a long, boring one, or may not want anything over-the-top.

Keeping it simple, however, is easier said than done when it comes to weddings. But it doesn’t have to be a choice between boring and electrifying, between plain and flamboyant. A simple wedding can be meaningful and less stressful to plan, as well as elegant. It may also give couples and families the opportunity to enjoy the event in deeper way. For more casual people, when we dress-up for special occasions, we sometimes don’t feel quite like ourselves. It’s good to be comfortable in your own skin (and clothing). Can you even imagine a bride not wearing a traditional wedding gown? Well, I can, and it can be wonderful.

Many couples find things spin out of control as they keep adding this or that to their preparations. Obviously, you need to plan ahead, even if you want something low-key. Not planning is not keeping it simple.

This is not about money, although keeping it simple can save you a bundle! On the other hand, in keeping it uncomplicated, you may be able to choose a higher-end venue, and top-notch food and drink selections, that wouldn’t have been in your budget if you had included a million-other check-listed items.

Here are some suggestions for what I’m calling the ‘quiet wedding.’

First set the mood. Instead of a party band or DJ, consider a small live ensemble, such as a jazz trio, or a group that plays mostly ‘standards,’ which means classic American songbook material. Even just a really good soloist, like a pianist, will create the right feel.

The venue will also make a big difference. In choosing an intimate setting for the ceremony and reception, and having them in the same location, you will keep it easier logistically for yourselves and your guests.

Stick to an indoor ceremony to help insure there is no stress about weather, clothing choices or back-up plans in case it’s too hot, too cold or it rains. Most hotels have a room for a ceremony and a room for the banquet, and top wedding venues absolutely have great choices for this.

Consider a luncheon instead of a dinner, and serve buffet style. Many people prefer to choose what they like from the selections, and an added plus is that you avoid a return reply that must include their choice of meal. This reduces your wedding planning work load a lot. Personally, I really love the buffet option, because I get to tailor my plate exactly to my own liking.

You can skip having bridesmaids and groomsmen if it feels like it may be difficult and complicate matters. There is no requirement that you have attendants. None.

There are so many wedding trends, and some trends become ensconced as traditions. I’m talking about things like gifts for attendants, save-the-date cards, or the pressure to put on a show for that ‘first dance.’ Any and all of these ‘extras’ can be skipped if they don’t appeal to you. Even flowers are not always necessary, although bouquets for women are always pretty and flowers are, to my taste, the best kind of decor.

For clothing, hair and make-up, you can make it easy, and still go as luxurious or unfussy as you wish. As I like to say: Don’t do the ‘up-do’ if it’s not you.

One thing I never advocate skipping or skimping on is photography. I recently wrote about that, and I will simply summarize by reminding everyone that photos are forever. They are part of your legacy. However, you can cut down on the hours for the photographer, not everyone wants photos of themselves getting dressed.

If you don’t want to give your guests a little take-home ‘chachkie’, try the candy bar instead. Simply buy a variety of bulk candies and little bags and ask everyone to fill a bag to take home. Simple, sweet (literally) and easy. If this trend is passé, I don’t care, I love it.

Whatever you decide, I hope you choose what is right for you. A wedding is not a show, and you don’t need to put-on airs. The best weddings are the ones the present the couple and the families in ways that truly resonate.

 Thank you Garth Woods for the beautiful photos  


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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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