Tales of Moroccan Weddings

My annual January trip is on, and we’re visiting Morocco, so naturally I wanted to learn more about the wedding traditions of this fascinating country.

The days when marriages were arranged are, for the most part, past. Today young people in Morocco choose their own partners, although parents still may have veto power. But no matter how modern the couple, the wedding is usually traditional, and when you read about their customs you will understand why.

Some brides will wear western dresses but most still choose a caftan or a takchita (a two-layer dress) made of silks, satins, and other rich materials, which are beautifully constructed and detailed. Jewelry is a must, and it, too is extremely extravagant. Hope I can find something wonderful to bring home!

Just one of the many beautiful looks of a Moroccan bride. (Caftanluxe)

The entire celebration can last up to seven days, with several pre-wedding ceremonies. Like our wedding shower, gifts are sent to the bride ahead of time. Two days before the wedding the bride has a tradition hamam (sometimes called a ‘Turkish bath’) – the ritual sauna – with girlfriends and women relatives. It is an act of symbolic purification and might even include songs performed by her friends.

Next comes the henna, a well-known tradition, and the henna from Morocco produces yellows and reds when painted on the body in beautiful designs. This too, has a ceremony element and represents a sort of ‘lucky charm’ for her new life. For the henna ‘party’ everyone enjoys tea, cookies and traditional Moroccan music. Older, married women share the “secrets” of marriage life with the bride-to-be. A custom says that the bride does not have to do any house works until her henna fades. I hope it’s a very long-lasting henna.

Henna hands from one of my brides!

On the day of the ceremony it all begins with more singing and dancing. Verses from the Koran are read, assuming it is a Muslim wedding. Islam is the majority and established state religion, but there are Christians, Jews and people of the Baha’i Faith in Morocco, and Moroccans are known to be a more tolerant country than many of their neighbors.

The bride is carried around on a large chair called the ‘Amariya’ as people get to see her and wish the couple good luck. The couple then sits in two comfy chairs in the center of the room for the actual nuptials. She can change her clothes up to seven times throughout the long day and night of celebrating. Wow! There are many women here who might get behind that idea.

All of these interesting customs apply to more populated areas. But Morocco is diverse and I also learned of this fantastic story about the Berber people who live high in the Atlas Mountains. I must share this story.

Potential brides at the Imilchil fair (From Sahara Discovery)

Berbers are a separate ethnic group indigenous to North Africa, going back thousands of years. There they hold the Imilchil fair, or moussem (which simply means festival) which commemorates an ancient, Shakespearian-like story of a son and daughter of warring tribes who, forbidden to marry, chose suicide rather than to be parted. The story continues with the tribal elders, heartsick from this tragedy, vowing to permit their children to choose their own spouses from then on. And that is how this festival came to be. It is a way for members of the isolated communities to meet and perhaps find a spouse.

Today, young women arrive at the fair dressed ready to be wed, usually in white but often covered by a traditional striped woolen cape in their tribal colors. Young men roam the crowd, looking for suitable wives, and a woman, if chosen, has the right to accept or refuse. An engagement ceremony is a critical element of the festival. However, a quick decision is expected, and at the end of the fair, a mass wedding is performed, or couples might just sign a marriage contract and save the big ceremony until all family members and friends can gather later. While some of the couples may have just met, many have a passing acquaintance with one another but follow the tradition by marrying during the fair. Now that is a story worth knowing!

I’m sure I won’t have an opportunity to attend a wedding on my visit, but I look forward to soaking in all the culture I can. I’ll be back soon with my own tales of Morocco.


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Will the new year bring marriage?

 If so, here are some basics to think about right from the start.

Happy New Year! It’s 2017 and maybe this year you, or someone you care about, will get married. If so, congratulations. Marriage is one of the big milestones in life, one with a deep, long history. Not that the institution has remained stagnant. After all, in ancient times and Biblical stories, multiple wives were common. The role of women in marriage and family has evolved over time.  Weddings, too, have changed. For example, fathers no longer give a dowry to get rid of their daughters. This we generally call progress.

So, if a wedding is coming up in your world this year, here are a few ideas you may find helpful.

Fireworks for the New Year!!!

You’ve probably already figured out that a wedding is about more than just the two partners. There are countless decisions to be made and everyone in your life has an opinion on them. Even an elopement says something about you and the other people in your lives. If you elope you must reassure your loved ones that you didn’t do this because or despite them, but that you chose to do it for the two of you. Easier said than done! Being true to yourself while you plan your wedding is difficult.

Ask yourself: What would you choose to do if you didn’t have to please others? What choices would you make if you didn’t care what others thought about it? The answers reveal what you want, but compromise is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s all about finding the right balance. This applies to everything from the type of ceremony you will have, to the bridesmaids’ dresses.

Is a casual wedding your style?

Budget, of course, is important. While you can’t always accurately assess what you can afford or how far you want to stretch your budget, we can assess your style. What would you most enjoy: a luncheon, dinner, buffet or formal sit-down meal?  A casual, relaxed party, a black-tie affair, or something in between? It’s good to feel like yourself at the very moment you are taking this big step in life without anxiety or feeling out-of-place. Bottom line: don’t let others talk you into something that isn’t ‘you.’

Games can be great at a casual wedding.

Sometimes I get inquiries about my services as an officiant saying they are looking for a ‘short and sweet’ ceremony. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is because many people have never experienced a truly great ceremony. The wedding ceremony should not be something simply to endure. Even within the tight strictures of some denominations you can still bring in elements of yourself, especially through readings, music and your choice or creation of vows. Don’t be afraid to ask and advocate for yourself.

A program booklet that explains what and why something is happening rather than just gives the guests a check-list to mark-off will also add value to your ceremony. It can contain stories, thank you messages, and other personal touches, such as details about your attendants, parents, or even pets.

Many couples tell me that wedding planning was more difficult than they expected. That is why it’s so important to get your priorities clear right from the start. You need to know what to expect when you’re expecting a wedding. Happy new year and happy wedding planning.

Happy New Year - fireworks any time!!

Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the gorgeous photos.



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The Strange Story of Krampus – a Christmas Tradition

I couldn’t help but notice recently that Krampus is getting some attention. I wrote a little bit about the horrible Christmas demon quite a few years ago, but now I’m going to go a little deeper into it, because, well… it’s just so weird. I know, I know – this is supposed to be a wedding column, but I’m sneaking it in under my fascination with rituals and tradition. Just go with it.

We know that Santa Claus, or Saint Nick, goes by many names and takes many forms around the world. Perhaps the strangest connection to Mr. Claus is not Mrs. Claus, or elves, but the anti-Santa – Krampus!

How weird is this?

Krampus is a beast-like creature who punishes or rewards children at Christmas time (he obviously knows if you’ve been bad or good). He’s ‘bad Santa,’ kind of an alter-ego for our beloved Jolly Kris Kringle. He literally beats people into being nice, although I don’t think that really works. He has horns that curl up from his head, fangs, and comes complete with a chain and bells, along with his bundle of sticks for hitting the naughty. Oh, did I mention he might be half-goat?


This demon-like creature has roots in Germanic folklore and is still somewhat popular in that region. While this is a German tradition, the roots go all the way back to Norse mythology, with a dash of Greek thrown in there. It’s not uncommon for people to dress up as Krampas on Krampusnacht (Krampus Night) which is December 6th, or St. Nicolas Day. The name Krampus comes from the German word ‘krampen’ which means claw. So he’s part man, part goat, part demon – he’s an all-around scary guy.

A modern spin on this tradition in not only in Germany, but Austria, Hungary, Slovenia and the Czech Republic where drunken men dress up as the devil (Krampus style) and take to the streets in ‘Krampus Run.’ Imagine being chased down the street by that!!

An old illustration of Krampus.

What is the fascination with demonic traditions and rituals? Like Halloween, and all things scary, psychologists say it is a way for people to get in touch with our most animalist nature, and to confront fears. It is mysterious and frightening, but not too frightening. Some people find fear exhilarating, and get a dopamine rush from it. But apparently it depends on your brain’s make up.

The Krampus character has been suppressed over the years by different groups, especially the Catholic Church and during WWII fascist governments also outlawed Krampus, but I’m not sure why. I guess since they liked scapegoats and Krampus is part goat … ??

Now Krampus is having a comeback. He’s been seen lately in comic books, television and movies. Philadelphia has been having a Krampuslauf (Krampus parade) since 2010, and regional variations are popping up everywhere these days. Expect a more toned down version of it, though, as commercialism is apt to do.

If you’re intrigued by Krampus – go all in – this demon has to be bad to the bone – or why bother? Krampus wedding anyone?


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2017 Wedding Trends - for better or for worse

A new year is dawning, and because I am clearly obsessed with weddings I always try to discern what the coming trends will be – good or bad, for better or worse.

Last week I wrote about the so-called colors of the year. Today I offer a few general trends that you may find interesting; some I’ve seen with my own eyes and some I’ve simply read about.

Interesting locations will continue to matter.

Drones – While preparing to officiate a ceremony in a gorgeous outdoor venue this past season, I noticed a drone flying overhead. It turned out to belong to the videographer. He assured me it would not fly by during the actual ceremony itself (thank you very much). He was recording amazing panoramic shots from above, and I was duly impressed, and even more so when he explained the footage would be shown at the reception. You can expect to see more of this.

All things social media will continue to rule! Wedding hashtags, of course, but we’ll see Instagram-ready short videos that look and feel like a movie trailer. I’ve seen amazing longer version videos, and I can easily imagine that with some clever editing it wouldn’t be too difficult to create shorter pieces as well.

The wine cellar made an amazing photo.

Taking photo booth to the next level by providing slo-mo effects and GIFs will keep your guests entertained….perhaps a bit too much. Be careful that your guests are not continuously visiting the effects booth all night long. Perhaps it’s better that we return to good old fashioned socializing, at least for weddings. There is a delicate balance with social media, which tends to take us into our own private world, isolated from each other, and from real human interaction. I worry this could have that very effect.

Trendy Drinks: The return of the Pimm’s Cup and the Side-Car – retro style mixed drinks. Pimms is a brand of fruit liqueur, first produced in 1828 by James Pimm.  It’s served in a variety of recipes. The’ Old-Fashioned’ comes from around the same era, 1862 to be exact, when it was called a ‘whiskey cocktail.’ Later, when a bartender somewhere served it this way, the whisky, sugar, bitters and water – he called it ‘old-fashioned’ and hence the term was coined. Today some people use gin instead of whiskey, but you’ll want to be authentic I’m sure.

Another drink trend is the Moscow Mule, which has nothing to do with Moscow or mules, but does contain vodka, ginger beer and lime. It goes into special cooper mugs with some ice. Copper cups are great in the summer, keeping drinks icy cool, and if you live in New Orleans this never went out of fashion! Buy them for your wedding and then have them for your home.

How to make a Moscow Mule.

A cocktail hour that evokes a wine tasting by pairing up local wines and cheeses is gaining popularity. Perhaps your first date or another memorable experience together was to a wine or beer tasting – why not recreate that experience for your guests. It gives your cocktail hour a theme and is really fun. The pairing aspect is the key here.

Depending on your location try to think local, especially with farm-to-table style food. This will continue to be a wonderful trend; in fact I hope it’s not a trend but a way of life. It can play out a million ways, but do think of your local vendors, farmers and craft people when wedding planning. Whether it’s a favor to give your guests, flowers, or the very food on the table, fresh and local makes it better.

Unusual locations. Barns are still popular but couples are looking for more and more unique settings, as well. Think: industrial, factory, loft, art gallery, farms. Vineyards will also continue to be popular, and for good reason. I’ve done some wonderful barn and vineyard weddings, and have a ceremony coming up that will take place in an art museum. I’m looking forward to that.

Modern couples want their wedding to express something unique about them, their individuality, taste and world view. There are many ways to do that with new ideas popping up all the time. However, please don’t put pressure on yourself to be cutting edge. Classic is never out-of-style, and always plays well.

The Barn Wedding - if you're lucky enough to find one.

Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the gorgeous photos.




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See your true colors…

- Pantone’s 2017 colors of the year

Every season has a color pallet and it can bring inspiration to any wedding. But did you know that colors themselves have specific meanings? And while you can pretty much make up anything about any color, there are real historic and deep connections.

For example, we know that purple is the color of royalty, whether kings, queens or the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. This is because the dye originally used to produce it was rare and therefore expensive – signifying wealth and status.

The red, white and blue of out flag are clearly defined symbols. White signifies purity and innocence, red, hardiness & valor, and blue signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice, according to USFlag.org. But we also know red as the color of passion and love.

The Church has specific meanings for colors as well, especially blue, which symbolizes Mary, Mother of Christ. Examples go on and on.

Pantone Kale

Pantone, the self-appointed expert on all things color, picks top colors every year, and for this spring, 2017, they have chosen Kale and Hazelnut. Pantone reminds us that color impacts everything from furniture to wall paint and of course fashion as in your bridesmaids’ dresses or your table linens.

Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, says the choices invoke “a renewed sense of imagination in which color was appearing in a context that was different than the traditional,” and that the hues “surround us in nature,” and “evoke a spectrum of emotion and feeling.”  Ok then!

Pantone Hazelnut

To me this year’s colors look a bit dull on the swatch, but I realize they might look great in reality. Plus, Pantone recommends popping them with brighter colors like Lapin Blue and Primrose Yellow. That sounds better already.

Last year’s colors, Rose Quartz and Serenity were a little too pastel for my taste, but then again 90% of my clothes are black.

Black, by the way, is associated with power, elegance, formality, and mystery, but also evil and death. For me it’s just a way to be dressed up without clashing with the bridal party.  It’s a pretty safe choice; it is classic and formal and I like the way it looks with my hair. But then there is that whole ‘back death’ thing, there’s ‘black humor,’ and all things ‘Goth’. And why are they called ‘black holes’ and not ‘red holes’? I’m just asking.

Kale is looking good here.

Who isn’t awestruck upon seeing a rainbow? You may remember that a rainbow was a sign from God to Noah in the bible. When you display an entire spectrum of colors you are showing something broad and expansive. It’s not only the LGBT community who embraced the rainbow, although it does seem the perfect symbol of inclusiveness. Did you know that in the Revolutionary War Thomas Paine proposed the rainbow flag as a maritime flag to signal neutrality. No of course you didn’t, I didn’t either.

Cyndi Lauper put it beautifully in her famous song ‘True Colors’

I see your true colors

And that’s why I love you

So don’t be afraid to let them show

Your true colors

True colors are beautiful

Like a rainbow

So when you consider colors for your wedding, you may want to consider their symbolism and history, which will add to the beauty and meaning of your big day.


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Check this off your wedding to-do list

You have found the person you want to spend your life with – this person loves and respects you and you are best friends and partners. Check. What could be more important?

You decided to tie the knot because it will strengthen your bond. What a good idea. Marriage has many benefits, not the least of which is prolonging one’s life. Hey, that’s just science. So you’re planning a wedding. Check.

You have found love! 'check'

Now comes the work, and a checklist can really help keep you on track. I’m talking about the ‘let’s seriously get this done’ check list. There’s a lot to think about and more decisions to be made than your ever imagined. Many couples have told me that planning a wedding was much more difficult than they ever imagined. But when that big day comes, its all going to be worth it…. isn’t it? Well that depends. Because remember, it really is just one day in your life. The ‘big day.’ Even I use that term sometimes. That’s a lot of pressure. Can you can keep your sense of perspective? Try checking that one off your list.

One of the biggest decisions is, of course, the budget. How do you decide how much can you spend? How much can you afford and how far are you willing to stretch your finances. But whether $1,000 or $10,000 or $100,000, ultimately you have to figure out what matters the most. The venue, food, photographer, music, clothing and of course don’t forget the value of a good officiant!  But like any other purchase – a beautiful pair of shoes can cost $50 or $250 – the choice is yours.

Lots to think about.

The average amount spent on an American wedding is $26,000. There are expenses you may not think of that quickly add up, such as table arrangements, hair and makeup, favors and gifts, a rehearsal dinner, transportation. Even details like dress alternations, postage for those oversize invitations, all keep stretching your budget more and more.

Then there is the question of who to invite? How big is this thing becoming? Decide this early in the planning process, and try not to let family members pressure you about it.

Lots of websites will tell you what to expect to pay for various services. Don’t trust them! Put your money towards the things that matter most to you. People who chose me are clear that they value a meaningful ceremony and are willing to pay a more for that. That is one of their priorities.

Keeping it small is another option. Inviting only those very closest to you, and then treating them and yourselves to the very best is another way to go. I have officiated fabulous weddings for two, or with 12, 25 or 50 guests. They were all great! A small wedding can be very charming and allow you to splurge here and there, or simply just keep it simple. The money saved can go towards something major in your life.

The process of planning a wedding can be a nightmare, or it can actually be enjoyable. If you can afford a wedding planner (and it is a great investment) it will make things go much more smoothly. If you choose a venue that has great service, that too, will make a big difference. When assessing the value of a venue that provides all the details remember that you are paying for those little extras plus all the time that goes into them. Your time is valuable, too. If you think you are saving money by doing-it-yourself, you may be mistaken. And trying to do it all is not a good idea.

Whatever you ultimately decide when facing these choices, remember that first item on your checklist – finding the love of your life – and it will help keep the crazy in check.

Getting the rings would be a major 'to do'

Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the gorgeous photos.




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Taking the Walk Down the Aisle

Rites of passage are marked by actions that help connect to things greater than ourselves. They connect us to the past while moving us into the future. Sometimes the most basic of elements make the most powerful statements. Many human rituals involve common everyday things such as fire or water.

That is why the simple act of walking, which almost all of us do, can also be a ritualistic element. While I was studying funerals at the Celebrant Foundation it made a lasting impression on me when an instructor pointed out that simply walking forward to touch the coffin was a powerful moment.

Down the long aisle of the church.

And when the bride, groom, or others, walk down the aisle, it is kind of a big deal! We even use the phrase ‘walk down the aisle’ to mean getting married.

The question of who walks down the aisle and in what order is often daunting. There are many different rules for the processional, depending on your faith tradition, but today almost any order is acceptable, especially given the complexity of families. One of the best reasons to have a wedding rehearsal is to work out the processional. I’ve often found that some detail for the processional we thought would be good in advance of the ceremony, changed at the rehearsal.

The recessional – when the couple exits the ceremony – is another time where walking is key. You walked in single and you walk out married. You are changed.

Walking out - the recessional!

Think of how grand an entrance is when walking down a large majestic set of stairs. The coronation of a king or queen would be less grand without the walk down the aisle. By contrast its amusing to think of ancient self-appointed gods and emperors who had themselves carried around in sedan chairs. I guess they thought they were above walking like mere mortals.

Making an entrance on the stairs.

Beyond simply getting down the aisle, there are several fascinating ancient wedding rituals that involve more walking. The Jewish ritual of Hakafot, and the Hindu Seven Steps are two great examples.

In the Jewish ritual the bride walks around the groom, who is seated, offering her protection. Some say it harkens to the battle of Jericho when the Israelites circled the walls seven times. While it may seem counter-intuitive that the bride offers the groom protection, going a little deeper, it also signifies that he is the anchor, in the center or the focal point. Others say it comes from the book of Jeremiah states that “A woman encompasses a man” [31:22].  Some versions of this ritual differ on the number of times for the circle, but in any case, this is all very ancient, and it does provide interesting symbolism that we can draw from, especially for an interfaith ceremony. I guess you could say that that once you find a good man, encircle him with your love.

With the Hindu ritual the couple, together, holds hands and walks around a fire seven times. A key aspect of the Hindu ceremony is to light a sacred fire, and for the Seven Sacred Steps, with each step, the couple agrees to blessings or vows for their marriage. I love this idea very much, although I doubt most modern wedding venues would allow a fire! Sometimes the bride’s sari is tied to the groom’s kurta, or a sari shawl might be draped from his shoulder to her sari.

I have created rituals drawing from both of these traditions, finding inspiration and offering modern adaptations.

When you walk down the aisle it is awesome to think of the long and deep history of taking that metaphorical and literal step in life.


Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the gorgeous photos.







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Creating a Wedding that Gives Back

I’m always thinking about different ways a wedding can be not only unique but more meaningful. On a day and a time in your life when you are focused on yourself and your future, it’s not a bad idea to stop and think of others not as fortunate.

Charitable weddings have been around for a while now, and there are many new ways to include charitable contributions to honor your love, your values and your big day. I love this idea! Not every couple wants gifts for their wedding. Some people have plenty of ‘stuff,’ and sometimes couples choose instead to honor their passions, interests and causes by including them in the wedding plans.

Let’s look at it this way – there are three opportunities to include a favorite charity or cause in your wedding planning. Before the wedding, during the wedding and after the wedding.


Puppies!!! (Photo: Caroline Logan)


There are many reputable organizations and websites that do the work for you, or you may prefer to choose your own charity, which is great when going more ‘local.’ Either way, let your guests know you’d like them to support your cause. You may want to set up a page such as Go Fund Me, this will show how much you have raised from your wedding – and your guests have the satisfaction of seeing the cumulative results of all their efforts. Another simple method is to request gift cards for wedding gifts, making clear your intention to donate them to a group.

Or you can have guests choose from a few different causes, working with a known entity that does this for you, such as the I Do Foundation. The top five charities designated by couples on this particular wedding registry are Doctors Without Borders, American Cancer Society, Heifer International, Habitat for Humanity, and Save the Children.

Include charity funding in your registry with a site like Zankyou, which transfers donations in your name to the NGO of your choice. Something like Wish Upon A Wedding is also appealing – this group provides weddings and vow renewals for couples facing serious illness or a life-altering circumstances.

I cannot emphasis enough that you want to be sure to include this in your invitation or your wedding website, it’s difficult to change old habits, so make it extremely clear.

Let your guests know!


Just give money yourself in honor of your big day. Then, for your reception – instead of favors, give wrist-bands, pins or any simple keepsake, that shows your support for the specific cause. DIY it by creating a note to place on each table setting explaining that you are donating to your favorite cause, and why you are doing this in lieu of a favor or small gift.

You can even create a theme that coordinates to your favorite cause – for example, if animal rescue is your passion, have a rescue group designated for each table, complete with photos and how to contact them.

I recently came across an awesome idea – a wedding photo shoot that featured rescue puppies to bring attention to the couple’s passion.

Angel Gowns - by Michelle


A group called Love What Matters (a podcast and platform that features stories about the inspiring things that are happening every day) led me to Gowns By Michelle. Michele is the actual person who makes tiny clothing she donates to families who have suffered the devastating loss of an infant. She started with the fabric from her own wedding gown, and it has grown from there. Donate to her or do something similar yourself.

Other post-wedding ways to do good are to send your flowers to a local hospital or nursing home. Donate left over food and goodies to local foodbanks or shelters. As always – please check in advance – don’t assume.

These are just a few ideas to infuse an entire new level of meaning into a wedding. Clearly this isn’t for everyone, but it could be perfect for you.


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Say ‘Rent’ to the Dress

There’s a very old phrase about ‘beg, steal or borrow,’ which means to accomplish something by any means necessary, but today I’m thinking about ‘rent, buy or borrow.’

It’s always exciting to see what brides will be wearing on their wedding day. Usually I have met ‘my’ bride in person beforehand, but, still, we all look a bit different when we’re all dolled up.

Great photo celebrating the dress (Rhinehart Photography)

There’s no doubt – the wedding dress is important. I’ve written about being comfortable in your dress and shoes. I’ve written about matching your expectations to reality. I’ve written about the long, long day you may have ahead of you and how to plan for that. I’ve seen brides in dresses that looked, to me, extremely uncomfortable, and dresses that require assistance just to use the bathroom. But the dress of your dreams is the dress of your dreams.

Recently, upon complimenting a bride her on her dress, I learned something interesting. Being somewhat older she chose not to wear a traditional wedding gown, and wore a perfect cocktail dress, quite exquisite. She confided that she got it through ‘Rent the Runway.’  Wow! What a great idea. After a few clicks, I readily discovered several websites where you can rent gorgeous clothing. While ‘Rent the Runway’ isn’t specific to wedding gowns, ‘Borrowing Magnolia’ certainly is, and there are several more. At ‘Borrowing Magnolia’ you can try on three dresses in your home for $99.

Oscar De La Renta gown $380,000.

I like this idea for lots of reasons, but first and foremost: who wears their wedding gown more than once? The other big incentive is cost; save money and still have the wedding dress of your dreams – that is sweet.

Is your taste beyond your means? Personally I would get a kick out of wearing a true designer garment, but I certainly wouldn’t spend the money on one.

But it’s not only about affordability, what about reducing the hassle of storing or preserving a gown?  And let’s be honest in saying that the gown of today may not be your daughter or granddaughter’s choice. Don’t saddle her with that.

Then there is the borrow option – but not for your dress. I’m thinking of your jewelry! It could add meaning, while saving a great amount of money, to borrow a stunning piece of jewelry from a mother, grandmother, aunt or sister.

You can rent jewelry!

Another quick google found you can rent jewelry as well. We’ve heard how celebrities on the red carpet wear millions of dollars of jewels on loan. We mere commoners can get in on the ‘good stuff’ too, by renting all kinds of accessories including that very high end bling. Websites like ‘Adorn’ and ‘Haute Vault’ rent, and ‘Borrowed Bling’ has a membership program that lets you borrow, once you’ve paid to join.

Do you know what a designer dress sells for?  I hope you’re sitting down. Well known designer Vera Wang’s start at $2,900 and her ‘Luxe’ Collection starts at $6,900.  Designer Dimitra’s gowns range in price from $15,000 to $25,000, and these are not the top designers, either.

However, the average cost of a wedding dress this past year was around $1,350 at local bridal shops. That’s still not chicken-scratch.

Vera Wang at $100,000.

And, of course, this information can apply to anyone, any time. Have a formal event coming up? Maybe now you will consider renting a dress.

Men have been renting tuxedos forever. Ironically I actually advocate the exact opposite for men. Purchasing a great suit or tux is something you can actually use over and over. A wedding gown, not so much.

Go ahead and rent your runway, but it’s your secret. No one needs to know. Rent, buy or borrow and steal the show!


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Day of the Dead and Thanksgiving – what could they have in common?

I love customs, traditions and rituals and the month of November brings two very good opportunities for them. While my theme here, Pocono Wedding Talk, is clear, I can’t help but stray from time to time.

We are coming to a big season of ritual – Christmas, of course, Hanukkah, too, and soon Thanksgiving – celebrated to honor the Pilgrims’ first feast. They were, I presume, giving thanks for simply surviving. The story is that the feast was held with the Indigenous people who were, perhaps naively, hospitable to the newly arrived Europeans. They sure didn’t know what was coming.

Thanksgiving imagined in painting 1899

November 2nd is another intriguing holiday –  the tradition known as the Day (or Days) of the Dead, celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and by people of Mexican ancestry living in other places, especially here in the US. Day of the Dead focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember loved ones who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. The intriguing part for most of us not within that community is when celebrations take place right on the graves of the departed.

An altar in San Antonio (photo by me)

While the two holidays differ quite a lot from one another, they do share common elements. Both are cultural occasions with time-honored traditions, full meaning and memories.  Both intentionally remember those who have died by celebrating their lives and telling stories of how they contributed to our shared values, traditions and family lore. And both provide an opportunity to feel connected to something bigger that extends beyond the ritual, by connecting us with a deeper sense of gratitude for life.

Traditional Day of the Dead rituals include creating altars to honor the dead, laying out food offerings, sharing anecdotes and stories (many are humorous that poke fun of the deceased) as well as cleaning and, most interesting, decorating and sharing a meal at gravesites. The key purpose of activities is to make contact with the spirits of the dead, to let them know they are not forgotten.

Family gathers for Day of the Dead.

Sharing a Thanksgiving meal is also a tradition that makes us feel a part of the generations that preceded us. Putting aside the historic misconceptions that have been promoted for many reasons – the re-writing history and commercialism – the holiday still has much to offer. Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for expressing gratitude about health, family and personal circumstances, and research tells us that when we engage in talking about our gratitude, it brings us a deeper sense of well-being.

Conversely if you don’t have a family or community to celebrate with, holidays like these can be depressing. If this is the case for you, try to find a volunteer opportunity or other way to find meaning on these holidays. Or take a vacation. Most importantly, take care of yourself.

"Modern Family" thanksgiving (get it?)

But to my main point – November celebrations have all the important ingredients of rituals – a prescribed time and place; predictable elements that are repeated year after year (signature foods) and some that are new (new guests, new location, new stories); meaning conveyed through symbols (special flowers or songs); and an intergenerational gathering that we remember from our childhood and gradually assume more responsibility for as adults.  We do our part, over our lifetimes, to pass this shared heritage along to the younger generation.

Whatever rituals you might observe in November, I hope you enjoy them, make them your own, and that you feel like Willard Scott did when he wrote, “Thanksgiving just gets me all warm and tingly and all kinds of wonderful inside.”


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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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