Sunday, January 31, 2016

That Valentine's Day Proposal!

You're engaged!  Congratulations!

It's incredibly exciting, and now you have a lot to think about.  The wedding dress, the reception, the venue, the guests!  There's so much to do you could almost forget about the reason everyone will be there: your ceremony.

When you're choosing an officiant, you want someone who will make your wedding ceremony memorable and personal.  Be ready with a few ideas!  Here are a few things to consider:

How big is the wedding? - the number of guests will determine everything from the budget to the size of the venue to the seating at the ceremony.  Your officiant will want to know so she can be sure she has all the right equipment, like a microphone or copies of your readings.

Speaking of readings, what do you really want to hear? - do you have poetry, song lyrics, readings, or books that you want incorporated into your ceremony?  Your officiant would love to see them.

What's the vibe? - light and funny?  Classic and chic?  Formal or casual?  Knowing how you want your wedding to feel helps the officiant write the perfect ceremony and set the tone.

Simple or fancy? - Many of my couples want a short, sweet ceremony.  Others pull out all the stops, adding in a sand ceremony, musicians, memorials, or cultural elements.  Talk it over with each other, and even with your family.

I'm looking forward to meeting my new brides and grooms for 2016 and beyond!



Monday, October 26, 2015

Romantic October Weddings

It's been a wonderful month for Charmed Life Ceremonies!  I want to send a special thank you out to all my October couples.  You were all such fun to work with!

This month, I got to perform a small wedding by the river with lots of people who came all the way from Ireland!  I could listen all day to those lilting voices.  The brisk autumn air was full of laughter as Conor and Alison married.  Alison's sister shared a reading from a book called "I Like You", which has jumped to the top of my list for Thing I Need.  Sweetest book ever!

In Medford, Hilary and TJ tied the knot at a country club, decorated with autumn leaves and the prettiest bunch of little flower girls I've ever seen.  In adorable, full-length ecru lace dresses, they looked like tiny angels!   My favorite touch was the flower girls throwing leaves instead of flower petals.  It was perfect for the windy autumn day.

We also had a very small, intimate wedding at home for Lee and Kristen.  You really don't have to go big to have a meaningful and memorable ceremony!  There were tears of happiness all around.

Until next time!



Friday, October 2, 2015

The Offbeat Wedding

The Offbeat Wedding

Ours was an offbeat wedding. We’re offbeat people. I’m a Gamer Girl, photographer, and crafty diva. My honey is a computer geek introvert. No way would our wedding be traditional. It just wouldn’t have been us. It was my third wedding, as well, though my husband’s first. No longer a wide-eyed 20something, it meant a lot to tailor our day.

I love an offbeat wedding. Every wedding is inherently special, but I have to admit that the personality and style makes a wedding memorable – or not. For ours, we made a lot of choices that reflected who we are together.

I opted for a sari instead of a Western wedding gown. I don’t have a drop of East Indian blood in me, but I have always admired the beauty of a sari. When else would I have the chance to wear one? It doesn’t hurt that, as a plus-sized woman, I felt like a sari would be both more attractive.  

I love the red and black silk, the dense embroidery, the drape of my sari. It was super-comfortable. Once I figured out how to put it on, I was hooked.

Our officiant (and later, my mentor!) and I worked hand-in-hand on our ceremony, which included a handfasting. Remember I mentioned I’m crafty? I beaded our handfasting cord, a rope over six feet long. We married in our living room, in an antique carriage house. I decorated with flowers and candles. We exchanged rings decorated with Celtic designs, gave Belgian chocolates as favors. Rather than go with a few colors, I decided “brights” would be wonderful. I wanted to surround us with happiness, and it worked. Color was everywhere.

We wrote our own vows, and to this day we hold each other to our promises. Our little guy got tired of waiting for the ceremony to be over, so I had him on my hip for the second half, and that was just fine with us. We gave the kids family medallions to symbolize becoming a family, and my hubby asked them if he could be their Papa. Our wedding was extremely small – only fourteen people including us. My kids were there, my parents, brother, and his wife. My husband’s sister and brother-in-law. We each had two friends present with their dates. That was it.

Afterwards, we went out to a Moroccan restaurant for dinner. Female and male bellydancers? Yes please! Afterwards, home for champagne and waltzing.

We mixed cultures with abandon, and loved every moment – my Indian sari, our Celtic ceremony and rings, our Belgian chocolates boxed in tiny Chinese steamers, Moroccan food and dance, American music. It shouldn’t have gone together, but it did.

Since starting Charmed Life Ceremonies, I've had the honor of officiating a lot of offbeat weddings.  As far as I'm concerned, the more the better!  Offbeat brides and grooms, rock your uniqueness and have fun with it. Put it out there however you like. Have fun. Call me, so I can officiate it!



Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Wonderful Summer Weddings

Whew!  The temperature is rising and wedding season is in full swing.  June, the traditional month for weddings, is here!

Summer brides and grooms can do a lot to help keep their guests comfortable and just as happy as the couple themselves.  Here are a few of my favorite tips to make your summer ceremony a success!

1.  Keep cold drinks handy!  Summer means outdoor ceremonies.  You and your guests are going to get hot!  Galvanized buckets filled with ice and water bottles are a welcome sight for your guests.  Some couples have sun tea and lemonade dispensers available.  Paper fans, with programs or your monogram on them, also make good favors.

2.  Is your venue in direct sun?  Is it near water?  Consider the likelihood of bugs, wind, and lots of sun on the guests.  Even if the ceremony is only half an hour, the guests will probably be outside for an hour or more.  Perhaps little bottles of sunscreen and bug spray should be readily available?  Talk to you venue to see what you can do to compensate for possible problems.

3.  Sandy or grassy surfaces.  Check your site for walking conditions.  If the ground is moist, heels are going to sink right in!  Touch base with your wedding party to make sure they're prepared with the right shoes.

4.  Rainy day.  All brides worry about rain on the big day!  Make sure your venue has a backup plan; a covered pavilion or a ballroom where the ceremony can be relocated.  Find out how soon they need to know to be ready for you - some venues require only hours, some days!

5.  Consider parasols as an alternative to bouquets.  Your bridesmaids will look charming, and they'll thank you when they're able to shade themselves!

Happy Summer Wedding planning!



Monday, January 12, 2015

The Personal Wedding Ceremony

I get to have a lot of fun at my job.  I mean, where else are you going to be with two people at their happiest, in love and full of excitement for the future?

Nothing is as much fun for me as connecting to a couple and making their ceremony personal. I’ve always been interested in stories. Hearing all about how a couple met and fell in love is one of the many things that makes job so special. Some stories are simple, some are long and complicated, but every single one makes the storytellers get The Look. You know the one – the soft, dreamy expression on a woman, the warm, loving eyes on a man. It’s my favorite perk to be able to watch that moment. Then I get the icing on the cake, getting to learn about the love they share. From the stories my couples tell me, I pull out special details that make the moment personal.

Every couple I work with gets a questionnaire – or just a questioning! - from me. The questions are optional, of course, and not everyone wants to answer them. For those couple who value the bespoke ceremony, it’s one of the best ways to find some details. If you have only three words to describe your fiancĂ©e, what are they? Almost everyone tells me why without me even having to ask – and the whys are where the good stuff comes in. One of my grooms recently wrote,

. . . Our love of life together. Wanting to explore the world. Enjoying the little things in life together. Our appreciation and beliefs. Lisa being an independent individual with passions of her own. Even though she's a mom, she has a life outside of that. And I love that she is an artist. Passionate. Vibrant. Intelligent.”

You can see how lovely it will be to work that into the ceremony. I have written in so many of the things that truly matter, so the bride and groom will both feel that special moment when they are united. Part of what I will say will look like this:

. . . He loves her for her passionate nature, the way she gets so much out of life, and her artistry. It is a blessing to see two people so in love, and so ready for all the living they will do together. These two people are very clearly partners, equals, as well as lovers and friends.”

I can’t wait to see the guests’ faces when these two get married! I’m going to have to rehearse for a week just to make sure I don’t get choked up!

This is the kind of ceremony that makes Charmed Life Ceremonies something above and beyond; memorable. Bring your story to your wedding is one of the best ways to set it apart from every other wedding your guests have been to.  If you don't hear compliments, they weren't listening!  I will look forward to working with you to create your own perfect wedding ceremony.



Friday, December 12, 2014

Happy Anniversary to Sam and Diane!

Sam and Diane: A Scottish Highland Ceilidh

For those who don't speak the Gaelic, a ceilidh (kay-lee) is a party, often associated with courting. The original word means, “companion”. I can't think of a more perfect word, then, for the Scottish wedding of Sam and Diane last December. The ceremony took place on December 21st, the Winter Solstice, when the light returns to the world; the symbolism became a wonderful part of this magical wedding ceremony.

Sam hails from the Highlands of Scotland. I was enchanted the moment I met him. Peering at me myopically through his Coke-bottle glasses, Sam said, . . .uh. . .something. Wow. That's quite a burr he's got there. I blame it on the noise at Starbucks, really, that I had to ask him to repeat himself. But mere moments later, I found myself laughing delightedly with this rascally, hilarious Scot. Diane soon showed that she was going to match him witticism for bawdy, eyebrow-waggling witticism. Between the two of them, I think they may have cornered the market on mischievous charm. These two, I thought, are my kind of people!

Sam and Diane wanted to honor Sam's heritage, and to work the theme of the Solstice into their ceremony. They chose a handfasting ceremony, which is a marvelous Scottish tradition, in which the couple's hands are tied together. It's where we get the phrase, “tying the knot”. Sam planned to wear his full kilt; happily, being of Cunningham heritage myself, I wore my clan sash and badge.

As I approached, the sounds of the bagpipes swirled through the air. Smithville is host to dozens of darling little shops, and the unusually fair day meant the place was crowded. The sounds of happy laughter and chatter were everywhere. The wedding took place at Fred and Ethel's Lamplight Tavern in adorable Smithville, NJ. The antique building is full of charm; the room boasted beamed ceilings and a gorgeous fireplace. We held the ceremony there; Sam in his kilt, and Diane looking like the Queen of Winter in her sparkling white lace gown and headpiece of evergreen and crystal.

The bagpiper piped Diane to the altar. The couple shared bread and salt, to symbolize that they would have bountiful food and one another's protection. A friend had braided their handfasting cord, including a length of Sam's clan tartan, and hanging tiny charms from the ends. Feelings of love and joy filled the room completely. Diane likens Sam's love for her to the Winter Solstice; just when things seemed darkest, he brought the light back into her life. But don't think this ceremony was solemn and formal! Oh, no. In fact, though I'm used to hearing some bawdy jokes before or after a ceremony, this wedding marked the first time the couple was cracking wise during the ceremony! I think it would have taken about five minutes less if we hadn't kept stopping to laugh. And laugh. And laugh!

A merrier gathering was never held than the reception that followed. Sam and Diane shared a quaich, toasting each other and the guests. To honor the Solstice, candles and decorated matchbooks were placed at each person's seat. I asked the guests to light not their own candle, but someone else's. Diane's eye for detail shone through; the decorations were absolutely gorgeous, with sparkling white, silver, and slate blue on every wall and table, and tartan everywhere it could go. Even Diane's finger- and toenails sported tartan stripes!

Sam and Diane, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for having me as part of your wedding day. I will remember it always! Happy Anniversary!



Friday, October 24, 2014

Fail-Safe Weddings: How to Avoid the Top Five Ceremony Problems

Attend a few dozen wedding each year, and you start to see patterns: what's wonderful, what's okay, and, of course, what it is that goes wrong. I see how much love and hard work my couples put into having the perfect wedding, so here is the real-life list: the things that most often go wrong, and how you can avoid them.

#5: Your Reader didn't make it.
Having a guest read for you at the ceremony is a time-honored tradition. It's a beautiful way to include someone special in your family. I have seen some absolutely stellar readings from grandparents, aunts and uncles, best friends, and brothers and sisters. I've also needed to quickly and smoothly cover up when a reader isn't present. To help avoid this faux pas, make sure you ask your reader early, so they have a lot of time to prepare themselves. Choose someone who you know is comfortable in front of a crowd! When you do ask, go with someone you know you can rely on to take the responsibility to heart. Readers should have the material no less than three weeks ahead of time. Encourage them to rehearse in front of a mirror, and more than once, to help prevent bursting into tears at such an emotional moment. Ask your officiant to have a copy of the reading on hand, just in case, and give the officiant the name of the reader. If at all possible, designate a person to check on your readers, making sure they are present, ready to go, and know where to stand.

#4: Bugs. Seriously, bugs.
Outdoor weddings mean insects are all around you. If you are in a watery or woodsy area, mosquitoes, chiggers, and ticks are liable to be unintended guests. In a garden, there may be a lot of bees or dragonflies. Ask your venue how they control for insects. If possible, have your ceremony at times insects are less active (sunset weddings are lovely, but buggy). If you have a wedding website, gently remind guests to use bug spray. For a prettier and more natural prevention, incorporate plants and flowers that discourage bugs, such as lavender, lemonbalm, lemongrass, citronella, chamomile, larkspur, and chrysanthemums.

Larkspur and Chamomile bouquet?  Yes, Please!

#3: Have the Rings and the License Ready
Misplacing the rings happens often enough that I usually ask my couples where they are the moment I get to the ceremony. You'd be amazed how often the rings are forgotten in someone's bag! We've borrowed rings from guests and even used pieces of grass to cover for missing rings during the ceremony. While it makes for a funny story, it may not be the story you wanted from your big day. Your best man should have the rings on his person; if you don't have one, designate a person to take on the duty. A maid of honor or mother can track the license and make sure it's on hand for signing.

#2: The Weather is Crazy!
Too hot or too cold means miserable guests – not to mention you sweating or shivering in your gown. When you choose a date, think about common weather patterns in your area and how comfortable you and your guests need to be. The beautiful days of summer are gorgeous, but you and everyone else will sweat. Autumn skies and leaves make for stunning photographs, but not if you are desperately wishing for your pashmina.
Naturally, this doesn't mean you have to hide indoors on your big day! Consider fans as programs or favors; opt for a shady location instead of direct sun; know when the heat will be at its worst, and plan around it. Have bottled water available at the ceremony! If it's cooler out, have throws or pashminas available for guests to use.

Even more than temperature are the two troublemakers Wind and Water. Rain on your day can be worked around simply by having a back-up location indoors. Wind is another matter. If you are getting married in spring or autumn, when wind tends to kick up, be prepared! Anchor your arch firmly. Have support for any standing flower arrangements or decorations. Dispense with the candles – they're going to blow out. Consider sewing some seed pearls into the edge of your veil to give it a bit more weight, preventing it from blowing into anyone's face.

#1 Wedding Fail: The Runner
Oh, the runner. Three words of advice: don't do it! The runner looks lovely in photographs, but I have yet to see one go as planned. They are awkward during the ceremony. They don't unroll, or they're crooked and twisted. They blow out of the way. They wrinkle. They rip. They trip you up. Spread flower petals instead, you'll be safer and happier! Or go completely without something underfoot. After all, all eyes will be on you, not what you're walking on.