An Officiant’s View of Ceremony Music

Centuries ago, the word dream meant “to dream” as we know it. Spelled d-r-e-m-e-n, it also meant “to make music.” The music a couple chooses for their wedding ceremony doesn’t simply entertain or provide atmosphere. The music calls everyone present to dream.

Statue of a beloved pet

Having officiated at more than a hundred weddings and written more than a hundred love stories, I’ve been trusted with more than a hundred dreams. Sometimes a couple’s choice of music might never be considered by another couple and yet be perfect for the couple who chose it. I’m reminded of the bride who had lived through more than her share of hardship. She walked down the aisle to an instrumental version of Florence + The Machine’s Dog Days Are Over.  Even without the lyrics, those who knew the music knew the bright future it symbolized for that bride.

 

Musician, vocalist, DJ Shawn Santanello of Massachusetts

On my show, Weddings with Zita https://www.youtube.com/zitatvnetwork , I’ve interviewed both DJs and musicians. I leave it to the professionals to advise couples about their overall choices since the venue, the weather, the time of day, power sources, sand, wind, water and other factors can influence decisions. My thoughts on ceremony music come from a different place. When I am asked, here’s what I tell my couples.

 

PROCESSIONAL

This part of your ceremony sets the stage for what is to come. Your choice of music can be classical, country, pop, music from a movie, or an original composition.  As a practical consideration, be sure to talk with your DJ or musicians to ensure the length of the music works well with the number of people who will process down the aisle and the length of the aisle itself.  Just remember that whatever you choose, this music opens the curtain to the ceremony. The music should evoke feelings connected with the words: Anticipation, Possibilities, Transformation, Magic.  Here are a few of my favorites.

 THE FEATHER SONG (from the Forrest Gump soundtrack)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEY3o00LRHI

HALLELUJAH ( Vitamin String Quartet tribute to Jeff Buckley / instrumental)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-jMGvvMoAg

ONCE UPON A DREAM (from Sleeping Beauty / instrumental)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnwGKKiZers

 

ENTRANCE OF THE BRIDE / or BRIDES / or GROOMS

You are separating from the past. This is true even if the two of you have lived together for years. The wedding affirms your shared vision of the future. This part of the ceremony is best described with the words: Trust, Tender, Thoughtful, and Sacred, in whatever way you define that word.  A few of my favorites:

STORYBOOK LOVE (soundtrack from The Princess Bride)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgVAA7crk8g

CANON IN D (Pachelbel)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es_3F3TLJS0

CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE (Elvis Presley / instrumental)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RKpirorIp8

MARRY ME (Train / instrumental)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtQvIjx7184

A THOUSAND YEARS (Christina Perri / instrumental – The Piano Guys)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgaTQ5-XfMM

ENDLESS LOVE (instrumental)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh3gFM06PEE

 

RECESSIONAL

In the ancient world, a person’s ability to survive depended on being accepted by the community. In fact, a person labeled “tabu” meant he or she had been banished from the village, a fate worse than death. Community support was a key to happiness. In today’s weddings, that support is reflected in the recessional music.

Simply put, your recessional music as an audio version of your shared vision of the future. The transformation has occurred. Thirty minutes earlier, you entered sacred space as two individuals. Now you leave that space as a couple, united in a way that your family and friends recognize and affirm. You have the support of your community. This part of your ceremony is best described with the words: Happy, United, Welcomed, Transformed, Future.  Here are a few of my favorites:

YOU ARE THE BEST THING (LaMontagne / vocals)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJ3xTjvj9tw

STAND BY ME  (vocals)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwECLf_6Fsg

HERE COMES THE SUN (Beatles / instrumental)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOVMtxag9Dk

In my early conversations with every couple, I ask about the feeling they want their ceremony to convey. Responses span the gamut from sweet to solemn. What is universal is their desire to be seen as a couple. As you think about your ceremony music, remember that it will call everyone to dream. Your music is a gift to everyone who hears it.

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FACING MY WORST WEDDING FEAR

This past weekend, I faced my worst wedding nightmare and it couldn’t have turned out better.

 

Entrance of the Mystic Arts Center in Mystic CT

On Friday, I ran the rehearsal for Sarah and Mike at the Mystic Arts Center. It went fine. On Saturday, I woke up sick. As the day passed and I got worse.

 

Several days earlier, I’d had lunch with three friends and fellow officiants, Mary Coburn, Judith O’Connor, and Victoria Burdick of Authentic Ceremony. Somewhere in the conversation, Victoria mentioned that she did not have a wedding on Saturday.  She lives in the town where the wedding was to take place. So that Saturday I called her around 1 pm and asked if she could be my backup in case I got worse. She said yes. I emailed the ceremony to her.

 

Victoria comes from a sailing family. She was crewing on a boat when she got my distress signal.  The boat brought her to shore. She borrowed a truck from the shipyard, drove home and, as she put it, “hosed off and put on a dress.” She printed the ceremony and met me at the Arts Center.

The First Look for Mike and Sarah.

To set the scene, here’s a video clip of the ceremony space being set up and of Mike and Sarah sharing their “first look.”

Mystic Arts Terrace_4776

 

An hour or so before the ceremony was to start, I introduced Victoria to Sarah and Mike and explained why I had asked her to join me. Instant smiles connected Victoria and Mike. He and Victoria’s step-son had played hockey together when they were boys! And, Victoria and Mike’s father taught school together for three years.  You can imagine my relief.  I had worked with Sarah and Mike for months and was eager to tell their love story and pronounce them husband and wife. That aspect of the day was not to be.

 

Sarah, is a nurse. Among her friends at the wedding were other nurses, a medic, and an EMT. They all agreed. My symptoms were troubling, especially for a woman with heart disease in the family. I asked them to talk with Victoria. In addition to being a wedding officiant, she’s a nurse midwife and a hospice chaplain. She agreed with them. They called an ambulance.  It arrived without lights and sirens.

 

Meanwhile, the caterer, Ivy Mellow of Ivy’s Simply Homemade, stepped in and lined up the bridal party for the processional. Victoria handled the ceremony.  Only a few of the guests knew that Victoria was the substitute.
After the ceremony, Victoria met me at the hospital and stayed with me until my daughter, Laurie Neronha, could get there. She was two hours away. After a battery of tests, I was relieved to hear that my heart is fine. The problem was vertigo.  Heart heath assured, I was still in no condition to drive.

That night, Victoria and her husband, Vern, moved my car from the arts center parking lot lest it be towed. They drove it to my house the next day. That’s an hour’s drive, one way.

 

At another time in my life, I might not have asked for help. This time was different. This time, a couple’s wedding ceremony was at stake. To have started the ceremony and been unable to finish would have been disruptive for Sarah and Mike and for their guests. And this time, I was following “radical self-care, ” the key component of a pact I had made months earlier with several friends.

 

My whole experience is crystallized into something Victoria asked me in the ER. Her eyes sparkling, she said, “The world is so beautiful, so full of love. When have we not been held?”

 

I was, indeed, held. By friendship, by family, by the compassion of strangers, and by love. So much love.

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Imbolc, Brigid, and the Groundhog

Earlier this week, I celebrated the solar festival of Imbolc, the feast of the Goddess Brigid, at Meg’s Inspirations, a local spiritual boutique in Manchester, CT.

The altar for Imbolc and the Goddess Brigid

Imbolc is an old, old Celtic solar festival that celebrates the fulfillment of the promise made at the Winter Solstice. Light has returned. My Irish ancestors would have celebrated Imbolc with the Goddess Brigid, also known as Bride, or Breed, and eventually as St. Bridget. In Greek mythology, this is when the Goddess Persephone lights her lamp in the Underworld and begins her journey upward. She’ll arrive in the spring. In Scandinavian countries, the festival of lights features a girl who wears a crown of candles. The girl is known today as St. Lucy. In New England, the most recognized symbol of the season is the groundhog.

The word “imbolc” means “in the belly” or “in the milk” and refers to the many pregnant ewes, more visible evidence that spring is on the way. Several women at the ritual commented on other signs of spring; e.g., the chirping of birds, more animal tracks in the snow, increased activity from birds of prey, growing physical energy, and an instinct to clean.

 

Brigid, Goddess of Healers, Smithcrafters, and Poets

A man sprinkles dried herbs on the water of Brigid’s healing well

Our celebration of Imbolc focused on Brigid in her three forms. Goddess of Healers, Brigid knows the power of earth and water. Water quenches thirst, soothes aches, cleanses wounds, washes away what we no longer wish to carry…what we no longer can carry. She knows that flood water can destroy … and womb water can protect.  Brigid knows the healing power of herbs, one of many gifts from the earth. If you lived in times gone by, you’d see Brigid in deep wells and dark pools, in plants growing wild in meadows and forests, and hanging in bundles from the cottage rafters to dry. During the ritual, each of us sprinkled dried herbs on the water in a birdbath, re-imagined as one of Brigid’s sacred wells.

A cauldron re-imagined as Brigid’s forge, rimmed with horseshoes

Goddess of Smithcrafters, particularly blacksmiths, Brigid knows the power of fire.  It lights the dark, cooks our food, warms the cold. A bonfire on a beach, a candle on a cake, a torch in a sports arena, a sacred flame guarded by centuries of devoted keepers, each flame is a bit of the life-giving force of the sun.  If you lived in times gone by, you’d see Brigid’s alchemical fire at the blacksmith’s forge, where couples would pledge their love and bind both their hearts and their hands. Now you see her power in the design of a wrought iron gate, in a cast iron skillet, a handfasting cord in a wedding ceremony.  During the ritual, each of us dropped a pinch of incense in a cauldron of hot coals, re-imagined as a blacksmith’s forge.

The bird represents the power of word and Brigid’s role as Goddess of Poets

Goddess of Poets, Brigid knows the power of air, of words formed from ideas. Words can articulate a new thought, just as they can preserve the ideas of ages gone by. Strung together with love, words can sooth, inspire, affirm, rally to the just cause. Strung together with hate, words can cut, deceive, undermine, bully the weak. Brigid knows that the magic of a spell is conjured by the power of words.  If you lived in times gone by, you’d see her as the bard, the wordsmith telling stories in the pub. Now you see her in a poetry slam, a book reading, a memorial service. During the ritual, each of us spoke a word wrapped in hope – Peace, Love, Security, Respect, Courage, more and more. Three times we spoke the words, louder and faster each time, each word flying like a bird into the plume of frankincense smoke.

 

Horseshoes

Old horseshoes rim a birdbath and fountain, re-imagined at Brigid’s healing well

Thanks to Meg’s contacts, we had an assortment of full-sized horseshoes and used them to symbolize the power associated with a forge. During the ritual, we all shared thoughts on our first experience driving a car, today’s version of the horse. Some women recalled being eager to drive, some apprehensive. We talked about the need to care for a car and to maintain it properly. We talked about fancy options and horrific accidents. Each scenario related in some way to how we experience our personal power.

The reward for telling of a story was a small horseshoe decorated in red and white ribbons, Brigid’s colors of fire and ice, blood and milk. There was a moment near the end of the ritual when we huddled together and held our horseshoes in the center of the circle, making sure they all touched.

Horseshoes decorated with red and white ribbons, ready for transport to the festival of Imbolc

My own horseshoe now sits on my desk, a strong and colorful reminder that what has been stirring underground is about to surface. Can you feel the power of the season? Can you feel your own power?

In the coming months, I’ll be leading other seasonal rituals — as well as rituals for writers, rituals in weddings, rituals to bless babies, blend families, and much more! For advanced notice, ideas, and inspiration,send me an email. (The sign-up form is coming!)

 

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A Colorful Way to Tie the Knot

 In the December 19 issue of Brides magazine, Whitney C. Harris writes about  wedding trends for 2017.  Industry experts from around the country affirm the growing use of bright colors in wedding palettes. I concur!

 

As a wedding officiant, my focus is on the ceremony. In addition to the bridesmaids’ dresses, bouquets, tuxes and boutonnieres, and aisle décor, consider bringing color into the ceremony itself with a handfasting cord.

 

Bride and Groom tie the knot

In a handfasting ritual, the couple literally ties the knot.

Many cultures include some kind of binding ritual as part of a wedding ceremony. The one I’m most familiar with is the Celtic handfasting. I’ve adapted the ritual for today’s couples. Do you have to be Celtic? Not at all! Whatever your heritage, you can use this beautiful ritual to celebrate the union of your hearts. Here are a few colorful examples.

 

 

 

Blending Families

Tammy and Shawn use one of my custom cords in their handfasting

When Tammy and Sean planned their Sedona wedding, they wanted a ritual that would celebrate not only their marriage but also the blending of their two families. Though I wasn’t able to perform the ceremony, Tammy confirmed that their officiant could do a handfasting ritual. With that in mind, I created a multicolored handfasting cord with a color to represent each of the four children as well as the bride and groom.

 

Blending Cultures

A Celtic handfasting cord for the groom, inspired by silk from the bride’s Hindu heritage.

When Rusty and Maya got married, she wanted to blend his Irish and her Hindu cultures. Maya liked the idea of a handfasting to pay homage to Rusty’s heritage. We talked about ways to incorporate her heritage.  Inspiration came from a piece of red, black, green, and gold ceremonial silk from her first wedding. Rather than cut the silk, I created a cord that echoed the colors and straight-line design.

 

 

 

 

 

Inspired by a Vineyard

Altar for vineyard wedding

Handfasting cord in vineyard colors

Karla and Anthony held their ceremony in a vineyard. They chose moss green and Bordeaux red to echo the colors of a fertile harvest, and added pink rosebuds to symbolize the newness of married love. Three years later, I was delighted to perform a baby blessing for them. As part of the ritual, they tied another knot in their cord.

 

 

 

Inspired by Military Service

Custom cord combines wedding colors plus green for the Irishman and burgundy for the Colonel’s Army medical department

Patrick and Jim, the Irishman and the Colonel, came to Connecticut from Washington DC and Fort Hood, Texas, for their autumn wedding in the amphitheater at Harkness Memorial Park. With a wedding palette of purple and gray, they wanted a handfasting cord that also included green for Patrick’s heritage and burgundy, the color of the Army medical department.

 

 

 

 

 

Inspired by a Bouquet

Exuberant bride Leslie kisses her husband Chuck on the cheek!

Leslie, an Atlanta-area landscape artist, had been widowed for thirty years. Chuck, an engineer a high-stress job, had waited a lifetime to find true love. They met in a neighborhood yoga class. She had gone to meet people. He was there on the advice of his physician. For over a year, they did little more than say hello and smile. Then one day, the way rain finally falls in the dessert, love bloomed.

 

Fast forward. For family reasons, Leslie wanted to be married on a particular beach in Rhode Island. She wanted her bouquet filled with the joyful noise of bright colors. From those colors, she chose turquoise and coral for her handfasting cord.

 

Want More?

As you can see, with a handfasting cord you can literally tie the knot and bring a pop of bright color to your wedding ceremony.

 

Handfasting cords show a rainbow of colorful possibilities

To see more cords, stroll through the garden of handfasting cords on my Etsy shop!

 

I’m always inspired by the colors my couples choose. What are your wedding colors?

 

 

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Laura, Colin, and the Popsicles: A Real Wedding in Connecticut

Recessional of Gatsby-themed wedding

Newlyweds Laura and Colin at Gatsby-themed wedding at Farmington Gardens in CT

A couple’s love story beats at the heart of their ceremony. Here’s a brief excerpt from the story I wrote for Laura and Colin… because every couple’s story is worth telling.

~ ~ ~

The very wise Dr. Seuss once wrote about being weird and how two people who are mutually weird can fall in love. So it was with Laura and Colin.

At the time, Laura was living with her long-time friend, Kurt. They were both going through transitional periods in their lives. Kurt was a very social person and an excellent cook who held weekly supper club parties. Though Laura was always invited, she rarely attended, preferring to enjoy reality TV and the solitude of her room.

On one occasion, Kurt invited his friend Colin to the dinner party. Laura had declined the invitation. She wasn’t being antisocial. She had a severe sore throat and when she spoke, she sounded just like Harvey Fierstein, only slightly deeper. That night, despite her sore throat, growing hunger forced her into the kitchen. She planned to scurry in without being noticed, grab something cold, and retreat like a squirrel raiding a bird feeder.

Colin spotted her immediately. It was like a scene from a movie. The prisoner is about to make her escape. The search light lands right on her.  Stop!  Freeze!  Meet Colin.

He was mesmerized. She sported a hard-angled, Joan Jett haircut and said something sarcastic about the safety goggles he was still wearing from work. She also said something about needing a Popsicle and took one from the freezer.

To Colin, she sounded edgy and vulnerable at the same time. He thought she was really cool. He desperately wanted her to stay. So he did what any man would do in the same situation. He grabbed a handful of Popsicles and started juggling.

~ ~ ~

Laura and Colin were married in November, 2014, at the beautiful Farmington Gardens in Farmington, Connecticut. Following the ceremony, the newlyweds posted this review: “…Zita made our ceremony personal. People said it was sweet, romantic, funny, unique – and not just close family, but the friends who usually would fall asleep during the ceremony! Most importantly, she made us feel special, that it was definitely OUR wedding, not something generic.”

Are you looking for ways to make your wedding ceremony unique and truly personal? I’m creating a webinar to share some ideas. Email me at < zita@MoonRiverRituals.com > for access when it becomes available. Put “Webinar” in the subject line. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, get advice from a host of wedding experts! Watch Weddings with Zita on Youtube.

 

Thanks for your interest.

 

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Wedding Ceremony Workshop ~ for the Unchurched

Are  you creating your own ceremony?  Are you having a friend or family member as your officiant? Do you want your ceremony to be unique and truly personal? Do you want your ceremony to be spiritual, not religious?

If so, join me for a 2-hour workshop on Sunday, November 13, from 1 pm to 3 pm at Meg’s Inspirations, a spiritual boutique in Manchester CT (38 Main St). Tickets are $39.

Let me show you how wedding rituals can reflect who you are as a couple. Learn how to create the rituals of Handfasting, Oathing Stone, Wedding Wish Jar, Garden Gifts, 7 Butterflies, Keys to Happiness, Prayer Flags, Love Knots, and more!

          

                

Space is limited to about 20. To reserve your seat, call Meg’s – 860-649-9941

In the meantime, remember that your ceremony doesn’t have to be religious to be spiritual. It doesn’t have to be long to be memorable. But the memories you make that day DO need to  last a lifetime.

Join me on November 13 and learn how to create a ceremony your guests will enjoy, not have to endure! 

Interested, but not sure you can attend. Email me <zita@MoonRiverRituals> I’m planning another workshop in the spring! 

To learn from other wedding pros, watch Weddings with Zita on Youtube.com/ZitaTVNetwork

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A Love Worth Waiting For

The Moon was in Capricorn when Leslie and Chuck got married. Capricorn is ruled by Saturn, a planet that represents age, responsibilities, delayed satisfaction, the hard lessons of life and the satisfaction that comes from learning those lessons, the restricting season of winter and the faith that spring will come again.

 

Chuck and Leslie make their vows on both an oathing stone and the Bible that belonged to Chuck's father

Chuck and Leslie make their vows on both an oathing stone and the Bible that belonged to Chuck’s father

Leslie had been widowed for 19 years. Chuck had never married. Scarred by a business betrayal and devastating loss, he focused on rebuilding his business and spent years caring for his mother until she died. They wanted their ceremony to reflect their faith and the spiritual connection that brought them together. For Chuck, that meant taking his vows on the Bible that once belonged to his father.

 

The Winter Tree oathing stone symbolized the bride's enduring faith that after 19 years of widowhood, love would come again.

The Winter Tree oathing stone symbolized the bride’s enduring faith that after 19 years of widowhood, love would come again.

 

 

Leslie wanted to take her vows on an oathing stone inscribed with a winter tree, a symbolic echo of the Garden Goddess, the business she created many years earlier to help her survive her husband’s death.

 

 

Chuck and Leslie also chose to literally tie the knot by including a handfasting ritual. After the ceremony, she artfully draped the cord around his neck.

Exuberant bride Leslie kisses her husband Chuck on the cheek!

Exuberant bride Leslie kisses her husband Chuck on the cheek!

The couple literally tied the knot with a handfasting ritual using a custom cord created by Zita Christian

The couple literally tied the knot with a handfasting ritual using a custom cord created by Zita Christian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of their wedding rituals blended sand and soil from four states, representing their childhood homes, their current lives, and the beach where they were married.

Leslie and Chuck blended sand and soil from the four states where they were born, lived, met, and married.

Leslie and Chuck blended sand and soil from the four states where they were born, lived, met, and married.

 

The Best Man holds a rose quartz heart and makes a wish for his brother

The Best Man holds a rose quartz heart and makes a wish for his brother

The Wedding Wish Jar held wishes made on rose quartz hearts by their matron of honor and best man. This simple ritual often proves deeply meaningful for the honor attendants who have helped the couple navigate the road to this rite of passage.

My wish for Leslie and Chuck: May this year of wedding “firsts” celebrate your love and the faith that brought you together.

Thanks to photographer Jaime Lind of Inspired Images for these beautiful photos.

We can’t say enough good things about Zita!! I felt an instant connection with her and she put together a beautiful ceremony for us despite a short planning time and working out of town a lot. She is absolutely the best in her field!! Thank you Zita!!

Wedding Site: Matunuck Beach in Rhode Island

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Talk About Wedding Rituals

 

What happens when the studio is reserved, the crew is on deck, the set is built, the food ordered for the post-show dinner has been ordered…and the guest can’t make it?  That was the situation that led to this episode of Weddings with Zita where I was both host and guest. In truth, I had almost a day’s notice so I was able to pull together an assortment of props I use in rituals for wedding ceremonies. If you’d like to know more about any of the rituals, send me an email: Zita@MoonRiverRituals.com

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TV Interview: Couples’ Empowerment with Judith O’Connor

Logo for Weddings with Zita, a show on YouTube - Zita TV Network

Logo for Weddings with Zita, a show on YouTube – Zita TV Network

On Weddings with Zita, I tell viewers they’ll be “inspired by the experts.”  Here’s the link to an interview with Connecticut wedding officiant and couples’ counselor Judith O’Connor. She’s the wise woman we all want to have as our friend. Judith works with engaged couples both before the ceremony and after the honeymoon. She suggests a dialogue that includes a special pillow.

Metal sculpture of bride and groom

Metal sculpture of bride and groom

Judith’s approach to relationships is clear and valuable. If you know a couple going through a rough patch, send them this link. Judith’s advice is eye-opening in a practical way we can all use.

 

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What Couples Don’t Know About Their Ceremony

Every couple deserves to have a ceremony that reflects who they are and why they fell in love. As a wedding officiant, my personal mission is to show couples what’s possible and help them create the ceremony of their dreams.

 

Most couples who contact me are planning a wedding for the first time. They don’t know what they don’t know. They assume a wedding ceremony must be a generic arrangement of sermons, prayers, and readings, something to be endured before the party can begin. They don’t know that their ceremony can be unique and truly personal without being affiliated with any religion and without having a single boring moment.

 

Newlywed Lindsay gets an eager greeting from English Bulldog Gotti

Newlywed Lindsay gets an eager greeting from English Bulldog Gotti

They don’t know that the right officiant is an alchemist who can take their fondness for the beach, their love of nature, their passion for animal rights, their commitment to humanity, their fascination with the cosmos – anything that inspires a broader view of themselves and the world – and transform it into the elixir that makes a ceremony spiritual. Continue reading

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