Chaplain Claudia Meyer

Celebrant for weddings, funerals, memorials, baptisms, and life rituals of all kinds

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Sharing thoughts and resources to help make your wedding meaningful and personal!

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Things to Think About Before Asking Your Friend or Family Member to Marry You

Posted on August 16, 2017 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (1)


Planning your wedding has undergone tremendous changes in the last 10-15 years… it’s almost impossible to start the process without noticing the HUGE shift toward “DIY” and the hands-on approach that has swept through the industry. And in many ways, this trend is a great thing… couples are better able to put their own “stamp” on things, from unusual décor, to custom drinks, food choices, and desserts, and even your own #hashtag to promote your wedding! But some things have not changed, like time-honored traditions and family expectations. And unless you’re eloping or getting married in your backyard (which are fun and legitimate choices!), family and guests arrive at a wedding with certain expectations, namely, that things will run smoothly, be professionally handled, and that they will enjoy themselves celebrating your happy day!


One of the biggest changes to weddings is the fact that you can now be married by your friend or family member who isn’t a Justice of the Peace or religiously-ordained Minister! Popularized by the Friends episode where Joey married Monica and Chandler (in 2001), the “have your friend get ordained online” trend has grown and now accounts for anywhere between 17 and 40 percent of weddings, depending on which study you look at (https://www.livescience.com/56094-friends-family-officiate-weddings.html). The Universal Life Church boasts that it has ordained over 20 million people worldwide (https://www.themonastery.org/landing/get-ordained ), including many famous people and Hollywood stars. Personally, I am a supporter of more people being ordained to perform weddings, especially given that many couples today aren’t affiliated with a church or religious organization, but still want something more personalized than a civil ceremony. But as a person who (for the record, was ordained online) has performed weddings for dozens of couples over the last three years, I have some cautionary advice for any couple that wants to ask a friend (or family member) to marry them. I would not have known any of this before I began performing weddings myself! First and foremost,


It’s not as easy as it looks.


Getting up in front of a crowd – whatever the size – and speaking for 15-20 minutes (the length of most personalized ceremonies) can be daunting… especially when the ones getting married are friends or family! I can’t tell you how often I coach nervous guests who will be doing a short reading, or wedding party members getting ready to deliver their speech at the reception. I’ve often heard them say,” I can’t enjoy the day until I get this speaking part over with, because I’m so nervous about how it will go!” Do you really want to ask a friend or family member to take on that role, putting the spotlight on them and almost surely meaning they can’t fully enjoy the day? (the same could be said of asking a friend to take pictures or play the music at your wedding… but I’ll let the photographers and DJs address those issues…) Even if they’re able to overcome nerves, I would ask if they are experienced public speakers? Leading a ceremony is a very different thing than reading a script… a good officiant is able to connect with the audience (while helping the couple to relax through the ceremony!), change their delivery based on dynamics of the situation (e.g. smoothly recover if something goes wrong or off-plan), and ensure that the ceremony is enjoyable for everyone.


No small matter is the fact that the requirements for marriage licenses and ceremonies vary state-to-state, and even county-to-county. If your friend or family member has not performed weddings before, you run the risk of their (online) ordination not being recognized if they have not correctly researched the local requirements. You wouldn’t want to find out after the fact that your marriage is not valid! For example, I live in Upstate New York, but am aware that anyone officiating a wedding in NYC must register with the City of New York to perform a valid marriage, and I recently officiated a wedding in Massachusetts, but first had to file for permission (as an “out-of-state clergy”) from the Secretary of the Commonwealth, otherwise the wedding would not have been legal. For this reason alone, you probably want to hire someone who knows about marriage regulations – a professional officiant.


Finally, something that is not so obvious but becomes very apparent at many small or “DIY” weddings is that, unless you have hired a wedding or “day of” coordinator (which, if you’re working with a limited budget, you probably did not), your officiant is usually the one who will run the rehearsal, prepare the wedding party to enter, and make sure all the elements of the ceremony happen as they’re supposed to. Not only is your officiant the “emcee/host” of the ceremony, they are often the director, stage manager, and circus ringleader! Weddings are no small productions… and things often get pretty chaotic just before the ceremony begins, with everyone getting ready, feeling nervous, and looking for direction about when and how to start. You really want someone who’s organized, calm, and is completely comfortable with leading people through a performance – because, at its very core, that’s what a wedding ceremony is!


So, the ideal candidate to perform a wedding ceremony is an experienced public speaker or performer, who is calm, organized, and capable of leading others through a ‘choreographed’ performance, and who is familiar with local (to where you are being married) laws and regulations regarding weddings and marriage licenses.


Most couples who choose to have a friend (or family member) perform their wedding do so because they want a personal connection – they want someone who knows them personally to have the honor of legally marrying them. I understand this motivation, and it’s such a novelty that a personal connection can legally do this for you! But I would suggest that a good, experienced wedding officiant can get to know you and create a ceremony that is just as personal as your friend could, and can do it with the professionalism and experience that will ensure a smooth, legal event that everyone can really enjoy!


Couples also choose to have a friend marry them because they can save some money by doing so. As someone who got married not long ago and did it on a small budget, I totally understand this. But you need to weigh the importance of money saved against how important it is for things to run smoothly without a lot of your involvement on wedding day, and for you to not be stressed about the ceremony. If you happen to have a personal connection with someone who has all the above-mentioned skills, congratulations! Go ahead and ask them to marry you! But if you’re unsure about your friend’s skill in any of the above areas, shop around and find a professional who can get to know you personally and provide a professional level of service that you will both appreciate and be able to relax and enjoy on your big day!


Claudia Meyer is a wedding officiant in Albany, NY who has been marrying couples for over three years. Before this, she worked as a hospital chaplain for ten years. She loves working with couples from all sorts of backgrounds to create a personal ceremony that celebrates their love!

You're Never Too Old for Love!!

Posted on July 21, 2017 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Last weekend I officiated the most meaningful 10 minute wedding ceremony I’ve ever encountered! Stephen and Paula had both been married before, Paula had three children, and they’d both been divorced for quite a few years. They were both in their 60’s. Like many divorcees, they figured that they’d had their shot at love and would spend the rest of their lives living independently. And then life… or fate… or love… brought them together. And like many slightly older couples, they figured they could just be with each other and not hassle with the logistics of getting married.


And then Paula had an unexpected health crisis which landed her in the hospital, and Stephen was flummoxed! He hadn’t planned for this, and it caused him to take a closer look at his life, and their relationship, and what it all meant to him. Turns out, it meant a lot! So while spending time with her in the hospital, he blurted out, “I don’t want to lose you! Will you marry me?” to which Paula replied, “What are you, crazy?!” They both laughed it off, but a week later, when things had calmed down and Paula was out of the hospital, she said to him, “You know that thing you asked me about, in the hospital? Well the answer is yes.”


Paula and Stephen wanted a simple, short and sweet ceremony. But at some point during the planning process, they decided that they would write “a little something” to share with each other during the wedding.


Stephen began to read his. “Today and every day I promise to love you and give you the respect and love you deserve. Paula in case you didn’t know I love you. I promise to support you. I am proud to have you as my best friend, partner, and wife. Paula, I give you my hand, I give you my trust, I give you my love. Paula, I am the luckiest man in the world. I would not see myself growing old with anyone else…”


Paula read hers in reply, “Steve, I wonder if sometimes you wonder why I said yes to you to get married this late in life. I want to marry you to solidify our love. To shout out to the world how much I treasure our love and patience and how until the day I die, we will both be there for each other. That’s why I want to marry you and I’m here today with great joy and love in my heart.”


Let me tell you. There was not a dry eye in the house! Short and sweet, but heartfelt and beautiful. Wow.


Whether you choose to marry or not, make sure you appreciate the people in your life that you love. Tell them how you feel. You never know how much it will mean to them! And remember… you’re never too old for love!



Telling Love Stories

Posted on July 8, 2017 at 11:40 PM Comments comments (0)



At the heart of being an officiant is telling a couple’s love story


Part of what I love most about officiating is that I get to tell – and help guests to celebrate – a couple’s love story. Now that doesn’t mean recounting the encyclopedic version of how they met and all that’s happened between them… but it means getting to know them and some key elements of what makes their relationship special and unique, and then weaving that story into an enjoyable experience for the ceremony. (I’m really passionate about making ceremonies personal and enjoyable, because there are far too many long-winded less-than-meaningful wedding ceremonies out there!)


I had the privilege of officiating three weddings over the course of one weekend recently, and amazingly, all three couples had stories that centered around timing… and reinforced the notion that “love doesn’t happen until the timing is right.” Jillian and Matt went to the same middle and high schools, but never crossed paths until they met while both working at Panera about seven years ago. Christa and Michael knew each other in high school, but went their separate ways, got married and divorced, and only reconnected recently to find that they were meant to be together. Heather and Greg contacted me two years ago to officiate their wedding, but less than a week before it was to happen, they called the whole thing off. I was pleasantly surprised to hear from them a few months ago, letting me know that they were finally ready to go ahead with a much smaller wedding and that they wanted me to officiate for them. It was a pleasure to get to hear these couples’ stories and celebrate – in both serious and lighthearted ways – the fact that “time” finally brought them together!


We all live our own stories, but rarely stop and think about them as “stories” per se. One of the couples I married had been together for quite a while but, as the bride said, “After 20 years we had never truly heard our story until Claudia told it.” That’s what makes what I do so special and even “sacred” – putting words to a couple’s love story and drawing out the highlights to be celebrated on the occasion of their wedding.


Every couple has a story… who will tell yours?


Worried about Rain on Your Wedding Day?

Posted on June 25, 2017 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (1)



photo courtesy of Sarah Wigley of Rob Spring Photography

So, I don't want to brag, but... in the last two weeks, I have saved three brides from a lot of stress and heartache by recommending - according to the old wives' tale or Irish Catholic tradition, depending on who you talk to - that they place a rosary on the clothesline (or tree, or other outdoor location).  Many of you may have heard of this tradition... others of you may be rolling your eyes.  But, as my husband (a lifelong Mets fan) is fond of saying, "It's only crazy if it doesn't work."  And for the past two weekends... for three weddings... it has worked!!


Tradiiton has it that if you are concerned about rain (for any occasion, but particularly your wedding day), you should hang a rosary on a clothesline, and it will keep away the rain and ensure  that you have good weather on your special day.


I don't know if it's actually God, or just the positive thinking involved in taking such an action, but I can certainly attest to the fact that it does a person good to believe that that can do SOMETHING - that they have some level of control over something that feels ominous and could impact one of the most momentous days of their lives.  I can tell you that there was a look of relief - even elation - on these brides' faces when I first saw them on their wedding day.  One of them even exclaimed, "The rosary worked!"


When I relayed this story to a wedding guest - who I had met at another event a month prior - she said, rather incredulously, "You believe in superstition?  But I thought you were religious?  Like a Christian..."  My answer?  "It's only crazy if it doesn't work!"


So go ahead, buy yourself a rosary and hang it just in case... I'm sure it will do you some good!

Why I LOVE Elopements!

Posted on June 20, 2017 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)


I vividly recall the first time I heard the word "elope."  I was watching a rerun of the TV series Batman (Season 2, Episode 34 "The Catwoman Goeth"  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0519512/?ref_=ttpl_pl_tt ), and I had to ask my mom what the word meant (because of course I thought it was some kind of melon... like canteloupe!):lol:

Fast forward about 40 years, and I'm performing weddings - and elopements - myself!  And when I'm out and about, talking to friends and family, I often get a feel of "aversion" to any mention of an elopement... like "oh, they had to elope... how sad!" or "why couldn't they do a 'regular' or 'real' wedding?"  I wonder if you've encountered - or feel - the same??

Perhaps the reaction is due to the history of the word "elope" - since it used to mean "“to run away secretly with the intention of getting married usually without parental consent."  I found a great little article on the Merriam-Webster website that talks about the changing meaning of the word "elope."  (https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/read-this-before-you-elope)  Nowadays, an elopement is basically a "small wedding" where the only escape involved is the escape from all the financial and social expectations that come with a modern, full-priced wedding!

I've been marrying people for over three years, and while I did not intially do many elopements, my business has grown, and now about 1/3 of my business is elopements!  And I've come to LOVE the elopements that I'm fortunate to be a part of!

So WHY do I love elopements?  Let me count the ways...

  • a choice to elope is a choice to boil down your wedding to its most essential parts... the couple, the love, the vows, and a couple of important witnesses
  • an elopement is still special.   the day will feel special, you will clearly remember how you felt and those memories will be precious!
  • since everything in an elopement is "concentrated," each part seems to have more "weight" and "meaning."  The five minute ceremony is suddenly expressing all the important things you want to say on your wedding day.  And the amount of emotion packed into the short period of time that the wedding ceremony takes is amazing!
  • you can include as much or as little (people, dress, flowers, photography) as you want... but the "baseline" is "just the essentials," so you're free to add things that are important to you, but also free to NOT include anything else!
  • elopements are a great equalizer.  Not everyone can afford a big wedding, but anyone can marry in an elopement ceremony (for under $200)! I love being a part of such a loving, special event for people from so many different backgrounds...
  • need I even mention the fact that you will save THOUSANDS of dollars and probably a handful of grey hairs from NOT planning "the wedding of the century"... time and money that can be spent on other things you want or need!
  • serious street cred.  The two times in my life that I've received an elopement announcement, my reaction was three seconds of, "Oh!  I wish I could've been there!" and then a huge, "Good for them!  They did it just the way they wanted to!!"  Those couples are gods and goddesses to me.  They bucked convention and just got the job done.
  • eloping doesn't mean you can't throw a party... I've had a handful of couples who chose to elope (because of various legal or logistical situations) who later chose to do the big wedding, celebrate the wedding in another location, or have a fun "hey!  we're married now!" celebration, free from all the traditional wedding expectations.
Eloping may or may not be your thing... but it can be pretty darn special!  I LOVE that I get to celebrate such a special moment with so many amazing couples!!

Setting the Tone

Posted on June 5, 2017 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)


A bride recently asked me, "What do you see as your main responsibility (as the officiant)?"  I thought it was a terrific question!  Not, "What do you do?" or "What is your job?" but "What do you SEE as your RESPONSIBILITY?"... as in, what do you see as your unspoken aim in all that you do at a wedding?  I didn't hesitate to give her my answer... "My main responsibility is setting the tone for your day of celebration!"


You see, while you - the bride and/or the groom - are busy getting ready, getting nervous, getting excited about your wedding day as the time for the ceremony approaches, your guests - all your wonderful friends and family who were fortunate enough to be invited to share this amazing day with you - are arriving, finding their way to their seats, and waiting for the celebration to begin.  They won't see you for another 20-30 minutes, and they won't get  chance to interact with you for another hour or two.... but they're already forming impressions about how they're going to remember this day.  Are they being made to feel comfortable?  Are they going to enjoy the whole day, or, as one of my favorite officiants put it, are they getting ready to "sit through the boring part so they can earn a drink at the reception?"  


Your officiant is the one who is going to do the talking and your guests are going to spend the next 15-30 minutes listening to her or him.... what is this time going to be like?  Is it going to feel like "something obligatory" so everyone can get on to the good part - the party?  As an officiant, I have some pretty strong feeling about this.... NO!!  Your ceremony should not feel "boring" or "obligatory," and my responsibility is to interact with your guests in such a way as to make sure they relax and enjoy the ceremony experience of your transition from single people to a married couple (because that's exactly what a wedding ceremony is!).


I once went to an outdoor wedding where, due to circumstances I don't totally understand, there were not enough chairs for all the guests.  The wedding coordinator was acting a bit miffed ("What are they so upset about?  It's only going to be 15 minutes and some of them can stand around the back!".... but don't get me started about that....), and I realized that WE had a problem on our hands.  The guests were not happy and this was going to sour the mood of the entire ceremony!  I asked if it was ok for me to stand up front and make an announcement, and then I went up front and addressed the guests.  I warmly welcomed them, apologized for the lack of chairs (even though it wasn't my fault), thanked them for their patience and flexibility, and reassured them that I would keep things "short and sweet."  I also made an announcement (at the request of the bride and groom) that they not take any pictures during the ceremony, and made a small joke out of it by saying, "the bride and groom want to see your beautiful faces, not the backs of your phones."   Everyone laughed a bit, relaxed, and the whole tone of the audience changed.  It was my responsibility to notice this issue and address it, using my skills and charm... and it made all the difference!


If you hire an officiant who is "all business" and sees their job as just  "performing the ceremony," you may be missing out on an important (but invisible to you, the bride or groom) dynamic.  I've been doing ceremonies and public speaking for long enough to know that "people won't (necessarily) remember what you said, or what you did, but how you made them feel."  And I see this as part of my responsibility at every wedding!

Writing Your Own Wedding Vows

Posted on September 1, 2016 at 11:15 PM Comments comments (2)

I’ve recently had a number of couples decide to write their own vows for their wedding ceremony, and I’ve been blown away by the results! No doubt, it’s a daunting task to sit down and profess your love and make promises to your future spouse that will be read aloud to all your guests, but I’m convinced that, for those willing to take on the challenge, there’s almost no way to fail! The only risks, in my book, are writing something that’s way too short or too long (and a good officiant will see this and help you expand or cut, as needed), writing something wildly inappropriate (which is more often the case with best man/maid of honor speeches, not vows… but again, your officiant can curb this if it happens), or putting it off until the last minute or just not writing them at all (make sure you set an early deadline and have someone hold you accountable for getting them done).

 

What makes personal vows so special is that they are honest, come from your heart, and are written in your “voice,” something that your partner and your guests are sure to notice and appreciate! Because so much of a wedding ceremony is scripted for you, either following tradition or using the words of the officiant who writes the ceremony for you and your fiancé, writing your own vows is the single opportunity for people to hear directly from you on your wedding day. And people really do sit up and notice. Suddenly, they feel like they’ve been included in a very personal conversation between you and your partner, and they’re thrilled to be able to hear what you have to say on such an important day.

 

If you’re worried about having to memorize what you’ve written, don’t sweat it. I generally recommend that couples read their vows from a small card or piece of paper. However, if you really want to memorize them, that’s fine. Just have your officiant keep a copy in case you need them.

 

If you’re worried about getting emotional when you say your vows… well, it may happen, but people will absolutely understand. In fact, it will make the memory of the day even sweeter! Just bring a hanky and ladies, be sure to wear waterproof eye makeup!

 

You are the one who knows your own heart and knows your fiancé the best… why not write the things you’d like to say on this most important day? Yes, you may be nervous, and no, it won’t be easy… but it will absolutely be worth it! No couple I’ve ever worked with regretted writing their own vows. A few have regretted not writing their own….

 

My advice for writing your own vows? You can read others’ vows to get a sense of what kind of things to say… but don’t pore over them and don’t try and copy. If you’re going to write your own, write your own.

 

Find a comfortable place, clear your head, think about your spouse-to-be… and just start to write. Write what you think, write what you feel. Just write. Write first, edit later.

 

There are basically three types of statements that people make in their wedding vows:

 

· Storytelling – telling some of the story of how you met and fell in love, capturing the highlights of your relationship. Often the story telling includes statements of surprise (“I never thought…” or “I didn’t expect…”) or, alternately, of knowing (“I knew the first time...” or “I had a feeling…”)… but not always.

 

· Statements about Your Love – statements telling how this person/how love makes you feel, what difference this person/their love has made in your life, how you look at the future differently now, etc. These are probably the hardest to write… because you think of all the “romantic” things other people have written and said through history. Don’t try and be romantic. Just be real and write about your partner and your love.

 

· Promises (or Vows) – commitments or promises you are making to your future spouse. These can be lofty (“I will never stop loving you,” “I am yours forever”) or concrete (“I promise to encourage you when times get tough,” “I will always stick up for you and defend you”) or even practical – which usually means a bit of humor (“I will cheer on the Bills with you and console you with a beer when they lose,” “I will always put the toilet roll on the right way – even though there is no right way”).

 

I generally recommend that each bride or groom write 8-10 “thoughts” (sentences or short paragraphs of sentences) total, including some or all of the three types of statements above. If you only use one of the above kinds of statements, make it the “promises.”

 

Trust yourself and your ability to write meaningful vows. Just open your heart and write. You really can’t go wrong.


Claudia Meyer is a wedding officiant in Albany, NY who has been marrying couples for over two years.  Before this, she worked as a hospital chaplain for ten years.  She loves working with couples from all sorts of backgrounds to create a personal ceremony that celebrates their love!


From the Silly to the Sublime

Posted on January 6, 2016 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (0)

One of the unique things that I bring to my work as a chaplain is a blend of both the serious and the not-so-serious.  I come from a background of faith, which means I have tremendous respect for marriage and its sacred aspects.  Having just gotten married myself just six short years ago (photo of me and my beloved above), I still consider myself a "newlywed," and as such, can really relate to brides and grooms as they experience both the excitement and the stress of planning a wedding.

AND YET, I've always been unafraid to challenge tradition and have a little fun.  Rumor has it that I even dressed up as Wonder Woman to officiate a recent wedding held on October 31st (I can neither confirm nor deny that the photo above is, in fact, me!).

So... whether your wedding will be a celebration of tradition, or you'd just as well throw tradition out the window, chances are I'M YOUR GAL!!!

6 Reasons You Should Book Me - and NOT Jimmy Kimmel - to Officiate Your Wedding!

Posted on August 12, 2015 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

So in case you haven’t heard, Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux got married in a super-secret ceremony last week that was officiated by Jimmy Kimmel. Now, before you go contacting his agent to try and book him for your wedding, there are a few things you should know…

 

6 Reasons Why You Should Book Me – and NOT Jimmy Kimmel – to Officiate at Your Wedding:

1. “When Kimmel brought his ABC show to Brooklyn in October 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated the metropolitan area, and Kimmel was forced to cancel his first show that week."  I have never I have never brought a hurricane – or any natural disaster – to any appearance.

2. I’m all for Cecil the Lion, but I will not get emotional or make a plug for donations during your special ceremony… this is ALL ABOUT YOU!!

3. Jimmy is a narcoleptic. Do you want the person making your vows LEGAL to possibly fall asleep during the ceremony? I thought not….

4. Jimmy has a HUGE reputation for being a prankster. A friend of his (Gabourey Sidibe) even showed up to HIS wedding dressed as a bride. DO YOU WANT THIS SORT OF STUFF HAPPENING AT YOUR WEDDING?!

5. Jimmy will probably insist that his parking lot security guard Guillermo be the best man. I will not insist on anyone being anything in your wedding.

6. Jimmy has a net worth of about $35 million. My net worth is significantly less, so I won’t charge quite as much as he would to officiate at your wedding. For more information, see www.chaplainclaudiameyer.com/weddings

 

10 Meaningful Touches for Your Ceremony

Posted on November 18, 2014 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)


Although your wedding day is filled with significant moments, the ceremony is the pinnacle of the entire celebration. It's the reason everyone has joined together, and it's more than just a formality. Whether you're having a religious or secular service, your ceremony is your chance to express who you are as a couple; you can personalize your readings, add rituals that have significance for you, or even infuse your love story throughout the service. Here, officiants share some of the most creative touches their couples have been adding to their ceremonies lately.

 

1. Tell Your Love Story

April Beer, a contemporary interfaith minister based in New Jersey, truly tailors each ceremony to fit her couple. One of her favorite parts is telling the couple’s love story.

“Since my ceremonies are based on the couple's love, this is one of the highlights of the ceremony. Of course, I include the silliest, sappiest, and most loving moments, as well as mentioning their cats and dogs!”

Beer also loves to interview family and friends before the ceremony to get their takes on the relationship. “If the couple permits me, I don’t share the answers with them until they hear what others think and feel during the ceremony. It’s a fun time!”

 

2. Love Letters from Far-Flung Guests

If your families live all over the world, it can be nearly impossible for everyone to come together for the wedding. To include your distant loved ones, encourage them to write letters, which can be woven into the ceremony. At the wedding of an American-born bride and her Irish husband, New York City-based wedding officiant Sarah Ritchie read notes of encouragement and happiness from the groom’s father, brother, and several close friends who couldn’t make the trip. “The couple and all those attending the wedding felt enveloped in the blessings sent from across the Atlantic,” said Ritchie.

At another wedding Ritchie officiated, the couple’s elderly grandma and the bride’s sister — who had just given birth in another country — recorded video messages for the happy couple, which were played during the ceremony. “Not a dry eye could be found!” she recalled.

 

3. Create a Wedding Time Capsule

Writing letters isn't just for guests who can't attend the wedding; you can also invite any guest attending to write you a note that'll be read on your first anniversary. The letters can include well wishes, advice for married life, favorite memories of you two together, or anything else they’d like to include (you can either include a card about this with your invitations, post about it on your wedding website, and/or have nice stationery and pens available at the venue).

Pass around a box during the ceremony for your guests to drop in their notes. Then, seal it up until your anniversary! “What could be better during an anniversary than to read the blessings of loved ones at the time of the wedding?” said Ritchie.

Another twist is to craft a “fight box." Before your big day, gather a wooden box, a bottle of wine (or the alcohol of your choice), and two glasses. Write love notes to each other, explaining your feelings as you prepare to start your new life together as husband and wife. Seal your letter without letting your soon-to-be read what you’ve written.

During the ceremony, place the love notes inside the wooden box with the wine and glasses. Take turns hammering the box shut, one nail at a time, until the box is sealed.

Agree to keep the box sealed until a special anniversary, like your 10th or 20th, unless you hit a rough patch. Then, break open the box, pour the wine, read the letters, and remember what it’s all about!

 

4. New Twists on Handfasting

Handfasting, where couples bind their hands together with a ribbon to symbolize the joining of two lives, is an old pagan ritual that many modern couples have been adapting for their weddings. One of Beer’s couples used their child’s baby blanket as their ribbon, symbolizing that the child is “their knot.” Another couple had each saved the shirt they wore on their first date four years ago, so they repurposed those shirts as their ribbon. “The groom’s mom cut up the shirts and made a fantastic three-foot-long wrapping for their hands,” said Beer.

 

5. Family Mementos

One of Beer’s grooms was in possession of a Bible that had been passed down through the generations, dating back to his great-great-grandfather in 1870. “Every couple in the family has, at some point, signed the Bible, and we incorporated this ritual into the ceremony.” Don’t have a family heirloom like that? Start the tradition now! Ask all of the married couples in your family sign a sacred book, and you’ll add your names during the ceremony.

 

6. The New Vows

These days, it’s not just you and your betrothed who get to make promises at the wedding. Some couples have been asking their guests to join in on the vows. After the couple makes their promises to each other, Ritchie reads the following:

“Now that you, beloved friends and family of the couple (names), have heard them recite their vows, do you promise, from this day forward, to encourage them and love them, to give them your guidance, and to support them in being steadfast in the promised that they have made?”

Guests respond: “We do!”

For blended families, making vows to each other’s children has become a heartwarming part of the wedding day. One of Ritchie’s grooms recited the following to the bride’s children:

“I want you to know that I dearly love your mother. We have become very good friends, and we have learned to love each other. As you have so graciously shared this wonderful woman with me, so will I share the love I feel for her with you. Together, we will learn more about each other. I promise also to be fair and to be honest, to be available for you as I am for your Mom, and to earn your love, respect and true friendship. I will not make attempt to replace anyone, but to make a place in your hearts that is for me alone. I will be father and friend, and I will cherish my life with all of you. On this day, when I marry your mom, I promise to love and support you as my own.”

The bride recited a similar vow to the groom’s children. The kids then each made their own vows, responding “I do” to each question:

“Do you promise to love your mother and her new husband?” or ”Do you promise to love your father and his new wife?”

“Do you promise to support their marriage and your new family?”

“Do you promise to accept the responsibility of being their children and to encourage them, support them, and accept them?”

 

7. Beer Blending

One brewski-loving pair created two special ales for their wedding – a dark beer for the groom, and a lighter beer for the bride.

During the ceremony, their officiant — appropriately named Beer — described the properties of each brew and how they corresponded to the bride's and groom’s personalities “They each took their beers and blended them together to create their own blend of black and tan and shared the glass,” said Beer. “They also had personalized labels made and gave the beers as favors to their guests.”

 

8. Communal Blessing of the Rings

During many religious ceremonies, the officiant typically says a blessing over the rings before the couple exchanges them. But if you’re not having a religious ceremony, consider have your family and friends bless your rings (this works best at smaller weddings).

“The ritual is simple but powerful. We place the wedding bands in a lovely box or decorative pouch to be handed from guest to guest before the ring ceremony begins or during a period of music and reflection,” said Ritchie. “Each guest holds the rings and silently offers a prayer or wish for the couple. In essence, the rings are warmed by the hands and hearts of the guests.”

 

9. Reverse Unity Candle

Instead of the traditional unity candle ceremony — where each of your mothers light a candle, then you and your fiancé use these candles to light a larger candle together — Ritchie recommends switching it up: Start with one flame, and spread it to all of your guests.

Have an unlit candle passed out to each adult guest. To start the candle ceremony, the bride and groom light a single candle together. Then, they use that candle to light those of their bridesmaids and groomsmen, who then start spreading the flame to the rest of the guests.

“As light is shared among guests, the end result is a community-wide holding of the light. Especially for an evening wedding, the dim light of candles can have a stunning impact,” said Ritchie.

 

10. Blending Faiths

If you're marrying outside of your own faith, you're certainly not alone — 27% of Bridal Guide brides said that they'll have an interfaith marriage. For one Jewish/Irish Catholic couple, Beer performed a wine ritual using a Kiddush Cup and an Irish Loving Cup. “The couple exchanged glasses, and I discussed the Jewish meaning of the wine and the Irish meaning,” said Beer.

In another wedding, the bride’s Jewish father blessed the wine in Hebrew, and the groom’s father read the English translation, giving the wedding an inclusive feel.

 

By: Kristen O'Gorman Klein

from http://www.bridalguide.com/planning/wedding-ceremony-traditions/wedding-ceremony-rituals

 


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