photo by Christian Gideon

This past year, 2015, was another wonderful time to serve couples from New York and beyond.

Nuptials this year came in all different packages.  There were fancy affairs at many local venues, restaurants, castles, vineyards, and gardens—as well as private homes.  Plenty of folks eloped to Central Park to exchange wedding vows or renewals of their commitment.  I worked with couples from the tri-state area, as well as those from far flung locations including California, Texas, Indiana, Australia, England, Italy, and Scotland.

Enjoy some of the images from the many celebrations.  Happy holidays to all my couples, from this year and years past.  May you have many beautiful years together.

Photo above by the gifted Christian Gideon

Share, or leave a comment...

persian coins

 

acqueline and Frank were a perfect couple to work with.  Both special education teachers in New Jersey, they had a kind, gracious attitude that was infectious.  Having witnessed a Celebrant-led ceremony at the wedding of Jackie’s sister, they embraced the possibilities of acknowledging the bride’s Catholic heritage and the groom’s Persian background, as well as their mutual commitment to Buddhist principles in daily living.  In addition to these rituals, there were traditional hallmarks of a celebrant wedding including a re-telling of the couple’s romantic story and personal wedding vows.

In honor of Jackie’s Christian upbringing, the couple chose to do a unity candle lighting, often connected with both Protestant and Catholic Services.  I included one of my favorite quotations for the ritual: “From every being there rises a light that shines in the universe and when two people are destined to be together find each other, their streams of light flow together, and a single brighter light goes forth from their united being.”

We got creative with Persian rituals.  Among the items usually included in the Sofre-ye-Aghd, the elaborate spread of food and decorations, is a bowl of silver of gold coins, representing the future prosperity of the bride and groom.  Frank and Jackie chose to leave coins on the seat of each guest.  At one point during the ceremony, we invited the guests to participate in the ceremony by holding the coins and intentionally imbuing them with good intentions for the couple’s new life together.  The coins were collected at the end of the ceremony and will decorate their home.

Second, we incorporated the practice of sharing honey as an additional unity ritual. Like many traditions, Persians encourage the couple to share food and drink.  Jackie and Frank dipped their pinky—part of this Muslim custom—in the honey, and fed it to each other.  Obvious in symbolism, it magnifies the sweetness of their life together.

Finally, the Buddhist homily below emphasizes the bride and groom’s commitment to loving kindness and full acceptance of themselves and their partner.

Nothing happens to this man and woman accidentally, but is the foreordained.  This tie can therefore not be broken or dissolved.

In the future, happy occasions will come as surely as the morning.  Difficult times will come as surely as the night.

When things go joyously, meditate according to the Buddhist tradition.

 When things go badly, meditate. 

Meditation in the manner of Compassionate Buddha will guide your life.

To say the words “love and compassion” is easy. 

But to accept that love and compassion, built upon patience and perseverance is not easy. Your marriage will be firm and lasting if you remember this. 

To Jackie and Frank, I wish you peace, prosperity, health, and much happiness.

Share, or leave a comment...

Photo by Stefanie Kapra

Living in New York, and working with so many international couples, I often come across brides and grooms who thrive on travel. This love of adventure is expressed in many ways. Most recently, Kimberly and Henry fully embraced their wander-lust in décor for their elegant wedding at the Garrison, a beautiful venue on the Hudson River, north of Manhattan.

Theirs was a unique story, but one that I wholly appreciated. They met through one of Kimberly’s college house-mates, who was also a friend of Henry’s from the UK. Henry was en route to Argentina when he first laid eyes on the woman who would become his bride. They clicked! So much so that eventually Kimberly joined him in exploring South America….and they’ve been trotting the globe ever since.

Kimberly has many talents, working in event planning and public relations, and she lovingly tended to every detail of their wedding. I arrived early at the venue, in preparation for the wedding, and I was able to savor her hand crafted labors of love.

Throughout the venue there were nods to their cross Atlantic love affair, with references to her American home and Henry’s motherland Britain. There were ample photographs from their trips to not only South America but the U.S., Western Europe, Scandinavia, Asia, and beyond. Maps and vintage luggage dotted the location. Table settings included vintage postcards and were seating arrangements were organized by various countries they had visited during their courtship.

For my part, we referenced their travels in the ceremony script. And I was so pleased that we were able to include a “blessing for travel” by one of my favorite writers John O’Donahue. In my experience, the love of travel is not just about “going places.” It embodies a curiosity about the world, the sense of partnership, and self-discovery that accompanies a trip to the unknown. There are great lessons to be learned—not just about other people and places—but about ourselves and our partners when we venture beyond our daily lives and the familiarity of home. I admire their spirit of adventure. To be honest, I’ve brushed off my old “Bucket List” goal of joining the Century Travel Club, visiting 100 countries over the course of one’s life. I now find myself poring over travel magazines and spending a lot of time on my Kayak app trying to figure out where my next adventure will be.

Bon Voyage! Below you will find some visions of their travel-inspired décor, as captured by the outstanding photographer Stefanie Kapra, as well as the thoughtful words of their closing blessing.

When you travel
A new silence goes with you,
And if you listen, You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

Your journey together is a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
where you will discover
more of your hidden life,
and the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way.
Gathered wisely into your inner ground
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to the fullest;
Return home more enriched and free
To balance the gift of the days which call you.

Share, or leave a comment...

j and d

Last week, I had the tremendous pleasure to marry Jenny and David in Central Park. The day was somewhat dreary, but the spirit of my bride and groom was shining through during this wonderful ceremony at the Ladies Pavilion in Central Park.

My couple met while studying for their medical degrees at Harvard. Jenny was born in China and came to the U.S. as a young girl.  David, the son of a Korean mother and Swiss father, had been raised in Geneva.  We clearly had many cultural and linguistic traditions from which to draw upon for this sweet wedding!

In preparing for the big day, we discussed a number of ideas that would create a personalized ceremony for this special bride and groom, including multi-lingual vows and readings from their individual cultures.  I pored over Chinese language wedding readings and poems from Korean writers and Swiss writers, too (Italian, German, and French writers from Switzerland, to be precise!).  In the end, Jenny and David were drawn to two customs that we incorporated in the ceremony, which also featured touching personalized vows and a ring warming, with each guest participating in this beautiful occasion.

The first wedding tradition we included was the Chinese wedding cup.  This ritual takes place before the vows.  Two special goblets are attached with a red ribbon (red, of course, is a lucky color in Chinese weddings).  The bride and groom share sips of wine from their own individual glass, crossing arms and taking sips from their beloved’s cup.  To honor David’s ancestry, a Swiss liquor was used for the ceremony!  (With a nip in the air, the couple then passed the wedding cups among the guests to share in the spirits.)

We also added a Chinese hand binding ceremony, following the ring exchange. I had created a special braided ribbon for the day, representing the threads of Jenny and David’s lives that were now woven together forever.   The threads of the ribbon also symbolized the hopes and dreams of their family and friends, lovingly enveloping them on their wedding day.  To modernize the custom, we included a popular western “Blessing of the hands” poem, I’ve used with brides and grooms over the years.

The touching moments came one after the next, in this sweet autumn wedding.

Share, or leave a comment...

Shopping center wedding

This has been an exciting wedding season filled with weddings of all sorts—large, traditional weddings, many months in the planning, as well as impromptu elopements, vow renewals, and more

A few months ago, I was approached by a young couple from Westchester County that had a unique idea for a wedding, one that I could strike from my Celebrant bucket list: they wanted a fun, upbeat ceremony, for their wedding….at the Palisades Mall!  The couple had literally grown up at the mall.  Their first date, at Pizzeria Uno, was followed by countless days and evenings spent “hanging out” in the common areas at the mall, watching movies, snacking in the food court, and more.

Larry and Julie had arranged to have their wedding at the Levity Comedy Club on a Sunday afternoon. Certain things about the ceremony were standard fare:  the bride wore a lovely white gown and she was accompanied by a beautiful set of bride’s maids, while the groom and his entourage looked spiffy in their tuxes.  They processed to the newly popular wedding anthem, “I Choose You,” by Sara Bareilles, and I offered a personalized wedding script that told their love story—how they grew up together, came to love their unique qualities, and supported each other in their hopes and dreams, as an individual and a couple.

Other parts of the wedding and celebration to come were not so familiar. The guests sat at cocktail rounds as vows were exchanged.  The post wedding cocktail reception was catered by Chipotle, the Mexican restaurant next door to the comedy club.  After photographs with family members, the wedding party set about on a stroll in the mall.  The Palisades is a large Shopping Center that not only features innumerable stores, large and small, but a vast entertainment area in the center of the property.  So, the couple could take one-of-a-kind photographs on the mall carousel, near the Ferris Wheel, and all about, as curious, happy onlookers cheered them on.

Knowing a bit about retailing, I had contacted the marketing folks at the Mall, and their parent company to let them know about this fabulous event at their Center. And they, of course were thrilled.

At the end of the day, I think it is fair to say, that everyone was happy. I was pleased that I provided high-quality service to this off-beat couple.  Family and friends had an awesome time, and most importantly the Bride and Groom were thrilled.

Enjoy some of the photos of this very special wedding!

Share, or leave a comment...