Archive for the ‘Ceremony’ Category

Truffles from chocolate-earth.com.If you are a regular reader, you know how much I love chocolate. When New Jersey Wedding Ceremony Officiant and Minister Celia Milton suggested that chocolate could be a part of a wedding ceremony, I asked her to share more details. Thanks, Celia, for these great ideas!


Many couples include unity rituals in their wedding ceremonies to signify  the joining of each partner into a relationship that brings them to fullness,  allowing them to grow as a couple even as they grow as  individuals. 

Elements like unity candles and sand ceremonies are fairly well known. But if you’re designing your ceremony to reflect your personal histories and future, why not include something that is especially  significant to your  relationship. That’s where the fun begins!  I’ve had couples who shared Tequila; couples who’ve braided colored cords, couples who have planted tree saplings  together, and couples who have fed each other sushi,  but my favorite new unity  ritual is a chocolate sharing. 

I first created a chocolate sharing ceremony for a couple I married last year. The groom is a chocolate sommelier who creates tastings  and walking tours throughout New York City. The bride met him at an event she attended with several of her friends.  Since chocolate figured so prominently in their first encounter, and then became a star player in their reception, (of course, they had a chocolate wedding cake…) it only made delicious sense that we include it in the ceremony itself! 

I asked the groom to supply two of the same truffles they tasted during their first meeting, They were displayed on a crystal platter for the ceremony. During the “love story” part of their wedding ceremony, I talked about  how they met, and made  were several other references to chocolate. Then they fed each other.

The actual chocolate sharing was placed after the vows and the ring ceremony.  (My idea here is that the “formal” vows should come before any informal, “common law” promises like handfastings, wine sharings, or the chocolate.)  It created a nice contrast and made it easy for their  photographer to capture each other. 

I began with a reading before the actual “sharing”. Here are two for you  to consider.

1.  “Chocolate has long  been considered the food of the gods; been used as a metaphor of life. A simple box of chocolates is the perfect representation of what life is like as a married couple. Sometimes you are given sweet moments, so perfect they overwhelm your senses, your emotions. Other times you are given dark and bitter moments, a start contrast to the sweet ones. There will be times that one of you will need to be strong for the other, to nourish the others spirit, and at other times, you will both share joys that will take you above the clouds. Now, you will use the sweetness of chocolate to nourish each other, for chocolate is one of the few foods that feeds, not only the body, but the heart and soul.”  (This is courtesy of my colleague Kelly Hunt,   from Heartfelt Wedding Ceremonies in Wisconsin.) 

Chocolate Ceremony #2  “Now, sometimes, at this point in a wedding ceremony, we might light a unity candle, or pour different colors of sand into a family vessel, but since John and Alicia are such a unique couple, we wanted to celebrate this moment of sharing in a completely unique way. With two delightful pieces of  dark chocolate from the rain forests of Brazil. 

Chocolate is  a delightful metaphor for love and life!  The possible flavors and textures of chocolate are endless. Each truffle, each sliver,  or kiss  promises the discovery of  new treat for the palette. For a chocolate lover, navigating  the world of chocolate is as exciting as a lone  explorer discovering new and uncharted territory.  So too, should be your relationship with each other. Your uncharted territory is the coming years that lie ahead, years that will present so many opportunities to learn and grow, to challenge each other and comfort each other, to revel in the new and find comfort in your history, a history you create every minute of every day.

Your  life together will certainly mirror the experience of tasting  chocolate.  There will be  times that are sweet, filled with cream and honey, and times that are dark and bittersweet.  And probably some times that are really nutty!  But every experience will  nourish your body, heart and soul. By sharing  this chocolate with each other,  you promise to always be present for each other, in darkness and light, in sweet and bitter,  in dismal and delicious.” 

I encourage all my couples to think outside the box (even if it is a heart shaped, satin covered one!), and work with their officiant to wedding ceremonies  that reflect their personalities and tastes!  And if you love chocolate (is there anyone who doesn’t?) , this may be just the perfect sweet note for you. .  You could even have all your guests share in the moment!  (But no milk chocolate please; we don’t want any fingerprints on the wedding gown!)


 For more words of wisdom, check our Celia’s blog.

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Family reading personal cardsTable settings with individual cardsHillary Dorwart and her groom handwrote a card to every single guest at their wedding. Each individual card addressed something about their individual relationship. Wow! I asked Hillary to share her experiences with us. I think you’ll be as touched as I was to read this story.


A minute to say hello, a card to last forever. How to address everyone at your wedding.

My husband, Jon, and I knew we’d at least be able to say hi to everyone who attended our wedding and anything beyond “Hi, thank you so much for coming. It’s wonderful to see you,” would be icing on the (wedding) cake. But we knew that at some point during our rotation around tables, some guests would be up for another drink or headed for the dance floor. How were we going to tell our guests exactly how much it meant that they traveled in for our special day? We also wanted to convey the message of love, appreciation and perhaps impart a memory or two. 

The writer in me, who appreciates writing and receiving hand-written letters, thought of the perfect way to relay messages to everyone. Why don’t we write all of our guests hand-written cards? Jon and I wrote cards individually or as a couple – depending upon who we were addressing. Friends or family of mine that Jon had never met or did not know as well, were written by me and vice versa. Family or friends we knew equally as well were written together. 

These cards were placed at the tables before the guests entered for the reception. The envelopes addressed the person or couple and in this way they acted as the table’s place cards. The cards also acted as our wedding favor. Many guests said they would keep our note forever. Everyone was just stunned by this gesture!

No one could believe we took that kind of time to write them a personalized message. All in all we had 130 guests attend. It took a few late nights, and a lot of focus – but it was easier than people think. We had a wonderful time reflecting upon memories with our family and friends. Nostalgia, excitement, appreciation and love were felt with each note we started and finished. What a wonderful way to celebrate the people in our lives who supported us and our marriage.

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OneWed.ComThanks to OneWed for inviting me to blog about how to find the best readings for your wedding. It is a great site and I think you’ll enjoy the collection of Expert Tips and Advice.

Feel free to comment below on your favorite wedding reading ideas.

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Most weddings involve a merging of traditions, large or small. My friend Christa Verem and her husband Jas helped their friends, an American and a Korean, plan their wedding. When Christa told me about the passport inspired programs that her husband designed, I asked her for pictures to share with you. What a creative and low cost way to invite guests into the couple’s life!

Passport Ceremony Program (outside)


Passport Ceremony Program (inside)If you’ve added a creative detail or two to your wedding, I’d love to share it with my readers. Please email me at ChloeMiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

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You’re married. You have tons of odds and ends from the planning and the big day itself.


The fun doesn’t have to end.


I recently read about a “wedding dress party” in the Ann Arbor Observer. You pull your wedding gown out of its protective covering in the closet and wear it out for a party with other girls dressed the same. What a great idea! Otherwise, what happens? As my Aunt Dora would say, “nothin’!”


A friend of mine once told me about a wedding shower she attended. The guests were asked to wear the worst bridesmaid dress they were ever made to purchase by someone who was your best friend before she started dressing you. She said that everyone came super frilly and laughing.


If you’re little less nostalgic about saving your wedding gown, why not model for a Trash the Dress photo shoot? The newest thing in wedding photography is to take pictures in your dress doing something a little less, well, neat and tidy. Get dressed in that lovely gown and take your groom to run along the beach, ride horses, hike in the woods, dance in the rain… you get the idea. (Just make sure that you wait until after the wedding.) Here are some Trash the Dress photos on Flickr.


I hope you’ll share other fun ideas with us in the Comments section below.

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WordArrangement wants to hear from you. What was the best wedding you ever attended? What was the wonderful detail that stole your heart?

Here are some of my favorite memories from recent years:

I was a bridesmaid for my friend Robin. Standing so close to her while she said her vows was a beautiful thing. I loved being able to see her face while she looked lovingly at her new husband.

At my friends Christa and Jas’ wedding, they had a webcam broadcasting the wedding to his family in Europe. Technology was able to make two worlds one.

Jennie and Matt said their vows in unison. Their “togetherness” was unforgetable. They never stopped looking at each other.


Here are Adam Furgang’s thoughts:

The best wedding I was ever at, other than my own of course, was my old bosses wedding. It was held at the Oheka Castle on Long Island.

I have never been to a nicer wedding and eaten so well. There was a lobster bar, a sushi bar, drink bar, tai bar, and just about every bar you can think of. The grounds were so beautiful too.

I was also at a beautiful wedding in Washington DC that took place at the Mayflower Hotel. That was where Eliot Spitzer took his “lady of the night” before he was ousted from office. For all I know I may have stayed in the same room he did. That place was beautiful too, as was the wedding.


Here are Elizabeth Schaar Bergan’s thoughts:

The best wedding I attended (aside from my own, LOL) was Kim White Garcia’s wedding at Airlie in Warrenton, VA. Not only was it a complete fairytale,  BUT she flew in the singer Jeffrey Gains as a suprise to her husband. He sang “In Your Eyes” and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”. It was like a dream.

Here are Ann Keeler Evans’ thoughts:

Mine was the best! Was it the flower fairies or the dancer? Never sure. The 14 bands? The art work that everyone donated? Amazing. I sure do love making ritual. But the evening wedding along a swedish lake during long swedish night season and the procession through a small mexican town following huge bride and groom dolls were pretty great as well!


Here are Celia Milton’s thoughts:


Boy,Chloe, that is such a hard one to pick (since I have about 300 to pick from, lol…..) . One recent one stands out in my mind; a wedding in a raw prison, on a damp winter night in Jersey.

Six of us, thoroughly frisked, metal detected, x-rayed and patted down entered through the reels of thorned wire and electrified gates. The backdrop, the ceremony space, was the visiting room. Paintings of tropical landscapes, contributed by other inmates, adorned the walls between the notices of “the rules for visitation”.

I performed the ceremony joining these two amazing partners, with an fellow inmate taking Polaroids of the service, we signed the license and put our coats to leave, but before we die, the groom had us all join hands so he could lead us in a prayer service, asking Jesus, to, among other things, lead me back to the parway. All the miles of tuille, champagne toasts, pasta stations, string quartets…..nothing compares to the emotion &love that I felt in that gritty room.

Please use the comments section to share your thoughts.

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Anita Vaughan, CelebrantChicago based celebrant Anita Vaughan kindly blogged about WordArrangement. Hope you’ll check her blog out!

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Thank you to Elaine Martin Petrowski (check out her blog: Working Writing Woman ) for putting me in contact with Celia Milton, New Jersey Wedding Ceremony Officiant and Minister.


When I talked to Celia, it was obvious that she loves what she does and works closely with couples to create a ceremony that fits them exactly. Read below for advice on crafting a ceremony and finding the right officiant.



 Celia Milton in a Wedding Photo Booth


What three points would you stress to a couple planning their ceremony?


1.  The ceremony is not just the gateway to the reception; it’s the reason for the celebration.  Nothing is worse than having 100 people  enthused with the grandest, happiest expectations of a poignant moment only to be rewarded with the same old ceremony that’s been recited by rote over and over again.  Yawn.  Every ceremonial  choice a couple makes, from the way they arrive at the ceremony space (Will they walk together?  Will the bride be escorted by her dad or other significant relative? Will she walk alone?) to the readings (biblical? poetry? hand written?), to even their placement  (together facing their guests? facing each other?  on each side of the officiant?) expresses a subtle  window into the individuality to their relationship. All these choices should be woven together, by a competent officiant, into a joyful and individual service that really expresses the personalities of the couple.


2. Remember  the settings that surround the ceremony; it does not exist in a vacuum. If you’re in a beautiful garden, the ceremony should refer to the bounty and beauty of nature.  If it’s in the fall, in a winery, it should refer to the harvest of effort, time and growth.  At a beach?  The nature of shifting sand and the reliable comfort of our anchors; our family, our partner, our friends.  There are reasons that each couple picks their setting, and the ceremony should at the very least, present a nod of understanding to that setting and give their audience another way of insight into their particular partnership.


3. Get an early and firm grip on the fact that something will not go as you planned. The three year old flower girl will have a nuclear, face down on the aisle runner  tantrum. The chuppa will list sharply to one side.  The musicians will start playing  the recessional as your officiant is still talking. The photographer will fall into the fountain.  (Not that any of this has happened to me……’: -)   All of these occurrences are events that are uncontrollable, and in many cases, add a note of fresh reality and welcome humor  to the tableau. With the expectation that something is going to surprise you, try to plan out everything that can be planned not to surprise you. Allow plenty of time for your guests to find the site and get comfortable. Take into account that stiletto  heels and grass don’t mix. (I almost lost a couple of maids of honor on various golf courses last year…). Don’t give the four year old ring bearer the real rings. Send clear direction in your invitations, including parking details and logistical glitches (New Jersey shore traffic during the summer…..) that may factor into your guests’ plan.


What is a “must have” in a wedding ceremony?


Well, legally, that is kind of a thin list. The couple needs to take vows, and the officiant needs to make a pronouncement.  Beyond that, the “must haves” are really up to the bride and groom. As an officiant, I’ll try to offer ideas that will work, depending on the family and couple’s situations, but the bare minimum would be a welcome of some sort, vows, pronouncement, and leave taking reading.


What traditional aspects of a wedding ceremony could be left out of the “unbride’s” ceremony?


All of them, really. I almost never see, “Who gives this bride on this day?”  although sometimes, I will say “Who presents Angela on this glorious day?  Who presents Gary on this glorious day?” Kind of levels the playing field, and adds a note of tradition. 

I don’t think I have ever, ever used the phrase, “honor and obey”. My clients just are not into that. There are other ways to promise cooperation and partnership with more gracious wording.


What was the most novel aspect of a wedding you’ve participated in?


Novel…  wow….there are so many; vow renewals at Yankee Stadium; a wedding at a dairy farm where the entire wedding party and 100 guests walked down a dirt road to  the ceremony space; a giant spreding elm in a cow pasture (accompanied by  several free range cows and the farm dog…..). It’s really hard to pick one.  One of the most interesting, however, was a wedding between an American man and a Chinese woman.  Her mother had done the Chinese astrology and decided that they needed to get married on March 23d, before noon, south east of Secaucus.  We found a beach in the right location, (without a permit of course) and at ten minutes to noon we all stormed down to the sub zero beach front and did the ceremony with a Sake sharing, keeping an eye out for park rangers…..in the photos we all look really,really happy but really, really cold!


What questions do you recommend asking the celebrant before making a final decision?


1.How long have you been doing this and what is your training. In this day of internet ordinations, not everyone has the skills to do this work well. It is a combination of people skills, writing, performing, and a maniacal devotion to details. You should be working with someone who is dedicated to their work and your ceremony.


2. How are you legal in my state? (you’d be amazed how few people ask me this, and it is becoming an issue in many areas…)


3. Can we meet with you in person? (if this is geographically possible….you will get a vibe from the officiant’s personality and get to see whether they show up on time, whether they are prepared for your meeting, etc.  One of my trainers says that the way you do anything is the way you do everything, and the meeting or long initial phone call can tell you a LOT about the way your ceremony will be…)


4. Why do you love doing this work?  Your officiant should sound like they really,really want to be present at  your celebration and make it a memorable occasion.  If they don’t sound enthusiastic and fun during your phone conversation, (which is really the easiest part of the process), they are NOT going to be any more enjoyable at the ceremony, and it is really important to be surrounded by people you like that day.


5. How is our ceremony created?  In my humble opinion, sending a couple 26 pages of readings and ceremony chunks for them to choose and then have strung together does not a personalized ceremony make. You should feel that your ceremony is going to be written with care, with your input, and with resources that match your philosophies and wishes.


6. Can we include a sand ceremony, ring warming, broom jump, dunk tank?  If you are interested in including ritual elements, you of course, want to work with someone who is happy to research and write them.  The process is, afterall, a collaboration.  Rigidity is a bad sign.


7. How much do you charge? Does that include travel time, parking, waiting time, extra consultations?  You want to know, ahead of time, what that number is going to be. There are so many ways for your budget to spin out of control that whatever pieces can be booked as a flat fee will be a real asset to your planning. In most cases, the only thing that may be up in the air is waiting time, and this is an important factor not only regard to your ceremony, but also to your reception planning. In some cases, your reception venue or your officiant may not be able to wait a half hour for Aunt Betty, who is always late, to show up. There are many ways and reasons to assure that your wedding happens on time, and a pro celebrant should be able to work with you on containing this cost.


8.  What is your cancellation policy (if  the couple has to cancel or move the date)?  What is your policy if you, as an officiant have to cancel? These are both important questions. If you have to cancel, timing may be all in the decision to refund your deposit or not.  (I personally, try to be as flexible as possible, but if I have turned down three other couples for that date, I may not be able to be as fluid as I’d like. In the case of family tragedies, I always refund the entire amount.)  If the officiant has to cancel (death in the family, abducted by aliens, etc….) you should make sure your contract stipulates that you’ll have your ceremony script back several weeks before the date of your wedding, and that your officiant will help you find a competent replacement. You should not incur any expenses, and you should feel comfortable with the alternative arrangement.


9. Will you work to coordinate  with my photographer, florist, banquet manager, do, band, etc?  The only answer is YES


What was your wedding ceremony like?


Oh, mine was a hoot.  It was 8 minutes long, and the photographer didn’t ever get out of the balcony in time to photograph any of the ceremony on “ground level”…..(I always let my photogs know how long the ceremony is so they can pace themselves!)  Our flowers were run over by the church secretary, the cake arrived on the dashboard of the delivery van, and the bagpiper got toasted and danced with everyone there.  Wouldn’t change a thing!





Celia Milton is an ordained inter denominational officiant  based in New Jersey and New York (though she is happy to do destination weddings on any island location, and she is certified as a scuba diver for those festive underwater occasions).  Prior to starting her practice as a civil Celebrant, officiating at weddings, civil unions and the many other milestones that punctuate our lives.  She lives in northern NJ in a tiny house with a giant dog and way too many wedding books….


Don’t miss her website or her blog.  



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When I saw a picture of Bethany and Josh’s Obama cake, I knew I had to ask her about her wedding. In her post below, read about everything from their first married fist-bump to a reading from the Massachusetts Supreme Court case, Goodridge vs. Department of Health.


Obama cake

Partisans can be like sports fans and perhaps there’s no better example of this than Obama supporters. Maybe the sports fan analogy explains how the Obama cake came about. We were half-heartedly leafing through pictures of cakes, when we came across a particularly elaborate groom’s cake devoted to UT’s football team. Josh and I are currently living in Texas and I’m guessing that football themed wedding cakes are pretty typical here. I laughed at the cake, but then I joked that we should have an Obama cake. Josh’s face lit up and there was no going back. We opted for a chocolate zucchini cake, because if a cake is going to be liberal, it should have some veggies. We explained the design to our wedding coordinator Abby: the sun, the blue background and the red and white stripes underneath. We know she’s heard crazier requests before, but Abby informed us that the red was not possible. Our wedding location only works with organic products and there’s no way to get a decent red. It may have been the most politically sensitive cake ever.

There was never a self-conscious, let’s tie our politics into the wedding discussion, but the wedding was planned during a year of when our normal obsession with politics became extreme. We took trips to Iowa and Pennsylvania for canvassing, made phone calls from home, and were beyond excited to see our candidate go the distance. Politics just seeped into the wedding: we followed our first kiss as a married couple with our first married fist bump. Ever since a commentator speculated about the “terrorist fist jab,” we just can’t help ourselves. Our first dance was to “Stay with You,” by John Legend, who also did lead vocals for “Yes We Can”. “Yes We Can” was not a part of our wedding, but now that I think about it, what a fantastic motto for marriage. We also danced to “Sign, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours,” and of course we served what my friend Andrew dubbed “cake you can believe in.”
These were light-hearted touches that we loved. The more serious political matter was gay marriage. This was pre-passage of Prop 8, but we didn’t kid ourselves that the government’s conception of marriage was becoming consistent with our ideals. I’ve learned that the history of rights in the United States is not one of simple expansion- we inch forward and jump back, again and again. We wanted to acknowledge the current political context and our own beliefs about marriage.

We tried to do this through a reading from a Massachusetts Supreme Court case, Goodridge vs. Department of Health, in which the Court found that the legal implications of marriage should not depend on whether a couple is heterosexual or gay. The portion read at our wedding was about the special privileges and responsibilities of marriage, and there was no specific mention of the legality of gay marriage. The pro-gay marriage message in the reading was for us. We made this decision because our friends and family are politically diverse and they were there to celebrate our wedding. Some guests did get the political implications of the reading, but most just thought it was an odd choice that was in keeping with our quirky ceremony. My friend who did the reading first mentioned the decision and noticed some puzzled looks in the crowd. She looked at us and shrugged while she said, “hopeless romantics,” and everyone laughed. I think she’s right, though since we’re Obama supporters and it’s Inauguration Day, I prefer to say that we’re hopeful romantics.

Bethany and Josh on Caucus Night in Iowa

Bethany and Josh on Caucus Night in Iowa

Bethany Albertson is an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington.







In the news: I hope you’ll read Ann Keeler Evan’s January ’09 article entitled Election Year Wedding: cake you can believe in.

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I first met Alli at Sarah Lawrence College, where we were studying poetry.  A year or two later, I ran into her and her boyfriend at a poetry reading in New York City. I remember looking at their smiles, seeing how they were holding hands and thinking, “these two happy lovebirds are going to get married one day!” And they did.

Here is the story of a “Jewish girl from Long Island” and a “British man with a Christian upbringing” getting married and discovering how differences can be similarities. I think you’ll particularly love the readings they chose and the vows they wrote themselves.

Thanks for sharing, Alli!


Alli & Ed at their wedding 

Ed and I are not two people who you’d say “stand on ceremony.” We are not terribly traditional. Our backgrounds could easily have pigeonholed us as such—me, a Jewish girl from Long Island, and he, a British man with a Christian upbringing—but put us together and we’re a pair of odd ducks. Take, for example, our engagement: he had no ring in hand and I had a mouth full of lox and bagel when we decided, at our dining table, one Saturday morning in late August 2007, to get hitched (not to mention I actually had gotten tipsy and proposed to him the night before!). We immediately decided that the person to officiate our ceremony would be a neutral, non-religious, justice-of-the-peace type. Heck, what about having one of our friends ordained for the occasion? Let’s throw in some henna, recite the whole thing in iambic pentameter, hire a flutist, and so on. (I’m actually joking about almost all of these things.)

About a week later, my whole family was helping my sister move into her first apartment, in Brooklyn. Sometime in between laps to her 3rd floor walkup apartment, my father said to me, “So, you’re going to have a rabbi.” Something in his voice made me realize that was not a question. “Uh…” I stammered, searching my fiancée’s face for help. My dad explained to me that there were no options in this situation; we would have a rabbi marry us. Strange, I thought, we’re not even a religious family. I believe his next words were, “He can be a Hare Krishna for all I care, but we will get someone who is called rabbi.”

And then Ed, god love him, piped in. “Well, then we’ll have to have someone to represent my side.”

Thus began our quest. Both of us, while atraditional, love our families completely. We wanted everybody to be happy (also remember, this was the beginning of our engagement), and my father rarely makes absolute requests like that.

We thought back to a wedding we went to in 2005, for our friends Sherrill and David. They were also an interfaith, international couple (Sherrill is a friend of mine from elementary school, David was born in Brazil and moved to New York when he was a teenager). Their rabbi, we remembered, gave a beautiful ceremony, blending religions and languages—he delivered his words in English, Spanish, and Hebrew. The sermon was not overly religious, and was careful to include both families, whatever their beliefs. I got his phone number and called right away. Rabbi Frank, I learned, was raised in an Italian interfaith family; his father was Catholic and his mother was Jewish. He had decided, after learning much about both religions, to explore his Jewish side and become a rabbi. This was after teaching high school Spanish and Italian for over 30 years. He called himself a “humanistic rabbi.”

Rabbi Frank sounded like the one for us! I booked an appointment for us to meet him.  Our meeting went smoothly as he asked us questions about our relationship, what we wanted out of life and marriage, and how we envisioned our ceremony. He also made one of the most generous offers I’ve ever received: that he would not only be our rabbi for the wedding, but through life, as we would indeed have questions in the future about how to incorporate religion into our family.

We told him that we were looking for another officiant, one who could represent Ed’s upbringing, and asked if he worked with anyone regularly to provide this service. He said he didn’t, and actually told us a couple of horror stories about working with various priests and ministers who, let’s say, didn’t see eye-to-eye with him on his humanistic way of officiating weddings.

So our next order of business was to find a Catholic priest who a) would perform a wedding ceremony outside the church, and b) one who would perform an interfaith ceremony at all. I had awful visions of didactic priests who would malign me on my wedding day, or worse, reprimand Ed in front of our guests that he was committing a sin by marrying me. We did internet searches and wracked our brains for a few weeks. One afternoon, Ed was chatting on the phone with his mum about our dilemma when she asked him a question that should have been obvious to us: “Why don’t you just ask your cousin Michael, the vicar, to marry you?”


Cousin Michael is an Anglican Reverend in Sussex, England, and we should have thought of him right away, except for this: Ed was raised Catholic by his Irish mum and was only thinking he’d have to find a Catholic priest. Ed asked Michael if he would do us the honor, and he graciously accepted. Problem solved!

Or…was it?

There was the new problem of having a rabbi and a reverend who lived 3,000 miles apart try to coordinate the particulars of a complicated wedding ceremony. We spoke with both of them extensively about the traditions of both faiths, what was the usual order of events, which religion held which parts of the ceremony most dear, and many other things. Apparently, in the Jewish faith the rings are the most important part of a marriage ceremony, and in Christianity it’s the vows. We decided we’d definitely incorporate some traditional Jewish elements: we’d drink wine from the same glass, get married under a chuppah (canopy), and Ed would stomp on the glass (what Rabbi Frank stated was “the breaking down of barriers” and also symbolic of “happiness as abundant as the number of pieces of glass and problems that are as easily shattered.”). On Rev. Michael’s end, he’d deliver the all-important declarations and vows.

It was wonderful getting to know both clergymen through phone and email, especially Michael as he would soon be my cousin, too. This also gave us the freedom to work outside the boundaries of a typical Jewish or Christian wedding. We would get to have our wacky ceremony after all!

We also knew that we wanted secular readings, rather than religious ones. Since I am a poet, and Ed is also a fan of good literature, we asked our sisters to choose literary readings they would perform at the ceremony. They both chose gorgeous pieces, which almost made me cry when they read them on our wedding day.  Tami, my sister, read “Sonnet #17” from Pablo Neruda’s 100 Love Sonnets. Lavinia, Ed’s sister, read “Marriage” from The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran.

So after several months of planning, and one very funny and delicious lunch meeting between our families and both clergymen the day before our wedding, we were all set. Oh! But I’m forgetting the most important thing: our vows.

We decided since we were floating in and out of the boundaries of tradition, we’d write our own vows based on the traditional ones and memorize them for our wedding day. I was a little reluctant to share them with all of you, since they’re very personal. But considering I already declared these words in front of almost 200 people, here they are:

Alli/Ed, I love you with all of my being, and I vow to respect you as my wife/husband, share with you as my equal, and honor our marriage.

I will be generous with my happiness and laughter, celebrate your accomplishments, and treasure our life together.

I pledge to honor your freedom and individuality.

I promise to protect, comfort, and support you. I will always be your friend.


Let us strive for excitement, adventure, and passion in everything we do.


After we said these words to each other with no trace of hesitation or faltering, we exchanged rings, shared wine from the same glass, received the final blessings, Ed smashed the glass into a thousand pieces, and we were pronounced Mr. Brydon and Mrs. Shaloum-Brydon…

…your typically atypical husband and wife.


Alli Shaloum-Brydon is a children’s book editor and poet. She meets fabulous, creative people all over the place, but thinks her new husband is the most interesting person she knows.



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