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Posts Tagged ‘weddings’

The tradition of watching a 3D movie (my first!)

I will be getting married in a dress that is not white and I am not changing my name.

Are we completely shunning tradition? As a family friend pointed out, I was wore a very shiny tiara at my wedding shower. Indeed, we are picking and choosing what makes sense for us while still laughing along the way. 

The tiara was fun – great fun, actually – and we feminists can all enjoy ourselves.

At the shower, I wore black – a fashion choice above all – and didn’t flinch when I was given a pizza cutter and high quality kitchen scissors. There are some traditions that don’t allow the bride to be to use scissors, cut anything with a sharp object or receive anything sharp. Frankly, the gifts are often related to the kitchen and it is hard to avoid all sharp objects. What good luck comes from missing the opportunity for a friend to share her favorite sharp kitchen tool?

Luck, as we know, is what we decide it is. We make things happen. My fiancé and I are making this wedding happen because we love each other and we want to be one, emotionally and legally. 

Do I look down on a more traditional wedding celebration, shower to honeymoon? Of course not. The true beauty of our diverse, contemporary nation is that we can all make our own choices, and those choices can all be celebrated.

What is a “traditional” marriage to me? It is one in which the gender roles are clearly defined. There is a religious aspect to the purpose of the union and the participants follow prescribed rules – clothing choice, names, roles, etc. 

Of course, there are some useful purposes to tradition. My fiancé wrote in the first part of his guest blog  on traditions that they , “help to build connections across time and place.” In the second part, he notes, “A lot of traditions help solve coordination and cooperation problems.” There are reasons to do things in a familiar way that accomplish a certain goal. We’ve thought a lot about this and I encourage you to read his musings.

We are putting a twist on the traditions that we find meaningful. We aren’t the first to do so and we certainly won’t be the last.

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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!

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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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Susan FrankeI was impressed when I saw Susan Franke at the Brides-to-Be bridal show at Weber’s this winter. Among the tanning salons and DJs, here was someone interested in helping a couple plan for a healthy financial future. She shared her table with mortgage broker Emily Elliot.

 

Most of us bristle when we hear the words “financial” or “wealth.” We don’t want to talk about money, seem greedy or cheap. Susan helps couples to break down these barriers and make financial discussions simply practical and useful. Especially in this financial environment, who can afford not to plan for the immediate and distant future?

 

Susan reaches out to couples in many ways. For example, she works with social worker Mary Stevens from Life Cycles, to offer premarital financial counseling. Susan will help the couple to coordinate their assets and goals. Each couple has a unique situation. For example, some couples might be starting a second marriage and will have to consider the financial needs not only of each other, but also their children.

 

Susan asks couples to begin the financial conversation by asking them to share, in front of each other, how money was handled in their family when they were growing up (if there was a joint account, separate accounts, pooled money, etc.) Usually, this varies with each person and family. In this non-threatening approach, each person can describe what his or her expectations and experiences might have been. Since Susan is neutral in these situations, she can help them to understand how their financial decisions might be based on their early socializations. Transparency is really the key.

 

She offers suggestions rather than recommendations. For example, usually one person makes more than the other. A couple can decide to split costs 50/50 or based on percentages. They can decide to have money on the side, or not. Susan helps the couple to tease out what each scenario would look like and come up with their own plan.

 

More marriages dissolve because of financial problems rather than infidelity. Susan’s goal is to make sure couples share goals and that they don’t break up over money. There is no right way to manage your money, she stressed. Every couple has to find their own answers.

 

Couples should consider scenarios before they arise. For example, she helps the couple to consider current or future children’s needs and a family’s religious beliefs that might affect their financial decisions.

 

Unfortunately, many of us have debt. She reminds couples that education loans are your own responsibility. Other debt, such as credit card debt, can be more haunting after someone passes, and she suggested life insurance to help pay off debt to protect the partner in that situation.

 

A wedding can place a considerable financial strain on a couple. She helps a couple consider cost-effective options, in the event that they don’t want to plan an elaborate wedding. There are traditions, but no rules, regarding how a wedding should be.

 

Sometimes family members or friends will offer to help with a wedding or other bills. She noted that if people help you, sometimes they think they are entitled in some way to have a say in what you’ve done or how you will pay them back. She suggests that if you borrow money from a friend or family member, that you do so in the most professional of ways. Create a promissory note (you can find them easily online) and make a plan about how the money will be repaid and used.

 

I asked Susan if men and women have different financial needs. Women tend to live longer than men and still, in some situations, make less than their male counterparts. Therefore, women should generally be more aggressive in saving for retirement. For example, men are encouraged to put 10% of their income towards savings and women are encouraged to put 15% of their income towards savings.

 

Not everyone has a financial advisor like Susan. When someone should consider finding one? Susan said that it really depends on your comfort level. You can do it yourself by reading available documents in print and online, but often time and expertise is an issue. This is the same with almost anything. For example, you could learn how to change the oil in your car or you could hire someone to do it. It depends on how much time you have to devote to learning about it.

 

If you do decide to do it yourself, she suggests reading Smart Money Magazine. She is a member of AAII, the American Association of Individual Investors, and they produce great magazines and have online non-trade resources.

 

She is national and offers a complementary consultation to couples. Her goal is to help people build their wealth in a planned way. She does financial advising, taxes, budgeting, insurances, estates, etc. A comprehensive planner will encourage you to address all aspects of your planning.

 

In a booklet that Susan shared with me, entitled, “Getting Married” produced by Mainstay Investments, there is a list of “Post Weddings To-Do’s”. Here are some highlights:

 

*Update beneficiaries on your insurance policies, bank accounts, 401(k) plan, and other retirement plans.

*Name changes on credit cards, Social Security, driver’s license, passports, bank accounts, insurance policies, etc.

*Get on the same financial page about budgeting, debt, and your financial goals.

*Do you need life insurance or more life insurance?

*Do you want to consolidate bank accounts?
*Whose health care provides better coverage?

*Do you need to update your auto insurance? What about your homeowners insurance?

*What additional expenses do you need to budget for? (mortgage, student loans, credit card debt, etc.)

 

Phew. That’s a lot to think about. If you are interested in having a free consultation, contact Susan Franke here.

 

 

 

For more information on Susan, here is a quick bio that highlights only a few of her many experiences:

 

Raymond James & Associates, at 350 South Main Street, in Ann Arbor, has been Susan’s employer since September of 2003.  Susan participates in the Calvert Funds Advisor Finder program for socially responsible investors as well as the Savingforcollege.com website as an area resource in college funding through the use of 529 plans.

 

After receiving an AB degree in Speech Science from the University of Michigan Susan furthered her education with graduate level coursework in the MBA program at Eastern Michigan University. 

 

Her community involvement includes volunteering as a financial education counselor at The Women’s Center of Southeastern Michigan, among a long list of other things.

 

A quick summary of what Susan does for her clients:

Retirement and Distribution Planning

Understand your strategy for building financial independence

Understand your strategy for drawing down on it/spending it,

And making it last!

 

Investment/Portfolio Strategies

                        Careful Planning and investment decisions

                        Invest assets in a diversified portfolio

 

Estate Planning

Plan the distribution of wealth during your life so you gain better control over your assets while living

Plan the distribution of wealth at death so you have peace of mind that after your death your assets are properly distributed and cared for

 

Tax Strategies

                        Reduction of taxes during earning years

                        More income during retirement years

 

Long-term Care Planning

                        Protecting your wealth and lifestyle

Ensure that you have a plan in place to fund the best available care if you need to stay in a nursing home or require care in your home

 

Life Insurance Planning

                        Taking care of your family if you lose your life prematurely

 

Disability Insurance Planning

                        Taking care of your family if you are unable to work

 

Accumulation Goals

                        Emergency cash reserves

                        Travel

                        Education funding

 

Cash Flow

                        Spending plan

                       

 

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BravoBrideI first came across BravoBride in a New York Times article . It is an online marketplace *just* for weddings. Perfect. I’ve been scouring the website weekly since I learned about it. Everything from dresses and diamond rings to favors are for sale, used and new.

 

Why pay full price in this economy?

 

Founder and recent bride Susan Alexander Shapiro tells us more.

 

 

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Susan Alexander Shapiro, founder BravoBrideHow did you come up with the idea for Bravobride?

 

I got married this past July 4th and when I was planning the wedding I found it frustrating to pay for expensive wedding items that I’d use once and only for a few hours.  I looked on Craigslist and Ebay but there wasn’t anything focused on just the bridal industry.

 

What is/was the most “out there” item for sale on your site? What is the most common item for sale?

 

We have a pair of ‘wedding boots’ on the site that are really unique. Our most popular items are definitely wedding dresses.

 

How is your site different from Craig’s List or other similar lists?

What sets me apart is that you won’t find fish tanks and bicycles on the site, we only focus on wedding products. Craigslist and Ebay are probably my biggest competitors but you have to search through so many things on Craigslist to find what you are looking for and it’s only for certain regions. Our site is nationwide and we have an advanced search so you can quickly find what you are looking for. The site is also broken down into different categories, such as dresses, jewelry, items for the ceremony and reception and more. Unlike Ebay is completely free to list items and there’s never a sale upon commission. There are a few other sites that that sell used wedding dresses but we are the only site that doesn’t charge a listing fee or take a commission upon sale.

 

What can the “unbride” find on your website?

 

The “unbride” can find everything from non-traditional wedding items, like these blue shoes to a Guide for the Groom book so you’re soon-to-be husband can help with the wedding planning.

 

What guarantee does a bride have that the product advertised is indeed what the seller says it is? In particular, I’m thinking about the rings and the more expensive items?

 

That’s a good question. Like Craigslist, we follow the buyer beware rule. We can not offer a guarantee since we are only connecting the buyers and seller and don’t stock actual merchandise. For more expensive items you may want to deal only locally or use a payment service where your transaction can be protected.

 

It is wonderful that you support the Go Red campaign. How did that relationship begin?

 

I wanted to support a cause that was for women since our site is geared towards brides. The Go Red campaign is near and dear to me because both of my Grandmother’s had heart disease and if effects more woman than cancer.

 

What was the best part of your own wedding?

 

Honestly the whole day was wonderful but I think the ceremony was the most special part. My husband’s aunt married us and they meant a lot to me.

 

 

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Read a little more about the history of BravoBride here. You’ll get to see Susan’s husband Mark, too.

 

Have you bought something on BravoBride? Tell your story here.

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Personalized Wedding Poems by Chloé Yelena Miller can be given or read in a number of ways. Here are some suggestions:

 

Y Read the poem as a toast at the rehearsal dinner or during the reception

 

YIntegrate the poem into the ceremony

 

YInclude all or part of the poem in the vows

 

YPrint and frame the poem as a gift for the couple

 

YUse the poem in the invitation or save-the-date

 

YDisplay the poem during the reception or cocktail hour.

 

YAdd the poem to the ceremony program

 

YInclude the poem on the wedding website

 

YHave the poem printed on wedding day favors

 

YInsert the poem into the thank you cards

 

YGive the poem later as an anniversary gift

 

YOffer the poem to your partner as a part of the bride or groom present

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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.

 

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 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!

 

 

 

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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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