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Posts from the ‘General Ceremony’ Category

Retiring in 2018

Hello, friends.

After co-creating custom weddings with couples and their families, working alongside talented wedding vendors and learning a WHOLE LOT about LOVE from them ALL over the past nearly ten years as a Wedding Celebrant, it is time for me to retire from leading weddings.

I am grateful for the myriad encounters I have shared with countless people in these intimate and special settings, where I was often covered in goosebumps (even on hot Tucson days!) and overcome with the beauty of connection and enduring relationships. Thank you.

It is a joy to lead weddings as you might imagine, so you might still see me doing so for small, intimate affairs upon special request. For example, I led my nephew’s wedding last month and it was a delight! In the near future, I will be focusing more on my own family life and travel adventures, along with my work as a hospice spiritual counselor. So I’ll still be working and playing, just in other ways!

With love and gratitude,


Tips for Writing Your Own Vows

So this whole vow writing thing . . . easy-peasy, right?

Well, maybe for some folks.

But almost always, when couples I work with set out to write their own vows, it seems easier for them at the outset than it actually is in real time. I offer couples a few vow writing question prompts to ease the process, but more than anything, an important aspect of the process is agreeing upon what kind of vow format feels right for you.

VonHeiland (284).jpg

I suggest that couples give these questions about structure a good bit of reflection together before setting out to write wedding vows:

  • Do we want our vows to be a ‘repeat phrases after the Celebrant’ experience?

(My experience is that true introverts who aren’t into speaking in front of guests leap up and say “YES please!” to this question.)

  • Do we want our vows to reflect the ‘tradition’ of any belief system or combination of beliefs?

For example, a couple I worked with this past spring, wanted to incorporate the format of Buddhist wedding vows because both draw from the wisdom of Buddhist tradition.

  • Do we wish for any family members (children in blending families, for example) to participate in the making of vows? 

Often I find myself marrying mature couples who are beginning anew in a second marriage, which means there are children involved who may be in their teens, or even adult children in midlife if the marrying couple is in their late 60’s.

  • Do we want our vows to reflect more of a conversational style, a give and take, rather than “I read my 327 words and then you read your 281 words”?

If you’re having a relaxed and informal ceremony with your nearest and dearest, you might feel more at ease exchanging vows in a conversational way, kind of like real life.

  • Do we want anybody to review our vows for length and the tone of content if we wait until the day of to exchange or do we share them with each other prior?

Sometimes waiting until the day of is a wonderful surprise, yet I find this true only if somebody (like me! or an objective friend) has read them first to give a sense of comparable length and tone, and then see if any revisions are needed.

These structural questions are a good starting point, but then go and HAVE FUN with it, too! The photo above shows lovely hand-written vow booklets from a couple who I wed last fall. I loved how they read their vows to each other in their own hand writing and their vow booklets could be something they revisit on anniversaries in the future, add to, and enjoy. Lastly, if these ideas leave you wanting more, this article has some good pointers in it, too. Especially, #8: “Practice by saying them aloud.” Yes, it’s different hearing the words outside your heads compared to reading it on a computer screen silently. Trust me on this one!





An Alternative Blessing for a Wedding

Are you looking for a blessing or a reading that isn’t something you’ve already heard many times over? Chances are what I’m including here could be a good one to consider. It’s titled “A Prayer for a Wedding,” by Joel Oppenheimer.

I am weaving it into a relaxed fall wedding ceremony I’m presently writing, for a laid back couple who loves to be outdoors together. They aren’t affiliated with a single religion, yet have family members who are from varied religious backgrounds. Sound familiar at all? Sometimes this situation can get complicated. But I find complication comes only if you let it.

Offering an element of familiarity in the ceremony, not necessarily with an outright prayer if that doesn’t fit your beliefs, although some kind of blessing, may feel appropriate. This may give guests an anchored feeling by honoring a nod to “there is something bigger than us”. Whether we name it God, or Great Spirit, or Universe – or use no name at all – the reverence lends a sense of the sacred to a ceremony in an alternative way.

I like this reading by Oppenheimer because of it’s honesty and straight forward sensibility. (No, it’s not for extreme romantics!) Since I marry quite a lot of folks getting married for their second or third time, this kind of sensibility works.  So if this reading suits you, I’m guessing it fits well. Here is the blessing:

IMG_4843because everyone knows exactly what’s good for another

because very few see

because a man and a woman may just possibly look at each other

because in the insanity of human relationships there still

                  may come a time we say: yes, yes

because a man or a woman can do anything he or she pleases

because you can reach any point in your life saying:

                  now, I want this

because eventually it occurs we want each other, we want

to know each other, even stupidly, even uglily

because there is at best a simple need in to people to try

                  and reach some simple ground

because that simple ground is not so simple

because we are human beings gathered together

                  whether we like it or not

because we are human beings reaching out to touch

because sometimes we grow

                  we ask a blessing on this marriage

                  we ask that some simplicity be allowed

                  we ask their happiness

                  we ask that this couple be known for who they are

                  and that light shine upon them

                  we ask a blessing for their marriage

Fall Weddings in Tucson

Yes, it is Spring! A beautiful time for weddings in the desert, with all the trees and cacti a bloomin’ their hearts out. But couples planning fall weddings, you are busy people right now! So I’m writing this post for you, many of whom I’m meeting to envision fall ceremonies. This video gives glimpses of a September 2014 wedding I had the honor to co-create with Elise and Scott and their families. From the moment we first met on the patio at Cup Cafe, to the funny moments at rehearsal, to the tear-filled time when this Groom first saw his radiant Bride, I was thrilled to be with them.

One element of their wedding I enjoyed creating with them was a unity ritual in the form of a citrus tree planting. Since Scott is a landscaper, it only made sense to bring a tree into the mix. And fall is a good time for planting! Here is an excerpt from their ceremony:

Before you exchange rings, we will witness you share in a unity ritual, to further symbolize your connection. We have a citrus tree, which represents fidelity and love in many belief systems. In addition, both of you believe that we come from nature. You will add soil and nutrients to this decorative container, thereby covering its roots and completing the planting. Please go ahead and do this, as I speak words and a blessing about what this ritual represents:

Just as you feed and water this tree, be sure to find ways each day to protect, affirm, and nourish each other, and to treasure the ways in which your oneness bears fruit. Enjoy the intertwining of your growth within your closeness, like the roots with the soil. May God bless you in your rootedness; and may we all bless this tree as it symbolizes your unity!”

And for the delicious eye-candy that beats any little quotes from a ceremony I can muster, you must see this video, created by Blacksheep Filmworks in Tucson. Enjoy!

Tubac-Elise & Scott from Stepheny Keith on Vimeo.

Holiday Engagement? Getting married in the New Year?

My heartfelt congratulations goes out to you both. Let the planning adventures begin!

Planning for a wedding is exciting and a little daunting all at once, right? Whether you are keeping it simple by holding your celebration in your backyard or going full out with a big guest list at a special venue, the ceremony is an important piece of the planning puzzle.

Sure. I might be biased! Because at Sweetgrass Ceremonies, I devote  my energy to co-creating and leading completely custom ceremonies for couples and families. I work with my clients to reflect their stories, beliefs and values during a wedding ceremony that uplifts and connects everyone present.

As I look back on 2013, I am grateful to have co-created and led 47 custom wedding ceremonies. Since each couple and their respective ceremony is so unique, my work is a complete joy. Of course, there are some similar elements threaded throughout. Essential elements like declaring intent, pledging vows and exchanging rings are expressed in authentic and relevant ways by my clients, in their own words. So it is new. And real . . . every time I am in ceremony.

As I look ahead to 2014, I am curious what the year will hold and excited I already have weddings booked with super interesting couples throughout the winter and spring. Based on my past experiences and knowing who I hope to serve in the future, I offer these tips for you as you begin envisioning your ceremony:

1) Brainstorm phrases to describe how you want your ceremony to look and feel – for you and your guests. A wedding ceremony is a shared experience for you and the people you hold dear. Before I meet with prospective clients I like to ask: “What four words or phrases describe how you want to feel during your ceremony?” We discuss these when we meet. The phrases become like compass points for us as we co-create the full text, choreography and therefore EXPERIENCE. A recent example from last week: warm, funny, loving and romantic.

Jake and Sarah's words were "fun, lighthearted, family important, true to our values" (photo by Neal Krueser)

Jake and Sarah’s words were “fun, lighthearted, family important, true to our values” (courtesy Neal Kreuser)

2) Create the setting that fits your vision. Even if you’ve already chosen your location or venue . . . you can fine tune the setting based on what you hope to experience. Seating arrangement is a big one here. Have you considered setting chairs in a clam shell, circular or labyrinth pattern? If you only have a handful of guests, what if they stood in a circle or semi-circle around you? Most of the time my clients are holding ceremonies outdoors with an array of possibilities for the setting. Maybe a central oak tree becomes the ‘altar’ or the view of a pond or waterfall is an important backdrop. If you choose a setting outside of a church, there is no need to set the chairs in straight rows like pews. Go ahead, BE CREATIVE!

Lauren & Dave chose to marry under the wing of a plane last spring!

Lauren & Dave chose to marry under the wing of a plane last spring!

3) Determine who is your best guide for leading this experience. When you do the exploration of items one and two above . . .who do you see standing beside you to lead the ceremony? Is it a friend or relative you’ve known for decades? Might be.

Me at a fall wedding at Tubac Golf Resort (courtesy Steven Palm Photography)

Me at a fall wedding at Tubac Golf Resort (courtesy Steven Palm Photography)

Or is it someone who is trained in the art of composing and leading ceremonies – a Life-Cycle Celebrant® like me? Chances are if you are not affiliated with a church and want a meaningful ceremony, neither a minister nor a judge will fit the bill. That’s where I can come in, or someone with similar training. I help you find the ‘middle way’ into a truly custom experience on your wedding day that reflects your values and what you hope to experience.

I hope this has been helpful.Something I truly enjoy is meeting with couples during a no-obligation chat to see if we would be a good fit. As I listen and hear what they wish their ceremony to be like, I learn if my services would help them achieve and exceed their hopes. As we talk about how we work together, relief washes over their faces and a happy ease sets in. Could this be you? I’d love to connect and find out! Feel free to contact me via the contact form on my blog, email or call. You can also read more here about my services and see testimonials.



I Do in Tucson Bridal Fair

Our ever creative I Do in Tucson group will be producing yet another fantastic fair next weekend:

My table for Sweetgrass Ceremonies last winter.

My table for Sweetgrass Ceremonies last winter.

Where: Marriott University Park

When: Sunday January 27, 2013

from 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Why: Because you’ll meet all sorts of talented wedding professionals, have some delicious snacks for noshing, maybe taste some cake and hopefully come visit me!

Gather together your BFF or your fiance or your familia and join us for a mellow-scaled bridal fair with some of Tucson’s highest quality wedding professionals.

Stop by my table so we can talk about your ceremony plans for 2013 and set up a free consultation to begin co-creating your custom wedding ceremony.

Engaged during the Holidays?

If so, I am sending my heartfelt congratulations out to you and your fiance. You must be thrilled!

The festive winter holiday season is so full of celebrations and special times with people we love, it is no wonder it is a popular time for engagements to occur. When you look ahead to a wedding in 2013 or beyond, you might find yourselves desiring a meaningful ceremony experience. Whether you envision an elopement in the balmy Sonoran Desert during the winter or a full-blown springtime celebration, a ceremony will definitely be part of your plans. But where do you begin?

Here is where I might enter your wedding planning fun: I’m a Life-Cycle Celebrant® who composes and leads custom ceremonies for couples based upon their stories, beliefs and values. And here is a quick peek at what I do and how I co-create uplifting wedding experiences with people throughout Southern Arizona and beyond:

I’d love to meet you for a complimentary consultation about your ceremony. Feel free to reach me using the contact form on my blog, call or email me at either: 520.609.8396 or

Thank you and I look forward to connecting with you soon!

P.S. Many thanks to Glen and Annyce Meiners at Beyond Video for their videography expertise.

Obtaining your Marriage License

Okay, this almost seems silly in its simplicity! Yet I’ve realized I’ve sent this information out so many times in emails, it may be helpful to instead offer couples a nice pretty post.

In this great big state of Arizona there are many counties and scenic landscapes in which to hold a ceremony. The custom ceremonies I write and perform are mostly held in Pima, Santa Cruz or Cochise Counties. If you are planning a destination wedding in say Tubac or Bisbee, you may still obtain your license at the Pima County Clerks Office and then hold the wedding at your selected venue, outside of the county. Regardless of the county where you register the marriage or where the ceremony is held, I always submit the lower portion of the Record of Marriage for you.

The couples with whom I work primarily obtain their license to marry from Pima County, thus the resources I’ll share here:Pima County Courthouse, Tucson, Arizona (4)

The Office of the Clerk of the Superior Court is where you may obtain a license and here is the good information on ‘how’ and ‘when’ to do so. Here is a map for where to go.

The Office is even open late Monday through Friday, for couples juggling 8 to 5 workdays. Nice of the Clerk, eh? And the Clerk’s Window is located in the Superior Court, just a block south of this historic courthouse building. ( A little known secret, you can park under the courthouse and take an elevator right up to the Superior court ground entrance. This is where I always park when I visit.)

A Vision of Your Wedding

Phew, April! What a creatively full month. I shared enormous happiness working with nine couples to compose and lead their weddings. Through my attentive process as a Life-Cycle Celebrant®, we brought their uniquely personal ceremony visions into reality. These couples chose spaces ranging from a sweet living room with pooches and babies (plus east coast folks joining via ichat!) to a 100+ celebration perched at the Skyline Country Club lower terrace to an internationally live-streamed ceremony held at Tohono Chul Park, to an exquisitely intimate ceremony at the historic Arizona Inn.

I’m excited to receive photos and post more details soon! For now, I’m putting my creative energy into May and June weddings. Plus, meeting with couples about their upcoming fall and winter weddings. (Summer slows down just a tad here in Tucson, with our crispy-hot summer temps!)

Throughout the joy of this work, I assist couples in making authentic and fun expressions about themselves during a wedding celebration. This definitely keeps me on my toes! (Just as no two couples are the same, no two of my ceremonies are ever the same, either.)  Choosing just the right venue and sense of place play a role in expression. Creating a real and relevant ceremony takes it a step further and amplifies the power of collective experience between a couple and their guests. To create a timelessly memorable experience, a ceremony you and your guests cannot stop talking about because you LOVED it so much, it helps to set intentions at the outset.

It is in this ‘setting intentions’ realm where I’ve noticed something interesting lately. During an initial meeting with a couple, if I say “What is your vision for your ceremony?” — some “ums” likely ensue, followed by explanation of small familiar elements or “well, we haven’t gotten concrete about that yet.” Sometimes, descriptions of what they don’t want arise. (Read: boring, too long, overly religious, or wrong names. Yikes!)

Instead, when I ask, “What four words best describe your ceremony?” — light bulbs seem to flash on!  This is a fun exchange I’ve borrowed from my savvy Celebrant colleague based in Canada. (Thank you, Barbara Densmore!) I’ve noticed how this brainstorm helps clear through cobwebs amidst the clutter, you know? Couples seem to cut through the overload of ideas, familial ‘shoulds’ or mass wedding media. I witness them revealing what really matters – for them as individuals and a couple. The folks with whom I work often offer up these clues:

Arizona Inn garden, Tucson

Arizona Inn garden, Tucson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Warm and celebratory
  • Lighthearted (not too casual though)
  • Meaningful and intimate
  • Real
  • Grateful
  • Playful
  • Authentic
  • Fun!

Words readily jump out onto a fairly blank canvas. And those four simple words become helpful guideposts for me and a couple when we co-create their ceremony. The four words turn into a ‘vision snapshot’, if you will. To take it a step further, into setting a foundational vision for a whole wedding celebration, this article is super helpful. I love the author’s formula for ‘seven words’. How easy is that to remember and carry with you everywhere as you plan your special day?!

Wedding Blog Intentions for 2012

Yes! I’m sharing my intentions for posts in the year ahead. Why? Because I’d love to hear your feedback: would these topics be useful and inspiring to you? What else would you like to hear and read about?

Admittedly, I’ve gotten a slow blogging start on the year. (Hey – it’s still January though, right?) Due to a big-fun-flurry of client meetings the past few weeks, I’m already sensing this will be a most fulfilling year, serving couples and families who want a ceremony beyond the ordinary.

Here is some of the good stuff I aim to bring you in the months ahead:

  • Meg & Joe's Arizona Botanical Garden Ceremony ~ Fabulous!

    Tucson’s Wedding Talent Interviews: hearing from super creative wedding professionals in the wide network of folks working in Tucson (eg: florists, musicians, DJs or Directors of Entertainent, etc).

  •  Tips for Ceremonies ‘Beyond the Ordinary’: ideas that enliven your stories and beliefs, plus invite your guests into the experience.
  • Ideas for Vow Renewals and Commitment: while working with couples celebrating anniversaries and various commitment celebrations beyond weddings, I’ll be sure to share examples and resources.


  • Windows into Real Sweetgrass Weddings: whenever couples are willing to share photos and ceremony excerpts, I’ll give you a peek into what we experience during heart-crafted ceremonies!
  • Southern Arizona Venue Highlights: seeing into unique venues and meeting the on-site coordinators.

So many resources, contacts and ideas to share . . .

I’m excited to be doing what I love and look forward to posting good materials you can share or really put to use for your own ceremony!