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Posts from the ‘Real Sweetgrass Weddings’ Category

Unity Ritual for Couples & Families

One of the most fun endeavors in my work as a Life-Cycle Celebrant© is revisiting and reinventing rituals to make them relevant today. I often witness couples desiring a Unity Ritual in their ceremony, yet not one they’ve seen too many times. Here is an example of a fresh idea: Love Padlocks. (Well, perhaps it’s an oldie resurfacing again!) The stories and derivations vary widely – from an old Chinese custom to present day love-locks occurring at special sites around the world – all combining to make this ritual reinvention pretty fun! You can fit the ritual to reflect who you are as a couple or a blended family upon entering marriage.

The essence of the idea is simple: you feel so safe and committed to each other as a couple or family, that your love is joining your hearts and souls together forever. You need not ever undo this joining of your hearts and the lock symbolizes this. Once the locks are joined, releasing the keys to the elements represents no need to undo the bond. The keys may fly up into the air while tied to a bunch of helium balloons, thrown into a body of water, buried in the earth at a special place after the ceremony; or to complete the element possibilities, I can imagine keys being tossed into a bonfire where the setting is safe and appropriate.

On Saturday, I led a romantic red and black wedding at the scenic JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort, wherein we included the Love Padlock ritual. The Bride and Groom ordered their customized locks from Lock-itz, an online provider with great resources for many occasions. This photo gives you an idea of how customized the locks can be:

You can see the keys tied with ribbons before the ceremony, ready to be tied into a bunch of helium balloons by the Bride and Groom after closing the locks together. My Celebrant colleagues in Australia have been practicing this ritual for awhile, as you can see in a video here. The most critical piece of releasing the keys to the sky is ensuring the keys are tied to a loop of ribbon holding the whole bunch of balloons. This way physics can do the work necessary to carry both keys up into the sky, with a dramatic release! I’ll admit we had a minor snafu during this ritual, albeit with a great outcome. The theme of the couple’s love story was ‘adventures in everyday patience’ and was it ever relevant right then and there! One balloon didn’t travel into the sky. I hid it under the ceremony table for the adorable ring bearer to have later. He was aching for one of these balloons before the ceremony. The parents happily tied the balloon to his wrist, so they could see where he went during the reception. And was he ever overjoyed to get his own balloon! The errant key is gone forever. I’m not telling what I did with it! 🙂

Stay tuned, I’ll share another story soon about an October wedding with love padlocks for a blended family . . . and hopefully have more photos to share.



Daisy + Hodge = International Beauty

Yes, they are a totally dashing couple. And yes, their wedding celebration was exquisite, set amidst the springtime blooms at Tohono Chul Park in Tucson. We were surrounded in beauty on this cool April day!

What I’m eager to share with you though, is how they choose to believe in the beauty of their dreams. Daisy and Hodge met improbably, while she was touring Europe with a student group and he was the tour guide. He is from England and she is from the U.S. (Now, quite happily, they are living in Switzerland as I write this.) They are both fiercely intelligent, glowingly romantic, and highly cosmopolitan all at the same time.

Here are two excerpts from the narrative I wrote for their ceremony:

As you may be familiar, this story began eleven years ago, during a touring experience in Italy and Austria, when these two hearts made an instant connection. As Hodge explains, “It wasn’t physical or emotional or cognitive; for me it was totally timeless, in a place where the spirit resides.” He knew there was “something very special about Daisy” and even quipped that “the man she married would indeed be a very luck man.” And as Daisy shares, “When we first met, we felt a deep connection, but we were too young to understand what it meant or act upon it.”

and  . . .

No lavish logic stacks into a rational case for our couple standing here to become married. Daisy says, “being together was neither practical nor very affordable, but we each believed in the beauty of our dreams about one another, and somehow we managed to be brave enough to take a leap and make those dreams a reality.” You both are so thankful you believed. You accepted invitations to sustain your friendship for a whole decade until last year, as Hodge offers, “a deeper love took its place at the seat of the table of our friendship and dawning romance.”

The ceremony overflowed with romantic reflections they shared with me so eloquently. In total, their Couple Reflections reached nearly 20 pages! I had a wealth of material to weave into their Love Story and oh so heartfelt Vows. I’m not sure who enjoyed their vows more: the couple or their guests! Hodge also asked for three excerpts from the Tao Te Ching to be read by friends. Here is a great image of their dear friend reading with gusto Tao Te Ching Section 16.

Hodge’s best friend Ian shares a reading and laughter

In addition to believing in the beauty of their dreams, Daisy and Hodge shared similar losses in life. During a remembrance I shared this passage:

You share an uncommon thread: having both lost a parent to brain tumors at formative stages in your lives. Both of them were brilliant beings with high IQ minds. You have experienced these similar, albeit separate, losses in your lives. Yet as Daisy so eloquently states, you “allow these difficult experiences to add to your depth” as human beings. And as you face any loss in the future, you will meet it with double your own strength, by standing together.

This deep and strong love takes work. It takes humility. And it takes courage. During their Love Story I shared how not only does this couple dare to dream, they stretch into big invitations for growth:

As your relations may have witnessed during your romance and we certainly witness during your wedding today, you share a vibrant ‘awakeness’ and highly attuned consciousness. You are ambitious and hopeful. You see the best of what is possible in each other and the world. You live in a dance with the possible, not fearing invitations for growth. This passage from author John O’Donohue speaks to the grace of your connection: “For the person who lives time consciously, there is a continuous undertow of possibility always at work. Accordingly, it is received and appreciated as continuous invitation. To live like this is to experience time as a constant invitation to growth – to become more than you have been, to transform loss into presence, and to allow what is false to fall away. At the gates of time, blessing waits to usher toward us the grace we need.”

Tying the knot with a Handfasting cord Daisy made to symbolize their joining.

They also chose to share a handfasting ritual. Daisy made a beautiful and symbolic cord to visibly keep in their home for years to come. One last unique and exciting dimension of this celebration I need to mention:  friends and relatives witnessed it live from multiple continents via livestream video. This service was provided by Glen and Annyce at Beyond Video. It frankly boggled my mind how people throughout the UK, Chile, Australia, Alaska, and many other places were watching from afar. How fantastic and earth-friendly is this?

I felt enormously thrilled to compose and lead this ceremony . . . what a blessing to know we have people like Daisy and Hodge living out loud in the world, isn’t it? I wish you continued blessings of connection and grace as you pursue the beauty of your dreams, dear Daisy and Hodge!

(And I offer much thanks to Daisy’s friend and talented photographer Lorenzo De Gregorio in Chicago, for sharing his gorgeous images.)

A Spicy Unity Ritual Alternative

Do you want to include a unity ritual in your wedding, yet feel like you’ve seen sand blending or candle lighting happen enough already? Universally and personally, an active ritual to symbolize your union adds depth and interest to the ceremony. (And sometimes, blending sand or lighting candles does fit well.)

Here is a fun alternative to consider: Blending Spices. For this wedding I led between Katherine and Matt, who share a passion for cooking together, we called it their ‘Spice of Life Ritual’. They also share a faith in God, so we incorporated symbolism from the Bible, based on their beliefs. This is an excerpt from the ceremony we co-created:

A Custom Spice Blending Ritual for Matt & Katherine

Making a commitment to each other through marriage means you combine your gifts and together, you make a greater difference in the world than you would as individuals. Just as spices complete a recipe, you complete each other. You have chosen a few spices to layer in this glass vessel one at a time, signifying your own personalities and talents. In this way, you symbolically combine who you are forever.

Just as the spices become intermingled and will never be the same again, so do your lives as you join in marriage. You will begin and end by pouring in salt, for it is pure and essential. Go ahead and pour the first layer of salt . . . (Couple pours first layer of salt together . . .)

This salt symbolizes love – God’s love for you – and your love for each other. This love will be the foundation upon which you build your life together. In the Bible, covenants of salt were made to insure lasting and permanent pacts, as salt symbolized the eternal nature of the covenant. Your marriage is such a covenant, perpetual and everlasting.

As you pour the following spices, which you will layer between the salt, I will name each and its symbolism:

(Couple begins to pour one spice at a time . . . )

As they held a single glass to pour the spices in one at a time, I read the symbolic meaning of each spice or herb, as follows:

Sage ~ for wisdom and long life;

Rosemary ~ freshly collected from your yard, to symbolize remembrance, love and fidelity;

Paprika ~ for passion;

Poppy seeds ~ for prosperity;

Lavender ~ for calm in the face of difficulties and seeing the opportunities in life;

Thyme  ~ for courage and strength.

Now finish with pouring the final layer of salt. What a beautiful work of art you have created! Please keep this in your home as a remind of this special day. Let these spices symbolize the blessings of your joining and how you have combined the essences of who you are, forever.”

During their ceremony and in the preparation for it, this Bride and Groom had a super fun time participating in this spicy unity ritual together. The Groom collected the rosemary himself, from their yard. The Bride and I shopped together for the bulk herbs/spices and had so much fun! The Bride and her now Mother-in-law shopped for the glass vessels. While I set up the ritual prior to the ceremony, the guitarist even enjoyed smelling the lavender. I carried the finished product over to the reception (displayed next to the sign-in book created by Sarah Neyhart) so guests could enjoy the  couple’s creation up-close. All in all, we immensely enjoyed co-creating this custom ritual!

Inside the Chapel at Tubac Golf Resort & Spa ~ ritual table front & center.

A peek of the TGR Chapel from the outside ~ so beautiful!

This wedding occurred at the lush and inviting Tubac Golf Resort and Spa in Tubac, Arizona. Everyone enjoyed the setting on a monsoon afternoon in June. Other vendors (with whom I love to work!) included:

Colleen LaFleur of La Fleur Plantscapes

Sarah Neyhart Photography

Mark Wilsey on Guitar from Reno del Mar

A Romantic Winter Wedding

In Tucson, we are fortunate to hold outdoor winter weddings. And as a Celebrant writing custom ceremonies, I am blessed to work with couples who really know themselves, completely dig each other and fearlessly express themselves during their ceremony. This peek into a romantic wedding I led last month involves a hearty combination of all these happinesses!

Meet Colin and Stephanie: a couple so totally in love as you can see, they positively glow. We had a fabulous time co-creating their ceremony. Plus, we shared the great surprise of a snowy-mountain morning and a gentle rain the day of their wedding. (Rare in the desert!) They both have a playful sense of humor and ease about them, so nobody seemed concerned about the unanticipated chilly temps. (Not even Colin and his groomsmen, as they sported kilts!) It was a magical day.

What I completely enjoyed about writing this ceremony was how passionately Colin and Stephanie responded to my Couple Reflections. (As a Life-Cycle Celebrant®, the way I craft ceremony is based upon a couple’s stories, beliefs and values.) The love, playfulness and humor they shared nearly jumped off the screen when I read through their thoughts and feelings about each other. So, how could I not be inspired to write a fun and meaningful ceremony? And what made it even better, was the Bride offering a poem she hoped to include, which she wrote. It is titled Thoughts on Growing Old with You. I wove it throughout the ceremony and her words became the soul of the whole experience.

As the author of the poem, Stephanie naturally knew the words from her heart. So as a result, a spontaneous surprise happened during the ceremony. She was saying the words along with me as I read the prose — while looking directly into her Groom’s eyes, just beaming him love. I absolutely loved it!

After they repeated their custom vows to each other, and then shared pledges of love and support with their adult children who stood beside them, they exchanged rings. It was a heartfelt and giddy romanticism I could feel! (We say boo to the stuffy or hollow romantic material out there!) To complete the ceremony, I shared a blessing on behalf of everyone present, based on Colin and Stephanie’s hopes for their shared future:

Happy Newlyweds after the Ceremony!

“May every second count. May you not take a single moment for granted. May your love be a journey of discovery that never becomes dull. May you have all the time in the world to discover each other and always share laughter at bedtime. May you value and validate each other, sharing in the small joys as well as the BIG ones! And may you find great contentment in growing old and loving life side-by-side.”

After the pronouncement and kiss, they danced to Louis Armstrong singing ‘We Have All the Time in the World“. (Yes, I got choked up!) And I think maybe the intimate circle of family and friends surrounding them did, too.

Congratulations to you, Mr. and Mrs. Conlee. I wish you many many years of happiness and laughter together!

Spring Wedding at Stillwell House

Sometimes a wedding floods my heart with so much joy, I wish the whole world could feel it. This was one of those times. I do think everyone present had a fabulous time and surely did ‘feel the JOY!

Jen and Tyler held their wedding at the Stillwell House in downtown Tucson, last April. I was fortunate to be a part of their celebration and lead their ceremony. As you can see, they are quite a radiant couple. And their beauty goes much further than skin deep. When I work with young couples in love, often they are quite mature and have faced some hardships together. They appreciate their families beyond words. They savor life together. They frequently share a pretty wicked sense of humor, too. And naturally, they want me to impart their gratitude and love of laughter to their guests. With Jen and Tyler, I had the opportunity to do all of this. And man, did we ever have fun!

All Photos Generously from Amanda Rockafellow

Before we even walked into the ceremonial space, I had spent 20+ hours working with Jen and Tyler to create their wedding. So when I say we had fun, I am referencing our experience throughout the whole co-creative process. The ceremony itself is a big exclamation point, culminating our creative time together. After they completed their responses to my Sweetgrass Couple Reflections, the theme of their ceremony became clear: two hearts | one love. I opened their Love Story like this:

You may know this timeless saying from the I-Ching: “When two people are one in their innermost hearts, they shatter even the strength of iron or bronze.” And for this couple, they live with two hearts, one love. They are one in their deepest of hearts.

Jen & Tyler speak their hearts during their vows

After a good deal of laughter and some tears about their story, I concluded by saying, “May you surprise each other and grow together. And may you always be one in your innermost hearts, able to shatter any challenge that comes your way!”

Next, during their vows, we three stood closer for these most intimate of words to be spoken. As you can see, Jen has a bigger-than-life smile on her face, and Tyler has full-on adoration-beaming from his. For their last pledge they answered “We will” to my question, “Will you live together as one?”

After speaking their vows, they symbolized their joining with a Handfasting Ritual. With my guidance, Jen even made a beautiful handfasting-braid by way of her own creativity!

To introduce this portion of the ceremony I said, “To quote our groom, “Marriage is entering into a life with the one that has touched my soul. The one that I see myself with for the rest of my life.” Before I wrapped their hands and offered a blessing, I went on to say:

As this is a very transformational moment in your lives, Jennifer and Tyler, we will express your joining through a Unity Ritual, too. Together, you will bind your hands in a handfasting ritual. This is an ancient practice beginning in Celtic times and spans belief systems across many centuries. The cords you have made here are symbolic of how something within you, yet something greater than yourselves has joined you together.

Handfasting Ritual

After the Handfasting, the Ring Exchange was the final symbolic act of two hearts becoming one love. Next a closing blessing, a pronouncement as husband and wife – then HOORAY! – the moment everyone awaited: the Kiss. During the joyous celebration that is a recessional, everyone stood and cheered as “It’s a Beautiful Day” by U2 streamed into the air. Excellent choice on the music, Jen and Tyler. Because wow, was it ever!

Congratulations to a very Happy Couple!

P.S. My heartfelt thanks goes to Amanda Rockafellow, for contributing her gorgeous photos. I’ll soon be highlighting her here as a Tucson Wedding Gem. And my thanks also goes to Marc Summersett, Owner of CE Entertainment, who expertly managed the sound and music for this celebration.

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!


A Mt. Lemmon wedding at Sunrise

For Russ and Amy, that place happens to be the ‘Wall of Trundling Trolls’ in the Santa Catalina Mountains, near Tucson. I had the huge joy of creating and leading their wedding ceremony, held on November 11, 2011. Thankfully I have a few photos, because words feel pretty feeble in attempting to capture the magic of this place. Being up there as the sun rose in a fiery sky and the full moon set amidst silver clouds, made it all the more magical!

Opening the ceremony

I opened the ceremony by ringing a bell and smudging the couple of honor with sage. I shared John O’Donohue‘s Blessing For Marriage. Before exchanging their personal vows and rings, I shared a few of Russ and Amy’s beliefs about marriage:

” To both of you, entering marriage means being together in a completely honest and loving way. It means walking beside each other because you pretty fiercely want to. While beside each other, you become who you really want to be.”

Pretty wise words, eh?

I love how the ‘dogs of honor’ were with us, too – Bear and Abby – Amy and Russ’s fur kids. Little Miss Abby perched herself on the rocks right next to us, during the whole ceremony. She definitely took part in the fun!

Russ making his ring vows to Amy

During the ring exchange, I shared the meaning and symbolism of the rings Russ had custom-made out of stainless steel by a friend, with an heirloom diamond in Amy’s ring from his Grandmother. A videographer was capturing this all on tape for friends and family to see later, so the storytelling was important for many reasons!

No doubt for Amy and Russ after a two-year engagement and lots of planning, PLUS the hour long hike into this breathtaking site, my pronouncement of their marriage and their big kiss was a great exclamation point on an amazing morning. Then Russ had even more in mind: he packed in a big bottle of champagne for us to enjoy a celebration toast, too!

A toast to the newly married couple!

What a completely amazing place and time for a ceremony. I feel so grateful to have been a part of this and wish you the best in life, Mr. & Mrs. Whitacre! Here we are together after the climb out. I think your smiles say it all! Congratulations with lots of love to you always!

Mr. & Mrs. Whitacre with their Happy Celebrant ~ me!

Eloping in Tucson

Sabino Canyon, Tucson
Image by miheco via Flickr

Couples who elope to Tucson for saying their “I dos” have so many choices, it can be overwhelming! If you want something beyond the courthouse steps, being creative and seeking adventure helps. And that’s where I usually come in.

Just a few weeks ago, for example, I led a very easy-going, poignant and adventuresome wedding in Sabino Canyon. And when I say in the Canyon, I mean we literally stood barefoot in the creek, shaded by a huge old sycamore tree! It was so refreshing in the desert heat.

The experience felt pretty magical. The Bride and Groom couldn’t have been happier.

They were visiting from back east and knew just what they wanted for their ceremony: simple, stress-free, meaningful and scenic. A great elopement recipe that I can deliver as a relaxed Wedding Celebrant!

Celebrating love in Tucson

A wedding can be really simple.

As a Wedding Celebrant who helps couples create just the ceremony they want, I am certain that simple really can quite powerfully = meaningful.

Here is a great example:

Taking Vows and Celebrating Love in Sabino Canyon

I married Hayley and Michael on a calm August weekday morning. We took the tram up to one of his favorite spots in Sabino Canyon. We waded into the creek and had a very simple, poignant and peaceful ceremony to honor their joining.

The witnesses, one triathlete in training and one elderly gentleman walking by, came to stand for endurance and longevity for the couple.

How fabulous is this???!

I am so thankful to be celebrating love in Tucson.

Looking toward Sabino Canyon, Arizona, on Febr...

Sabino Canyon ~ Image via Wikipedia

A Hand Blessing as Unity Ritual

This super creative Bride and Groom – the lovely Meg and dashing Joe – wanted to have their senses fully engaged in their wedding ceremony. They incorporated sensuous sights, acoustic sounds and uplifting scents . . . and they kept savory tastes for the reception! Their celebration occurred at the Arizona Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. An AMAZING venue for outdoor ceremonies.

Instead of the often used Unity Candle or Sand Blending rituals, I offered them a custom Blessing of the Hands Ritual with essential oils. They chose Bergamot and Lavendar oils, for the uplifting and reassuring scents those offer.

After I placed drops of oil into their palms and drew the infinity sign in each, Meg placed her palms on top of Joe’s open palms and I shared these words:

“Above you are the stars, below you is the earth, as time does pass, remember this:

Like the earth, should your love be firm, grounded in your humanity.

Like a star should your love be constant, imbued with pure light.

Let the powers of the mind and of the intellect guide you in your marriage.

Let the strength of your wills bind you together.

Let the power of love and desire make you joyful,

And the strength of your dedication make you inseparable.”

(Source: Rev. Susanna Stefanachi Macomb)