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Posts from the ‘Value of Ceremony’ Category

Stories + humor + honesty = Heartfelt Wedding

Sometimes I work with couples whose connection and their families become particularly well-etched into my heart. This couple, Jill and Eric, are a beaming example of this heartfelt etching. Their ceremony happened all the way back at the end of August (okay, somebody please tell me where the autumn went?) and I’m happy to share a few pieces of it with you today.

unnamed-1We worked over the course of six months or so to co-create their wedding long distance. They live abroad and for many reasons, chose to have a destination wedding in Tucson. We met via Skype and felt instantly at ease with each other and enjoyed our conversations. When we finally met in person over the summer, it felt like we’d known each other for a long time. What did I enjoy so much about working them? Their love of stories, their humor and their intrepid honesty. These three ingredients, in my humble opinion, are the natural forces that made their ceremony shine. All I did was reflect their adventurous hearts back to them during the narrative of their wedding. And this is how their guests felt so close to the experience, too. Every word we spoke was honest and true – to who they are as a couple – and to who they love in the world.

It was mighty important to both Jill and Eric that their families and closest friends, almost all of whom travelled from afar to be at this event, would feel involved, connected and uplifted by the experience. Turns out, according to their guests, we achieved that multi-faceted goal. Nothing could make me happier than for everybody present to feel more connected and in love with life after a ceremony I guide! As Jill shared, she had never seen all of her friends and family so attentive as in this photo below . . .

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I loved gathering pieces of story from their Couple Reflections and weaving them together into a coherent and meaningful experience. They shared their experiences openly, even the tough stuff. And I’m always grateful when this happens. Here is a passage from the body of the ceremony:

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“You both understand that marriage takes work and you do not enter this commitment lightly. You both know you’ve received many gifts in your first 31 years of life and having a partner to share your life with is one of the greatest gifts of all. You trust that belief in God, in something bigger than you both combined, will help you get through the tough times. You both acknowledge there will exist opportunities for you to grow individually and as a couple.

You know that when you are truly trusting and living in your wholehearted connection, your bond will strengthen. You will be able to get through anything while you grow older together, as long as you are present for each other. As you say Jill, “Our marriage will strengthen so long as we learn together, grow together and experience life’s gifts together.”

And here is a reading that the Groom’s Sister shared; lyrics from a John Lennon song called ‘Grow Old with Me’ (proof that wedding readings can be more than the tired worn out stuff you hear all too often!):

Grow old along with me

The best is yet to be

When our time has come

We will be as one

God bless our love

 

Grow old along with me

Two branches of one tree

Face the setting sun

When the day is done

God bless our love

 

Grow old along with me

Whatever fate decrees

We will see it through

For our love is true

God bless our love

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Thank you, Jill & Eric! May God bless your love, always.

All beautiful photos are courtesy of Krista Rae Photography. Thank you, Krista Rae!

Floral design by the awesomely talented crew at La Fleur Plantscapes in Tucson. (I heart these women.)

Venue of course, the scenic JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort . One-of-a-kind Tucson Mountain gem.

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.

HAPPY NEW YEAR and HAPPY ENGAGEMENT to you!

Kristine

Do you value custom ceremony?

You are likely reading this because a) either you already do, or b) you’re not quite sure and find yourself googling for information to make a decision. My answer: yes. Yes, I do. I value custom ceremony experiences beyond words and devote my practice to bringing these into existence. (As usual, I find myself employing words for wordless experiences!) Yet I don’t hope to stand on a soap box. I’m sharing my core values to ultimately support you in finding your way into a meaningful, uplifting and connecting experience.

And so here I am as a Life-Cycle Celebrant® in Tucson, sharing the what and why behind my core values for Sweetgrass Ceremonies: 

Core values

Core values (Photo credit: HowardLake)

MY TOP FIVE CORE VALUES

1) Expand a sense of connection

All with a sense of ease and joy between people, animal companions and place. I love to support and expand relationships amongst you, your family members and your guests, your animal friends and the special places you gather for celebration. So often the couples and families I serve have a connection to each other and the place where the wedding occurs at the center of their priorities for the event. Our work together expands and deepens this connection.

2) Co-create meaningful experiences

Through crafting, guiding and leading custom ceremonies based on YOUR stories, beliefs and values. I am committed to hearing what is important to you and then holding up a mirror, so you see these things reflected back to you in your ceremony. I infuse the universal meaning or symbolism into the personal symbols, stories or exchanges – so everyone present can tap into the meaning.

3) Offer relevant and fun ceremony elements

Ceremonies come to life through a feeling of timeless, relevant and uplifting moments. With my whole heart, I believe we open ourselves to living these moments when we lean into both the joy and the work of life or the happiness and the sorrow. I believe there is space for belly laughter and gentle tears, all during the same ceremony. Together we find expressive and fun elements to express what is true for you, wherever you find yourself in life.

4) Surpass ideas of what is possible

I actively listen to help you suss out what you want to experience and then present alternatives for both meeting and exceeding your visions. This is born out of collaboration. I love to hear your seed ideas and form collaborative unity rituals, for example, that nobody at your ceremony has ever seen before.

5) Be calm, open-minded and confident

The day of an event can be full of anticipation and even sometimes, full-on anxiety. I always arrive on the day-of feeling rested, calmly present (well in advance of ‘go-time’) and ready for whatever lies ahead with an open mind. I take this work very seriously – it is my livelihood! I am professional in every way: from how I speak to how I guide people while lining up and how I dress to the way I  wear my hair. I strongly value helping you feel calm, comfortable and confident, so naturally, it helps if I am too!

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P.S. Custom and co-created experiences open us up to a fun world of what is possible. As a Western culture, we do have some reliably staid norms around big events like weddings or funerals. As a result, people might close the door on holding the event at all, due to either having experienced the same generic sequence of events over and over, or feeling intimidated by entering an awkward fray of blending beliefs or culture in a contemporary and dynamic world.

To this sentiment I say: “Be Fearless!” Open the door to what is possible during a custom ceremony. Take a leap and value the work of co-creating a custom ceremony. Find yourself a Life-Cycle Celebrant® to help guide your efforts. Write or call me to begin the conversation! I have faith you’ll be happy you did.

Wedding with Terminally Ill Parent?

Should we wait or should we hold the wedding with this special person present?

First, I acknowledge this is not an easy conversation to have or even a consideration any couple wants to make. And yet, with a growing number of mature people becoming wed later in life, aging parents are part of reality. I witness couples making decisions intrepidly, when situations unfold around a terminally ill parent or other family member. I’ve led brief ceremonies in ICU units or at homes — when the timing is urgent — yet perspectives are grounded. Since I’m finding little written on the topic, I hope this post will add to a dialogue that hopefully grows.

Candle light and shells were important elements in the ceremony.

Candle light and shells were important elements in the ceremony.

This month I led a living room wedding ceremony with a brave and brilliant Mother of the Bride present, who was living her final days in home hospice care. The experience felt surreal at times. It also prompted me to share a few ideas about what I respect as a very personal decision making process. These are relevant questions if you or someone you know is wedding planning in the wake of terminal illness:

Do we choose love or fear? The family with whom I led this recent wedding stared this question right in the face. They chose love; to have a wedding with those they hold dearest, along with a healthy dose of respect for an inevitable course of events they could not change. Choosing love meant asking each other tough questions about who needed what and how they would each be involved.

Whom do we ask to be present? Simplicity reigns supreme here. Keeping the guest list limited to the utmost inner-circle, especially when the person nearing the end of his or her life needs minimal to no external stimulation, is key.

When do we move a set wedding date forward? Do we cancel or keep the original date? Obviously, this involves countless variables. Venue reservations, vendors under contract, guests’ travel plans and so on might be just the beginning. Moving a wedding closer in time to involve an intimate circle of people — most importantly the person who is terminally ill — does involve being creative and taking risks. If a true ceremony is held where the couple and everyone in attendance knows marriage occurred, not just a ‘show’ for the sake of photos or egos, then another wedding ceremony itself may not be necessary. A wider circle of family and friends attending a reception and celebration later, though? Could be just what everyone would appreciate and enjoy.

What kind of ceremony or celebration is fitting? Again: think simplicity. Involving soft music and the elements (candles, water, soothing scents) may be more appropriate than usual. Keeping voices soft and messages brief are also important aspects. For the ceremony I mentioned earlier, I shared a family poem of deep meaning, written by the Mother of the Bride and read by her at previous family weddings. Then we shared short albeit heartfelt vows, a ring exchange and pronouncement. Simple. True. Real.

Beyond a home wedding, people may choose to hold ceremonies in a hospital or other care facility. With the presence of compassionate staff, many possibilities for families do exist. This article highlights an example where a couple and their families acted swiftly, in a hospital environment. The Mother of the Bride was failing quickly and the wedding was held very quickly to honor her presence and daughter’s wishes.

This is not easy terrain to walk. I wish you a calm heart and steady vision, based in love, if you or someone you love is walking it now. Feel free to contact me anytime for further conversation.