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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

Ten Reasons to Elope in Tucson

Desert landscape with saguaro cactii (Carnegie...

Desert landscape with saguaro cactii (Carnegiea gigantea) in Agua Fria National Monument, Arizona (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Autumn in the Sonoran Desert is beautiful. Windy sometimes, though beautiful even in the cool breezes.

Winter? G O R G E O U S. Seriously. If you are planning an elopement and coming from colder climes where the gray skies, bone chilling winds and short daylight hours all add up to less than welcoming outdoor fun, consider eloping in Tucson.

This is the simplest of reasons why eloping to Tucson for a fabulous winter wedding is a good idea: the weather. Here are ten more:

1. Our natural landcapes and vistas are stellar. The open desert surrounding Tucson calls to birders, hikers, bikers and lazy picnickers alike. From the trails on Mt. Lemmon to the canyons in the Santa Rita Mountains, there are countless places for enjoyment and simple outdoor ceremonies.

2. The historic architecture is inviting and colorful. If your more of an urban couple and like historic areas for exploration, go no further than downtown Tucson with the Museum of Art and places like Old Artisans. Photo opportunities and quiet nooks for ceremonies are around nearly every corner.

3. Much of the local food is unique in the world and the margaritas make you want more. Who wants to travel without interesting, provocative and delicious food and drinks right? You’ll find it here. From places like Proper or Cafe Poca Cosa in downtown to Mi Nidito’s on south Fourth Avenue, you’ll be savoring mouth watering morsels.

4. The live music alternatives are endless. Nearly every night of the week, you can find live music to sit back and enjoy or shake your booty to . . . all up to you. Places like Monterey Court Cafe and Galleries have nightly bills. And if you want ceremony musicians to make your elopement extra special, local talent like husband and wife combo Duo Vibrato plays unforgettable tunes.

5. Our warm and comfortable places to stay are beyond memorable. The list of unique places to stay or to have a simple ceremony on the grounds is literally too long for me to get into here. We have beautiful accommodations throughout Southern Arizona. From Hacienda del Sol to Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain or cozy bed and breakfasts tucked into historic neighborhoods or mountain towns alike, there is a warm inviting place with a fireplace and good views just waiting for you.

6. Your opportunity for co-creating a fun and meaningful custom ceremony awaits. I couldn’t skip myself at Sweetgrass Ceremonies, could I? I love working with mindful couples to co-create custom experiences for their desert elopement ceremony, not just the courthouse steps express.

7. Our desert skies and sunsets are often magical. This photo conveys more than I am able.

Purple Sonoran sunset

Purple Sonoran sunset (Photo credit: kevin dooley)

8. The people welcome you with friendliness and open arms. You’ll find folks here truly welcome visitors with a graciousness that might surprise you. Our summers are so hot and desolate, the buzz around town in winter is a welcome change of pace!

9. Myriad recreational activities can make you dizzy. No joke. This reason could comprise a whole blog post in of itself. From rock climbing to horseback riding, tennis to day hikes, migratory birding to mountain biking, pool lounging to day hiking . . . making a choice from all of the possibilities might make you tired.

10. Your bank account will still be happy after all is said and done. Tucson and other interesting towns in Southern Arizona like Tubac are affordable getaways. You can really step out for an elopement vacation you always remember and not break the bank. That’s worth noting.

Phew. That is a good long list, right? If this has you intrigued, give me a call. Let’s explore what is possible for your winter elopement in Tucson!

Boutique Bridal Fair at Hacienda del Sol

Are you planning a wedding or any celebration of love in the near future? If so, please visit this special event hosted by Tucson Bride & Groom Magazine and the friendly staff at Hacienda del Sol on Sunday September 22nd – yes THIS Sunday! Come tell us about about your wedding visions in a relaxed setting, take a tour of the Hacienda’s event spaces, nosh on delectable goodies, drink cool beverages, hear fun music and enjoy yourself:

What: Hacienda del Sol and Tucson Bride & Groom’s 2nd annual Boutique Wedding Fair

Where: Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch & Resort

When: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Who: Fabulously talented and professional Tucson wedding vendors like Miray and Josh of Duo Vibrato; Meagan Crain of M.C. Events; Lyn Sims of Lyn Sims Photography; Andy DePew of Satyr Entertainment; Jaynie Rossi of Ambrosia of Tucson, and more!

Why: Because if you want to create a meaningful, memorable and unique wedding experience you and your guests will rave about, these are amongst the most creative people you’ll find in Tucson to create your collaboratively powerful wedding professional team!

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Winter Weddings in Tucson

In the desert, winter weddings are attractive for many reasons – both indoors and outdoors. In Tucson especially, we enjoy mild temperatures with gorgeous skies and often dramatic afternoon sunsets. While I’m hearing from many couples who are currently planning their winter or early spring weddings,  I thought showcasing  a real wedding from last January would be a timely and inspirational post!

Upon our first meeting, I felt completely smitten with this couple and their extremely loving and natural presence with each other. Amidst the beauty of these photos from uber talented photographer Amanda Rockafellow, I’ll add a few highlights from the ceremony we co-created.

presentation

The ceremony and reception were both held at historic Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch & Resort, in the courtyard. (We had a tent, just in case wind and rain entered the picture.) You can see the genuine love and care expressed in everyone’s faces here during the presentation . . . a moment that left me covered in goosebumps. What I appreciated deeply about being involved in this couple’s preparations AND the day-of experience was the profound sense of authenticity in their connection, as well as their gratitude for everyone surrounding them; the people who collectively influenced who they are today. They created a whole weekend experience for their guests and themselves; a series of events I could feel radiated with this appreciation and shared sense of connection.

Vows

Guest participation was very important to their custom wedding experience. The Bride’s parents came up together and her father read a message of thanks, along with the Lord’s Prayer. I led an ‘Asking’ and remembrance, where I asked both sets of families to please rise and offer their blessings and support to the couple. The Groom’s Aunt read a passage from Joseph Campbell about marriage. And to top it all off, the whole entire body of guests participated in a community toast after their first married kiss. Of course, there were non-alcoholic beverages involved for the young people, too! We all raised our glasses to toast “To Love and Happiness” based on a ritual the couple has shared together since they began dating.

toast setup

The theme that arose from the time I spent with them and their responses to my Couple Reflections was balancing each other with gentle hearts. I found the medieval idea of a ‘gentle heart’ entirely resonated with their bond. It is not a “fluffy starry-eyed kind of love” I shared during the ceremony, yet a “true and honorable commitment, a tenderly yielding and spacious kind of love.” The touchstone, for their partnership. It feels palpable in this gorgeously timeless photo, don’t you think?

Look of love!

Oh I could go on and on about the fabulousness of this ceremony experience – yet will stop myself there! I do believe everyone – including and most importantly, the Bride and Groom – had a most splendid time at this winter time celebration of family, commitment and love. Even though the weather became a tad dramatic in the afternoon, mother nature offered an unbelievable canvas for photos like this rooftop view.

rooftopview

As I look back over the past year, my heart is brimming over with gratitude for being a part of genuinely creative and expressive wedding celebrations like this one. Each completely unique. Every one a new experience for me as I co-create with aware and mindful couples stepping into marriage. And as I’m reflecting upon this particular wedding, I think winter may just be my favorite time of year for weddings in Tucson!

all guests

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.

Custom Sand Blending Ritual Ideas

Have you seen the unadorned and not terribly relevant Sand Blending Ritual happen one too many times during weddings? This is something I hear from couples often. It’s no wonder, because it is a fairly simple ritual to put into a ceremony. Plus, there are countless spiffy sand blending kits out there for sale!

Despite any sand blending ennui I hear, options for truly customizing the ritual and creating an experience suited to who you are as a couple do exist. A wedding I just led in May lends a good example of this. The Bride and Groom enjoy being outdoors, including two activities in particular: hiking and beaching. They also LOVE and appreciate their families big time. These values all surfaced repeatedly throughout both of their responses to my Sweetgrass Ceremonies Couple Reflections.

So what did we co-create for a Unity Ritual?

You guessed it! A custom sand blending to reflect their love of meaningful outdoor places in their love story and appreciation for family.

Here is what it looked like before the ceremony:

Leah and Robert's Sand Blending Ingredients

Leah and Robert’s Sand Blending Ingredients

And AFTERWARD:

All six symbolic sands in a beautiful pattern.

All six symbolic sands in a beautiful pattern.

And so how, are you wondering, did we come up with this fun version of the ritual?

Here is a ceremony excerpt to explain what you see:

“You’ve chosen to blend sand because of how it represents the entwining of your families and your souls. As you pour each grain of sand into this shadow box, you symbolize how your lives become transformed today: forever combined.

Additionally, because your families are very close to your hearts, your parents will pour sand as well. The display they create illustrates how together, your families will create new patterns of family life in the days and years ahead. Lori and Greg, Donna and Bob, would you please come forward?

 First you will pour your sands as parents, the people who have set the foundation for Robert and Leah’s lives and what they know to be valuable in their own relationship. Lori and Greg, the sand you will pour comes from your home in Flagstaff. Donna and Bob, your sand comes from your home in Fontana, California. Go ahead and begin pouring now . . .

 {Music begins by Harpist: “One Hand, One Heart” by Bernstein and parents pour their sands. . .} 

Wonderful! And now our couple of honor each has sand from places dear to them: Mt. Lemmon where the first hiked and fell in love, as well as Hawaii, where they went on their first vacation together. They have green and purple sand mixed in there, too, for keeping it all lively and colorful like the wedding colors! Go ahead and begin pouring now . . .

 (Couple pours sands. . .)

 What a beautiful work of art you’ve created together! Thanks parents, you may take your seats again. Robert and Leah, keep this blending of sands in your home and enjoy it as a reminder of experiencing this ritual with your parents, plus the new and exciting patterns of living you have ahead of you!”

Do you have examples or stories of how you have customized this kind of ritual to suit your interests and values? If so, please share. I’d love to hear from you and I’m sure others would enjoy finding creative ideas.

A Persian Wedding in the Sonoran Desert

In April, I witnessed a family’s Persian wedding customs . . . immediately following the American style wedding I co-created with the Bride and Groom. We celebrated with these two ceremonies at the scenic Quail Creek Country Club in Green Valley, Arizona. Being the ceremony enthusiast I am, you might guess I was pretty over the moon about this! And you are correct.

First I must plainly say wow! There is some raise-the-roof NOISE generated by folks during the Persian ceremony and I LOVED IT. I want to figure out more alternatives to couples for bringing their guests the chance to get on their feet and enjoy themselves with their whole beings.

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I’ll set my enthusiasm into some context with this statement: I think guest participation is VITAL to an uplifting ceremony experience. (I’ll try not to digress, though.)

The music, the singing and chanting, the clapping, the wedding party entrance with sheer exuberance . . . if that’s not enough then get ready for the symbolism. There is a whole array to feast upon. I got a tour of the altar from the Bride’s Mom, who assembled it with love. She positively beamed in her floor length sparkling dress as she explained everything to me. I’ll attempt a recap in a very brief way here.

As you can see in the photo, the Bride and Groom sit facing the altar and all the goodies upon it during the ceremony. The important women relatives and bridal party rub together fabric covered sugar cones and sprinkle this on the couple’s heads, to bring them sweetness and happiness.

The couple faces into a large mirror so they can see how well they are surrounded with love and enjoy the images of light reflected by the candles, to symbolically light their way into the future. Once the Bride removes her veil, this image is ritually ‘the first time the Groom sees his Bride’. Obviously, there exists deeper symbolism than I can begin to fully explain. Here are a few highlights:

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Fertility: Represented in the bejeweled eggs, golden walnuts and greens.

Joyous Future: Represented by the apples, the connection to Divine.

Wealth: Represented by the jewels.

Sustenance: Represented by the flat bread and the milk.

Lighting way into Future: Represented in the candlelight, near the mirror.

Sweetness in Life: Although you can’t see it here, there was a glass vessel full of honey, into which the Bride and Groom both dipped their pinky fingers and put into each other’s mouths. (This caused a big joyous uproar amongst the guests!)

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My favorite part of this whole experience happened when the man who led this portion of the ceremony came up to me SO excitedly after the ‘American’ ceremony and before the part he led and said, “I totally enjoyed your ceremony. You said everything I will say in Farsi during this version of a wedding. You see? It is all the same, isn’t? For it is only about LOVE!”

Thank you, Kevin and Nassim. I loved being a part of your very special celebration.

Three reasons to visit the ‘I do in Tucson’ Bridal Fair

It is that time again! Our super talented network of I do in Tucson wedding vendors will gather this Sunday, April 21st from 2:00-5:00pm at Saguaro Buttes out in east Tucson. (Located at 5825 S. Old Spanish Trail.) Come and visit us if you are planning a wedding or any event where you may need professionals to assist you with photography, invitations, music/entertainment, catering, planning, cakes and/or videography. I’ll be there and of course I always love to talk ceremony visions with you!

Here are my three reasons why you’ll dig it:

Sweetgrass Ceremonies table ~ find me and let's talk!

Sweetgrass Ceremonies table ~ find me and let’s talk!

1) Small scale: Totally not intimidating at all. We are not a Bridezilla kind of mondo-huge-fair with 500 booths. In fact, you can hear yourself think when you have conversations. Amazing, right? I am in this group because I enjoy the mellowness and relatively small scale of the fairs. I appreciate the relationships I’ve built with other vendors and ways we work together to exceed our customers’ expectations.

2) Friendly people: Yes. Truly. People who are interested in you and making your visions for your event come true.

3) A wealth of information: All in one room! You can meet people like Nancy and Bobby of Soltero Productions, or Kim McFate of Simply Elegant Events, or Nora Jean Miller of Hotel Congress and Maynard’s Market & Kitchen, or Kristin Gray of Ivory Orchid Photography.

And YES, the list goes on!

So stop by and enjoy part of your afternoon with us . . . I look forward to seeing you.

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.

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.