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Posts tagged ‘life-cycle celebrant’

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)


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!


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


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.

Ideas for Multi-Cultural Weddings

So last week I met with a couple who wants to pull Pagan and Buddhist elements into their wedding. How fun! They were relieved to find me. Plus, plain happy I would work with them to create the ceremony they envision. “This kind of non-traditional territory is where I love to be with couples,” I told them.

And yet, as I said those words, I wondered if we are emerging with new practices that stretch beyond ‘non-traditional’. When I say ‘we’ I mean: couples who want their ceremony to reflect their one-of-a-kind beliefs and a Celebrant like myself who helps guide them. Simply put: We are making ceremonies REAL. (Most definitely not rote and one size fits all!)

This story from CNN about interfaith and multicultural weddings supports this idea. I think this passage speaks to why:

Unlike prior generations, contemporary couples aren’t afraid to tinker with the order of a ceremony or the wedding traditions that have, in the past, seemed intractable. Also, many contemporary couples are older when they marry, so they’ve had more time to travel, work and become more educated.

These are the couples with whom I love to work: they are mature, they’ve traveled and they know themselves well. Whether or not two people come from different ethnic traditions, based upon various life experiences, they may hold vastly different beliefs. Judaism and Hinduism, for example. In these situations, another passage from the CNN article includes helpful ideas from Susanna Macomb, a widely known Officiant and Author:

Finding commonality between traditions can make a ceremony meaningful, but make sure to have someone explain the symbolism to the wedding guests, or most will be in the dark, says Macomb. Also, she advises intercultural weddings can seem more cohesive if an officiant and readers incorporate some native languages into the ceremony as a nod to family members who have traveled from another part of the world.

As a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant® who leads weddings, this is one of the things I do best: finding commonality between traditions – beliefs – values to make a ceremony meaningful. In our training as Celebrants, we delve deeply into symbolism. We consider and enact ways to bring universal explanation into the script, so guests may resonate with the message delivered. This is especially helpful during multicultural ceremonies, where guests may be unfamiliar with certain elements!

Enjoy the journey, if you are planning a multicultural or interfaith wedding! Feel free to leave comments or questions, too . . .


Personalized or Heart-crafted Ceremonies?

I am curious: any difference to you? Hmmm, the question may well be splitting hairs in a world with much bigger topics. Yet this idea is very close to my core. I assist my clients in creating and leading one-of-a-kind, never seen before or to be seen again ceremonies. So my services are beyond personalized, but what is just the right descriptor?

This week I tried the nifty ‘Question’ feature on my Sweetgrass Facebook page. I asked what the phrase ‘personalized ceremony’ means to friends. I was hoping they’d help me dig a little deeper. (And I’ve now found my favorite FB feature!) So far I’ve heard back with an honest and fabulous range of thoughts:

“For me, words are not enough to make something personalized. Honestly, I don’t find that human vocabulary can truly bring something to the realm of touching or personal. I find that seeing the emotions/faces/gestures of my close friends and family truly make any experience personal.” ~ Ashley

“My (our) story, beliefs, values, culture and aspirations are reflected throughout the whole ceremony.” ~ Monica

“Created with heart – with and for me – with understanding of my story.” ~ So far, this captures the winning number of votes!


I find this pleasantly revealing, because I’ve been leaning toward the phrase ‘heart-crafted’ to describe my ceremonies more clearly. Why? Well, personalized makes me cringe a wee bit. I’ve employed it before and not felt quite right with it. The ceremonies I co-create with people are more than personalized, more than custom-tailored; more than these familiar adjectives, because my ceremonies genuinely arise from my heart.

Whether a Baby Blessing, Wedding or Memorial – it is a real, relevant and meaningful experience for my clients and their guests.

The ways that I imagine, compose and lead a ceremony all reflect my lifetime of curiosity, observations, reading, listening and emotional learning . . . all of which somehow mixes in a magical alchemy with the stories of the unique people I serve.

So for now at least, I’ll happily be heart-crafting ceremonies in the Old Pueblo.