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Posts tagged ‘Wedding’

Wedding Gem in Tubac

Southern Arizona offers some of the most scenic wedding locations in the Southwest. As I experience leading ceremonies, a few places of rare beauty stand out more than others. This is a rare gem in particular: Tubac Golf Resort & Spa, located near the Santa Cruz River and Santa Rita Mountains, in the small town of Tubac. The venue is spirited with rustic elegance and easy charm. The staff is exceptional.

Here is a peek into this fabulous place, via my conversation with uber talented Melissa Knight, TG&R’s Weddings & Events Specialist.

Kristine:What qualities separate Tubac Golf Resort and Spa from other Southern Arizona event venues?

Melissa: Our majestic 27 hole golf course along the Santa Cruz River creates an outdoor backdrop not common to Southern Arizona. Long manicured lawns, majestic cottonwood trees and the Santa Rita’s towering in the background make for a dramatic and wonderful setting. In addition to a picturesque outdoors we showcase our 1700’s Mission Chapel Replica, known for its Massive Mesquite Doors and Romantic/Intimate indoors featuring all modern amenities and accommodating up to 225 guests.

The rustically elegant and inviting Chapel. (Ivory Orchid Photography)

Kristine: As the Wedding and Event Manager at TG&R, what is your creative specialty?

Melissa: I really enjoy helping create an event as unique as the couple. A representation of their two lives and families coming together while incorporating fun, fantastic food and great atmosphere!

Kristine: Who are your ideal clients? What do they enjoy about working with you?

Melissa: Variety! All couples bring something new to the table. My most successful events are with couples who are ready to have wonderful relaxing weekend with family and friends.  They take the time to choose key vendors and trust in the capabilities of their site coordinator who is there to guide them throughout the entire planning process. While working together they will enjoy the luxury of having one contact to help with any and all questions anytime! We really do our utmost to say YES more often than not and help guide our clientele to wedding success!

Kristine: Do you have any tips for couples or families to consider before they choose a venue for their wedding or special event?

Melissa: Prioritize! Look at your guest list and make sure that most of your anticipated needs can be met. Priorities include outdoor and indoor spaces, time of year, budget, guest room accommodations, food and drink and most importantly the overall experience. Your venue will provide the options needed to suit any and all of the above.  Once you know what the venue offers, identify your priorities. That way you can be sure that your priorities are met and provide flexibility on things that are not a priority to you.  Weddings today have gone beyond the typical affair and you need not be classified wealthy to have an event that will leave a lovely impression on all attending.

Gorgeous skies and views at Tubac Golf Resort & Spa. (Sara Strom Photography)

Kristine: Anything else you’d like to add?

Melissa: Yes, Brides- Your ‘Day of’ time goes by quickly, to avoid stress and complication you can either hire additional help via a planner or, if this is not in the budget, be very organized (this includes photo examples, label everything and where it goes), include the people who would like to help you. Make sure your Wedding Venue Professional is aware of all plans and how they are to be executed. Brides sometimes feel that they are burdening friends and family so make sure that you have a realistic conversation with those capable of helping on the day.   However it’s wise to not include the  Bridesmaids as they will be assisting you on the day of, and more often than not, do not have time for décor. So in short- organize, have photo examples, label everything, share all information and don’t have bridesmaids setup. Last but not least enjoy the moments between! Between the big moments are lots of little ones so enjoy them all by setting yourself up for success!

Kristine: Such excellent advice, Melissa! Thank you. I can’t wait until the next time I lead a ceremony at TG&R. (As of now, this happens to be next Saturday. Lucky me!)

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.

Writing Vows You’ll Want to Repeat

Inevitably when I meet with couples, the ‘oh man, how do we do our vows?’ question surfaces. And it’s a good one. Would you agree wedding vows are pretty darn intimate words to share? The pressure of finding just the right promises – unique to who you are – can be daunting. Just today, I met with a mature couple who said they would be at a loss to write their own vows. “We really need your help there,” they said to me (cringing a bit).

And I’m happy to oblige! By using a couple’s very own words, in fact. I have a few keystone questions in my set of Sweetgrass Couple Reflections, which support me writing meaningful vows. When I work with couples, ceremony crafting is a co-creative process. They answer a good long set of questions individually. And I weave together the ceremony based on their stories, beliefs and values. (Yes, I do love reading heartfelt, emotional or even irreverent responses!)


(Photo credit: sirwiseowl)

I also leave open the option of couples writing their own vows to each other. Or we do a combination of both – they write a few lines and I write a few lines – by weaving their words into a cohesive whole as I mentioned above. Some of the best tips I’ve read for DIY vows are in this post at a Practical Wedding.

Here are some questions to ask yourself, too: do you want to have your Celebrant say the vows in a question form whereby you answer “I do” or “I will”? Or would you rather repeat whole phrases? Or memorize the lines?

This ought to be entirely up to you. And if you really want to remember and repeat these pledges of love to each other sometime in the future (anniversary? Valentine’s? vow renewal?) then the words are best spoken comfortably, reflecting who you truly are.

It is this delivery of vows that I encourage couples feeling really familiar with and comfortable  about. Whatever you write, or someone writes for you – make sure you read it aloud to each other before the ceremony! (Unless of course you plan to surprise each other.) See how the words feel while speaking them aloud individually at least, if not together.

And hopefully, you’ll have vows that well, you’ll love saying to each other again and again.

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!

Tips for involving kids

During the recent weeks of kicking off the busy fall wedding season in Tucson, I’ve enjoyed officiating ceremonies with young people involved. (By young I mean eight to 17 years old.) This happens more and more, as families blend with children of various ages. I must admit I’m not a Mom, yet I do aspire to be the coolest Aunt ever! I don’t have a reservoir of kid wisdom. Although, I’ve experienced a few successful ways to involve kids in ceremonies, be it weddings or memorials.

We’ve all seen adorable flower girls, ring bearers or candle lighters. Here are a few ideas beyond the ‘usual’ to consider:

  • Bring kids into the creative process. While planning a ceremony, the logistics may be overwhelming. Stepping back with a more childlike frame of mind to make it fun and really bring kids into the fray, might just help! I welcome this with families. For example, have a processional led by children
    and ask them what kind of happy noises they want to make! (e.g. bells? kazoos? rattles?)
  • Ask if they want to participate. If so, offer meaningful roles. Many times we see more formal roles for kids where they have to stand still and be cute for pictures. Not always easy to achieve! That is slowly changing though, as this article suggests. What if they were more actively participating, say by exchanging family vows or symbolic gifts? Or reading from a family’s favorite children’s book? Wouldn’t that be more fun?
  • Let them review the ceremony script and offer editorial suggestions. No, I’m not kidding. They might offer up surprising advice that helps the ceremony feel more real to them and everyone present. I just had this  happen last week, when two super-fly boys were helpers with the Ring Warming for their Dad’s wedding.

Hopefully, these quick ideas – plus the fun in-depth articles I’ve linked to – offer plenty of fresh ways to bring kids into whatever ceremony you might be planning!