Marriage isn’t walking off into the sunset. Marriage is more like this picture...walking hand in hand into the great, wide unknown.
I often think of this quote from UU ministers Barbara and Bill Hamilton-Holway:
When I share this quote with engaged couples, some of them cringe or look at me wide-eyed. But when I read it to couples who’ve been married a while, whether 2 years or 20, they just nod knowingly.
Marriage is perhaps the greatest leap of faith we can take, only we don’t always realize it at first.
It is as the months and years wind and ravel, as we are weathered by sun and squalls that we come to fully understand our undertaking.
It is there, in the plain light of our days, that we can reach for our beloved’s hand and know what our promise truly means.
I’ve been so delighted to be the Featured Vendor on Valley Wed this week! It’s amazing to watch the little show Tiffany Hilton and I first launched in 2015 grow into such an exceptional event. Here's my Vendor Spotlight interview.
Describe Grace Ceremonies:
I am an Ordained Interfaith Minister offering couples beautifully personalized wedding ceremonies. I offer customized ceremonies that incorporate each couple's background, beliefs, relationship and vision for their wedding day in a unique and beautiful service.
What is the best part about your work?
I love when wedding guests ask how long I've been friends with the couple, or when they say they wish they had known about me when they got married. When I hear it was the best ceremony they've ever been to, my heart just swells!
Most of all, I love when my couples tell me the ceremony surpassed all their expectations. They often say it was their favorite part of their wedding day...that it meant more to them than they ever imagined.
I feel very lucky to be part of so much joy and happiness, and honored to be entrusted with sharing a couple's love story. I say almost every day that I have the Best. Job. Ever!
What makes you stand out as a professional?
I am rated one the Top 10 officiants in all Massachusetts on WeddingWire and The Knot, and one of the most highly-reviewed officiants in the state outside the Boston area. I have also won a WeddingWire Couples' Choice Award every year since launching Grace Ceremonies.
As an Ordained Interfaith Minister, I officiate Secular, Spiritual, Religious and Interfaith ceremonies. With my professional training and experience, I bring knowledge of and respect for a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs, as well as non-belief!
I am also proud to offer marriage preparation sessions in my Premarital Conversations Packages. The sessions are grounded in my seminary education in pastoral care and premarital counseling, as well as my certification as a Psychosynthesis Practitioner.
What is the most important thing you want couples to know about you and your business?
When you work with me, you get so much more than a beautifully customized ceremony script.
With my years of experience, I know exactly what questions to ask, what details to discuss, what logistics to go over... You get to relax knowing I will guide you through every aspect of your ceremony. In fact, many couples tell me the ceremony was their favorite part of wedding planning!
And since a script can only take you so far, with me you also get someone who can deliver a deeply heartfelt ceremony; one that has you and your guests engaged in every moment, sharing tears and laughter. My peaceful, open-hearted presence will help calm your nerves and allow you to feel fully present on that most special day.
What advice can you give clients working with you or a professional in your line of work?
The ceremony is the heart of your wedding. The ceremony is what makes your wedding more than just a great party. (Don't get me wrong...I do love parties!)
What I mean is: invest in it accordingly. Budget for a fantastic officiant. Plan to book them early, after you've picked your venue and wedding date. And invest yourselves in the ceremony. When you put time and attention into planning it, you connect with the purpose and meaning of your wedding, and why you are getting married in the first place. (This can be especially helpful when you otherwise feel mired down in all the million little details of the day!)
Remember, the more you put into it, the more you are going to get from it. The time you take to consider the ceremony elements and imbue them with your personalities and relationship will equal the most unique, joyous and fulfilling ceremony possible.
What are you most excited about for the 2019 season?
I am super excited to now offer ceremony consulting and script-writing services in addition to officiating! You see, I've always felt sad when a couple says how much they love my website and ceremony samples and how excited they are to hear from me...only to have to tell them I am already booked for their wedding date.
I've done writing and consults for friends for years, but last year was the first where I accepted a couple's request. I helped them consider all the important logistical questions and sketched out the ceremony components, provided samples and offered direction and scripting on specific elements. I was also able to give them little tips for the wedding day itself (for them and their officiant).
The couple told me my guidance in the initial stages really helped to set the tone and give them a structure to work within. They said afterward that they had an amazing day and really appreciated my help throughout the process! Even though I didn't get to officiate their ceremony, I still loved being an important part of their wedding.
I'm glad to now offer support and guidance to more couples like them, to those asking friends and family to officiate their wedding, and also to couples looking for help constructing their destination wedding ceremonies.
What are your “pro-tips” for newly engaged couples just diving into wedding planning?
#1 - Chemistry with your wedding officiant is key.
Of course you'll want to look for someone that has great reviews and offers the kind of service you're looking for, but also pay attention to who just "feels right." You might have to meet with several officiants, or you may know off the bat with the first one you talk to.
I always offer free initial consultations because no matter how much expertise I have or how happy other couples have been with my work, the connection has to be there. The couple needs to feel a comfortable rapport with me, and to know I "get them." I also want to make sure I can meet their expectations, and get my own sense that I am the right person to stand beside them on their wedding day.
You'll build a very special relationship with your officiant through the process of planning your wedding ceremony, so you want to make sure it's a person you trust AND enjoy.
#2 - Book your officiant early in your planning process!
Some wedding checklists suggest hiring an officiant when you're 6 months out. Not only are the best officiants often already booked at that point (unless it's an "off-season" wedding), but you miss out on the benefits of working on your ceremony (the way it reconnects you to each other and to the purpose of your wedding) when you need it most: during the stress of actually planning it!
If you have a very short engagement, that's fine. If your original plans change, no worries. I have certainly put together ceremonies in far less than 6 months! I just want couples to get the most out of their wedding, and taking time to focus on the ceremony is a big part of that.
#3 - Budget realistically for your wedding officiant.
WeddingWire reports the average cost for an officiant in the U.S. is $300, while the average wedding costs approximately $30,000. That is only 1% of the total wedding budget allocated for your officiant...the vendor whose role is arguably the single most essential!
Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't have a Justice of the Peace or a friend or family member officiate your ceremony. What I really want to point out is that, culturally and within the wedding industry, the value of the ceremony has been greatly underestimated. (For one example, the only other wedding vendor with a similar average cost is hair & makeup.)
But don't take my word for it. These are just a few notes I've received from couples over the last year:
"It was hands down my favorite part of my wedding day."
"Our ceremony truly set the tone for a perfect evening."
"We will treasure the memory of our marriage ceremony for the rest of our lives."
"There are no words to describe how much we appreciate the experience we had."
"It was the most special part of the day."
"We will hold our wedding day ceremony forever in our hearts!"
"The service was nothing short of life-changing and profound."
"The sermon is something I will carry with me always."
"She helped to create one of the most sacred days of my life. I honestly don’t feel there are words to express the gratitude I have."
"I've since forgotten all the small details I stressed so much over, but I still think so much about the words and emotions we shared during our special time in front of our family and friends."
On the day of the wedding, I drove to the private residence Jahara and Joe had rented right on the edge of the Park. Now I knew why they had insisted I have an SUV!
They were listening to music, laughing and slowing getting ready for the ceremony when I arrived. It was the most relaxed, most joyful pre-wedding vibe I had ever experienced.
Joe went outside as Jahara finished dressing in a gorgeous Celia Grace wedding gown, handmade by women’s cooperatives, Fair Trade producers and refugees rebuilding their lives in the US.
Darling, I know you are there and it makes me happy.
Darling, I know you suffer and I am here for you.
Darling, I am suffering and I need your help.
Darling, this is a happy moment.
Shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same. For after today you shall say to the world–
This is my husband. This is my wife."
~ Robert Fulghum
Check out these scenes from my stay in Joshua Tree, CA!
I’m so glad I changed my mind! Over the years I have officiated elopement ceremonies from backyards to town commons, libraries to living rooms, Look Park to Smith College, Mt. Tom to the Quabbin Reservoir.
Every so often, a couple even comes to me! I marry them right here at my office in Florence, with all my little tea candles lit and all our warm hearts glowing.
At elopement ceremonies I often name that they are different, reminding the couple (and anyone else present) that no matter what shape or form a wedding takes, it will be one of the most important days in the lives of those two people.
When I stand with a couple, whether alone or witnessed by family and friends, the quality of love and joy and fulfillment is just the same as my other ceremonies.
Remember, not every wonderful wedding is a big one; some of my favorites have actually been the littlest ones.
Poetry and Musings of an Interfaith Minister on the Journey of a Lifetime.