Don’t Miss my E-Zine Love is a Small Word!

April 12, 2014  |  Uncategorized  |  No Comments

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I am happy announce my new E-zine Love is a Small Word which will include essays previously appearing on this blog. This dynamic publication features a wide-variety of ideas for your ceremony and wedding. Whether you are a destination couple coming from Europe or another American State for an elopement in the Big Apple or a New York native planning the wedding of your dreams, this site will offer ideas for you ceremony, including readings and vow samples, ritual options, music, flowers, venues, fashions….and more. I have sought to include timely, fun, and creative ideas that will spark your imagination. Let me know what you think and what you’d like to read! And for the adventurous bride or groom, why not consider being a guest contributor to share ideas and tips from your own planning process? Let’s Celebrate!

Photo Courtesy of Sugar Beet Photo

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Step by Step: Wedding at Alice Tully Hall

April 11, 2014  |  Elopement  |  No Comments

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The beloved movie character Forrest Gump famously said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Happily, the same could be said of my wedding Celebrancy practice! You see, while my datebook includes weddings that are planned many months in advance, there are always “last minute” ceremonies that appear at a moment’s notice, adding unexpected excitement and sweetness to my work.

Last Friday, I received a call from Josh, a New York City groom, who was interested in arranging an informal ceremony the next day. This particular call had additional bits of intrigue. First, the wedding was going to be a surprise for his fiancé Sean Joseph. The pair had already secured their wedding license and intended to return to the Clerk’s office at some future date, to have a no-frills, “get the job done” ceremony, as only a local government office can provide. The legal ceremony will be be complemented with full-on celebrations in their respective homes, New Hampshire and Australia, in the coming months. But Josh spontaneously opted for something more and arranged for Sean’s two best friends to come to town, from California and New Hampshire, for a surprise wedding! An added bonus was his suggested location for the vow exchange: the artistic staircase in the outdoor plaza, adjacent to Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. This, after all, had been the exact spot where the grooms rendezvoused for their first date, 1,039 days prior, a fact proudly shared with me by my romantic, wedding planning groom!

Since time was of the essence, Josh and I coordinated by email, text, and phone on the particulars of the celebration. I was happily impressed with the rich details he offered about their “romantic story,” including stories about their individual histories, how they met, their courtship and his astounding proposal of marriage in Thailand, all of which I was able to incorporate into the ceremony. He provided guidance on the vow selection and details about their rings, too. Despite the quick turnaround time, we managed to enhance the script with heartfelt words penned by the dynamic duo attending the wedding. The plan was hatched, and a day later…..voila! a personalized, fun—yet meaningful—private celebration, nestled in the heart of New York City’s Upper West Side. By the time I closed the ceremony with a sentimental quotation by the Sufi mystic Rumi, there wasn’t a dry eye among us.

The day was perfect—bright, breezy and sunny, after such a long dreadful winter. I stood atop the famous stair steps, outside Alice Tully Hall, in full celebrant attire. Josh and Sean Joseph and their friends arrived around 4:30. I had brought my usual “bag of tricks” which included cake and champagne to toast the Big Day, plus a few little extras, for amusement and photo ops after the license was signed. For me, it was a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon in the City.

I think it is safe to say that the grooms and their guests were quite pleased with the celebration. I’ve no doubt this impromptu wedding will become part of their family folklore and a cherished memory revisited at their grander wedding celebrations, down the road. So, to my handsome, happy grooms I say, “Congratulations! Here’s to many happy, healthy years together!” Enjoy a few images from their special day:

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2013: A Bouquet of Beautiful Couples

March 21, 2014  |  Uncategorized  |  No Comments

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One of my favorite projects in the dark days of winter’s final months is developing a slide show to remember the beautiful couples I’ve married in the prior year.

I have been blessed beyond measure to work with couples representing so many places and perspectives. As I review their shining faces, I am reminded—my couples, together, form a unique, colorful bouquet of love. I hope you feel the same way when reviewing the slide show below!

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A Ceremony Rich in Tradition

October 28, 2013  |  Ceremonies  |  No Comments

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I’m still swooning over a recent wedding I officiated for two fellows from Denver. It was a lovely, sophisticated autumn event at the chic NoMad Hotel in Manhattan (28th and Broadway). The guests had flown in from all over the world, for a cocktail party and ceremony at the hotel, followed by a celebratory dinner at the famed Eleven Madison Park Restaurant.

The grooms Noah & Andrew came to me with a variety of wonderful ideas they wanted to include in their ceremony, creating a meaningful, eclectic script. They selected Buddhist inspired vows that offered a unique take on promise-making, as they jointly responded to each statement, which intertwined thoughts about personal commitment and a broader responsibility to family, community and the world. With a nod to their home in Denver, with a robust Native American population, an Apache blessing, closed the ceremony. And in addition to their personal narrative, which offered a mix of subtle humor and impactful words, there were plenty of personal details sprinkled throughout the ceremony. It was family traditions from Andrew’s Spanish family that really made the script soar. Andrew asked if we could include the traditional arras ritual in the wedding, a coin sharing custom between the couple, expressing support, care and shared blessings for their new family. The 13 coins used for the presentation had been used by Andrew’s grandparents in their wedding, 52 years ago! In another breathtaking moment, Andrew’s mother offered a poem (in both Spanish and English) that his grandmother had penned for her beloved a few weeks before their October nuptials more than five decades before. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. I closed the ceremony with a couple of gifts, of my own. The grooms own an organic restaurant in Denver, and I thought a most meaningful gift would be a favorite of mine: a book of blessings to offer before meals: A Grateful Heart: 365 Ways to Give Thanks at Mealtime, by MJ Ryan includes a wonderfully rich collection of inspiring prayers from all traditions (from Buddha to the Beatles, as the author proclaims). And finally, knowing that the grooms had fallen in love years ago in Paris, I presented them with a padlock to be placed on the famed Ponte de Arte bridge—locks of love, if you will—on their next trip to the City of Lights. The bridge is a famous location where much-in-love couples leave tokens of their commitments, for all to view. I am so grateful that I was able to participate in their beautiful day.

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The Equal Marriage Debate: A 14 Year Old’s View

June 28, 2011  |  Law  |  2 Comments

As many of you may know, Friday night, New York State made history becoming the sixth and largest American state to pass “equal marriage” legislation, which will allow same sex couples to enjoy full marriage rights in the Empire State. Although this debate has been percolating for some time, and we were aware that the vote was imminent, I was taken aback by how emotional my response was to the roll call. Via social media, I knew the vote was coming quickly. I was alone, on the Long Island Railroad, returning from a wedding I officiated earlier in the evening. My BlackBerry was very nearly out of juice, and I felt isolated—this is the kind of moment that is really meant to be shared.

My experience with the marriage equality debate has been on many levels—as an American, an amateur social theorist, a Wedding Officiant & Celebrant, a friend to many gay individuals, and an aunt to one gay teen.

As someone who tries to think critically about politics, living through the gay marriage struggle is a reminder that social change in our country is messy business, not the sanitized history served up in secondary school books. The extension of rights comes in fits and starts—two steps forward, one step back—with many groups and individuals, some elected many others not, participating in history making. America has a robust federal system so gay marriage rights are extended slowly, state-by-state rather than by the passage of one piece of national legislation. The equal marriage legislation began its gestation decades ago with the Stonewall uprising. Such laws were first crafted, passed and judicially challenged not in California or New York, as one might expect, but in outposts such as Hawaii, Vermont, and Iowa.

As someone who works in the “wedding business,” I have responded to the fluid situation of equal marriage rights by making myself available to participate in gay wedding ceremonies in Massachusetts and Connecticut, which pre-dated New York in passing such laws, as well as offering to officiate civil unions in New Jersey and secular commitment ceremonies everywhere. Obviously I believe that everyone has the right to legally marriage their beloved, no matter what the chromosomal configuration of the participants.

As a New Yorker, I have many gay friends. As I lug around a fairly considerable bag of Presbyterian-inspired guilt, I have felt badly for all of the various challenges my gay friends experience on a daily basis. Although I have always perceived myself to be “different” than others (I heartily embrace an underdog status), I simply cannot begin to have the empathic capacity to understand the challenges and prejudices (yes, even here in NY), that gays face, relating to marriage or any other matter.

But my role as the Aunt of a gay teen is the way in which I have experienced this “political” development most profoundly. My precocious 14 year old niece Mariah came to an understanding some years ago that she is gay. In every possible way, Mariah is one of a kind. She lives in conservative Oklahoma with her unconditionally accepting family. From her Father’s family she received a rich Native American ancestry, as a member of the Chickasaw Nation, as well as an interest in using the law to redress social injustice. From her Mother’s (my) side of the family, she inherited an acerbic wit and a headful of luxurious auburn curls we believe were gifted to her by our grandmother Mee-Maw. And from her Heavenly Father, she was made Gay.

Mariah grew up in a loud, happy, progressive family which invited her to ask questions, challenge authority and seek her own path. Like many family members of gay children, when Mariah came to this self-understanding, it “made sense.” Despite those who cling to the notion that some external event or condition “makes” a person gay, knowing Mariah and others reinforces the idea that this is just who she is, plain and simple.

Growing up around lawyers and a family excited by the prospect of positive social change, Mariah has thought about social justice in a very personal way. While many 14 year old girls have fantasies of a fairy tale wedding with prince charming, Mariah grappled with the harsh reality that for her marriage was not an option, in most parts of America. Although she experiences difficulties in being “different” on a daily basis, it seems that the marriage equality issue was a particular political topic that crystalized, in her mind, the challenges of being gay in America.

And so, as I was aware that the Marriage Equality bill was up for a vote on Friday, it was with Mariah and her Mom that I wanted to share the news and watch history unfold. As life would have it, Mariah was out at a concert, I was trapped on LIRR, and my BlackBerry was nearly dead. In a mad dash of text messages, Kathryn asked the logical question—“what are you doing without a charger at a time like this!?”

So, we weren’t “together” in that historic moment, telephonically or online, but as a rag tag family we will slog through the continuing expansion of Civil Rights for the LGBT community. Meanwhile, I am just happy to know that Mariah is marching in the Oklahoma City Pride parade today. She makes me proud. You go Girl!

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