Wedding Ceremony Planner: The Essential Guide to the Most Important Part of Your Wedding Day [NOOK Book]

Overview

The only comprehensive guide for planning your ceremony, your way!

Offering an abundance of elegant and heartfelt choices for ceremony elements, ten full sample ceremonies, and often-overlooked logistics, this is the absolute essential guide for anyone designing a wedding ceremony. Expert guidance helps you tailor your ceremony to your situation and beliefs. Includes downloadable text options and worksheets for ultimate convenience.

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Wedding Ceremony Planner: The Essential Guide to the Most Important Part of Your Wedding Day

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Overview

The only comprehensive guide for planning your ceremony, your way!

Offering an abundance of elegant and heartfelt choices for ceremony elements, ten full sample ceremonies, and often-overlooked logistics, this is the absolute essential guide for anyone designing a wedding ceremony. Expert guidance helps you tailor your ceremony to your situation and beliefs. Includes downloadable text options and worksheets for ultimate convenience.

Praise for The Wedding Ceremony Planner:

"Weddings are sacred acts surrounded by material hoopla. The Wedding Ceremony Planner clarifies the worldly issues but keeps the spirit central. It's the balance that every couple needs."—Marianne Williamson, author of The Gift of Change

"With countless samples of ceremony segments and worksheets to put them all together, The Wedding Ceremony Planner affirms what we all hope for: to communicate our love in a clear, heartfelt manner that truly reflects who we are."—Jack Canfield, coauthor, Chicken Soup for the Bride's Soul®

"Erased any jitters I had and replaced them with the perfect plan...I will recommend it to both officiants and couples alike."—customer review

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Like Brockway, Johnson is an ecumenical minister with 14 years' experience. Written in a warm, caring tone, her guide is geared to couples wanting a spiritual, heartfelt ceremony-even though they may not be tied to a single religious tradition. As she presents ideas for incorporating personal beliefs and ethnic traditions, she reminds couples of points to consider when designing the ceremony and provides eight sample ceremonies with worksheets to record ceremony cues and sequencing so things run smoothly. Johnson also addresses nonspiritual practical considerations, e.g., chair placements and photography options, that if done poorly can detract from sacred moments. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402278235
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/5/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 197,660
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Judith Johnson holds a doctorate in social psychology and is an ordained ecumenical minister, honoring all religious and spiritual traditions. She has officiated at hundreds of weddings over the past 14 years.
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Read an Excerpt

WHAT IS A SPIRITUAL WEDDING?

When couples come to me to be married, they often describe themselves as spiritual, but not religious. They may indicate that they do not attend religious services of any kind, but consider themselves good, moral people. Most profess a belief in God, though many seek to articulate an image or concept of God that does not match the anthropomorphic God of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

These couples are among the ninety-three million Americans (30 percent of us) who self-identify as “Spiritual but Not Religious.” While claiming no specific religion, they typically say they are deeply spiritual. This group has doubled in size in the past decade and, as a result, is changing the face of rituals in America. They are largely responsible for the personalization of wedding ceremonies.

While many struggle to put into words what they mean by “God” or “spiritual,” most people agree that there is more to life than meets the eye—that there is a dimension to our being far more essential than our personalities, egos, likes, and dislikes. Some of us call this dimension soul, spirit, or a spark of the divine. Others speak simply of something greater than ourselves—something that unites us all. Some think it is love. Whether theistic or atheistic, most of us sense that there is something profound about life. In twelve-step programs, people refer to their higher power, Buddhists seek Buddha Consciousness, and the Taoists speak of the rhythms and flow of life from which they draw strength and wisdom. In many indigenous cultures, this sense of a spiritual dimension of life is often perceived through nature.

When two people who deeply love each other decide to marry, they reach into this essence of their beings in order to create and nurture something greater—their union. In Christianity, Jesus states that he is present when two or more are gathered in his name. This higher union of two beings into one is a universal spiritual concept. The blending together of two people is the mystery of the spiritual union in marriage. At the same time, the two people do not dissolve into one, leaving their separate identities behind. Rather, by giving and receiving their love as they move through their moments, days, months, and years together, they learn to honor and respect their differences, to share their joys, and to love each other through it all with dignity, humor, and compassion.

The spiritual wedding is a sacred ritual where a couple enters into a commitment to take this life-journey of loving, caring, and sharing with each other. Before families and friends, they vow to be by each other’s side, no matter what life brings their way. Like an intricate dance, the spiritual union requires that the Marriage Partners adapt to and maintain balance with each other physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. By being linked together, their lives become a duet where each partner shares responsibility for the quality of the dance they create.

When a couple chooses to be married outside the doctrinal definitions of a particular religion or spiritual path, they have the opportunity to put their signature on the wedding ceremony so that it reflects their individual and combined beliefs and values. Every word, every gesture, can be imbued with a deep significance for the couple. Some embrace this event as an opportunity to build their marriage foundation through public proclamation of their love and intentions as Marriage Partners. Others have a more lighthearted approach and simply want a heartfelt but nondogmatic ceremony. In either case, it is a wonderful opportunity for self-expression and a declaration of the power of love in our lives.

A good place to start the process of designing your ceremony is to take time together to explore your individual tastes and desires. How do you imagine your ceremony? It is customary in our society for many Grooms to fall into the pattern of saying, “Whatever the Bride wants is fine with me.” However, the wedding is as much his as it is hers, so it is very important to support the Groom in discovering and expressing his own preferences. This fact is particularly important in a ceremony that is custom-designed rather than falling under the authority of a particular religious tradition. Marriage represents the commitment of two people to each other and to their union; it is important that both individuals are strongly represented in order to make the ritual truly reflective of who they are as individuals and as a couple.

Weddings in our society typically emphasize the visual and material aspects of life. We tend to spend time preparing for the wedding celebration rather than equipping ourselves for being married. Some religious traditions offer premarital training programs. But, for those not affiliated with a particular religious or spiritual tradition, preparation for marriage is a “catch as catch can” sort of thing. Television and magazines try to tell us the top ten secrets of a successful marriage. However, it is within our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies that we must prepare to merge our lives with another person—to be joined together by the ties of love, friendship, caring, sharing, compassion, and forgiveness. Marriage is a deeply intimate and individualized process. When you take the time to symbolically and verbally reflect on the very personal meaning of your union through the process of designing your own wedding ceremony, you give yourselves the opportunity to really clarify and share your deepest feelings, needs, and desires with regard to these aspects of your lives. The very act of creating the ceremony can be a sacred journey of expression and commitment to one another.

YOUR DREAM WEDDING

In our youth, most of us dream about the day when we will get married and live happily ever after. Our youthful idealism usually carries over into the planning of the actual day. We want it to be special and perfect in every way. The weather will be perfect, the couple will look fabulous, the ceremony will be touching, the food will taste delicious, the flowers will look beautiful, everyone will have a wonderful time—and the couple will live happily ever after. Of course, this plan does not account for the fact that we live on planet Earth, where things can and do go wrong. Careful planning and preparation are necessary to bring reality as close to your dreams as possible with a minimum amount of stress.

A spiritual wedding ceremony is at once a timeless and sacred ritual and an intricate theatrical production. In both cases, exquisite attention to detail is the key to creating a seemingly seamless flow of events with just the right mood, tone, sentiment, and continuity. When choosing to create your own wedding ceremony, it is not unusual to be surprised by the complexity of the undertaking for what will likely be a mere fifteen–thirty-minute event. However, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you work efficiently, you can work with grace and ease and not be faced with too many unwanted surprises.

Based on the weddings you have attended in the past, you may have a few ideas of what you want or do not want in your ceremony—maybe a reading or a unity candle—and you may know whether you want to write your own vows or use traditional ones. It is perfectly normal not to know what you want when it comes to designing your own ceremony. With good planning and resources, the creation of your wedding ceremony can be a delightful and fruitful adventure.

REMEMBER TO TAKE CHARGE

If you are like most couples facing this joyous undertaking, you may not really know where to start or what questions need to be asked of whom. As a result, you are likely to rely on those who are advising you. The problem with this situation is that each advisor is looking through the eyes of his or her specialty, and unless you have a wonderful Wedding Consultant, no one is looking at the whole picture—the overlay of all the different considerations. This predicament is exacerbated by two facts. First of all, the majority of everyone’s attention is usually on the reception rather than the ceremony. Second, there are no hard-and-fast rules about who will handle what aspects of the ceremony. For example, the Location Coordinator, the Officiant, or both might attend and oversee your Rehearsal. If there is a Wedding Consultant, he or she will likely attend as well. But who is in charge? Similarly, the Florist may deliver the flower arrangements but not put them in place. Whose job is that? It is therefore essential for the couple to know what questions need to be asked and what options need to be considered to be sure that all goes well.

If you are having your ceremony at the reception location, remember that the way they usually do things may or may not suit you. So, pay attention to such details as whether or not you want alcohol served before the ceremony, how the ceremony site will be set up, and privacy for your ceremony in the event that there are other festivities going on there.

Remember, no matter how many professionals, friends, and family members are there to help, and no matter who you choose to officiate, it is important for you to take charge of planning your ceremony. There is no guarantee that the Officiant, Wedding Consultant, or Location Coordinator are going to handle what you think they should. Be sure to ask every question you can think of and put the details in writing so everyone can be aware of your preferences. Probably the biggest mistake is to assume that something will be handled without first making sure that someone considers it his or her responsibility. The most obvious details can be easily overlooked. This book is designed to draw your attention ahead of time to all the aspects of the ceremony that require your consideration. In this way, during the ceremony itself, you will not be distracted by the details and will be free to focus on what really matters—pledging yourself into the sacred union of marriage.

CHOOSING AN OFFICIANT

Years ago, the person who would marry a couple was an obvious choice because it was common for the couple to share the same religion. Nowadays, people from all combinations and mixtures of religious and spiritual traditions are uniting in marriage. It is the exception rather than the rule that both Marriage Partners are active members of the same religion. Many couples want a wedding ceremony that speaks to their shared values without presenting the beliefs of a particular faith. Some know that they want a heartfelt but not sentimental service. Others want a spiritual rather than a strictly civil ceremony. But many couples are at a loss in figuring out who should officiate their ceremony. For those getting married within a particular religious tradition, the level of personalization of the ceremony varies depending on the rules of that particular religion and denomination as well as the flexibility of the clergyperson performing the ceremony.

In the United States, the church and the state are the two authorities governing the content of a wedding ceremony. When a couple is getting married outside the jurisdiction of any specific church or religious organization, they are free to customize the ceremony to their own liking, providing they comply with the requirements of the state in which they are to be married. Check with the local town hall or town clerk to find out what the specific laws are in the state where you will be married. In New York, for example, there are four primary requirements: the Marriage Partners must be at least eighteen years old or have written parental consent; they must obtain a valid marriage license and have the ceremony within sixty days (but not within the first twenty-four hours) of its issuance; their ceremony must be presided over by a qualified Officiant; and the couple must speak their vows in front of at least one additional witness. The rest is optional from the state’s point of view. Legally, the couple can merely stand before the Officiant with a guest and exchange vows, be declared married, and sign a marriage license. Of course, most couples prefer to embellish and dignify the event with a more comprehensive ceremony.

According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 78.4 percent of the U.S. population label themselves Christians; about 16.9 percent nonreligious or atheist; 2.4 percent are Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Baha’is; 0.6 percent are Muslim; and 1.7 percent are Jewish. We use these religious labels in different ways. Many people identify themselves according to the religion they were raised in, regardless of whether or not they are still active participants. Others are devout practitioners. The fact that an individual calls himself or herself Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, or atheist does not necessarily mean that he or she finds that religious tradition deeply meaningful. Many individuals have drifted away from the religion of their youth and find that getting married raises serious questions for them about their religious and spiritual beliefs. Some couples get caught up in the preferences of key family members and, in an effort to appease others, lose track of the importance of their own beliefs. Many want their ceremony to be free of religious labels—yet tenderhearted and, in some cases, spiritual.

While couples used to be limited to being married in their faith or by a town clerk or judge in the capacity of a justice of the peace, there are now more options. Some couples find themselves surprised when turned away by a priest, minister, or rabbi for doctrinal reasons or because they are not active members of that particular congregation. It is often a rude awakening for the couple. But if they are determined to be married in a specific faith, they should consider looking around to find a more liberal or accommodating clergy member. Some couples choose to have their ceremony co-officiated by representatives of both of their religious traditions. Another option is to have the ceremony performed by an ecumenical, non-denominational, or interfaith minister as a neutral voice with whom they can customize the ceremony to their own beliefs.

In the case of ecumenical, non-denominational, or interfaith ministers, it is important to check out the scope of religions embraced by these individuals. Some are interfaith Christian ministers, while others honor all religious and spiritual traditions. Many ecumenical, non-denominational, or interfaith ministers, like myself, perform their ministry outside of the context of a church building and congregation and are therefore a bit harder to locate. The best way to find us is to ask your Wedding Consultant or Location Coordinator for some references. There are also regional websites for wedding services. For example, I am listed under “clergy” at hudsonvalleyweddings.com. If you would like to find a non-denominational minister, my church also has a website, msia.org/minister, where you can request that an MSIA minister in your area contact you regarding performing your wedding.

Aside from finding a clergy member who shares and/or honors your particular religious or spiritual beliefs, it is also a good idea to find someone who will do more than just read a script. Ideally, you want to feel comfortable with this individual and have him or her serve as a resource and guide in the development of your ceremony and counsel you as needed with any issues that arise. Take the time to determine what matters to you in terms of who marries you. Don’t be shy—whatever questions arise in your mind are significant enough to ask. Most couples, for example, want to have a sense of how flexible and creative the Officiant is in the design of the ceremony and how willing he or she will be to work with them. Ask what process the Officiant usually goes through with couples in planning their weddings, and what role he or she typically takes in terms of the Rehearsal and logistical considerations. You will also want to get a feel for the person to see if he or she is someone with whom you are comfortable. For example, if you have had children together before getting married, you will want to know if the Officiant has any issues with that. You want someone who can fully embrace who you are and not be in judgment of you for any reason. And, of course, you will want to know what it costs to retain these services, including whether the Officiant charges a flat rate or variable fees depending on distance traveled, having a Rehearsal, or other considerations.

These days some couples get the idea to have a family member or friend officiate their ceremony. In my opinion, this is a bad idea for several reasons. A seasoned Officiant knows the in’s and out’s of the law regarding marriage, how to design a ceremony, conduct a rehearsal, and preside at the ceremony. There is more to being an Officiant than meets the eye. Asking a friend or family member to step into this role with no prior experience puts a lot of responsibility on them to learn the ropes and may result in unanticipated problems arising.

A NOTE TO OFFICIANTS

While this book is written primarily to assist couples who are seeking to design their own wedding ceremonies, it is also intended as a reference manual for those who officiate at wedding ceremonies. When I first started performing weddings, I found two books that showed me the way. But neither was really comprehensive in helping me address the myriad details and issues that I would face in years to come. My hope is that by sharing what I have learned, others will feel well supported.

There is something quite remarkable about having the “power” to declare two people to be Marriage Partners or to officiate at a commitment ceremony where two people publicly declare their love and devotion to one another. Above and beyond this, officiating is a wonderful opportunity to be of service to couples by guiding them through the process of creating the ceremony that is right for them and that will set a good foundation for their marriage.

There is no question that many couples who are embarking on the process of designing their own wedding ceremony are in need of reliable guidance. While time and other considerations can cause us as officiants to place what seem like reasonable limits on our responsibilities to couples, we must not forget that their need provides us with the privilege to be of service in an enormously meaningful way. It is up to each of us to decide the degree to which we are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to serve them. Just remember, as with any act of true service, it is the one who serves who reaps the richest rewards.

Here are some suggestions for ways to assist couples:

1. Keep a list of books and reference materials that you find particularly useful. If you are so inclined, maintain a lending library of these materials.

2. Provide checklists and worksheets like the ones in this book. You might even customize your own to the specific locations where you perform ceremonies.

3. Have couples fill out the checklists and worksheets, then work with them to help fine-tune the details.

4. Hold a clear intention of doing whatever you can to assist each couple in creating the ceremony that is right for them and ensuring that it runs smoothly.

5. If for some reason you cannot perform the wedding of a couple who comes to you, be prepared to give them some specific and constructive suggestions about how to find another Officiant.

For the benefit of those of you who are fairly new at officiating customized wedding ceremonies, I will share my own process of working with couples to give you a place to start as you evolve your own model. Typically, my first contact with a couple is a phone call or email in response to their having discovered me on the Internet, or having been referred to me by a couple I have married, Wedding Consultant, or a Location Coordinator if their ceremony and reception are taking place at the same location. In the initial conversation I do the following:

• First, check to see if I am available for their wedding location, date, and time.

• Answer any immediate questions or concerns they have about their ceremony or about my ministry.

• Discuss my approach and fees.

• If appropriate, I schedule an appointment to meet for an hour. The purpose of that meeting is for the couple to determine if I am the right one to perform their ceremony.

• In order that the couple not feel pressured to make a decision during our meeting, I ask them to call me afterward with their decision.

• Since most couples don’t know how to evaluate officiants, I ask them to discuss what is important to them in this regard before our meeting so they can be prepared with specific questions.

If the couple decides they would like me to perform their ceremony, we discuss how we can best work together. If the couple lives a great distance from me, we may choose to work primarily by phone and email. Most couples choose to use the material in this book, at least as a starting point. In our initial meeting, I use the Couple/Ceremony Information Sheet found in chapter 8 to gather information about the couple. I ask them about their beliefs, life circumstances, family traditions, and other considerations that affect the kind of wedding they want. I also make it a point to have a discussion about the deeper meaning of marriage in their lives. It is important to most people that the ceremony reflects who they are and what they believe in as individuals and as a couple. Most want it to last from about fifteen minutes to half an hour—long enough to be meaningful and short enough to keep everyone’s attention. I usually encourage couples to trust that their own unique style will provide discernment and find its own expression.

Unless a couple has a very specific, alternative approach to creating their wedding, we work with the format presented in Part Two of this book, supplemented by the Sample Ceremonies in Part Three, any readings they would like to include, and the Checklists and Worksheets. I explain that the ceremonial elements presented in this book represent a fairly traditional structure for the ceremony. While each component has its place, the only two that are required by law are the wedding vows and pronouncement of marriage. The rest is a matter of personal choice and the building of a ritual that has flow and a crescendo. With the expectation that the couple will read through and find the specific passages that are right for them after our meeting, my focus in person is to educate them about the purposes of the different component parts of the ceremony.

Since the majority of couples I work with have very little idea of how to create their ceremony, this book is designed to expose them to as many ideas as possible. This allows them to recognize that they have a place of discernment inside of them that knows what is right for them and what is not. It is fascinating to witness a couple discovering their ceremony through the process of reacting to all the different options. It’s as though they were looking in a mirror and recognizing themselves.

When possible, I like to have the ceremony completed at least a month before the wedding date. This way, it does not become a part of the last-minute flurry of activities. To accomplish that, we set deadlines to complete the rough draft and final draft.

I usually conduct the wedding rehearsal the day before the ceremony. This is covered in detail in chapter 4. In general, I find this to be an important time to meet the families and Wedding Party and to make sure we share the same understanding about what has to be done, when, where, and by whom during the ceremony. We talk through the logistics and all movements of the Wedding Party. I try to make it a fun experience, but make sure that doesn’t get in the way of doing a thorough job.

In my experience, performing weddings for couples being married outside of any specific religious denomination is one of the most beautiful blessings of my ministry. It is an opportunity to truly celebrate our differences and to affirm the universal language of love spoken by all human hearts. I hope those of you who are beginning to or continuing to officiate at these weddings will be as enriched as I have been.

Couple/Ceremony Information Sheet—Sample

Download this at sourcebooks.com/weddingceremonyplanner






Ceremony

Rehearsal



Date:

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013



Time:

11 a.m.

5 p.m.



Location:

Mohonk Mountain House

Mohonk Mountain House



Location Contact Person: Beverly Jennings

(845) 255-1000



Wedding Coordinator: Christina

(845) 255-1000



# of Guests: 130



Deposit Received:Date: 10/30/12

Amount: $100



Referred by: Photographer Cynthia DelConte

(845) 757-2222





Bride

Groom



Name:

Pam Brighten

Jeff Goldman



Address:

888 Eighth Avenue #5B, NY, NY 10019

Same



Phone:

(914) 572-8973

(917) 777-4130



Email:

pamb@gmail.com

jeffg@gmail.com



Age:

32

37



# of this marriage: 1

2



Any children from this or previous unions? No

Yes—Laurie, 2 yrs











Religious/Spiritual Background:







Raised Catholic

Raised Jewish



Current Religion:

Spiritual but not Religious

Spiritual but not Religious











Spiritual Beliefs/Affiliations: Unsure

Jewish


Other information: Her parents are divorced and don’t get along, his brother died 6 months ago and they want to acknowledge him somehow.

Wedding Party (first names and affiliation with couple)

Bride’s Side:

Maid of Honor: Maggie (Bride’s sister)

Bridesmaids: Eleanor (childhood best friend), Ladasha (college roommate), Helena (Groom’s sister)

Flower girls: Jessica and Angelina (Bride’s sister Maggie’s twin daughters, 4 years old)

Groom’s Side:

Best Man: Joel (Groom’s older brother)

Groomsmen: Patrick and Sam (best friends from work)

Ring Bearer: Simon (Groom’s sister Helena’s son, 6 years old)

Other people who will be participating in the ceremony:

Readers: Patricia (Bride’s mother) and Debra (Groom’s mother)

What do you know you do or do not want in terms of tone and content for your wedding ceremony?

Relaxed and upbeat tone

Non-religious, but want to include Jewish traditions of drinking the wine and breaking the glass.

A candle ceremony

15–20 minutes total

Are there any particular challenges or issues surrounding your getting married?

Dealing with her parents not getting along and also her grandmother is upset that she isn’t being married in the Catholic Church.

What qualities do you most appreciate or admire in your partner?

Bride:

Kindness, humor, intelligence, generosity of spirit, I never feel judged by him and can just be myself.

Groom:

She lights up the room, is totally comfortable to be around, is smart, beautiful, and really funny.

What made you decide to get married at this time? What does marriage mean to you?

Bride:

I just knew once I realized what a blessing he is in my life. We want children, so we didn’t want to wait.

Groom:

She’s what I’ve been looking for all my life and I want us to have children together.

What does the commitment of marriage mean to you:

Bride:

Making our love more important than any differences we have—divorce is not an option.

Groom:

same—marriage is sacred.

A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE

As an ecumenical minister who honors all religious traditions and each individual’s right to find his or her own spiritual truth, I have had the opportunity to work with all kinds of couples and marriage circumstances. I work with each couple to help them express their unique style and blend of beliefs in the creation of a ritual that truly celebrates their union. I believe fervently in this right, primarily because I found my own spiritual truth somewhere other than in the religious tradition of my youth, and I have known and been so deeply saddened by religious prejudice. I was not born ecumenical. Having been raised in a Christian faith continues to influence my spiritual beliefs. However, I have been exposed to and embraced many of the teachings of other traditions as well, most notably Buddhism, Taoism, and Judaism. In speaking from what I know, the reader might detect an emphasis, but not an exclusionary focus, on Christian traditions for two main reasons. First, I live in a society that is 78.4 percent Christian. Second, having been raised Christian, it is viscerally a part of me. You will find, however, that the sentiments of most of the wedding text selections I have chosen to include in this book have a universal tone that speaks to the heart rather than to any particular religious tradition—even though some of them originate from a particular religious teaching. In using the material in this book, feel free to adapt the passages to your own beliefs. For example, if you are an atheist and a passage that you otherwise like uses the term “God,” be creative in rewording it so it suits you.

I officiate at many wedding ceremonies that take place outside the context of any specific religion. Couples may label themselves as belonging to the religion to which they were born, even if they no longer practice it. Most people describe drifting away or intentionally moving in another direction from the religious tradition of their upbringing. Therefore, they find it inappropriate to be married in a particular religious faith and are looking to find a celebrant who will assist them in creating a spiritual tone for their ceremony without representing any one specific religion. Some want to include ritual components of their past or present religious affiliations, but not to be married “in” any one tradition. In some cases, couples who originally wanted to be married in one or the other of their religions became disillusioned by the restrictions they encountered.

I remember one Bride in her forties who had attended the same small-town church all her life and always dreamed of walking up the church’s aisle on her wedding day. Unfortunately, when the day came, her circumstances made that impossible. Instead, we created a beautiful outdoor wedding that took place overlooking a river with a backdrop of mountains and a perfect sky full of puffy clouds. We included as many of her religious rituals as possible. She loved it, yet eight years later, she was still trying to gain permission to have her marriage blessed by her church. I sometimes share this story with couples facing similar challenges in order to remind them how important it is to fully support themselves in their decisions about how to get married. If your dreams and reality cannot be reconciled, do whatever you can to accept your reality and work with it in a loving way.

The decision of two people to live in a committed relationship is one of the most beautiful things that can happen in life. Since most of the couples I marry are already living together, I find their choice to be united in marriage a sacred and joyous cause for celebration. It is a public declaration of love, hope, devotion, and the couple’s intention to nurture themselves, each other, the relationship, and any children brought into the family by their union. My heart looks past any differences in race, creed, color, situation, or circumstance and I wildly applaud people for caring so deeply for each other. As you step across this threshold together, may you tenderly love one another and yourselves, and be blessed with a safe and happy marriage journey. If you would like to inquire about my availability to officiate at your ceremony or to consult with you on the design of your ceremony, please feel free to contact me at judithjohnson@hvc.rr.com.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Preface
Part One
Your Wedding Ceremony: The People, the Place, and Special Considerations
Chapter 1 Creating Your Wedding, Your Way
What Is a Spiritual Wedding?
Your Dream Wedding
Remember to Take Charge
Choosing an Officiant
A Note to Officiants
Couple/Ceremony Information Sheet-Sample
A Personal Perspective
Chapter 2 Setting the Tone for Your Wedding
What to Consider in Designing the Ceremony
The Couple
The Guest List
The Wedding Party
Traditions
Chapter 3 Planning the Ceremony Location
Finding Your Wedding Ceremony Location
Identifying Your Needs and Desires
Researching Possible Sites
Agreeing on Terms for Use of Your Chosen Site
Optimizing Your Ceremony's Location
Balance and Fit
Special Considerations for Outdoor Weddings
Easily Accessible and User-Friendly
Factors to Consider in Designing the Ceremony Site
Ceremony Site Layout Worksheet-Sample
The Wedding Party
Props
Chairs
Music
Chapter 4 Special Considerations
"Handle with Care" Relationships
Who Does What, When, Where, Why, and How
Wedding Contact Information Sheet-Sample
Just Before the Ceremony Checklist-Sample
The Wedding Program
The Wedding Rehearsal
Wedding Rehearsal Checklist-Sample
A Note about Ushers
Part Two
Designing Your Ceremony
Chapter 5 The Ceremony Text
Designing the Ceremony Text Worksheet-Sample
Ceremony Overview
In the Beginning
The Seating of the Guests
The Processional
Processional Cues and Sequencing Worksheet-Sample
Opening Prayer
Gathering Words
Remembrances and Acknowledgments
In the Middle
Readings and Songs
Charge for the Couple
The Declaration of Support
Marriage Address
Symbolic Rituals
Unity Candle Ceremony
Tree Planting Ceremony
Sand Ceremony
Water Ceremony
In the End
Wedding Vows
Ring Exchange
Prelude by the Officiant
Ring Exchange by the Couple
Final Blessing and Pronouncement
Benediction
The Recessional
Recessional Cues and Sequencing Worksheet-Sample
Chapter 6 Incorporating Personal Beliefs and Circumstances
For a Smaller Wedding
The Friendship Circle
When Your Ceremony Involves Children
Incorporating Religious Traditions
Jewish Wedding Rituals
Explanation of Jewish Traditions
Blessing and Drinking the Wine
The Seven Blessings
Prayers from the Old Testament
Symbolic Gestures
Incorporating Ethnic Traditions
Greek Crowning Ceremony and Common Cup
The Polish Ritual of Symbolic Gifts
The Wrapping of the Mantilla
Part Three
Putting It All Together
Chapter 7 Sample Ceremonies
Ceremony One: Spiritual and Heartfelt
Ceremony Two: Short and Sophisticated
Ceremony Three: Celebrating Our Oneness While Honoring Our Differences
Ceremony Four: Inspired by Nature
Ceremony Five: Short, Spontaneous, and Intimate
Ceremony Six: A Marriage with Children
Ceremony Seven: Non-denominational Christian with Scriptural Readings
Ceremony Eight: Joyful Family Togetherness
A Note about Commitment Ceremonies
Ceremony Nine: A Heartfelt Commitment Ceremony
Ceremony Ten: Renewal of Marriage Vows
Chapter 8 Checklists and Worksheets
Couple/Ceremony Information Sheet
Ceremony Site Layout Worksheet
Wedding Contact Information Sheet
Just Before the Ceremony Checklist
Wedding Rehearsal Checklist
Designing the Ceremony Text Worksheet
Processional Cues and Sequencing Worksheet
Recessional Cues and Sequencing Worksheet
A Final Thought
About the Author
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