Sealed with a kiss!

Sealed with a kiss!
Laura & Chris' Wedding at JCRaulston Arboretum

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Melissa and Chris Have a Beautiful December Wedding at Long View Center!

Melissa and Chris are a delightful couple. Shortly after I met with them in August, they decided that not only did they want me to officiate their wedding on 12/20/08 but they also wanted to do my Preparation for Marriage program. They wanted to be sure they were not overlooking something in their relationship that would negatively impact their marriage. Well, they did not have to worry! Their compatibility profile came in with flying colors showing that they were very compatible! We worked on communication skills, conflict resolution techniques and financial management, tools all couples need to have at hand when they are married. We explored their expectations of marriage and learned how their ideas on parenting and relating to each other's family matched up. As a result of counseling with them I got to know them quite well so their wedding was really special for me. It was unique for another reason too as their wedding is the last wedding I will be doing at Long View Center because unfortunately it is closing as a wedding site in Raleigh. I am hoping it will emerge under new ownership in the near future and I will keep this blog updated regarding this most elegant venue for weddings.

Chris and Melissa carefully put together their wedding ceremony from the material I sent them. They had everything they wanted including the Celtic hand-fasting tradition. We enjoyed a reading by Chris' sister, Tammie. We gave their parents a big tribute and thank you and asked all the guests for their blessing for Melissa and Chris and their marriage. The music for the ceremony was exquisite. A friend of Melissa's, Phillip Jefferson, played the oboe and Gregory Dixon played the grand piano. It was a terrific and heavenly combination! (see their photo below)

Chris told me while we were waiting for the ceremony to start that he and Melissa had a good time selecting their music for the ceremony. They chose "You are my Sunshine" for the seating of their grandmothers! All in all it was a terrific ceremony and so many guests came up to me after the ceremony and told me how wonderful the it was. Melissa's Aunt Kay just raved about it being the best wedding ceremony she had ever heard. Janet, Chris' mother, was amazed that the ceremony was "so Chris and Melissa!" So it was no surprise when I told them that the couple had put together exactly what they wanted from my material. Thomasina Whitley of Bowties and Lace was our wedding director and she had two assistants helping her, one of whom was Carol, a student of Tamera Davis of Cherished Moments, who teaches a class at Wake Tech on the wedding consulting business. She invited me to come speak about weddings from the minister's perspective one evening and Carol was one of the students there. She was on site learning the business at this wedding! Janice Cutler of North Raleigh Florists provided the lovely floral arrangements and Ana and her assistant Jessica of Studio One were our photographers.

After the wedding, Marty and I went over to Marbles Kids Museum to the reception. It was lovely and I know they had a lot of fun that evening. Randy Bennett of Joe Bunn DJ Company was the DJ, Irregardless did the catering, and Ambrosia provided the stunning wedding cake. For favors for the guests, Melissa and Chris had Christmas tree ornaments made commemorating the occasion. How special! What a wonderful Christmas wedding! My heartfelt congratulations to you both, Melissa and Chris!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ed and Heba Are Winners in NBC's Biggest Loser Show!

If you saw my earlier post on September 18th you know that a couple that I married in November of 2006 have been contestants on The Biggest Loser show on NBC. Yep, Ed and Heba hung in there to the very end which was tonight at the Grand Finale. No, they did not win the grand prize of $250,000 but Ed lost out by only a few pounds to the biggest loser, Michelle. Heba, on the other hand, competed against all the other contestants who had been eliminated earlier and won $100,000!! During the season, they also won a total of $15,000 and a brand new RV. They are the big winners in my book. Heba started out at 294 lbs and at the finale 6 months later she weighed in at 156! Ed lost a total of 139 lbs from 335 down to 196! Although I married Ed and Heba and they went through my Preparation for Marriage program so I got to know them quite well, I am not sure I would have recognized them had I not steadfastly watched the show every Tuesday night. They look wonderful--You look FANTASTIC, Heba and Ed! When you start a family, call me and we will schedule a baby blessing ceremony! You two are terrific! Send me some "after" photos so I can post them here!

Here is a link to one website and you can Google "Big Loser Ed and Heba" and get all kinds of photos.

Nicole and Tim Marry at the Historic Campbell House in Buies Creek.

Tim and Nicole were having some difficulty finding a minister to marry them in Buies Creek on December 13th and called me. I was happy to officiate for them since December is not in the busy wedding season and I had no other weddings scheduled that day . Usually I do not travel quite that far to do weddings but I found out it is actually only about 40 miles away and I do travel to Benson and Louisburg for weddings which is about the same distance. Anyway, they planned a small wedding with family and friends. We made all the arrangements by email and US Mail and Marty and I arrived at the Campbell House about 20 minutes before ceremony start time. I met Tim and then Nicole and her 5 year old son Will and got the marriage license. I noticed that Tim was born and raised in Dalton GA, not far from Cedartown GA where I grew up and later worked at a hospital in Dalton in the 1980s when I lived in Chattanooga.

The wedding started right on time as Nicole's father and Will escorted her down the aisle to Tim. We began with a welcome and thanks to all then an opening prayer. We paid tribute to Nicole's parents who were with us and remembered Tim's parents in Dalton who could not travel to be with us. We recognized Will and how important he is to his mother and Tim. They gave him a handsome family medallion as a memento of the occasion. Nicole and Tim exchanged vows and rings then we had a family unity candle ceremony where the couple and Will lit their own candles from a source candle then together lit a Family Unity Candle. Then I made the happy pronouncement and invited Tim and Nicole to share their first kiss as husband and wife.
It was a fine wedding and I received lots of compliments on the ceremony from the guests. We took some photos then I got the license signed by the two witnesses. Marty and I returned to Raleigh shortly after that to meet my husband, Dave, and all go to dinner and to the Master Chorale Concert together. What a nice day and evening! Congratulations, Tim, Nicole and Will!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Guidelines for Sand Ceremonies.......

The Sand ceremony is a wonderful way to visually symbolize the merging of the bride and groom into marriage and can include family members as well. With very similar symbolism it is also a better choice than the unity candle ceremony if the wedding will take place outdoors where you risk the chance of your flames being extinguished by a gust of wind.

There are some things that you should take into consideration in gathering your containers for the sand ceremony.

1) The central container into which the sand will be combined needs to have a large opening for ease of pouring.

2) The combined volume of the sand from the individual containers should not exceed the volume of the central container.

3) It is a good idea to find a central container with a lid to preserve the sand after the ceremony.

Containers can be found in many places. I see them in thrift shops all the time and the price is very reasonable. Places like Big Lots, TJ Maxx, Homegoods, Pier 1 also have a lot of glass containers.

You can find some sand ceremony kits on line but the ones couples have used in ceremonies I have officiated have had problems. They look nice and you can have your initials engraved on them but the manufacturer obviously has not taken into consideration the challenge of pouring sand into a bottle with a small opening.Here are a couple of photographs of this particular sand ceremony. The individual containers have openings larger than the container into which the sand is to be poured, but also a slanted opening with a point but that is the most difficult angle to pour from and hit the spot! Notice all the spilled sand on both tables.

You can see that they also had to pour their sand in alternately instead of together. The second photograph the couple had two sons that were included and you can see that the central container was overflowing!

One couple chose to use floral pebbles of different colors instead of sand. We called them stones in the ceremony and they picked a virtue for each color that represented the nature of the individual. It was quite nice. You could also use marbles.
Another couple were popcorn aficionados and wanted to use popcorn instead of sand. That was fine with me and so they had red and blue popcorn kernels which they poured together. I don't have a photo of that.
Another couple wanted to use natural sand of different colors so they found this at a pet shop that carried sand for aquariums.
Some couples who met on the beach gather sand from where they met. They can add glitter or colored sand to it to differentiate the sand. One thing to remember is to thoroughly dry beach sand before putting it into the small containers. Damp sand will not pour--it clumps!
A couple whose renewal of vows ceremony I performed included the sand ceremony and used just a natural sand color and had everyone pour a bit of sand into their container as they exited the ceremony to the reception.
Here is a photo of the family unity sand ceremony in which there was too much sand to pour it all into the central container! This bride and groom had 5 children they were joining together in their marriage. Note also that there is no lid for the big container--easy to spill and will catch dust.

The smaller containers representing the individuals can be juice glasses, little bottles, jars or vases. AC Moore and Michael's have a large selection of both large containers and small ones as well as the colored sand. In this photo above, I furnished the sand ceremony set up for the couple and their children because of time constraints. Usually the couple furnishes their own containers and sand because the containers and the colors of sand should be something they like since they will be keeping it on display in their home. I found these cute little heart-shaped bottles with corks and the bags of colored sand at AC Moore. The central container came from Goodwill and I paid under $2.00 for it.
So, keep these tips in mind when you choose your sand ceremony set up. It is a wonderful ritual to include in your wedding ceremony with great symbolism. I have several different versions of the sand ceremony from which couples can choose the wording that fits them.

Chatham Hill Winery Hosts their First Wedding for Joni and Jason!

Joni called me the day before Thanksgiving to find out if I could officiate her wedding on 12/7/08 at the Chatham Hill Winery in Cary which is right off I-40 at Aviation Parkway. She and Jason had apparently decided to get married on short notice! I was so glad that I was available to do this for them. We made all the arrangements and started working on the ceremony which would include their two adorable daughters, Brynn and Alyssa. I had never been to the winery before and was looking forward to seeing it and finding out how a wedding would be staged there. When 12/7 arrived, Marty and I found our way to the winery and were amazed at the nice space they had. The wedding ceremony was held in the Barrel Room which can accommodate 36 chairs with a center aisle. It was quite comfortable but at the same time quite unusual decor for a wedding! Meghan Reynolds, the winery hostess that evening, recognized me right away. She and I had worked together on weddings when she worked at the Matthews House and at Homestead Suites in Cary. It was great to see her again and chat with her. Seems that since I had last seen her she had married and been offered a great job at the winery where she had worked many years ago. She told me that this was the first wedding that has been done there and they would like to host more weddings as well as receptions.

Back to the wedding.........when Joni and the photographer and Brynn and Alyssa arrived we were ready to get begin the ceremony. Our guests who had been waiting (and sampling the wine) were ready to have the ceremony done and the celebration continue! Their beautiful cake was made by Jason's mother and Joni the day before. What a great job they did!

Joni's father, Bill, escorted her in and transferred her hand into Jason's. Meghan faded the music and the ceremony began. The couple had edited the ceremony to suit them and it was lovely. We honored their parents and their daughters, they exchanged vows and rings and I pronounced them husband and wife as their guests applauded while they sealed their vows with a kiss!

After the wedding, Jason's mother told me that I had also officiated the wedding of their daughter, Jason's sister, Shannon, and her husband, Mikey, at Duke Gardens many years ago--see their photo! Wow! I was not looking for them so I did not recognize them and they are now the parents of two small children. I did get to speak to Shannon but did not see Mikey before we left. What a small world!

Congratulations, Joni and Jason, Brynn and Alyssa!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Beautiful December Wedding for Ellen and Rich!

Ellen and Rich had a wonderful wedding at The Matthews House on 12/6/08. They had about 175 guests and the ballroom was full. Lenny Fritts of Touch of Class DJ was the DJ for both the ceremony and the reception and Shawn Schindler of Your Special Day was the wedding planner. I have worked with both of them and I know when they are on board, everything will go smoothly. Tammy Wingo was our photographer. Lyn Graves of Fresh Affairs did the elegant floral designs and Ashley Lattimer of Ashley's Cakes provided the beautiful cake. The small ceramic figure of the bride and groom dancing was the cake topper from Rich's parents' wedding many years ago.

Before the ceremony I was inside the Matthews House in the big dining room where we sequester the groomsmen and best man (Rich's father) until we are ready to begin the ceremony. They were all listening to the Duke-Florida game and threatening to turn their cell phones on during the ceremony to get the score! Of course they were joshing with me but I seriously considered asking the guests during the ceremony what the score was. I told Ellen about that after the wedding and she laughed and said she wished that I had! Anyway, as soon as Shawn, our wedding director, gave us the signal we proceeded across the breezeway to the ballroom and Shawn's assistant summoned the bride and her maidens to come down the stairs to line up for their entrance. Ellen's dress was beautiful and the bridesmaids wore red-- a great color especially for this time of the year so near Christmas.

Ellen's father escorted her down the aisle and she was radiant. After he transferred her hand into Rich's the music faded and the ceremony began with a warm welcome to all the guests. Then we paid tribute to their parents--a wonderful recognition of these couples who are still married to each other after all these years. They make wonderful models for happy marriages for their children! This is always a treat for me to see. Then Rich had written the story of how he and Ellen had met when walking their dogs. Their guests got a kick out of that! It was a good story though and he included how they did things for each other like "Ellen sits through the cold and rain of late fall UNC football games because Rich says he has more fun when she is there with him. Rich spends Friday nights on Ellen’s couch, sandwiched between Ellen and her dogs, and rubs Ellen’s feet while she watches her favorite TV shows in her pajamas." Then we got down to the serious business of what marriage and commitment means to the two of them as they exchanged their vows and rings.

The sand ceremony followed with some difficulty pouring the sand without spilling it into the narrow mouthed container (see my article on sand ceremony set ups which I intend to post soon!) but they got it done! I pronounced them married, they kissed and I introduced them to their happy guests! After the wedding party recessed and the guests were enjoying cocktails in the main house, the wedding party returned for photos. We did some re-enactment of the ceremony for pictures and at one point, Ellen needed to hand off her bouquet for the photo and the closest person standing by was Lenny. See how my roadie, Marty, captured him holding the bouquet! After all the photos were done, Marty and I bid everyone adieu and headed home. Rich and Ellen, hope you are having fun in Jamaica!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Beautiful Wedding on November 29, 2008 for Traci and Tim!

Traci's mother, Carol, contacted me in early October about officiating Traci and Tim's wedding at Brier Creek Country Club. The couple lives in Wilmington so Carol was handling the local details. Both sets of parents live in the Triangle area. Carol and I met in late October and signed a contract and then I sent all the ceremony material to Traci and Tim so they could get started on their ceremony. They did a wonderful job and the ceremony was beautiful. I did a small amount of rearranging for order and flow and minor editing and the ceremony was all set.

I meet Traci and Tim for the first time at their rehearsal on the 28th. Rebecca, the wedding coordinator at the Brier Creek Country Club was there to make sure we had everything we needed and the ceremony room was beautifully appointed with greenery and lots and lots of votive candles on the hearth and mantle of the fireplace where the couple and I would stand for the ceremony. John Carter was also there for the rehearsal. John is the owner of A Perfect Day DJ and Company and provided not only the music for the ceremony and the reception but also the photographer, Jeff, and the videographer, Robin. Traci and Tim's friend Patricia was the honorary wedding director so she and I worked together with the wedding party to make sure the wedding processional and recessional would go smoothly on the wedding day--and it did! Thanks to Patricia's attentiveness and quick thinking, she noticed that there were not enough chairs on the front row as grandparents were being seated so she and our DJ, John , quickly added three more chairs to the first row and the processional continued.

Tim, his Best Man and brother, Joey, and his young son, Sam, our Ringbearer, and I entered from the side of the room after the mother of the bride was seated. Then our Maid of Honor, Angela, processed in. The music changed, the guests stood to welcome and honor the bride, as our Flower Girl, Ella, preceded Traci and her Dad down the aisle sprinkling flower petals. The Father of the Bride transferred Traci's hand into Tim's and carefully stepped around the bride's train being careful not to trip on it as I had warned him at the rehearsal! We began with a warm welcome to all our guests and followed with a prayer. We remembered those who could not be with us. Then there was a tearful tribute to their parents thanking them for all their love and support. Tim's sister, Sandy, then told us the story of Tim and Traci and how great they are together. MaryBeth, Traci's cousin, presented the Indian Wedding Prayer and got choked up a few times! Then I gave the wedding address, words on love and marriage, which flowed into the blessing of the hands ceremony. Traci and Tim exchanged their vows and sealed them with their rings and I made the pronouncement of marriage. I could tell they had been practicing "the kiss" because it was a good one! (Their homework assignment from the rehearsal was to practice the kiss!) The guests cheered and we closed with a blessing for Traci and Tim and their new life together. As I introduced them to their guests, Traci raised her arms and bouquet in a sign of victory! Sorry I did not get a photo of that--in fact, the battery of my camera ran out so I did not get as many photos as I usually do!
Tim and Traci are a great couple and I know they are so happy together! Have a great time on your honeymoon----I suspect that they are likely snowbound in their cabin in the NC Mountains as I write this!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Beautuful Wedding for Leah and Josh at the Preston-Woodall House in Benson!

Leah and Josh planned a beautiful wedding outdoors, but unfortunately, due to the dip in temperature, Leah's hopes for an outdoor wedding were dashed. November is a risky time for outdoor weddings anyway and the weather surely did not cooperate with a high of 42 degrees on this clear sunny day. But the switch from outdoors to indoors was easily made and their wedding was fabulous anyway!

Leah and Josh came to see me last February and hired me as their wedding officiant. I was thrilled. The prestigious Preston-Woodall House in Benson is a wonderful place for weddings. It is a lovely historic house built around 1910 that the owners (Joel and Dale) have turned into a bed and breakfast and host elegant weddings there. In the past 8 years that I have been doing weddings there, I have seen some incredible changes to the property. What was once a concrete patio was transformed into the gorgeous 2800 square foot Cora Lily Grand Ballroom a few years ago. The simple backyard and small gazebo has been transformed into a beautiful garden courtyard with the Queen Ann Pavilion where we do outdoor weddings (in warmer weather!). Two of the great advantages of having a wedding here is that you can have the ceremony and reception in one location and the option of having your wedding outdoors or indoors. The owners have also purchased 3 of the small houses surrounding the block and renovated them into the nicest guest cottages that can accommodate the wedding guests. It is only a 42 mile drive from my home in N. Raleigh and not too far off I-40 and I-95.
When I arrived for the wedding today, November 22, 2008, the lighted arbor and the tables with the Memorial Candles and the Unity Candle were all in place in the ballroom with a lovely backdrop of blue sky and trees. Alice, Josh's aunt, our honorary wedding director, was all set for the ceremony. The wedding cake by Ashley's Cakes was beautiful. The flowers which the couple did themselves were lovely and right in keeping with their wedding colors of burgundy, black and white. The table napkins even had little notes tucked inside them that thanked their guests for being with them and that a donation had been made in their name to the SPCA. How generous and thoughtful! I knew that Leah and Josh were dog lovers because they had chosen the very funny poem that has been so popular in weddings this year called "Love is Like Owning a Dog" by Taylor Mali for their wedding ceremony!
The wedding programs That they made themselves were awesome and among the best I have ever seen; and believe me, I have seen tons of them. I collect the extras to give to new couples who are planning their wedding. Leah and Josh's programs are ones I will really treasure and show as a shining example of superb wedding programs. Seems like they thought of every detail.
At the appointed time their friend, Stephen Smith, began the processional music as the grandparents and parents processed in. Josh's father escorted his parents in (Josh's grandparents) and lit the candle representing Josh. Then Joe, the brother of the bride, escorted in Leah's mother and she lit the candle representing Leah and was seated. Joe returned to the line-up to process in next with the groom and groomsmen and me. Then the music changed for the lovely bridesmaids and the maid of honor to enter. The music changed again and I invited the guests to stand to honor and welcome the bride. Leah's father escorted her down the aisle and placed her hand in Josh's and everyone was seated. We began with a warm welcome and a prayer. I told the guests that the Memorial Candles were lit in honor of those loved ones who could not be with us physically but we knew were with us in spirit, especially Josh's mother. Then it was time for Gillian, a good friend of the bride, to present that funny poem about love being like owning a dog. Gillian did a fantastic job presenting this reading and we all had a good laugh or two. I followed that with words on love and marriage, the vows and the ring exchange.
As the couple lit the Unity Candle, Mathias, husband of one of our bridesmaids, sang a beautiful song accompanied on the guitar by our "DJ" Stephen who actually is a musician and writes songs himself. The song was not an easy one to sing without an orchestra ("When You Say You Love Me," by Josh Groban) but Mathias has a wonderful voice and it was beautiful! I then made the pronouncement of marriage and invited Leah and Josh to celebrate with their first kiss as husband and wife. We closed with a blessing and I introduced them to their guests as everyone applauded and they made their way down the aisle.
After the wedding party and their parents and grandparents departed, the guests were invited to enjoy delicious refreshments by the dedicated chef at Preston-Woodall House. While the guests were enjoying themselves the staff re-staged the ballroom for the reception and the wedding party reconvened for photos by Mike Phongsa of MP Photography. My "roadie," Marty, was back with me this weekend after taking a week's vacation to be with her twin sister. She took all the photos you see here. It was good to have her back!

Leah and Josh, you are a great couple and I wish you a very happy marriage and may all your dreams come true!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Long View Center in Raleigh Closing as a Wedding Venue.

Long View Center has been one of the most elegant wedding venues in Raleigh for the past few years. I have enjoyed officiating many weddings in this lovely place for the past few years and expect to continue doing weddings here in the future. Here are some photos of weddings I have officiated here.
A bit of history: This historic church building was originally constructed in the mid 1880s and was owned and occupied by a Baptist church until about 2001 when that congregation built a new church building and relocated to North Raleigh.
The church property was purchased by an individual who restored the beautiful old church and opened it as Long View Center, a conference center and wedding/special events venue. In November of 2006, the bulk of the building space was leased to Unity Church of the Triangle (UCT), a non-denominational spiritual community, for church offices and services because they had outgrown their church building on Whitaker Mill Road. Long View Center retained use of the sanctuary for weddings and special events. There is a wonderful lower level area and catering kitchen for receptions and other events.
Just recently Long View Center as a business announced that it will no longer be hosting weddings and special events in the historic old church building effective February of 2009 and cancelled all wedding scheduled there for 2009. The owner of the church building has mandated that UCT not host weddings in the sanctuary as a condition of the lease unless the couple are members of UCT. UCT is in the process of assessing the possibility of purchasing this historic church building and if we do, then weddings will again be possible in the sanctuary to couples wishing to have their ceremony there. If this comes about, I will post the news on this blog.
Unity Church of the Triangle (UCT) is the church where I have been an active member since 1992. Although I am a minister, I do not serve in the capacity of minister at UCT. I have served on the Board of Trustees and been editor of the newsletter. I much prefer to officiate weddings and counsel couples and enjoy singing in our amazing choir and serving my spiritual community in other ways such as teaching classes on relationships, hosting book study groups, and other special projects.