Sealed with a kiss!

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

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Shady Wagon Farm Wedding for Shana and Barry!

Shady Wagon Farm is a delightfully secluded 22 acre estate in New Hill, NC. I have done many weddings there through the years since it first opened and this year the owner, Cindy Carroll, has added a nice gazebo on the pond. I saw it for the first time on Thursday at Shana and Barry's rehearsal. Mr. Puddy, the local Persian "greeter" cat, was there to welcome everyone and schmooze a little. He loves being petted! He told me that he owns the place but not to tell the humans that think they own it! He made his piano playing debut at Shana and Barry's wedding but wait, that comes later! When Marty and I arrived on Friday October 24th to set up for the wedding, the sky was threatening and rain was in the forecast. We set up my sound system and did a sound check. All was well. Then later, when Ross Merle, one of my favorite DJs, arrived, he said that the rain was imminent (he had been following the Doppler) and we needed to move the ceremony to Plan B, the barn. So, after Ross and I spoke to the bride who agreed to move it, Marty and I took down my sound system. But, then they decided to wait it out till the last minute to decide where to have the wedding. That makes it tough because it takes more than a few minutes to set up my sound system. It was decided that Ross' wife, Alice, the keyboardist (see their photo together below) who was providing music for the ceremony would be up on the porch of the house, a good distance from the guests, but at least she had shelter if it started raining and with the volume turned way up, the music could be heard just fine. Without the sound system, we planned for the wedding party to assemble in front of the entrance to the gazebo so at least some of the guests could hear the ceremony. Well, we waited until about 15 minutes before the ceremony was to start, and I decided to risk setting up the sound system. I have lost one sound system due to an unexpected downpour in 2003 and that experience makes me think twice about risking my sound system to rain. I have learned to cover them with plastic garbage bags too in case it begins raining during the ceremony. It is so important to me and to the couple who have worked so hard creating the perfect ceremony for them to have the guests hear the words! Most guests have come a long way, usually spent a good amount of money on gifts for the couple, clothing for the wedding, etc. so they deserve to hear the ceremony. Ross helped Marty and me quickly get my system up and running with a mike for the readers. And, thank goodness--the rain held off!

So, Shana and Barry got the wedding they wanted in the gazebo, and all their guests enjoyed the ceremony. Barry's nieces, A'moni and Jasmine, read a poem alternately during the ceremony and those little girls were no strangers to microphones and did a great job! Then Barry's sister, Monica, presented a few words she had written for the couple. It was obvious that she is a poet and activist herself and proficient in public speaking. While Monica was speaking I noticed Mr. Puddy strolling down the aisle and getting strokes from the guests but when they started to applaud, he high-tailed it up to the porch. Then it was time in the ceremony for Shana and Barry to exchange their vows. Shana went first and repeated the lines after me. Then, unbeknownst to those of us in the gazebo, a strange discordant tinkling of piano keys was heard by the guests. Yep, Mr. Puddy had jumped up onto the keyboard but he did not stay but a moment as Alice swept him off and he was not seen again. Marty and I looked for him again after the wedding to take a photo of him, but he eluded us! Next time! Back to the ceremony: After the vows and ring exchange, and the pronouncement of marriage, Shana and Barry jumped the broom and then I introduced them to their guests amid great applause and cheers! Alice began the recessional music as the wedding party departed to the farmhouse for photos and the guests proceeded to the barn for the reception. After photos, Marty and I went over to the barn to see the wedding cake by Baking Dreams also owned by Cindy Carroll, and taste a few hors d'ouerves by Thrills from the Grill who were catering the reception. Leah Bowman provided the photographic coverage of the wedding and reception. It was a great wedding with many memorable moments! Congratulations to you, Shana and Barry!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wedding at Duke Gardens Fish Pool for Nancy and Frank!

This was the first wedding of 5 for me today. The weather was chilly and it rained the night before. The forecast was iffy for rain this morning too. Nancy and Frank live and work in Florida and they contacted me to officiate their wedding at Duke Gardens. We made all the arrangements by email and created a ceremony to fit their beliefs and love for each other and also included Nancy's son, Nicholas, and Frank's son, Brian. I met them for the first time at their rehearsal in the pouring rain Friday night. They made contingency plans with the G-Loft in case of rain but miraculously, the rain cleared overnight and it was bright and clear Saturday morning for the wedding at these beautiful gardens. A trio of flute, violin and cello assembled by Musica provided sweet music. Diana Matthews was the photographer and it was good to work with her again! When all their guests were seated, Nancy's father, Tom, escorted her down the majestic steps from the pergola to the fish pool where Frank, Brian, Nicholas, Lisa (Nancy's sister), Nikki (Nancy's niece) and I were waiting. I began with a warm welcome to the guests and a tribute to Nancy's parents. We remembered Frank's parents who are not living but were with us in spirit. The couple gave beautiful pocket watches to their sons as "timeless" reminders of this special day. After the vows and ring exchange, they poured their sand together symbolic of this family blending together. The guests and the couple really enjoyed the ceremony. Have a great marriage and family life together, Nancy and Frank!

Julianna and Bobby Make their Vows in Kayelily's Wedding Garden!

I have known Julianna's grandmother, Rita, since at least 1993. (See photo of the two of us below.) When Julianna told her that she and Bobby planned to marry, Rita sent them to see me. They wanted a large formal wedding in 2009 but had not found the site and therefore could not set the date. Julianna recently graduated from West Point and she and Bobby both serve in the military, so it was quite a challenge for them to travel to the Raleigh area and look at wedding venues. They kept me posted on the places they looked at but I could tell they were becoming rather frustrated doing this long distance. So, I suggested that they consider what other couples in the military have done and that is to have a small private wedding now and then plan a large celebration later on next year. I invited them to use my wedding garden as their venue. They liked this idea and chose 10/18/08 for their wedding date. They had about 20 guests, some who flew in from great distances to be with them, especially Julianna's father. Her mother and Rita planned the decorations and a champagne toast to follow the ceremony.

The wedding guests and wedding party converged here, got all set up, and Julianna changed into her lovely bridal gown. When she was ready, Bobby and I took our places in front of the arbor and Julianna was escorted in by her father. She was a beautiful bride--and so tall--over 6 feet! (Again, I felt like a midget!) We had written a sweet ceremony in which the couple's parents were recognized and thanked for their love and support. They said their vows to each other and exchanged rings. Then I pronounced them married and they kissed as their family and friends cheered! The champagne toast followed as everyone crowded in on my deck. After getting the license signed and taking some pictures with the happy couple, Marty and I left them to continue celebrating whle she and I went to the third wedding of the day.

Julianna and Bobby, congratulations; I wish you all the best and I will see you next year at your BIG wedding!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Beautiful Wedding for Gemma and Ed in her Brother's Elegant Home in N. Raleigh!

Gemma contacted me a few weeks ago to see if I could officiate hers and Ed's wedding that would include her two children and Ed's son. Of course I told her about the sand ceremony kids love so much because they get to pour their own sand that is so symbolic for them of family unity. Sounded great to her so she had Ed drop by the contract and a check for my fee and I started putting a ceremony together for them. I emailed it to Gemma and Ed for their review and changes. Gemma told me that she cried when she read the ceremony I sent them and it was perfect just the way it was! Gemma's brother and his wife have a gorgeous home in N. Raleigh with a little gazebo attached to the left side of the front porch which was the perfect setting for their wedding. The wind was blowing a bit but calmed down as Gemma's father escorted her in. The wedding ceremony proceeded with their closest family members and friends gathered around. Their children who are 8, 16 and 20 poured their sand after Ed and Gemma poured theirs. It was so pretty with all the layers of colors of sand. After the license was signed and all the photos taken, Marty and I departed for the next wedding at Umstead Park. All the best to you and your family, Gemma and Ed!

Umstead Park Wedding for Andrea and Jon!

Andrea and Jon wanted a simple but meaningful ceremony that included Jon's son, John-Morgan. They love the outdoors and chose to have their wedding at Umstead Park at Shelter #1 that has a patio area with woods all around. Their guests were their parents and closest friends. My assistant, Marty, and I arrived at 3:30 for their 4:00 ceremony and there was no one there and we wondered if the location had been moved indoors due to the chilly weather. We waited about 10 minutes then the wedding party started arriving. We could tell it was them because Andrea was dressed in a beautiful white dress and the men were in suits with boutonnieres. The simple decorations were placed and the family unity sand ceremony was set up on my little table that I brought for the occasion. (You will see it in a lot of these blog posts.) We started right on time and the guests gathered around to hear the beautiful words of their ceremony. Maranda Young was busy taking photographs and Marty was taking the photos you see here with my camera. We included the Buddhist Marriage Homily in the ceremony to reflect the couple's beliefs. They said their vows to each other and exchanged rings. Then the couple and his son poured their sand together and I pronounced them husband and wife. They were so happy and thrilled to be married to each other. Before the wedding started, Jon was telling me how fortunate that Andrea had come into his life and how much he loved her. We took some photos and Marty and I headed over across I-40 to The Umstead Hotel for my next wedding where I later ran into Andrea and Jon and their guests who were staying there! Congratulations, Andrea and Jon and John-Morgan!

Andrea and Brian's Wedding at The Umstead!

Early this year I received a referral request from a wedding website on behalf of a bride (Andrea) and groom (Brian) wanting a Rabbi to officiate their interfaith wedding on 10/18/08 at The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary. Brian is Christian and Andrea is Jewish. Although I am not a Rabbi, I followed up on this lead and emailed Andrea to explain that the only Rabbi in the whole state of NC that I have found who will marry interfaith couples is Rabbi Ettin who lives in Winston-Salem and who fortunately is willing to travel to the Triangle to do weddings (I co-officiate these ceremonies often with him.) I sent her his contact information and suggested that she might consider having two officiants co-officiate their wedding--a rabbi and a minister (that would be me!). Well, Andrea jumped on the idea and contacted me right away. They contacted Rabbi Ettin and met with me and were thrilled to have an officiant representing each of their faiths. Then we set upon designing their ceremony. I was happy to share with them not only my special ceremony material from which they could construct their ceremony but also many ceremonies that I have co-officiated with Rabbi Ettin. They did not meet Rabbi Ettin until the wedding day but spoke with him by phone and we had a three-way email rotation on finalizing the ceremony. I handled their rehearsal for them since I was the local officiant. I was delighted to see Rabbi Ettin again and officiate the ceremony with him. He is a wonderful person and he has a wonderful voice for canting the Hebrew passages making the wedding ceremony very special.

Finally 10/18/08 arrived and it turned out to be a rather chilly day with the high only 62 degrees! I had 4 outdoor weddings prior to Andrea and Brian's wedding and was happy to stay inside as long as possible before going outside on the lovely grounds of The Umstead for the ceremony. Their Chuppah was beautiful and was created by Tre Bella Florists. The wedding was supposed to start at 6:00 and we were primed to start on time as it was getting cooler and darker and rain was expected. Unfortunately there was a 30 minute delay starting but the "show" went on and it did not rain! By the end of the ceremony both the Rabbi and I were struggling to see the words of the ceremony on our pages as it had become darker and darker but we finished without a glitch as I made the pronouncement and introduced Andrea and Brian, now husband and wife, to their guests who cheered and were happy to recess inside to the warm reception! Ami, the catering/wedding director at The Umstead, was very patient with us and we thank her and Gary, the sound man, and all the staff at The Umstead for their professionalism and thoughtfulness. They had hors d'oeuvres ready for the wedding party the minute we got inside! We thank Ryan Pflumm of Island Sounds for the ceremony music, Donna Ford of Sweet Memories for the beautiful wedding cake that fit their fall theme, and lacey+john Photography for the photographic coverage which became a challenge for outdoor photos after the wedding due to nightfall! Andrea and Brian, I wish you all the best--it was a wonderful wedding--and your wedding programs are gorgeous!

Kathy and Ed Marry (at last!) at the Raleigh Women's Club!

Did you know that October is one of the most popular wedding months of the year in this area? In fact, I am booking weddings now for next October 2009. For the past two weekends I have had 6 weddings each weekend! Kathy and Ed's wedding on Sunday 10/19/08 was my last wedding for this busy weekend! Their wedding was a beautiful joining of two hearts already attuned to each other. Kathy and Ed have been together for over 10 years and decided it was time to have a ceremony professing their commitment to each other and tie the knot legally. I was happy to officiate their lovely wedding filled with their happy family and friends! The bride was dressed in a stunning light blue dress and carried pure white starfire lilies with white peonies intertwined. Ed was simply beaming! We had a sweet simple wedding ceremony welcoming all and recognizing family members in front of the stage in the large auditorium of the Raleigh Women's Club. Ed and Kathy exchanged vows and rings and I introduced them to their guests as husband and wife--at last! Sisters' Catering does all the food at the Women's Club and it looked scrumptious. Kathy's daughter, Stephanie, made the beautiful wedding cake for them. Congratulations, Kathy and Ed!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Jennifer and Christopher's Wedding at the Wagner House!

Jennifer and Christopher (AKA "Kip") fell in love with the Wagner House in Clayton and it was available 10/12/08 for their wedding. Brenda and Mac, the proprietors of Wagner House, have a beautifully appointed property, a fairytale-like setting for a romantic wedding. Brenda also bakes the wedding cake and does the catering and it is her green thumb that has made the garden and gazebo so lush with plants and decorations that she changes for each season. (I love to see what she does at Christmas because she goes all out and it is worth a trip to Clayton to see what she does each year!) I really enjoy doing weddings in this setting. Unless the couple have a DJ providing ceremony music, I provide my sound system so that all the guests can hear the words of the ceremony the couple chooses.
They hired a violin/viola duet, Suzanne and Evelyn, put together by Musicians Booking Agency, to play for their ceremony so Marty and I got there early and set up my sound system which is invisible to the guests amidst all the pretty flowers. Katie Garcia was our photographer. Right before the ceremony we decided to ditch Kip's white vest as it just would not lay flat but puckered out of his jacket. With permission from the bride, he gladly removed it and looked just fine. Jennifer and Kip chose not to have attendants so it was just them and me in the gazebo as their parents and guests enjoyed their lovely ceremony. It was a beautiful October day--no heat, no rain, and no bugs! The couple wrote personal vows to each other which they read to each other from my book. They also chose to include the sand ceremony. After the pronouncement, kiss and a closing blessing, I introduced them to their guests who were applauding the couple as they swooshed down the aisle. Congratulations, Jennifer and Kip!

Sunday Morning Wedding for Denise and Adam at St. Mark's Chapel!

Denise and Adam came to see me in July to officiate their wedding at St. Mark's Chapel in downtown Raleigh on October 12, 2008. They wanted a traditional Christian ceremony with warmth and meaning for them. Together we created a beautiful ceremony that had everything they wanted. They hired Liz Newlin as their wedding director and Mike Smith, guitarist, provided the beautiful music. Jennifer and Malissa of Pure Expressions Photography covered the event photographically. When Marty and I arrived for the wedding, a large tent had been erected on the Mordecai Campus next to the chapel for their reception. I collected their marriage license and tucked it inside my ceremony book for the witnesses to sign later and Liz and I discussed the order of the processional. When all the guests had arrived and been seated, we began. Again, the bride and groom towered over me as they joined both hands facing each other in front of me. The ceremony began with a warm welcome to all their guests, an opening prayer and scripture reading. I spoke of the meaning of marriage and how they each were a gift to each other. They chose the vows in which I asked them a series of questions and they answered "I do." Then I called for the rings and followed with a ring blessing. Denise and Adam repeated their ring vows line by line after me and then I pronounced them husband and wife. We clossed with a sweet blessing and then I introduced the newlywed couple to their guests. The guests were invited to adjourn to the reception adjacent to the chapel while the wedding party reconvened for photos. Blessings to you, Denise and Adam!

Ellen and Rob's Dream Wedding at the Matthews House!

Ellen and I met over a year before her wedding date of 10/11/08 at Belk's in Cary at a Bridal Show. I rarely go to Bridal Shows but I must have been meant to be there! Shortly thereafter she called me and we set up a meeting. She knew right away that I was the minister for her and her sweetheart, Rob, because they wanted to make sure their wedding ceremony was very special and that they could participate in writing it. They were married at the Matthews House in Cary in the reception hall--a great place to have a gala wedding--and seemingly spared no expense or detail in making their wedding their dream wedding! Kelly, wedding director with the Matthews House made sure the rehearsal, wedding and reception went smoothly. She was great keeping everyone where they needed to be at the right time! There were 8 bridesmaids and 8 groomsmen--a large wedding party to keep tabs on. Bobby Moody, jazz musician, played the sax while guests were mingling around before the start of the ceremony. It was great to see Bobby--his wife Rhonda and I used to work together in my other career! Ruby Prescott and her Blue Sands string quartet with harpist Winifred Garrett played for the ceremony. Ramon Kenan played the trumpet for the entrance of the bride and the recessional. Stone Age Romeos, a rock band, played for the reception. Cinda's Creative Cakes made their beautiful wedding cake and Amanda Cramp and Jeff Cox (a brother-sister team) did the photography. I can't find them on the web and Amanda never did get her business card to me so I can't hyperlink them to this blog or tell you how to reach them. Maybe they will see this post and contact me. (10/28/08--they did! Here is their business name with link: C2 Photo Concepts.)

Ellen and Rob and I went back and forth with the ceremony script months before the wedding day until it was perfect for them. After all the wedding party processed in, Ellen walked herself halfway down the aisle where Rob met her and escorted her the rest of the way. She beamed radiantly like no other bride I have ever seen throughout the whole ceremony. Ellen's childhood friend, Muriel, presented a wonderful reading of The Key to Love by Robert M. Millay. They had a special unity candle lighting ceremony. All of their parents have passed away so they lit each other's candle and brought their flames together to light the unity candle. Their friend and soloist, Leslie, developed bronchitis the night before their ceremony and was unable to sing for us but her husband thoughtfully brought a recording of "From this Moment." Then, I got to tell "the story" of how they met, fell in love and found so much in common. The guests loved hearing this love story. Ellen and Rob knew they were just right for each other. They read vows they had written to each other from my book and exchanged rings. I pronounced them husband and wife and they kissed, of course! Then I presented them to their guests and we all rushed outside to get a group photo before the light faded. We first gathered underneath a bedroom window on the side of the manor house but Amanda and Jeff could not get the windows open! So, we move to the front, smaller space, where they could hang from the balcony! There we were, squashed all together like sardines but Jeff got a great photo from the balcony at the front of the house. Marty and I packed up my sound system in the midst of the staff staging the reception hall for the reception but we know they had a grand celebration! I wish you the very best in love and life, Ellen and Rob, and call me for a renewal of vows ceremony in a few years!

PS: Again, I felt like a midget!