Sealed with a kiss!

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

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.

Elizabeth and Chris Marry on a Chilly Windy Day!

The last wedding of my weekend was at Hudson Manor in Louisburg on Sunday November 16th. The balmy weather of Saturday turned cold on Sunday and the wind picked up. The temperature high was 53 degrees. Elizabeth and Chris first planned to have their wedding inside the reception hall when they met with me last May. Then later on they changed their minds and decided to have it on the new Lakeside Terrace at Hudson Manor. It is a beautiful setting for a wedding. But, when you see me wearing my black pantsuit for a wedding, you know the weather must be on the cool side! With their guests all bundled up enjoying the lovely music by Evelyn and Ellie, two violinists teamed up together by Mary Greiner of Musicians Booking Agency, we processed in. The bride's veil was whipping in the wind and her dad wore some of it on his head for a few moments on the way down the aisle! The maid of honor was shivering but Elizabeth did not show any signs of being cold--something I have come to expect of brides. They are apparently so much in the moment, they become oblivious to the ambient temperature. The wedding ceremony was very much representative of these two people. They included the Celtic handfasting ritual, saying their vows to each other while their hands were bound by the handfasting sash making the formation of the infinity symbol.

I symbolically blessed their rings with the four elements--earth, air, water and fire-- then they exchanged rings and poured their red and white sand together. Then came the pronouncement of marriage and the kiss. We closed with the Indian Wedding Blessing and I introduced them to their guests as Mr. and Mrs. The music began and after the wedding party had recessed, I invited the guests inside to get warm and enjoy refreshments. They got to see Elizabeth and Chris' adorable wedding cake which was created by Cinda of Cinda's Creative Cakes.
In the meantime the wedding party and I got in some photo shoots in front of the manor house by Aimee Bickers and her assistant, Brooke, of Pure Expressions Photography. Chris and Elizabeth were so happy to finally be married. Now the celebration begins! All the best to you, Elizabeth and Chris!

Elegant Long View Center Wedding for Jeremy and Kristen!

Last February I met with Kristen and Jeremy to plan the ceremony for their beautiful wedding November 15, 2008 at Long View Center. I emailed them my diverse collection of ceremony material and they began putting together what they wanted in their ceremony. We worked on their selections together and fashioned a beautiful ceremony. After the ceremony I received many compliments from their parents and guests on how wonderful the ceremony was. Of course, I always tell them that it was the couple's choices that made their ceremony so special. Jeremy and Kristen decided that they were both more comfortable with the type of vows where I ask them the questions and they simply answer "I do" rather than speaking their vows to each other. They chose a short phrase to repeat after me for the exchange of rings. They included a Unity Candle ceremony during which the Arioso Strings played soft heavenly music.

Their parents' hearts melted as I gave the tribute to them from Kristen and Jeremy and they were very touched. (Moms are just about guaranteed to shed a tear or two!) They also included a non-denominational prayer and a reading of The Irrational Season by Madeleine L'Engle--a very nice reading for a wedding. After the pronouncement and kiss, we closed with a blessing and then I presented them to their guests as husband and wife. Amidst the applause and music, they floated up the aisle followed by their wedding party, parents and grandparents while the guests departed to the reception at the NC Museum of History.

We reassembled after the guests had left and took pictures. Craig Carpenter of Luster Studios was the photographer. One thing the couple wanted to be sure to do was ring the bell to announce their marriage to downtown Raleigh. The rope was harder to pull than they thought. Kristen found it hard to hold on to and Jeremy ended up swinging on the rope--but the bell rang many times. See the series of photos here! Thomasina Whitley, our capable wedding director, kept everyone organized and the wedding went very smoothly as we had rehearsed the day before. Rehearsals really pay off and I recommend them whenever there are more than one bridesmaid and one groomsman. Jeremy and Kristen, congratulations and best wishes to you and your new life together!

Jenny and Donel Married at Last!

Jenny and Donel's wedding was supposed to happen on September 6th but two hurricanes prevented their guests from getting to Raleigh and forced them to postpone their wedding until November 15th. They planned a beautiful wedding and the guests really enjoyed themselves! After the wedding party was in place, Jenny processed in after the flower girl scattered petals on the aisle and Donel met her half way down the aisle to escort her up to the altar. The ceremony began with a warm welcome to all the guests and a tribute to their parents. They made their vows, exchanged rings and lit their unity candle. I pronounced them husband and wife and they kissed with their guests applauding. Out they and the wedding party went for photos while their guests enjoyed a lovely reception in the reception hall downstairs at the chapel. The family and wedding party reconvened for a group photo by Jessica Key. Misty Ashe and Sarah Morris of All Saints Chapel made sure their wedding celebration went smoothly. The reception was catered by restaurants that are also owned by the folks who own the chapel. We had barbecue from The Pit, goodies from The Raleigh Times, Lebanese food from Sitti, and tasty treats from Duck and Dumpling. Our music was provided by Joshua, a friend of the couple's who manned the CD. Fresh Affairs provided the Unity Candle and beautiful floral arrangements. Jenny and Donel were glad to finally tie the knot! Congratulations to you both!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Angela and Ash's Wedding at All Saints Chapel in Raleigh!

Last July or August, James Wang of Wink event planners contacted me to see if I was available for a wedding on 11/13/08 at the historic All Saints Chapel for his friends Angela and Ash who live in New York City. Angela's parents live in Fuquay-Varina and they wanted to have their wedding in the Raleigh area. I was available so I met with the couple on September 21st when they were in town and we began working on the ceremony by email. At first Angela wanted to incorporate traditions from a Hindu wedding because Ash grew up in India and his parents still live there. But Ash prevailed because he wanted Angela to have the storybook American wedding she had dreamed of based on her Christian upbringing and so they put together a more traditional wedding from my material without any reference to Hinduism. After the wedding Angela planned to change into an Indian bridal costume for the reception at Porter's to honor Ash's customs.

Dave (my husband) and I arrived for the wedding on Thursday November 13th. Marty, my "roadie," is on vacation this weekend! I immediately went to hook my wireless theater microphone into the chapel's sound system and it would not work. Sarah Morris, the assistant director at the chapel, and I tried everything, but no go. Because Dave is an audio expert, I asked him to check it out and he found a dead channel in their system so we then hooked in my receiver to another channel and finally, I had sound! (I can project my voice to up to 100 people but I don't like to do that because the couple is standing within 18 to 24 inches in front of me and I would blast them out! It is my preference to be able to speak in a normal tone and volume of voice so that I can put inflection and meaning into the beautiful words of the ceremony the couple has created. I can provide the entire sound system or if the facility has a sound system or there is a DJ, I can plug my wireless mike right into their system.) So, we were all set and ready to go on time thanks to Dave and Sarah getting this worked out!

The wedding was beautiful. The chapel is a wonderful wedding venue with the dark wood and high ceilings and loft. Sherry Lattin of Florian Music provided the violin, cello, flute music which was so pretty. They are really good! James Wang was on hand with his two assistants, Mary Ann who directed the wedding, and her right hand assistant, Samantha, at the door. It was a flawless processional and the wedding commenced without incident except for Ash adding a little humor and not one kiss, but two--maybe three--did I miss one? We closed with a blessing and the guests departed to the reception. (I found out at the rehearsal that the Rivera restaurant where the reception was supposed to be had gone belly up a few days before the wedding! Thankfully the couple recouped their money and were able to make arrangements with Porter's to host their reception. Whew!) Terrence Jones of J1S Photography was on hand to cover the wedding.Congratulations and I wish you all the best, Ash and Angela!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sarah and Rick Wed at St. Mark's Chapel in Raleigh!

Sarah and Rick fell in love with St. Mark's Chapel and came to see me last January to officiate their wonderful wedding there today, November 8, 2008. Their reception was at The Umstead Hotel but they wanted an intimate wedding with their family and closest friends in this quaint historic chapel. Although the weather can be iffy for an outdoor wedding in November, it was a beautiful fall afternoon following a morning rain shower. We had our rehearsal on the day before to go through the logistics of the processional and ceremony. Andrea and Sherrie, wedding planners/directors of Bustles and Blooms, were on hand to make sure every detail was taken care of. (See photo of Andrea and me below, and the other of Sherrie making sure the coast was clear to bring in the bride and her mother.) I had not worked with them before and it was such a pleasure! Thanks, Andrea and Sherrie!

Marty and I arrived about 30 minutes ahead of time and I helped pin on the boutonnieres. Our photographer was Ken Luallen and his assistant, April. The music was provided by violinists Paul Goldsberry and Marshall Johnson of the John Brown Entertainment Group. Sarah and Rick planned a very colorful wedding with the rich oranges, golds and greens of the fall season. When Sarah arrived by limousine and all the guests were seated, the processional began. The wedding ceremony went very smoothly. Sarah was escorted in by her mother, Genie, who was in tears both at the rehearsal and at the wedding! I welcomed the guests, gave an opening prayer, and paid tribute to families--including their loved ones who were not with us and the ones that were. Then we had 3 readings, one by Jeannette, a friend of Sarah's from high school days, one by her Uncle Mike, and one by Ashley, Rick's niece. The couple made their vows, exchanged rings and I made the pronouncement. Following the kiss, we closed with a prayer and I introduced the newlywed couple to their guests. Family members stayed for a group photo after the wedding while the other guests proceeded to The Umstead for the celebration! It was a grand wedding. Blessings, to you, Rick and Sarah!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Gala Wedding Celebration for Alexandra and Joel at Caffe Luna!

Joel and Alex planned to be married by a good friend of theirs who was ordained on line for the occasion. But, they begin to have doubts as to the legality of this and the daunting process of figuring out how to put together a wedding ceremony and contacted me in September. I happily agreed to officiate for them and proposed that their friend Ben and I co-officiate their wedding. I supplied them with all my ceremony material and told them to put together the wedding ceremony they wanted. When that was done, Ben and I then divvied up the sections between us so that we alternated speaking during their wedding ceremony. Alex and Joel are such a delightful couple and so laid back. They are full of fun and laughter and I knew this wedding would be lots of fun. Caffe Luna was the perfect setting for their formal yet casual wedding festivities. Alex surprised Joel by having Ben read a funny poem she specifically chose for the wedding ceremony: "Your Personal Penguin" by Sandra Boynton. Ben even animated the reading by flapping his elbows like little penguin wings and Alex, the guests and I were roaring with laughter! After their vows they poured their sand together and I pronounced them married. After their spectacular kiss, Ben blessed them with the Irish Blessing which had been modified to fit: "May the meows of cats grace the halls of your home...." another source of laughter at their finale! I presented the newlyweds to their guests and it was time for photographs and celebration. After the ceremony Ben told me how much fun he had doing this wedding and thought it would be fun to do some more! Zack Stamey was their photographer. A friend of theirs, Jackie Hill, coordinated the processional with me and the pianist, Panos Messis. Their cake by Dee Dee Cousins was quite unique, fitting for Alex and Joel. I know theirs will be a fun marriage filled with humor and good times! I wish you the very best, Alex and Joel!

Another Beautiful Wedding at Shady Wagon Farm!

Laurin and Mike came to see me in June about their wedding on November 1, 2008 at Shady Wagon Farm. They planned to have their ceremony at the gazebo on the pond as their guests watched from the shore. They wanted to create their own special ceremony to include Mike's 8 year old son, Isaiah, and honor their family. The weather that day was an absolutely perfect fall day for their wedding. Violinists Udo and Emi Hildenbrandt provided the heavenly music. After we all processed into the gazebo, Laurin was escorted part of the way by her brother-in-law, Billy, and the rest of the way by Isaiah. I welcomed all the guests and honored the parents of the couple. Mike and Laurin chose a prayer to nature and we remembered those who have passed on from this earth. Mike's grandmother, Rita, presented a special reading from The Velveteen Rabbit about love followed by a blessing for Isaiah which included a special letter Laurin wrote to him that I read in the ceremony as Laurin, Mike and Isaiah held hands. Isaiah is fascinated by rocks and gems and so Laurin selected a beautiful crystal to give him to commemorate this wonderful occasion. The letter she wrote was so touching and I was told later that the guests all had tears of joy in their eyes. Then we celebrated the birth of this new family by pouring their sand together. They made their vows to each other and then exchanged rings. The symbolism of the rings was compared to two stones tossed simultaneously into a pond creating enlarging and interlocking circles representing the interlocking of their lives. As I made the pronouncement, Isaiah tossed three specially selected stones into the water of the pond. It was very special! The processional and wedding ceremony went very smoothly with Shawn Schindler and her assistant Kristen Trexler of Your Special Day directing the festivities. It is such a pleasure to work with a professional wedding planner. Following the wedding ceremony their photographer, Matt Gronke, took pictures and then we adjourned to the reception in the barn across from the pond. J. Ross Denson of J. Ross Party Productions was the DJ for the occasion. It was good to work with him again! Cindy Carroll, the owner of Shady Wagon Farms, catered the event and also made the beautiful wedding cake. It was a grand success and all that Mike and Laurin planned for. All the best to you, Mike, Laurin and Isaiah!