Sealed with a kiss!

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

LeAnn and Jon Michael's Small Intimate Wedding at Caffe Luna!

When LeAnn contacted me to officiate her wedding to Jon Michael, she explained "no bells, whistles or frills!" LeAnn was born in Korea and she and her twin brother were adopted by their American parents. Last summer LeAnn spent several months in Korea getting to know her birth place and heritage. She sent me her blog address and it was fascinating getting to know her that way. She planned a small intimate wedding with just family and close friends at Caffe Luna on April 25th. So, we made all the arrangements by email and US mail without meeting in person. She wanted me to write the ceremony for them and they added personal statements to each other. I sent her a proposed ceremony based on what she told me they envisioned and she and Jon Michael made the changes they wanted. It was truly a ceremony that reflected the two of them and honored their parents and friends.

When I arrived at their wedding on Saturday evening, I met LeAnn and Jon Michael for the first time. LeAnn wore a simple but elegant white wedding dress. She looked so lovely. They are a laid back couple and this wedding suited them perfectly. Their three closest friends stood up for them. The wedding took place in the VIP room of Caffe Luna with their guests seated around the long table. LeAnn's father told me that he loved the ceremony and he was so impressed that I did not miss a beat when I handed LeAnn a hankie to wipe away her tears. Everyone seemed truly touched by LeAnn and Jon Michael's love for each other and how the ceremony expressed it so eloquently. All the best to you, LeAnn and Jon Michael!

Kimberly and Seth Wed in Their Lovely Home in Raleigh!

Seth and Kimberly wanted to get married at their lovely home surrounded by their close friends and families. When they met with me in February, their back yard had not yet been landscaped and they did a super job getting that done in two months because it was gorgeous. They placed tables and chairs in the lush green grass off the deck surrounded by a forest of huge trees. They built an arbor and decorated it with pretty pink flowers. Kimberly carried a bouquet of the biggest starfire lilies I have ever seen. When I first arrived for their wedding and took a look at the backyard, I spotted the wide white runner right away. I was quite worried until I took the first step onto it and realized they had wisely placed sheets of plywood down over the grass before laying down the runner which was made of flannel backed vinyl fabric. It was substantial and did not wrinkle, blow up in the breeze nor was it slippery. Good planning!

Kimberly was gorgeous in her beautiful wedding dress! Seth and his best man, Luke, towered above us all! The guys got all suited up in their tuxes and I pinned their boutonnieres on. Corey, the maid of honor, was dolled up in bright pink and red to match the flowers. It was a colorful wedding nestled in the backyard with the woods for the backdrop. Their friends, families and neighbors gathered around seated at their tables. Arioso Strings provided a string duet which is always a treat to listen to. Daniel Templeton was their DJ. He is a friend of theirs from Greensboro. Another friend, Bryce Campbell, was their photographer. His assistant was not able to come to the wedding, so Bryce was trying to be everywhere at once!

Kimberly's father, Terry, escorted her down the aisle and transferred her hand into Seth's and I began to speak the wonderful words of the incredibly beautiful ceremony Seth and Kimberly had put together. It is one of my favorites now. Kimberly shed a few tears and I am sure their mothers (Sue and Melissa) did too as I thanked them from their children. Seth and Kimberly are such mature individuals to be only in their twenties. They own their own home and run their lives responsibly. They love each other immensely and it is evident that they have thought everything through thoroughly. It was a delight to work with them and to be a part of their special day. After the ceremony we reassembled for photos and then I took off for the next wedding. I expect to be seeing Kimberly and Seth again as they both expressed their intention to do my Marriage Optimization program just to make sure they have covered every aspect of their relationship to insure a happy and satisfying marriage. I look forward to working with them! Congratulations, Kimberly and Seth!

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Very Special Wedding Ceremony for Cortney and Joseph!

Joseph and Cortney met with me in February to discuss their wedding plans and see what I thought about their ideas for their ceremony on April 25th. They really wanted to do things differently. First of all, their wedding was on the patio at the Washington-Duke Inn in Durham, an elegant and fun wedding venue. They wanted to do their wedding "in the round." Ironically, I did a wedding at that same site in the round a few years ago so I was positive it would be work very nicely there. They were thrilled. They loved the ceremony I read to them and the creative freedom I give couples in writing their own ceremony using my ceremony material as guidelines and were eager to get started. A few weeks later they called me and told me that they were very happily "with child!" I suggested we put a blessing for the child that was to be born to them in the wedding ceremony if that appealed to them and they loved it!

At the rehearsal on Friday, I was thrilled to work with Diane Tighe from the Inn again! It has been awhile. Diane and I work together so well because we have done many weddings together in the past 10 years. She had already had the chairs placed in an octagonal shape with 4 aisles. Joseph and Cortney planned to enter at the same time from opposite sides, come around the outside of the circle of guests, meet in the middle and enter the circle together. They also wanted to dance out at the conclusion of the ceremony with their first dance around the outside of the circle once then entering it again and then dancing with their parents and then inviting the guests to join them. So, we got the choreography down pat and went through the ceremony logistics and looked forward with anticipation for the ceremony the next day. Cortney's sister, Heather, and Joseph's friend, Alan, were their matron of honor and best man, respectively. They had two readers who stepped into the circle for their readings. The "sound man" from the Inn, Thomas Burke, was with us and I was able to plug my receiver into his system. The couple had a playlist of the songs they had selected to be played for the prelude and ceremony. See photo of Thomas and Diane above.

Saturday dawned--a beautiful sunny day for a wedding. Their photographer, Ana Kirin of Studio 1, was there to capture the day in pictures. The ceremony went exactly as planned and the guests were marveling at the originality and uniqueness. Joseph and Cortney circled in and the ceremony began. Cortney was a radiant bride and Joseph was beaming. They were both so in the moment and really enjoying themselves. We honored their parents and then blessed their unborn child--so sweet and touching. They read the vows they had written to each other from my book and exchanged rings. Then we had the wine ceremony which begins "The years of our lives are as a cup of wine poured for us to drink..." The pronouncement of marriage followed and then the closing prayer. I announced them to their guests and the music started and they danced, and danced all around the outside of the circle as the guests looked on with amazement! It was so much fun! They were so happy to be married and be with their friends and families. I met one guest who came all the way from Hawaii to be with them. We are going to do a baby blessing ceremony for their baby when it arrives and I am so looking forward to it. I wonder if they will dance again!

Joseph and Cortney, you are amazing! Congratulations on your marriage and your new family!

Janet and Paul Eloped to North Carolina!

Nancy contacted me about performing a wedding ceremony for her father, Paul, and his fiancee, Janet, in Raleigh on April 24th. They live in Pennsylvania. They are both widows and wanted to get married without a lot of fanfare so they "ran away" to get married! I was most happy to do the honors. We discussed different venues and they decided that my wedding garden was the right spot! They flew into Raleigh Friday morning, got their marriage license, and came to my place at 7:30 after I got home from the wedding in Fuquay-Varina. Sunset was at 7:56 that evening but we had a enough daylight to do the wedding and take some pictures. They brought with them Nancy and her husband and Paul's dear friend, Sonny, and his new wife. Sonny told me how he and Paul and their former wives had been a constant foursome back in Pennsylvania. Sonny had remarried a nurse here in Raleigh and moved South. He was so happy that Paul was remarrying too and they could be a foursome again--the challenge is, Janet and Paul live in Pennsylvania. Oh well, I am sure they will find a way to have lots of fun together. I was honored to be a part of their sweet wedding and I wish them all the best!!

Highgrove Wedding for Brittany and Clay!

This last weekend in April turned out to be a busy wedding weekend. I had 6 weddings--two on Friday night and 4 on Saturday! They were all evenly spaced so there was no rush getting from one to the other. The weather was very nice too although a bit on the warm side. The first one was for Brittany and Clay. Brittany is a friend of my daughter's and knew for sure she wanted me to officiate her ceremony and I was happy to do this for her. Her matron of honor, Pam, is also a friend of my daughter's so it was good to be with them both for this wonderful occasion.

Brittany and Clay chose to have their April 24th wedding ceremony and reception at Highgrove, a beautiful estate in Fuquay-Varina. I have been doing weddings there since they opened many years ago. Every year the setting looks more beautiful. It is also nice for the guests to have both the ceremony and the reception in one place. Ann Beerles served as the wedding consultant/director and kept everything moving right along. If you have a wedding at Highgrove, the package comes with a wedding director which is so convenient and one who knows all the logistics for running your wedding day. A few years ago the owners added a beautiful tent to the property so that there is plenty of room for the reception and a handy "Plan B" if the weather does not cooperate. The tent is elegant, air-conditioned and has a dance floor. The azaleas were in full bloom and the landscaping is so pretty. The pergola for the ceremony overlooks a beautiful lake and trees. What a gorgeous background for their wedding photos. Speaking of photos, Elizabeth Myers and Rick Ward of SweetLife Photography were there to capture every moment of the day. It was a pleasure to work with them again. Brian O'Toole was our DJ and provided the ceremony music and plugged my wireless mike into his system so everyone could hear me. Their colors were black, white and lavender so I wore my lavender dress with white prayer stole. It was just too hot for my long sleeved black dress. Their wedding cake was really one to behold but I forgot to find out who made it for them. Maybe Brittany will read this blog when they return from their honeymoon and tell us!

Brittany and Clay put together a beautiful ceremony that fit their beliefs and feelings for each other and their parents and guests, including a wonderful tribute to their parents--both mothers shed a few tears too! They wrote their own vows too. They exchanged rings and I pronounced them husband and wife and introduced the newlywed couple to their family and friends. Amid applause and cheering they scampered up the steps to celebrate. We took some photos of the wedding party and then departed for the next wedding. Brittany and Clay, I hope your wedding day fulfilled all your dreams! It was beautiful!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Laura Elizabeth, New Wedding Venue in Clayton!

Karen Harmych, wedding planner--From This Moment, called me a couple of weeks ago to tell me about a new project she and her husband, Tom, have embarked upon--restoring a historic mansion built in 1910 into a bed and breakfast and elegant wedding venue. If anyone can do this, Karen can! I first met Karen at a wedding last May at The Landmark. See prior blogpost. She was the wedding planner for the bride and groom, Wendy and Dave, and I was the officiant. A few months later in August when I was working with another couple, Debbie and Bill, on their wedding at Rose Hill Plantation in Nashville NC, it became apparent that they could use Karen's services so I sent them her way and we got to work together again. See prior blogpost. My husband and I were invited to a cook-out at Karen and Tom's home in Clayton and got to see Wendy and Dave again and Dr. Phil, the DJ at their wedding. It was fun. Karen has years of experience as a wedding planner in Florida and she is always willing to help brides who need her, not for the money, but because she is compassionate. She has quite a collection of wedding accessories that she will rent out to brides, like glasses, vases, votives, and other things because it is silly to buy them for only one occasion. She is so thoughtful.

Anyway, on with the story now that you know how I know Karen, this run-down old mansion was put up for sale in Clayton. Karen heard about it and investigated and decided that it would be her dream come true to have an affordable elegant wedding venue. So the plans are underway. The property is on 5 to6 acres and in a convenient location. She worked out a "deal" with the owners whose family has always owned the old mansion. It is in pretty sad shape right now but the potential is incredible. Marty and I drove out to see it on Sunday afternoon, April 19th while they were having a photo shoot for the new website. My couple Debbie and Bill were there. Debbie donned her gorgeous wedding gown again and Celeste Parker of Celestial Expressions, was photographing the scenes. It was good to see them all again. Also, another bride to be, Susan, who was a bridesmaid in Debbie and Bill's wedding, and whose wedding I am officiating in September, was there so it was good to see her again too. See the photo here with Susan on the left and Karen on the right of me .

The mansion is not your typical colonial style with columns but has beautiful arches. I don't know what style it is; maybe some of you readers can comment and tell me. It is a solid structure with 7 bedrooms and 5 baths and a fireplace in all the rooms. The entryway has steps on each side from the second floor leading down to the central stairway into the foyer. See the beautiful ceiling in the foyer. Karen plans to put her gazebo in the rear of the property among beautifully landscaped gardens and cypress laurels to separate the property from the neighboring property. She definitely has a vision and has thought it all out. The enthusiasm was contagious and I can't wait to see the progression of this lovely spot! She has chosen the name The Laura Elizabeth from its history of the women who lived there. Karen has asked me to be the preferred officiant in a package she plans to offer brides and I am thrilled to be. She plans to have enough done in 90 days to have the first wedding there and I hope I will be there too! Stay tuned!

Wedding at the Embassy Suites in Raleigh for Stephanie and Andre!

Several months ago Stephanie emailed me about her wedding to Andre planned for April 19, 2009 at Embassy Suites at Crabtree. She was trying to put together a wedding on a limited budget so I worked with her to make her dreams come true. I sent her a proposed ceremony that included a tribute to their parents and their daughter, Natalie, age two. We did not meet until the day of the wedding when I arrived to get set up with their DJ, Jaybee. We discovered that he did not have speaker cables long enough to get the speakers out from the reception room to the balcony for the ceremony music. And then came Kyle Adams, Director of Catering, to the rescue. She arranged for the hotel to supply a longer cable which worked just fine. I plugged my receiver into Jaybee's system and we did a sound check. It worked! Kyle, you saved the day! (Kyle and I have known each other for a couple of years at wedding networking luncheons sponsored by Professional Wedding Guild, a great organization that publishes the Perfect Wedding Guide book for brides. We meet monthly and get to know other wedding vendors that we may not have met and those we had worked with but did not have the time at a wedding to get to know. ) Tonight I saw Kyle in action and how engineering and accommodating she is. She even babysat Natalie who literally pitched a fit during the ceremony and had to be removed from the scene until later. Other than that little distraction the ceremony went well and Stephanie and Andre were ready to celebrate with their friends and families.

Photographer Richard Schultz was on hand to capture the evening. Stephanie was so beautiful in her pretty wedding dress and Andre was so handsome in his white wedding suit! Natalie had on a very princess-like white dress for this special occasion. Marty and I took some photos with the couple then departed while everyone was enjoying the reception. Stephanie and Andre, congratulations on creating a beautiful wedding--you did it!

Small Intimate Wedding at The Umstead

Betty called me a couple of months ago to see if I could officiate her wedding to Donald on April 18, 2009 at 7 PM. She explained that they were senior citizens and did not want an elaborate event and that her children had arranged for them to get married at The Umstead in Raleigh, one of my favorite places for weddings and until this wedding, big elaborate formal weddings with lots of guests. Betty and Donald planned to get married in the lounge area in front of the fireplace with their family and closest friends in attendance. We never met face to face but made all the arrangements and created their ceremony together via email and phone. They were delightful to work with and I was honored to be their officiant.

When I arrived at The Umstead I ran into Mark Edwards, their photographer, with whom I have done many weddings. It was good to see and work with him again. In fact, he provided all the photos on this post to me in record time! Thanks, Mark! I also had the pleasure of meeting Carrie, the new Catering Manager at The Umstead who just happens to be the sister of Betty's daughter's husband. I think I got that right! Carrie, thanks for all your help in making this wedding setting ideal.

I met Betty and Donald for the first time and then their family members and Don's good friends who were standing up for him. Betty's brother and his wife stood up for Betty. In fact, we all stood up for the ceremony as you can see in the photos. The weather was so pleasant we decided to do the ceremony outside on the terrace with the pretty landscape of the garden and lake with the fountain in the background. I collected the marriage license and the rings and everyone gathered around. There were some guests of the hotel dining nearby and I think even they enjoyed the ceremony! I welcomed and thanked everyone on Betty and Donald's behalf and then we had a short prayer. I talked about marrying again and how important the relationship was between people who had walked different paths in the past, found each other and then chosen to proceed together on a common path as husband and wife. The sweet ceremony was about 10 minutes and brought forth a few tears from the guests who were so happy for these senior citizens who had found each other and were embarking on a wonderful life together. Congratulations, Betty and Donald!

Brittany and Will Happily Married at Preston-Woodall House!

This wedding was one of the most beautiful and coordinated weddings it has been my pleasure to be a part of! Of course all the weddings at the lovely historic Preston Woodall House in Benson are simply grand. Everything is geared for the perfect wedding and reception. The couple started planning more than a year in advance for their wedding April 18, 2009. They met with me in January of 2008 and the ceremony started coming together after I sent them my special collection of ceremony components and sample ceremonies so they could choose what they wanted to express to each other and to their guests.

The wedding colors were so pretty as you can see in the photos. Garry of The Dutch Iris in Dunn did the elegant florals and Sweet Memories did that gorgeously stunning black and white wedding cake! Jeff Simpson of Simpsound is a great DJ and I love to work with him (see photo of us together). He also does special lighting for weddings too. The sound for the ceremony was perfect thanks to Jeff. You must have amplification for the minister's voice in order for the guests to hear the words at an outdoor ceremony. I have my own sound system I can provide but it is so much easier for me to be able to plug my wireless microphone into the DJ's system and have him control the volume as needed. Our photographer was April Sirit of Evoke Photography. She and her assistant Amanda were everywhere shooting. She told me that I was the most savvy minister she had ever worked with. Thank you, April! The weather cooperated with a sunny day in the low 80s and a pleasant breeze. What a wonderful wedding day for Brittany and Will on April 18, 2009!

Brittany was escorted in by her father, Mark. They floated down the aisle. Brittany's beautiful dress was out of a fairy tale with layers of chiffon and beautiful beadwork on the bodice. Her veil kept falling around her face though and that kept the guests from being able to see her face well. Will helped keep it pushed back though! Thanks, Will! Brittany confided in me after the wedding having quickly ditched the veil that she never really liked it because it was so full. (So, future brides, let that be a hint for you to choose a veil that will stay back of your shoulders and not fall forward obstructing your face during the ceremony!) The bridesmaids were so pretty in their short black dresses with the bubble hemlines and the striking contrast of the pink bouquets. I wore black with a pink flower on my dress to blend in with the decor!

Would you believe there were 4 sets of grandparents at the wedding? It is so endearing to see them all enjoying their grandchildren's wedding. One of the grandmothers, Mary, did a special reading in the ceremony and she did so well. We kept the groomsmen busy escorting them all in and escorting them all out. They did a great job too. We rehearsed the day before to be sure everyone knew exactly what to do, where to go and where to come from. Wendy Fichera, the best friend of a friend of the mother of the bride, Lisa, was our capable wedding director. She did an outstanding job. Thank you, Wendy!

The ceremony went just as we had rehearsed. Brittany had told me at the rehearsal that she was deathly afraid of bees and that if one showed up during the wedding she would run! Well, a wasp did show up but I was able to brush it aside with my book and it cooperated by staying away so Brittany did not bolt--that would have been a glitch for sure. Their flower girl, Savannah, who was in a not so good mood the day of the rehearsal did a perfect job of coming down the aisle and throwing the flower petals. She even stayed on the steps with the bridesmaids during the ceremony. After the wedding several guests came up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed the ceremony. One guest told me she had been to at least 50 weddings in her lifetime and if she ever decided to get married again, she would call me. That is always so gratifying to hear!

Brittany and Will, have a great marriage, call me when you want to do a renewal of your vows, and when you have a baby, we will do a baby blessing ceremony for the little one! All the best to you!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Katie and Ryan Wed at All Saints Chapel!

When Katie called me to set up an appointment to meet with me, she told me that she had been at her friend Jen's wedding that I officiated in 2006 and decided then and there that she wanted me to officiate her wedding. She apparently was quite impressed! I remember Jen and Brandon's wedding well. It was at Lake Johnson on the dock. It had been raining on and off all day and the wind had completely collapsed the canopy they had erected to shade their guests from the sun. But at the last moment the rain stopped and we "cleared the deck" and quickly set up for the ceremony to take place on the dock instead of crowding into the small reception room. Marty and I carefully placed my sound system and speakers to the side under the roof overhang--and it was a good thing too, because when we were almost finished with the ceremony, the raindrops began to fall--and like magic pretty lavender umbrellas appeared and were held over us. The photo taken with the couple and me under the pretty lavender umbrellas is one of my very favorites. I'll post it here so you can see.

When I met with Katie and Ryan in September, they had already booked the Sheraton for their reception and could have had their ceremony there but Katie was not convinced that was what she wanted. Later on, they discovered All Saints Chapel, also in downtown Raleigh, and booked it for their ceremony. Weddings at the chapel are always so great! It is full of character and a cozy space yet seats almost 200. They hired Meg Daniels as their photographer and she was there when Marty and I arrived for the wedding. She is a wonderful photographer and had a crew of 3 or 4 with her. She even brings her own ladder so she can get unusual angles of the wedding party. It was fascinating to watch her set up the shots. Our very capable DJ was Derrick, Katie's cousin, who lives in Michigan and came down for the occasion. He plugged my receiver into the chapel sound system and got the wireless microphone working for our three readers. So, we were all set to go at 5:00.

The couple had set up a special chair for Katie's grandmother who recently passed on. It had her cushion and a stuffed character--an M&M, I believe. A little note in a frame said that she would have been sitting there this day!

Ryan had 6 groomsmen (one was his brother and one was Katie's brother) and his best man, David. I was crowded in there with them in the little room to the left of the altar while the guests were being seated, It gave me a chance to add some extra pins (I always carry pins with me to weddings just for this purpose) to secure their beautiful rose boutonnieres which tended to flop forward because the roses were so large! Then Ryan and Kate's brother, Jared, left to go escort in their mothers. The other guys and I then took our places for the wedding. The mothers were escorted in with Ryan's father following. Then Ryan and Jared took their places and the lovely bridesmaids (4) and the matron on honor, Felicia, processed in dressed in eggplant and cornflower blue dresses. Katie's father could not be there so she came in alone from the chapel doorway and Ryan stepped down and met her halfway down the aisle and they stepped up onto the altar together. Her wedding gown was gorgeous! The music faded and the ceremony began. Katie and Ryan put together a wonderful ceremony with a gracious welcome and thank you for the guests and a special tribute to their parents. They selected three special readings for their wedding and the readers were two of Ryan's aunts and one of Katie's. After their chosen words on love and marriage, they exchanged vows and rings. We had a closing blessing then the pronouncement and kiss! Then I introduced them to their guests . They gave each other the high 5 and swept down the aisle amidst much applauding and cheering for the happy couple. The wedding party recessed out, then the parents and I invited the guests to proceed to the Sheraton for the reception.

(As I was stepping down from the altar after the ceremony, Brandon and Alecia, another couple I had married in 2007 at 111 Place in Cary came up to speak with me. They looked great--and happy! It was so good to see them again! Here is a photo of them on their wedding day.)

The wedding party re-convened for photos by Meg. It was a grand wedding and time to party! Congratulations, Katie and Ryan!