Sealed with a kiss!

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

Thursday, January 27, 2011

We Are So Honored!

Late last summer, Craig Carpenter, a very fine photographer who owns Luster Studios, approached me about doing a photo shoot and article for his blog about local wedding officiants. He and I have worked many weddings together and I am always blown away by his ability to capture unique moments in weddings. Besides, his photos of me are my favorites, and I admit that I am a bit picky about that. I have used them on my blog and website for years. He has also worked with Rev. Robin Renteria and Rev. Barbara Lodge and thought it would be fun to get the three of us together, especially since we are very good friends and colleagues rather than competitors. I immediately jumped on this great opportunity to be photographed by Craig and contacted Barbara and Robin who immediately agreed.
Barbara, Robin and I frequently get together for lunch at P.F. Chang's at Southpoint Mall to share experiences, discuss policies and services, and brainstorm any problems. So, after lunch on November 3rd we met Craig at this picturesque spot nearby behind Doubletree Suites where I have seen other photographers take couples for wedding photos. I just love the waterfall and the backdrop of the trees and the lake. It was a chilly day and the rain was just barely holding back. However, that also makes a wonderful setting for photos as there are no shadows or squinting and the colors are much more saturated. He told us to wear our favorite wedding outfits and bring our ceremony books. Craig is such a wizard in his field. No wonder he is internationally known and travels to photograph weddings all over the world. We were so honored to be his subjects for a couple of hours!
There was this beautiful graphic sunburst design on the patio which Craig took advantage of by posing each of us in the middle. I love purple so for my signature officiant dress, I donned my purple dress and put over it the beautiful purple velvet beaded robe and my matching purple shoes. 
Craig wrote: I’ve had a unique opportunity to work with some fabulous wedding ministers in North Carolina and the three officiants that I encounter most often are Kayelily Middleton, Robin Renteria, and Barbara Lodge. While each wedding officiant takes a slightly different approach to wedding ceremonies, there are a few key similarities that make them some of the best in the area.

Firstly, they are organized and quite thorough with their preparation in the days leading up to the wedding. I’ve often noticed how smoothly everything seems to happen, even during last minute changes. Having a reliable officiant is a no-brainer, but working with someone that is flexible, can think on their feet and has a ton of experience makes all the difference in the world.

Secondly, I’m always amazed at how well they actually know each couple. They don’t simply learn a few facts and fill in the blanks with their own agenda, but rather take the time to create truly unique ceremonies that reflect the couple’s beliefs and feelings about one another. I can tell that they enjoy incorporating a lot of personal details into the ceremony to create a wonderful story about the couple with a perfect blend of traditional or non-traditional elements.

And finally (and I feel most importantly) they simply bring with them a positive energy that is quite palpable throughout the entire ceremony. Honestly, it’s the little things that matter… They speak with a loud crisp voice so wedding guests can hear. They back their words up with powerful emotion and are often caught carrying a light-hearted smile. I can often see the affection, laughter and sentiment that they help create on the faces of wedding guests.

As a wedding photographer, I can’t express enough how important these components are for your wedding ceremony photos. I sometimes find it hard to capture the true emotions that couples, their family and friends have toward each other if they aren’t truly engaged with the moment. Time and time again, I’ve found that these wedding officiants help create the perfect environment to create expressive memories that will last a lifetime.
I am the "elder" of the three of us. I started my wedding ministry back in 1997 after being ordained and put up a website in has grown to 8 ministers who do weddings in 8 different areas of North Carolina. In 2003, I married Barbara's daughter, Becca, and her husband, Ben, at Coker Arboretum in Chapel Hill. When Barbara and her husband, Bill, moved to Chapel Hill a few years later, at Becca's encouragement, she contacted me about the wedding business and we have been good friends ever since. Becca said that she just knew we would click together! She was right. Barbara was no novice in officiating weddings as she had previously done weddings in Hawaii.  Robin, who was ordained in 1994, geared up her wedding ministry business in 2008. I was introduced to her by a mutual friend, Anita Vick--a former wedding planner, who felt that we would really like each other. Right again! Barbara and I quickly assimilated Robin into our circle and we have been friends ever since, even having regular potluck dinners or dinners out including our sweethearts who have also bonded. This month we all celebrated my husband's birthday together and had a blast.
These two wonderful women have graced my life in so many ways. We all work in very similar ways. We send our overflow to each other knowing that the couples will be in good hands! What a treasure to have such great friends and colleagues!
I tell you, getting out on those concrete pallets is fairly precarious! The rushing water was so loud we had a hard time hearing Craig giving us directions on which pallet to stand, which way to face, what to do with our hands, etc. but it was great fun too.

In the fall of 2009, I did what I call a Cinderella wedding at Doubletree Suites. The bride was brought to the ceremony by a white horse and white carriage that started at the waterfall and came around on that path we are walking above, went all around the lake circling to where the guests and wedding party were awaiting her. It was so visually and emotionally stunning and sooooo romantic!
Here we are at the Doubletree Suites terrace that overlooks the lake. You can see the waterfall in the background.
Barbara is also a photographer and has a really good eye for a shot. She suggested this one when she noticed that the sides of the arbor made a perfect picture frame!
So, three women out standing in their waterfall! We felt like fashion models! Thanks so much, Craig.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wedding Planning Opportunity for Brides, Especially DIY Brides!

Rachel Hamm, a wedding planner with Bliss by Sam, is offering a unique class. It is called:


Saturday, Mar 12 2011, 9:30a.m. - 4:00p.m.
The Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill, NC

What a great idea! I have had many brides plan their own weddings and little do they know that it is like having another full time job when all is said and done. Many are absolutely frazzled by the time the wedding day arrives. This class is great for all brides because there are many potential unforeseen pitfalls that can come along if you don't have the experience of planning a wedding. It is a grand undertaking and best done with assistance or at least some good preparation! So, go for it!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bobbie Sue and Brandon, Finally Married After 13 Years!

Bobbie Sue and Brandon have an amazing love story. They met in 1997 when she transferred into his freshman class in high school in Virginia. He was smitten with her and she with him but it took them a long time to realize this (teenagers!) but by the time they were Juniors and Seniors, they were a committed couple. After graduation in 2000, Bobbie Sue went to college out of state and Brandon felt he was holding her back. Although he still loved her dearly, he broke up with her. They lost touch for many years during which Brandon married and joined the military. It was not until his wife died unexpectedly a few years later that they reconnected briefly. They both were in love with each other but Bobbie Sue felt Brandon needed time to heal and did not divulge her feelings for him. She agreed to contact him again in one year. When Bobbie Sue contacted him on Facebook, she found out that Brandon had become involved with someone else and was not available. However, the other relationship did not last and once again Brandon found Bobbie Sue. Finally she revealed her feelings for him after all these years which had kept her from marrying anyone else. They both told me they thought they were crazy to still be holding on to these feelings all these years later. It is obvious that they were meant for each other and destined to be together. Ten years from their break up in 2000, they are finally together again and Brandon is not going to let Bobbie Sue get away again! It was my pleasure to join these two in marriage, finally and forever!
On Saturday January 15, 2011, Marty and I arrived at the Wyndham Hotel in Durham for the wedding. The dining area had been beautifully transformed into the reception area complete with dance floor and DJ.
This very charming wedding cake was provided by Blue Moon Bakery. What pretty colors!
Kelsey Bennett, our harpist, was set up and ready to start. She told me that she used to live in an apartment above Bobbie Sue and Bobbie Sue would hear her practicing the harp. She was thrilled to be playing for her wedding. Our photographer for the wedding was Mario of Mario Watts Photography.
There was a delay in starting the ceremony but it was not the bride's fault! The hairstylist that was supposed to do the girls' hair had emergency gall bladder surgery the night before and the replacement stylist was late arriving to do their hair. We ended up starting 40 minutes late.  Thankfully I did not have another wedding scheduled after this one! Above the groom, best man, two groomsmen, and parents of the groom and I are hanging out in the hallway as the guests enjoyed Kelsey's music. After 30 minutes, I had Kelsey take a break and rest her hands. She was beginning to lose the feeling in her fingers!Her husband, Tim, primarily the "harp transporter," was standing by to warm up her hands.
I am conferring here with Kathleen, a friend of Bobbie Sue and their wedding director, about the delay. Kathleen handled it so very professionally. Thanks, Kathleen!
Finally we are ready to begin. The guys and I went in after the parents were seated. Then the bridesmaids processed in.
Our Father of the Bride had a rough time but was a real champ, having broken his ankle the day before the wedding and missing the rehearsal. After elevating and icing his ankle before the wedding, he put on a smile and escorted his wife Arlene in and then came back for Bobbie Sue. He hardly limped at all but I know he was in pain.He was to have a cast put on the following day.
Well now they are married! Brandon and Bobbie Sue were just beaming and somewhat in disbelief that this was really finally happening. Their dream was becoming a reality. Wow, it was something to behold!
 Bobbie Sue and Brandon, I am so happy that you got back together.I wish you a lifetime of happiness!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bianca and Eduardo Wed at Home!

Bianca called me in mid December about officiating for her and Eduardo on December 23rd. They had already gotten their marriage license and were ready to tie the knot! I sent her a ceremony that was already translated into Spanish since not everyone who was to be present understood English. She and Eduardo chose their own vows from some other material I sent them. The wedding date was later revised to January 2, 2011.
When I arrived, Bianca and I went over the necessary paperwork and then everyone gathered around for the ceremony. Bianca's mother, Lorena, led us all in prayer in Spanish.
Eduardo's father, Omar, read the translation when Bianca's parents presented her. Then for the rest of the ceremony, Bianca's father, Guillermo, read the Spanish translation of what I was saying in English.Bianca's parents are from Peru and Eduardo's parents from Columbia.
Bianca is 18 and Eduardo is 19. They are young but they seemed to know what they wanted and had the support of their parents. I happily made the pronouncement of marriage.
 The newlyweds!
The parents and guests had prepared a wedding feast and this was the sweet wedding cake. The celebration had begun by the time Marty and I departed. Bianca and Eduardo, I wish you much happiness and a long and loving marriage!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Benefits of Pre-Marital Counseling by March McQueen

I stumbled upon this article on a wedding article blog via Google Alerts this evening. The author apparently shares the same belief I do that pre-marital counseling is a wise investment in your future together. I could not find the original article or anything about the author but here is the link to the blog.

"Many refer to the month of June as wedding season. Others talk about the beauty of a spring wedding. This means many will begin or have already started the process of planning their big day.

Most couples will spend endless hours and resources to make the wedding day the perfect day. And without question, making your wedding day special and memorable should be a priority. However, the real goals of creating a long-term, stable and faithful marriage often get overshadowed.

One popular site states that the average cost of a wedding in the United States last year was $19,581. This figure did not include the costs associated with a honeymoon or an engagement ring. It also reported that the average person spends 20 to 30 hours planning their wedding. This figure seems a bit low. I would suspect it to be much higher if it reported the average number of hours spent stressed and worrying about the details of the wedding day.

The reality is that marriages in the U.S. continue to struggle. Divorce rates remain high and the average life span of a marriage is around seven years. We have all known couples who became disenchanted with their spouse within a few months, shortly after the excitement of the wedding ceremony faded. Comments such as 'they became a different person after we got married' are all too common.

We spend many years in school planning for a career but there is not a required class or national certification for being a good husband or wife. I believe that many relationship difficulties could be avoided if the amount of preparation for the marriage matched the amount of preparation and planning put into the actual wedding day.

Whether it is with a counselor or a minister, I recommend that all couples attend some form of premarital counseling. If couples take on a preventive mindset and address some of the potential trouble spots in a marriage before their wedding day, much heartache can be avoided.

There are five major areas I encourage couples to explore before saying “I do.”

    * 1. Communication: Are couples open and honest with one another? Are they able to ask directly for what they need? Do they have the skills to resolve a conflict?
    * 2. Finances: Likely the most common stress on a marriage is finances. Who is in charge of the money? Will a joint or separate account work best? What is each person’s philosophy about saving/giving?
    * 3. Extended family: What is the role of extended family? Where will the couple spend holidays? What information is shared with extended family and what information is kept within the marriage?
    * 4. Parenting styles: Couples should compare how they were parented, as well as discuss what they believe are the key values they would want to teach their own children.
    * 5. Intimacy: Beliefs and expectations regarding physical, emotional and spiritual intimacy should also be discussed.

There are other key matters that if present should be discussed in premarital counseling: professional and personal goals for the future, any history of abuse, any history of substance abuse and/or mental illness, and previous marriages just to name a few.

Enjoy the wedding day. Make it fun. But reserve some time and energy for planning for a successful marriage."

See this post for more details about my pre-marital counseling program called Marriage Optimization.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Year's Day Wedding for Kristen and Greg!

Kristen called me on December 14th to see if I could officiate her wedding on January 1, 2011.  It was quite late to be finding an officiant but she explained that she had just been able to book the NC Museum of Art for her reception on that day. She was so thrilled that it became available even if it was last minute. She wanted to have her ceremony in a church and one of the closest was Community United Church of Christ at the corner of Dixie Trail and Wade Ave and they were available too. So the pieces started falling in place for her wedding to happen on New Years Day. Thankfully I was available. In fact, I was amazed that I had not gotten an avalanche of requests for this numerically significant date! Kristen met with me on the 14th and decided on the 17th that she wanted me to officiate. She later found out that I had officiated another couple's wedding that were friends of hers. We started immediately constructing her ceremony to include everything that she wanted. Greg had apparently told her to make it hers and to my knowledge, I don't think he ever read the ceremony and heard it for the first time on his wedding day! 
The groomsmen and I were the first to enter for the processional followed by Kristen's grandparents, then Greg escorted in his mother and joined us.
The bridesmaids were all ready to go in their lovely "fern green." (David's Bridal's color)
It was really important to Kristen that Greg's daughter, Lauren, her niece, Madelyn, and her nephew, Micah, be part of the wedding. Ironically, I learned at the wedding that Lauren was the flower girl in another wedding I did last year!
Kristen wanted both parents to escort her down the aisle. But, at the rehearsal we discovered that the aisle was not wide enough for all three of them so they decided that her father would escort her in and when they got to the first row her mother would stand up and join them for the transfer of hands.
I don't know the seating capacity of the church, but it was filled up that evening. Everyone was standing as our beautiful bride and her father, Bob, swept down the aisle!
You can tell that the aisle only could accommodate one bride and one father!

Here I am delivering the Children's Blessing to Lauren, Madelyn and Micah. They were so good (and quiet during the ceremony)! The girls actually scattered the flower petals very nicely and consistently. This does not always happen as you may have noticed in prior posts. Both these girls were 5 years old and could understand what they were supposed to do as compared with younger flower girls.
The ceremony was about 20 minutes, the ideal length. They made their vows and exchanged rings. Then I declared them husband and wife and Gregory really nailed his beautiful bride with a kiss! Good going, Greg! Everyone applauded.
And, out they go, all officially married and ready to kick up their heels at the reception.
It was great to work again with Warren McCormack, their photographer. (Photographers are not used to having their picture taken!)  I look forward to seeing his pictures of this wedding and the reception which I did not attend.  It was a rainy evening and I stepped in mud on the way to my car so I decided to just go on home although I had been looking forward to seeing the reception and getting a photo of the wedding cake at the Museum.
This gentleman is Doug Barrick who played the piano for the prelude and then switched over to the organ for the processional and recessional. He is with the church and was so helpful in showing me where the sound system was and getting my microphone plugged in to it. He is also a great pianist and organist! Thanks, Doug!
Greg and Kristen, congratulations on your marriage! I think you pulled off a wonderful wedding and I know you are dedicated to each other in your marriage. I wish you all the best forever!