Sealed with a kiss!

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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Fabulous Wedding of Jocelyn and Abe at The Oaks at Salem!

Jocelyn and Abe are such a good match for each other. They knew each other in high school in Bloomsburg PA but never connected. Abe was two years older than Jocelyn and back THEN she thought he was way too cool for her. Just as well, the timing was not right for either of them. Abe moved to Raleigh after school and started a band. Five years later his band was touring with a stop in Bloomsburg to see old friends. Jocelyn had just returned after completing college and was looking for employment. They just happened to both be at the same place at the same time to run into each other and ended up on the dance floor together. Abe remembers accidentally hitting her in the face while "dazzling" her with his dance moves – but, somehow she ended up liking him anyway! They saw each other again the next day and shared their first kiss; but then lost touch when Abe and his band returned to Raleigh. The following Christmas Abe was back in PA visiting family and called Jocelyn. They reconnected and from that day on they have been together although it was a long distance relationship until she decided to take the big step and move to Raleigh, which she did and has never regretted one minute of it!  
They eventually got engaged and set a wedding date of June 8, 2013 at The Oaks at Salem, a relatively new magnificent wedding venue in Apex built and operated by April Maness. They contracted with me to officiate for them and we co-created an amazing ceremony. They also decided it would be a wise move to take my Marriage Optimization class to be sure their marriage was on a firm foundation.  I really enjoyed getting to know these two and that is how I know for sure they are such a great match for each other! 
Sweet little boat for cruising around the lake. Although the lake looked calm and peaceful the day of the wedding and the sun was shining brightly, the few days prior the heavens opened up and flooded North Carolina. Do you remember? The lake overflowed and the walk around the lake to the big tree was just impossible because the ground was so spongy. Thankfully there is a Plan B so the ceremony was on the lovely patio under the tent with the beautiful lake in the background.
First thing I do when I arrive on site an hour ahead of ceremony start time is situate the sound for the ceremony. Here I plugged my mic into the house sound system and did a sound check. It was perfect. Thank you, April, for having the foresight to install a house sound system in the tent. So easy.

The florist was Tre Bella. Can you tell that I had a professional photographer "shadowing me" for this wedding? Amy Edwards with New Image Studios requested to do this since she is just getting into the wedding photography arena. I was most happy for her to provide these beautiful pictures and gave Marty the day off! What a difference professional skills and equipment makes! Thank you, Amy! 
Next thing was to locate my two witnesses and get them to sign the license. Above I am interrupting a photo shoot by their professional photographer, Nicole Faby, who did a fabulous job on this wedding. This was a shot of Jocelyn on the long white couch. Her bridesmaids wore the prettiest softest blush pink.
Jocelyn's sister, Jordan, and Maid of Honor, signs the license for me. I always try to do this before the wedding lest I forget afterwards and hate to interrupt the photographer. It is not legal until I sign it after the ceremony.
Isn't Elin adorable and she is only 4! She did a great job and I can see many more flower girl roles for her in the future!
What a pretty cake! Mitchell's Catering catered the reception and provided this gorgeous cake. Hi Bill, great job!
 They provided flip flops for everyone for dancing! 
Although Abe said he was not nervous, he does look a little bit nervous in this picture. That would be perfectly natural. He is used to being up in front of people though because he performs in his band New Sweat. Perhaps you have heard them.
So, he wanted to look over his vows again before the ceremony.
Aren't Parker and Jeffrey adorable? They had to be steered in the right direction but they made it down the aisle!
 So, Jocelyn's dad, Wayne escorted her in. He was so happy for her and happy himself. In the background is Nicky, Jocelyn's friend who directed for us. She did a great job.
And so we begin the ceremony. It was a lot of fun and there were tears and laughter in all the right places.
Whoa, what a picture! Fantastic, Amy! 
It's all over. Packing up to go. 
What a great wedding for an amazing couple. Love you two! Abe and Jocelyn, I wish you all the best forever and ever!

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

10 Questions You Should Ask Your Officiant!

This excellent article by Rev. J. P. Reynolds appeared in the Huff Post Wedding Blog. There are many reasons why I love officiating weddings and chief among them is that I love stories. Every couple not only has a story; every couple is a story. The first question I ask when meeting with a couple is, "so, how long have you been together and how did you meet?" And that's when the storytelling begins!
As the meeting progresses, I'll ask a "bunch" of questions as I try to get a sense of who the bride and groom are -- individually and as a couple -- and as I try to get a sense of what they want their ceremony to be like.
Most couples aren't sure what to expect from our meeting since most are used to formal, religious weddings performed within a religious building. Since they're often not sure what they want, they're not always sure what to ask me.
Some couples have done their "homework" and come with a checklist of questions that include, how long have I been a wedding officiant; how was I ordained; how many weddings have I performed; do I attend the rehearsal; do I require pre-marital counseling; what's included in my fee; am I married; and what is the back-up contingency if an emergency arises and I can't make the ceremony.
These are all basic questions and if an officiant isn't able to give clear answers to them then you might want to move on to another officiant! However, as important as these questions are, they don't tell you the story of who this officiant is.
Couples often tell me that they want to be married by someone who "knows" them. And while it's important for your officiant to have a clear sense of who you are, the only way that person is going to get to know you is if you, in turn, get to know him or her. You need to learn the story of how the officiant reached this juncture in his or her life.
I find that many couples aren't sure how to have a conversation with me beyond asking about the mechanics of the ceremony. And so, what I suggest is that you interview potential officiants from a place of curiosity and encourage them to tell their story.
Here's a list of ten questions that you can use as a springboard for conversation that will let you gain insight into the person who may share with you one of the most intimate moments in your life as a couple -- the moment you exchange vows!
Questions that get to the "soul" of an officiant:
1. What was the most moving wedding you celebrated?
2. What was the biggest wedding mistake you ever made and "vowed" never to repeat?
3. Have you ever turned down a couple's invitation to perform their ceremony and why?
4. When meeting with a couple, what do you look for and have you found it in us?!
5. What do you think is your main responsibility as an officiant?
6. What's the best compliment a wedding guest ever gave you?
7. What is your biggest challenge when officiating a wedding?
8. What is the funniest or oddest moment in a wedding you celebrated?
9. What is your rock bottom wish for every couple?
10. What do you love about celebrating weddings?
A wedding ceremony is a unique experience in that it actually is one of the most intimate moments of your life together and yet it's being played out in one of the most public of settings. And so it creates a relationship between you and the officiant that is unique and intimate in a way unlike any other relationship.
Of course, if you just want the legal aspect of your wedding taken care of, then it really doesn't matter who "marries" you. But if you consider the ceremony as the core of your celebration, then you want to invite as your officiant the man or woman who not only "gets" you, but who you "get."
I tell couples that I'm not going to pretend that the three of us are old drinking buddies, but, I want their guests to have the sense that we've established a relationship. Story begets story, so make sure that your officiant is curious about your story and that you're equally as curious about his or her story!
JP Reynolds, M.Div. has officiated more than one thousand weddings and has coached hundreds of people in how to create and deliver heartfelt, personalized ceremonies. If you've been invited by a friend or relative to celebrate their wedding ceremony and are wondering what to do, visit JP's website: OR on Facebook at:

A Beautiful Wedding for Aaron and Chelsea at The Carolina Inn!

Chelsea and Aaron fell in love when they were students at UNC. They met during a Friday night tradition where the boys in the adjacent dorm would run through the women's halls shirtless--to celebrate the weekend! All the girls were standing outside their rooms expecting this weekly ritual when Aaron innocently stumbled upon this happening, glanced over at a pretty girl with a big smile who said "Come on, it's Friday" whereupon he whipped off his shirt and ran around a bit, shortly to return to check out this intriguing girl with the big smile, none other than Chelsea. He was intrigued by her sense of humor and kindness. She was impressed that he was such a good listener and she could talk his ears off. It did not hurt that he was tall and good looking with the nicest blue eyes she had ever seen. Five years and many adventures later, they were planning their wedding for June 1, 2013 at the Carolina Inn. The wedding day was gorgeous with a slight breeze. The Bryan Courtyard with the big tree was immaculately groomed and ready for the guests. Sally Oakley was on duty as their wedding director. 
This beautiful cake by Swank Cake Design was in its place in the Old Well room where the reception would take place.
The courtyard was filled to capacity with the white chairs and white flower petals down the aisle.
Arioso Strings had arrived, set up and were tuning up. Always heavenly music and I love working with them all.
When all the guests were seated and it was time to begin, the guys and I walked in down the side ramp and took our places up front.
Chelsea's mother, Lori, was escorted in by her son, Billy. She reminded me of a young Julia Child!
Unlike the day before at the rehearsal, our sweet little ring bearer, William, walked straight down the aisle and presented the rings to the best man then was seated. I don't know the bribe they used but it sure worked like a charm!
The guests stood in honor of our stunning bride as her father, Geoff, escorted her down the aisle.
 She gave Dad a little kiss and he was seated.
 Aaron's dad, Jeff, was his best man. 
Chelsea and Aaron were soooo ready for this day! They were both beaming at each other! Because we had collaborated on the creation of their ceremony, they knew what I was going to say and could relax, be in the moment, and really enjoy the ceremony which included personal and endearing tributes to their parents.
Brian Mullins, photographer, was getting shots from the back of the guests while his second shooter, Jen Aun, was roaming, like my assistant, Marty, getting this shot.
I loved telling their story and what they loved about each other which was secret to each of them not revealed until the ceremony.
 There was lots of good humor.  
 Then we had the "hands ceremony." 
"This ring is a symbol of my love. With it I take a piece of my heart and place it into yours. May it encircle our spirits and bind us together forever."
"It is my honor to pronounce you husband and wife. Aaron, you may kiss the bride!"
 And he sure did! 
 What! We kissed in front of all these people! Oh my!
 Chelsea, what's that on the bottom of your shoe? The tag? A message?
Beautiful people, beautiful couple, beautiful marriage! Chelsea and Aaron, I wish you a lifetime of happiness and love!

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Erin and Sean Wed at All Saints Chapel!

Erin and Sean and I met last November. She had found me on and contacted me to see if I was available for their wedding on June 1, 2013 at All Saints Chapel in downtown Raleigh. She wrote: "Although neither of us identify with a specific religion, we opted to have our wedding in a traditional church setting.  We are looking for an officiant that can help us tailor a ceremony that is unique to us, to the spiritual beliefs that we do share, and focusing on the love we have for one another and the commitment that will be made that day.  I have heard wonderful things about you and would love to talk to you more about our wedding.  Please let me know if you are still available for our date.  Thank you so much!"  I was available and I was thrilled when they decided to hire me as their officiant. They were really excited about writing their own ceremony from my materials. The wedding day arrived and the chapel was a blur of activity when I arrived. 
Katie Dunn with Events by La Fete was busy pining the boutonniere on Sean's lapel. (Notice the posts in the chapel that had been decorated with tulle and strings of white lights. I saw them being assembled the day before by the couple that married that evening. They left the for Erin and Sean. Really softened the dark wooden posts and gave a nice glow to the chapel.)
You can see Marty's reflection in the glass of the Welcome sign!
This lovely Anime themed wedding cake by Tishre Hunter, Dreme Cake Artistry, really fits Erin and Sean and their very unique and individual taste! In fact the sketch of the cake is on the home page of the bakery's website.
Mark McNally with Joe Bunn DJ Company was ready to do a sound check when I got there. He is so much fun and so personable and I love his Irish accent.
Sean had the distinct honor or escorting in not only his mother, Lona, but Erin's mother, Lynne, as well!
Our gorgeous and glamorous bride escorted in by her father, Wade.
They were both fighting back the tears but once up on the altar, they were fine. 
I am either thanking the parents here or telling their funny story! They met in high school over ten years ago. Sean thought Erin was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. When he found out where she was working after school, he would go hang out nearby but was too shy to actually strike up a conversation with this "Goth/Raver girl." Sometimes she would see him at his place of work but they only said Hi to each other. Erin admitted she was just as shy as Sean was and had anyone told her back then that 10 years later she would be marrying Sean, she would have laughed.
Then 5 years later when MySpace was still cool, they connected and could talk via the internet--a great solution for shy folks! Eventually they had a first date, both found their voices, and soon they were an inseparable couple. Sean proposed in March of 2012 and they began planning this wedding.
I ask the bride and groom in confidence to tell me what they love about each other and what they are looking forward to in marriage. They hear what the other told me for the first time on their wedding day. A very special moment.
Many thanks to Cara with F8 Studio for this great photo of Erin and Sean just married and the photo below of the bubble parade!
Speaking of Cara, she had the great idea of forming the bubble line for the couple to walk through. Always makes for great photos.
Erin and Sean, what a pleasure to get to know you and be with you on your special day! It was beautiful. Thanks for choosing me to be your officiant. I wish you all the best!

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