“As we marvel at the path that has brought our couple to this momentous occasion, I invite you to contemplate the roots, the blossoms, the streams, the peaks and valleys of love in your own lives. May you leave here with a heightened sense of all that you cherish and value most deeply.”                                                                                       -from yesterday’s ceremony at Onteora Mountain House

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Screen shot 2013-05-02 at 5.41.16 PMScreen shot 2013-05-02 at 5.23.33 PMScreen shot 2013-05-02 at 5.30.29 PMLast November, Sarah, grower and designer at Vera Flora Farm, and I, shared a display table at the Alyson’s Orchard Wedding Fair.

I’m pretty enthusiastic about reaching out to couples at events like this because I find that most people have never heard of a Celebrant before and it’s fun to let them know what’s possible – even if they already have a minister or other officiant to work with.

Sarah overheard me describe the way I retell a couple’s love story and collaborate with them to create elements and rituals that are meaningful and reflective of all they value and hold most dear.

I shared with Sarah the joy I feel to be bringing that kind of creativity and personal resonance to all life-cycle events: baby blessings, coming of age ceremonies, new homes and businesses, and milestone birthdays.

And then she told me more about her baby Willa, and how she wished she and her partner Vanessa had done something more intentional to celebrate her birth.

I suggested to Sarah that a first birthday could be an ideal time to create a ceremony to honor and bless a child, her family, and her community.

And that’s just what we did…

Big sister Izzie walks around the circle dropping stars to form a path around the sun. Symbolic of Willa's first year and all the birthdays to come as she grows up in a circle of love.

Big sister Izzie walks, dropping stars to form a path around the sun. Symbolic of Willa’s first year and all the birthdays to come as she grows up in a circle of love.

Everyone chose a bead and made a wish for Willa.

Everyone chose a bead and made a wish for Willa.

Willa and her birthday necklace made their way around the circle.

Willa and her birthday necklace made their way around the circle.

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Music evokes memories, plays on our heartstrings, moves and delights our senses and sets a unifying tone for ceremonies.   Sometimes couples have clear ideas about the music they wish to include and that gives me a feel for the mood we are creating together.  Other times, ideas for music (like other elements and rituals) are inspired by the couple’s story and the themes that emerge. Here’s a musical look back at some of the love songs that accompanied my wedding couples in 2012.

Each couple’s ceremony is unique and reflective of the special qualities and spirit of their relationship. Sometimes that includes a desire for a very traditional element such as walking down the aisle to Wagner’s classic Wedding March  (the quintessential, “here comes the bride”) as Liliana chose to do.

In contrast, the very contemporary and wondrous Afternoon Love In  by Prefuse 73 played a special part in Sarah and Jonathan’s love story. It was fun to decipher the tune’s groovy structure and to choreograph the entrances of the wedding party around its varied rhythmic and melodic sections.

Sometimes rich song lyrics tie beautifully into the language of a ceremony. A couple who wanted to honor the groom’s mother chose to process arm in arm to one of her favorites, Elvis’s How Great Thou Art. I wrote my introduction to build on those powerful gospel lyrics, weaving them into a more universal expression that resonated with the couple and their chosen setting. Surrounded by lush green hills and a dramatic, expansive sky, as the music faded, I began their ceremony with, “How great thou art indeed – that which sings through all creation.  How great thou art – this magnificent spirit of love and grace that brings us to this glorious hillside to unite our couple as husband and wife.”

When I learned that Haley really liked Jason Mraz’s lilting love song I’m Yours, I suggested Vitamin String Quartet’s rendition for the recessional. This instrumental version matched the elegance of their ceremony and because I’m Yours was such a popular song I’m sure many of the guests heard the sweet apropos lyrics in their heads or were quietly humming along as the couple joyfully recessed.

When rain threatened a wedding in the Berkshires, the garden needed to be set-up with fewer chairs and the acoustic guitar had no amplification.  These changes actually made for a more intimate feeling as the guests gathered arm in arm and drew nearer with the entrance of the wedding party to hear Purcell’s regal Trumpet Voluntary

For Kelly and Mark who first met in London, then lived for a time in Australia and got married on an island in Lake Winnipesaukee, I proposed a parade of the guests (a tradition found in various parts of the world) from the boat dock to the ceremonial site. Three eager flower girls led the way while I played two tunes from the British Isles on flute: Haste to the Wedding & Marie’s Wedding.

Another couple thought they’d have a simple elopement ceremony and forego music altogether. But after learning about the groom’s love of the cello I suggested Josefin’s Waltz by cellist Natalie Haas and fiddler Alasdair Frazier. Accompanied by this beautiful duet, the groom and bride each walked a half circle and met one another before the large stone fireplace at their New England farm venue.

What melodies will accompany my couples up and down the aisle in the coming year? I’m eager to hear. Whether recorded or performed live, the musical possibilities for processionals, recessionals and within the ceremony itself, are endless!

Sarah and Jonathan danced down the aisle to Louis Prima's The Music Goes Round and Round

Sarah and Jonathan dancing down the aisle to Louis Prima’s The Music Goes Round and Round.

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Give a very unique gift this season… a gift of celebration!  Do you know someone with something special to celebrate in the coming year?  A milestone birthday, anniversary or wedding, perhaps?  Contact me so we can discuss how I would  work with them to create a custom ceremony… to honor, inspire and remember!  

MarigoldCeremonies@gmail.com

“For weeks upon weeks afterwards, I had friends come and tell me that ours was the most lovely ceremony they’d seen. They said they felt apart of it, pulled in by it, that they learned so much about us as a couple from it and were touched themselves. I cannot thank Amy enough for shepherding us through this solemn and joyful occasion with so much love, wisdom and care. Amy is talented and skilled at her practice, and I cannot recommend her highly enough.” 

Island Wedding

Looking forward to Celebrating a very special marriage on Bear Island, Lake Winnipesaukee this weekend.  I’ll be playing a couple of wedding tunes from the British Isles on my flute for the parade from the boat to the ceremonial site. There, the friends and family will bless our couple’s rings, before the processional.  Bridges figure prominently in this couple’s love story (and they’ve literally crossed oceans to be together).  So the guests will form a “wedding bridge” for them to cross as they recess to the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love” and enter their newly wedded life. Full of beauty and meaning on so many levels!

Edward Acker, Photographer, e-mail: edwardacker@earthlink.net

It was just about time for the ceremony to begin, when dark clouds, thunder and lighting rolled across the expansive skies at Alyson’s Orchard. We waited for the storm to blow over. The friendly staff dried off the chairs. The wagon delivered the bride and groom and their 20 beautiful and handsome nieces and nephews to the ceremony sight. In their pastel clothes the children processed down the aisle with willow branches and formed a circle of love in which the bride and groom made their vows.

Edward Acker, Photographer, e-mail: edwardacker@earthlink.net

Such happiness and joy!

To share with you the love of my heart the substance of my dreams and the fruits of my labor. To now and forever urge you on towards the recognition and the fulfillment of the divine potential within in you, so that together we might make our lives purposeful in the ongoing process of creation.”

Those words are part of the vows my husband and I memorized for our ceremony, 24 years ago. I still remember them today. And if I don’t or if anyone else is curious, they’re recorded on the wedding certificate that hangs in our living room.

The keepsake booklets that I make and gift to each couple, include not only their vows but the entire ceremony.  I like to imagine couples reading them together on anniversaries or sharing them with children someday.

I bind up the stories, poems, readings, blessings and other elements in beautiful paper — hoping they will renew and inspire for a lifetime and beyond.