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Seeing the Difference

As a professional wedding officiant and a new resident in the state of Rhode Island, I wanted to get to know my fell Rhode Island vendors. I recently joined the Rhode Island Wedding Group (RIWG), which is an association of wedding professionals whose mission is to enhance each other’s work, refer each other and grow our individual businesses. It has been a wonderful experience for me to be involved especially getting to know other wedding professionals work personally. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by so much talent. It takes a village to create a wedding and I am fascinated with all the different vendors that make a wedding come alive.

For my next coming blogs I will be highlighted people I have worked closely with and sharing their story, what makes them stand out and why I would recommend them so you can “See the Difference”.

This week, I’ll be starting with Nicole Gesmondi who is the owner of Nicole Gesmondi Photographer, LLC. Nicole’s fine art background and contagious enthusiasm for creative photography is inspirational. She approaches every wedding and portrait session as an opportunity to create works of art for her clients home.

Nicole was very young when she was given a camera. She photographed anything and everything from family members to zebra’s at the zoo. In her sophomore year of High School, she took her first photography class in a traditional darkroom and was immediately hooked. She followed her passion for photography to the Hartford Art School in CT and graduated with a BFA in Photography in May of 2005. At the time she was working at a local portrait studio and assisting two local wedding photographers and building her own business on the side. Once she realized she could make a career being a professional she jumped in and never looked back.

I think because of Nicole’s fine art background she has an eye that can capture a moment in time and make it come alive. She can make the wind move in a still picture and can show joy and love besides just a smile on a face. She also uses the natural landscape that surrounds the couple so a viewer can feel the type of day it is. She makes her pictures move while standing still. That’s the difference she brings to her work.

Many couples don’t know the value of a good photographer until they have a bad experience. More then any other wedding professional the photographer will probably be with a couple almost all day. Nicole says: “Our clients need to be comfortable with us, that’s when the “magic happens” as we call it.

With so many photography studios turning into a “one stop shop” and a “jack of all trades”, Nicole prefers to remain a boutique photography studio. She likes the focus to be a one on one experience offering advice and a comfortable environment. She has created a beautiful studio at 35 Baker Street, Providence, RI for her clients to view her work or have a photo shoot.

Most of Nicole’s clients appreciate art and see the value in hiring a professional photographer. After all the time and planning that couples put into their wedding, they want high quality photos to document the day. They usually come wanting something different that is unique to them.

Nicole’s pictures tell a story and emote a feeling. She can see something beyond what is happening and that is “Seeing the Difference”.

To view more of Nicole’s work and bio visit: www.nicolegesmondi.com and her blog at http://blog.nicolegesmondi.com

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Bridal-wedding shows

I love Bridal shows, although they can get a bit crazy. However I think they serve an important service for couples to get valuable information concerning what types of vendors are available in their area. But in this day and age the word “Bridal” is written on every publication pertaining to weddings. I think advertisers need to think a little more forward-this isn’t the 1950’s.

I am a wedding officiant, so I get to legally marry all types of couples. From inter-faith, bi-racial, some already have children, some have been married before, same sex, cross gender, etc. Our cultural has changed so drastically in the last 10 years but I don’t think the advertising has kept up with this new trend of marriage being legal to most types of couples, and that brides aren’t the only one’s getting married.

When I first meet with a couple all I see on their faces is love for each other, whether they are a man and women or two women or two men. They are equally involved in the entire process of their wedding. No one is given them away, they don’t need permission from their parents, they usually are in their late 20’s and up, they both work, etc. So I’m not just talking with a bride, I’m talking with a couple.

So this brings me to my epiphany I had that made me think about this “Bridal” language. I recently met with two men from another state that I had booked on the phone so when they came to my area to take of some wedding business I met with them.

As I was driving to meet them I saw a large sign that read “Bridal Show February 28th, which happened to be the day I was meeting with them. I thought to myself , I should let them know about it since they were in town. So I met them, such a great couple, I liked them right away. After discussing their ceremony details we started to talk about casual subjects. I brought up that there was a Bridal Show in town that day and maybe they would want to go. They looked at me strangely and I realized they weren’t brides. The light bulb went on and I was a little embarrassed for mentioning it.

Instead of using the word, Bridal maybe the industry can come up with new names to describe all kinds of couples.

Does anyone have any ideas?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Placement-of-a-remembrance

This time of year is my slower season which gives me the opportunity to pause, regroup and evaluate my passed year, personally and professionally. Professionally I hit my goals and personally I lost two imported people in my life. My mother in law, 87 years old  and my cousin’s husband, 53 years old. My mother in law was expected but not my cousin’s husband. Both losses were equally painful and both lived a purposeful life and left behind many close family and friends who were all touched by their lives.

As a wedding officiant, I always ask in my initial consultation if there is anyone they want to mention that they have lost. Someone close to them whom they will miss having them physically present. Often times couples first response is “we aren’t sure we want to bring the energy down and have a sad moment and start crying.” I completely understand their concerns but I feel every type of ceremony, especially big life events brings out all types of emotions. We are emotional human beings and I feel a ceremony with out emotion is bland and isn’t complete and doesn’t honor the full spectrum of the couple. The personal elements makes ceremony come alive.

My position as a celebrant is to recommend and help couples decide on what personal element to incorporate that are meaningful to them and then how to logically order those elements so the ceremony flows smoothly. So I encourage couples to add a remembrance if someone special has touched their lives in a way that honors rather then mourns their loss.

For instance, my mother in law has three grandchildren that she was very close to and loved deeply, and they felt the same about her. I know she would want to be remembered on their special wedding day.

Here are a few examples from previous weddings I created:

I had a groom who had recently lost his mother and I asked him what object reminded him of her. He share that she love wind chimes. This was perfect because the couple had their ceremony in their backyard under their favorite tree. I suggested to have a wind chime hanging from the tree they were standing under and when I mentioned the memory of his mother, he tapped the chime. In that sweet sound we all could feel her presence. It was a special moment for that groom.

One of my bride’s dream was to have her father walk her down the aisle so when it came to developing this couples ceremony the brides father had gotten very ill and was not going to be able to attend. I suggested she find a poem or song that reminded her of him. She picked a poem that I read as she walked down the aisle alone. The poem replaced her dad and we could all feel his presence.

A similar bride had lost her father as a young girl and she wanted him remembered. She choice a song that was his favorite and she also walked down the aisle alone with the song playing. For her it gave her comfort and again we could all feel his presence. She didn’t mourn him but honored him.

There are so many other ways of adding a remembrance. I do suggest that it fits better toward the beginning and then the bulk of the ceremony would be the process of the two becoming one. Other suggestions for a remembrance would be a candle lightening, the bride could add a charm to her bouquet with the persons picture on it or the groom could add the charm to his lapel. Simply pausing in a moment of silence in honor of certain people could also be beautiful. There are many options.

Ceremony creation is an art, not a science so I always listen to my couples and intuitively bring out ideas that will enhance the structure, letting each piece naturally flow into the next, creating a magical, emotional, and warm rite of passage.

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Enso painting wedding ritual

My profession as a wedding officiant and ordained minister is to create a ceremony that takes into consideration what once was familiar to society is not very clear today. Most couples are confused of what to include that will honor their diverse backgrounds and traditions. The beauty of tradition is the familiar, and the security of what many generations have passed down. The familiar helps us feel connected to our community but often does not feel familiar to the couple getting married. This globalization of our society forces society to create new traditions and rituals so we can continue to feel connected. This is why Ritual is so important in a wedding ceremony to bridge the gap of tradition and modern day life. This is why as an officiant I need to understand and honor this shift in consciousness. I take the familiar and add modern day flair to create a ritual so unfamiliar but feels so right for the couple.

I recently married a same sex couple who practiced Buddhism. They practiced the art of Enso painting which is a Japanese ink painting mindfulness meditation. Staying true to their practice I suggested they do this painting as their unity ritual. The Zen Buddhism on Enso is a circle that is hand drawn in one brushstroke to express a moment which the mind is free to let the body create. It symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, and elegance. Once the Enso is drawn, one does not change it. There is so much metaphor to the Enso that relates to a marriage, so I had them hold the paintbrush together and draw together in one fluid stroke and center on the moment they became wed. This ritual was familiar to them; it helped them be in the moment; it brought them enlightenment and gave them strength. To watch them participate in this ritual was elegance in motion!

The-Blanket-Wedding-Ceremony

The most wonderful part of my job as a wedding officiant is to creatively, co-create a ceremony to fit the personalities of each couple I work with. So every ceremony I design is different and fresh. As a ceremony designer as well as a qualified officiant my job is to help merge the traditional with a contemporary flair. I enjoy taking a traditional theme and weave it into something new, especially for the Unity Ritual.

A marriage ceremony is a ritual that honors the couples legal union. Through sub-ceremonies/rituals a couple can express their cultures and beliefs. A unity ritual usually takes place right after the vows and rings have been exchanged but can also be put in a different order, depending on the flow of the ceremony. Through my process of getting to know a couple I usually can get a good idea of what they hold sacred and what they enjoy doing together. This is where my knowledge of other traditions and my creativity come in to whip something together that becomes magical, alive and true to the couples spirits. I like to use objects that have meaning and an energy to remind the sub-conscience when gazing on the object to help the mind re-visit a feeling of that special day. Often times the wedding day is filled with so much love and joy and the unity ritual object can bring the couple right back to that day. Let’s face it, life happens and we can get lost in the everyday tribulations of life. Having an object present in the couples home can be a reminder of why they got married, why they love and admire about each other. That object could be the saving grace to a rough spot in the marriage.

I will be blogging about different types of rituals in the next few months that you can use and make them your own.

My first one I want to share is “The Blanket Wedding Ceremony”. This is a Native American tradition but can easily be reconstructed to create an idea of your own. When I think of a blanket in general it gives me a warm, cozy feeling. Several ideas come to my mind about using a blanket. Each person might have a special blanket that they have had for years that gave them comfort. Perhaps each couple parents could walk down holding the blankets symbolizing their love for their children. During the unity ritual each parent can wrap each child with the blanket and then the couple would take them off as a symbol of honoring and thanking the parents for their love and support over the years. (Certain wording would be used here by the officiant) Then the parents or the couple themselves can have a new blanket that would be wrapped around them symbolizing bringing each other comfort and love. (So many options here)

The Blanket can then be displayed in their home as a reminder of the comfort they bring to each other. Maybe when they have a rough spot they can wrap each other in the blanket. This blanket then becomes a heirloom that can be passed down to other generations.

Gives me happy chills just thinking of the possibilities of using this ritual.

Why-choose-your-wedding-officiant-first

Congratulations your engaged and every company related to weddings start to hound you. So who do you hire first? The officiant-why you ask? The wedding officiant sets the tone for the rest of your day and also the officiant makes you legal. Without the legal officiant pronouncing you married and sending in your marriage license you might as well just have a party.

Don’t wait until the last minute to locate an officiant. With the globalization of our culture times have changed.The trend of couples getting married outside a house of worship and the legalization of same sex marriage leaves room for the officiant to be creative with the ceremony. This is new territory and modern celebrants need to be educated in traditions of many cultures, beliefs and religions and also be able to merge the traditional with todays contemporary view points.

An educated and professional officiant will ask you questions about what you want to include and what you don’t want to include. They should be able to give ideas of how the ceremony could flow and what to include to represent the needs of the couple. An officiant shouldn’t only be compliant with the state the couple is getting married in but also be a ceremony designer.

Years ago most people got married in their house of worship and the ceremony was straight forward and all the same. I’m not saying this is wrong but there needs to be options for todays couples who want something original, fresh and creative and true to their personalities and life choices.

So when looking for a wedding officiant make sure they are legally qualified and also ask how they develop their ceremonies to fit your needs. Especially don’t wait until the last minute to find one,without them you can’t get married.

A Labyrinth Wedding Ceremony

My favorite piece of designing a wedding ceremony is having the opportunity of being creative. Once I meet with a couple and ask a few questions I begin to get ideas that they might not have thought about. I have always wanted to perform a Labyrinth ceremony. There is so much rich symbolism to a labyrinth. Labyrinth’s date back to the middle Ages and was used to substitute a pilgrimage that was too long to physically take. The labyrinth was constructed as a re-enactment of the idea of taking a pilgrimage. A labyrinth is not a maze but a winding path that leads to the center of a circle. The difference is: a maze is entered to loose yourself and a labyrinth is to find yourself. In today’s society the labyrinth is used as a walking meditation to help a person become fully present and relax into the moment. The walk becomes a sacred destination as you find the center. A marriage is similar with this idea. Two individuals each have their own path art they journey into their life but when they get married their paths become one as they find each other in the center.

A labyrinth most times has a circular shape with one or two openings. The ceremonial labyrinth has two openings. The couple enters from opposite sides and walks alone until they meet in the center. The center can represent their love. The center could be the spot the officiant performs the ceremony. The labyrinth represents the journey individually and the walking out together creates a new path, called marriage.

Chairs for guests can be set up around the labyrinth creating a circle of community. Once the couple finishes walking the path they would stand with their guests completing the circle. A special prayer, chant or good wish can be said here by the officiant to close the ceremony.

There are many ways to create a labyrinth. You can buy them online at different sizes and materials or make them with rocks, flowers or fabric. The process of making one can represent the beginning of the couples journey as they prepare to start their life together. The day of the ceremony can represent what they built together as they walk the winding path from the entrance to the center to the completed circle with their family and friends.

I would be honored one day to officiate a labyrinth ceremony for that special couple.

Backyard Wedding Ceremonies

Due to the changing trend of couples not having a house of worship 90% of my wedding ceremonies take place outside. Most wedding venues recognize this need and have dedicated a spot on their properties. If the weather isn’t co-operating the venues are prepared for this situation and have a back up -inside wedding ceremony spot. I always ask the couple if the venue has an inside back-up. I always feel a hesitation from the couple when I ask this question. The thought of inclement weather scares them and they don’t think it will happen to them. But we can’t fight mother nature and with all this crazy weather happening it has to be addressed. Logistically wedding venues have the back up which is always a relief to the couple and to me.

But what happens when the wedding ceremony is in someone’s childhood backyard or their own home?

Homes usually have lots of furniture inside and not much open space for a back-up. A few years ago I married an adorable couple who planned to get married at the grooms parents backyard. I did ask about back-up but they just said, “We won’t need it, it won’t rain”. I did warn them but it was their decision not to be prepared. I call it “The Denial Factor”. At the day of the wedding being a professional I showed up one hour before the ceremony time. The ceremony site was beautifully set-up to accommodate 80 guests and a tent was to the side for their reception. The weather forecast was predicting a fast moving storm to hit right about the time of their ceremony. I asked the couple again if they had a back-up. They assured me that it wasn’t needed and everything would be fine. The sky was getting darker and I knew it would hit within the next half hour. Well it did hit and blew everything down including the tent. Everyone ran into the garage and waited for the storm to pass. There was no way the ceremony or reception would take place outside.

Practicing meditation and yoga for 35 years I knew how to remain calm. I took a few deep breaths asked the grooms mother if I could access the house for a spot to accommodate 80 people. As I looked around every room was cluttered with furniture except the basement. As the bride and groom were getting dressed I gathered a few people to help me prepare the basement site. We moved the couch to the storage room. The TV was to heavy to move so we decorated it with the flowers that was salvage from the storm. We were also able to retrieve a few chairs. The ceremony site was created even with an aisle for the couple to walk down. 80 guests crammed in the basement as I conducted their ceremony. It didn’t bother this couple at all. They were just so happy to finally get married. It didn’t matter where it was as long as they were surrounded by the most important people in their life. The saving grace was the calmness of the couple and the grooms parents.

Their wedding was just as beautiful and special as if it was at a fancy wedding venue. No one noticed the TV behind me or the low basement ceiling. We only saw two people in love.

This was my first “Basement Wedding” and I will never forget it!

Interrupted Love

This past week end I went to my High School 40th reunion. I also just recently married a couple who met at there 45th High School reunion. So what does this have to do with wedding ceremonies, you might ask? As a wedding officiant I specialize in writing love stories about how my couples met and add that piece to their ceremony. So I started to think about can a first love be rekindled after 40 years of being apart?

High School reunions are like going into a time machine and being dropped off in a place and time when we were young. It’s like the movie, “Back to the Future”, but this movie is called, “Back to the Past”. I personally loved my high school experience. Of course there was all the insecurities everyone felt which developed into a lot of drama and heartache. It was a time of being old enough to make decisions but young enough to not realize the consequences or really care. I was innocent not jaded yet so there wasn’t much scaring.

For the couple that I just married their high school romance was interrupted with going off to different colleges, getting married to other people, each having children and finally both getting divorced to their spouses. Once single again they were curious about their first love in high school. The high school reunion and Facebook was a perfect opportunity to finish-unfinished business.

What I found fascinating about my own experience at my reunion was how most of us looked old and sometimes it was hard to recognize some people. But once I looked into their eyes and noticed their smile, the 17 year old I knew emerged. Some eyes told me they had been deeply hurt and it was hard for me to see the person I use to know.

The time of innocence is short lived and I think thats why we decide to go to our high school reunions. To capture that elixir of youth again and re-live for that evening a moment in time that we had forgotten.

For the couple I just married, I can understand how they needed to finish their love story that was interrupted. For me I grapped that elixir of youth and felt blessed I was able to touch it again.

Blending Traditions

Our modern life has brought many different types of couples together. Increasing percentages of couples getting married are: interfaith, multicultural, interracial, same gender, agnostic, and atheist. Some couples already have children or have children from other marriages. When couples get married outside any specific church or religious organization they are free to customize the ceremony to fit their needs, personalities and beliefs.

Wedding ceremonies are usually focused on the couple, but it is also about uniting their family customs and traditions. Coules can include family ritual or traditions and adapt and weave them to reflect their modern, current lives. Blending, modernizing, and personalizing, offers couples a way to create something that speaks to their unique partnership. It’s about combining the old with the new.

The question is: How do couples weave together elements of any religion or culture and make it inclusive to both sides?

Everything has a metaphorical meaning. Symbols such as shapes, sounds, colors and images have universal connections. Cultures which have no interactions with one another, neither shared religion, language or common political or economic views often end up with the same symbols to represent similar ideas. Using symbols in a ritual brings more meaning to the ceremony. You ae bringing a piece of yourself into it and starting a new tradition that can be passed down to the next generation.

Examples and ideas of these are:

1. A Huppah is a wedding canopy that is a fixture at Jewish weddings. Typically it consists of a prayer shawl attached to four poles, which is to signify the newlywed’s new home. It is purposely open-sided to welcome guests. But a couple doesn’t have to be Jewish to use a Huppah because the meaning of home is universal.

A couple can take this idea and include their children or parents and each hold a pole, signifying the importance of family and how they all need each other to keep the home sturdy. They could decorate with special fabric that has meaning to them and then hang the fabric in their home as a reminder of the day

2. At the end of a Catholic mass the congregation is asked to turn to each other, offer a handshake, a hug or kiss with the words, “Peace be with you.” This is a sign of love and unity and can easily be placed in a wedding ceremony to bring everyone together in this spirit.

3. Another element in the Catholic mass is the sharing of wine and bread. This idea of sharing food can be a beautiful unity ritual for a couple with children to share in their fist celebratory food together as a family. This works well with small children, especially if you have their favorite food to eat. Special plates and glasses could be used and then the family could use them for other special occasions.

4. The art of drinking and serving tea plays a major cultural role in China. Mutual love of tea cements lifelong friendships. A couple can honor their parents by sharing in the sipping of tea together. this would represent that the families accept this couple into their households. For this ceremony the couple could use special china that is given to them by their parents and then be handed down to their children for their weddings.

5. “Tying the Knot”, which is a Celtic tradition to symbolize a permanent union can be used for the couple to say their vows. This also can be used for couples with children to add them to the tying and adding vows for the children. Couples can bind using ribbon, cloth, rope, and any textile that has personal meaning. This then can be used to hang as an ornament and reminder of the day for the family.

The possibilities are endless. Before you build the bridge, clarify where everyone is coming from. Research your own customs and then broaden that to other traditions. Use metaphorically the symbols and make them your own.

The wording will be key in explaining the meaning of the ritual. Your wedding presents an opportunity for you to start designing a blueprint and laying the foundation for new traditions.