Most of the couples who reach out to me are looking for a non-religious wedding ceremony… and Kaitlyn and James were no different. They wanted their ceremony to feel sacred, intimate and magical. They wanted to express their world views and their values, but also wanted to make sure that none of their more religious guests felt excluded. They wanted a ceremony that reflected who they are as couple, one that really felt like a rite of passage, and that was also moving and inspiring for all their guests.
We started off with the use of some ceremonial smoke. Kaitlyn loved this idea, but was worried about how some of her more conservative guests would feel. When using ceremonial smoke (smudge) in a mixed crowd, I always take the time to explain that sacred plants, herbs, resins and incenses have been used in every corner of the globe. From the frankincense and myrrh of Catholic churches, to the incenses in Hindu and Buddhist temples — the use of sweet smelling plants as an act of reverence is universal. I encircled the whole community with the smoke, and it was a really beautiful, sacred, and quiet way to begin the ceremony. Kaitlyn wrote, that “even our most conservative guests leaned in.”
With the scents of sage, lavender, frankincense and myrrh lingering, I welcomed their guests, and encouraged them to welcome each other. I relish every opportunity I have to get community involved in the ceremony, and I like to start that off, right from the beginning.
Having your community participate also gives you a nice moment to relax, and shine the spotlight on your guests for a moment. Check out Kaitlyn and James below, having fun watching their community interact….
After making sure everyone felt welcomed, acknowledged, and included, it was time to do some storytelling about Kaitlyn and James. I love that I get to presence a couple’s story just before they share their vows… it makes for a lot laughter, and some tears too. A non-religious wedding ceremony is really 100% based on the couple and their journey (at least mine are) and the couple gets to feel inspired and exalted by their own love. And… depending on the story… they get to laugh at themselves too. 😉
After the raucous fun of a good story, it was time for the exchange of vows and rings. This is obviously the climax of the ceremony… I spend so much time beforehand creating as much beauty and connection and fun as I can, so that when the couple shares their vows, the space feels heightened and sacred and authentic. I encourage a moment of deep presence and connection before they share their promises….
I give them a moment afterwards to really “grok” what just happened before facing their community. The ceremony seems to go by so quickly, and then you’re off and running to the party, so I always feel it’s important to take a moment to say, “You did it. You just married each other”
And then finally…. the recognition of marriage is made, and we are all so happy!
So…. know that a non-religious wedding ceremony feels sacred, special and momentous, especially when it is a custom ceremony, written just for you.
Words from the couple:
I’m tearing up just thinking about the eloquent and poignant ceremony Jen created for our wedding day. Jen is an absolute joy to work with. Every sit down we had with her we left feeling more confident. We enjoyed her company so much that we went on for hours each time and left feeling rejuvenated by her positive spirit. From the moment we met Jen we knew she was the perfect person for our big day. She made us feel comfortable and at ease and we knew we needed that presence while we were up in front of everyone. Jen is a gracious and talented speaker and strung together beautiful quotes along with an amazingly thoughtful background of our relationship. She really helped our guests feel involved in the ceremony and connected to each other and us. We had a mixture of folks in the audience and were surprised to hear some of our more conservative guests blown away by the ceremony and willing to lean in to the ceremonial smudging that we had. She also managed to create something so lovely that even my stoic father shed some tears. Jen took the time to really get to know us over the course of the process and I love that she wove a lot of our own words into the ceremony. It made everything so personal and representative of us. Jen is so poetic and offered the perfect balance of romance and magic and honesty to our ceremony. We wouldn’t change a thing and are so grateful that we met Jen. I give the highest recommendation possible to Jen, her process and her work.
Words from the photographer:
One of my favorite ceremonies ever. The officiant smudged a great scent to start the ceremony, and went into beautiful length of the couple’s love for one another with elegant and thought provoking words. She really connected the guests to each other and these two.