Cynthia and I had the wonderful honor of spending time with one of the best human beings on the planet - who is also a wonderful artist. Maggie Hayes, of Maggie Hayes Photography met with us at Mordecai Historical Park on Saturday evening to chase the sun and take some wonderful pictures of us.
Here's a sneak peak of the shoot!
Thank you so much Maggie! You always bring me peace and laughter. You are a delight to work with.
Cynthia and I have a full week ahead of us, with weddings and memorials. It is an honor to work with couples who are starting a new life together. It is an equal honor to work with families who are mourning the end of the life of a loved one.
It's this balance that helps us offer a unique perspective on the human condition. The yin and yang of life. Where there is light, there is shadow - and we need the contrast of each one to see the other.
Funeral and memorial services are for everyone, regardless of religious affiliation. They offer us a space to hold our grief and remind us that each of us leads a life of special interest and value, that each one of us is unique, with our own special gifts.
The process of creating the memorial ceremony is often healing; sharing the ways your loved one touched your lives and others, recounting their unique personality and interests is very important.
Humanist memorial services are non-religious in content and form; they provide an opportunity for those of diverse backgrounds and beliefs to focus on the person commemorated in the ceremony, and to celebrate the special place they have in the hearts of those in attendance.
This week's memorials are especially hard for both of us because they are both for young men, in their 20's. As parents, our life's largest fear is the pain and loss of our children. As officiants, we are able to listen to their story and create a ceremony that offers a space to hold grief, to say good bye, and to begin the healing process. Sitting with these families and sharing in their sadness is heart wrenching and important. To celebrate the life of their beloved child is both an honor and a great responsibility.
Peace be with you and hug your loved ones for us.
It's always thrilling to see one of our weddings in any publication - print and online. This was no different! Our friend and wedding planner extraordinaire, Erica Greenwold Reisen from Folie à Deux Events and her beloved, James are the featured bride on one of our favorite wedding resources: bespoke-bride.com
Totally Rad Wedding Planning
There are some people you meet and you know in an instant you are drawn to them because the qualities you like most about your insides are expressed on this person's outsides - for me, this person is Erica Greenwold Reisen.
Erica is the owner and operator of Folie à Deux Events, a wedding planning and event design service based in Chapel Hill.
I met Erica and her fantastic husband, James, when I officiated their first wedding. Yes, they had two weddings. Life is complicated and Erica is someone who knows how to cut through the complications and do what needs to be done.
Instantly, I fell in love with Erica's impeccable style, her kindness, her passion for all things wedding, craft beer,sewing, and sci-fi. We share these passions, and while I'm all in for craft beer, she and James took it a step farther and let me create a black-and-tan unity ceremony for their beautiful wedding at Motorco Music Hall. It was the bomb, yo!
I have worked with Erica professionally on many weddings and each time the couple has been so excited and thrilled with her services. Beyond being a classically trained wedding gown designer, Erica is a master plate spinner. She specializes in the alternative and unexpected and is always up for a challenge. Her organizational skills are legendary and she helps couples with everything from seating plans to vendor coordination to out of town guest accommodations. It is my great pleasure to introduce Erica to all of the couples I work with because I know they will be in very competent and loving hands.
Personally, I appreciate Erica's dedication to secular wedding professionals. She has created a network of vendors who share similar world views and we meet to talk about everything from how we can best serve our clients to how we can make a difference in the world.
She has a great blog and website. Check her out at folieadeuxevents.com; you'll be so glad that you did.
It's wonderful to meet new people in the wedding industry and share them with you. It's really great to meet them again, and again, and again - it reinforces that you are working with people who others trust and rely on. This happened to me online today. I'd like to introduce to you: Tamisha Diaz. We met last year on one of North Carolina's hottest days. You would never know that Tamisha even felt the heat at all. She is an amazing professional who made the bride and groom completely at ease and captured precious moments throughout the day. Here is her blogpost from that day - check out the grand shot of the bridal party and guests. Each guest had a pair of sunglasses in their chair. This was really cool!
NC Secular Weddings is growing and we couldn't be more excited! It is my absolute pleasure to welcome on board, Cynthia Wooten. I met Cynthia through a mutual friend last year and we instantly connected on so many levels. Cynthia is a social activist and social justice warrior. She has experience that only comes from working with people who need the most help and her kindness is legendary.
In 2016, Cynthia agreed to be my emergency officiant contact - I could call her if I was too ill, broke a leg, or couldn't officiate a ceremony for any reason. Fortunately, I haven't had to call Cynthia in as back up, but I find myself referring clients to her when I am booked because Cynthia is the person I would want officiating my wedding if I were getting married today.
We've joined forces and we are thrilled to offer Officiant Services to all who need them. As a secular officiant, I've found that most couples I work with are looking for an Officiant who shares their values and worldview when it comes to important milestones. There are a lot of traditional ministers who will perform secular services, which is great, however, the genuineness that Cynthia and I bring to ceremonies is something the couples we've worked with appreciate. Your spirituality is completely personal and your ceremony should reflect that. Cynthia and I are excited to get to know you and help you create the ceremony of your dreams.
You may notice that our pricing has changed. If you've contacted Kenna or Cynthia regarding your ceremony before March 1st, we will honor the previous pricing. This change reflects our experience and confidence that your wedding ceremony will be spectacular. We have also added a new option for couples - a Choose Your Own Adventure Wedding Ceremony. This is super cool! We present couples with a few different styles of verbiage for each section of their wedding. They get to put their ceremony together and make any additions or changes. This is a more affordable option for couples who want more than a Simple Wedding Ceremony. This is going to be fun!
Last weekend I officiated a wedding for a lovely couple, Paul and Brittany, who had the largest wedding party I've ever worked with - 12 attendants on each side. Counting the family and the bridal party, there were 35 of us to line up for our entrance. The wedding was gorgeous and the mixed-gender attendants were dazzling in gold and aubergine. Brittany and Paul held their wedding at the Life and Science Museum in Durham. This was a stellar venue with a great hall for the ceremony and fantastic exhibits for the reception. If you are looking for a way to connect your sense of wonder and inner science nerd, a museum is an excellent venue for your wedding. Paul proposed to Brittany with a Harry Potter book (her favorite and mine too!) so I was able to squeak in an Albus Dumbledore quote into the ceremony and it was well received.
Personally, I've been under the weather a bit this year. Between viruses and the flu, we've been investing in Lysol for our home. The political scene isn't helping with my depression and anxiety and I've found that I have to temporarily disconnect from politics for self care reasons - finding balance is always challenging and I'm working on finding it here as well. I've been practicing a lot of compassion exercises and meditating on how I see the world. There is so much love and kindness in the world, and it's balance is hate and fear. I'm so saddened by the divisions that run through our communities and homes. Between the election and the inauguration, I was honored to offer free weddings to members of the LGBTQ and immigrant communities as my way of letting people know that you may find yourself part of a group that is marginalized and feel threatened, but you are not alone and you are part of the wider, human community, and I support your right to be married, to be here, and to be loved.
Cynthia is a wonderful person and I couldn't be more thrilled to collaborate with her. I am looking forward to watching her love story with all of you unfold. Because this is what we are doing, love. We get to love the people we work with - how amazing is that, when it's a wedding, we fall in love with the couple and help them organize their thoughts on how they want to celebrate their love. When we officiate a funeral or memorial service, we fall in love with the person who has died and the loved ones who are grieving for their loss - we get to share that time with them, to hear the stories about their loved one, and create a way to celebrate their life and acknowledge the pain of the living. When we officiate a baby naming ceremony, we get to fall in love with a beautiful new life, full of potential, who is being welcomed into their community and family with celebratory fanfare. When we officiate a trans-naming ceremony, we get to fall in love with the person in front of us, the person who has spent so much time becoming themselves and is now ready to publicly declare and celebrate their transition into their true selves. This is excellent work for people who love, and I am certain that Cynthia is my soul sister when it comes to loving people. Welcome Cynthia. I am so glad to know you, to be a part of your life, and have you be in mine.
I've been officiating weddings for a while now and one of the things I've learned along the way is that there is nothing like a wedding officiant photobombing a first kiss. When I meet with couples, I tell them that if there is room, I like to step to the side during their first kiss.
relationship and new baby on the way with their wedding ceremony. The weather was gorgeous and they couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day to say 'I do'.
Having a chance to see Durham from that rooftop was an exhilarating experience. Durham is a very cool town that has been creating itself over and over and there's so many new building projects going on. From the rooftop it was easy to see the beauty of the city and see it all coming together.
Kirstin and Colleen's brother and his partner made their flower bouquets and brought champaigh, giant peanutbutter cups, and yogurt covered pretzels from Parker and Otis bakery. It was a fantastic wedding and I am honored to be part of their love story.
I was pleasantly surprised this evening when I received a thank you and a link to The Budget Savvy Bride. One of the coolest couples I married this summer shared their story with this publication and here it is.
I do offer a very competitive price for officiating weddings and it's really cool to be part of this couple's love story. It's always exciting and a little weird seeing me do the work that I love. Thank you for letting me share it with you.
I spend a lot of time watching weddings on YouTube and perusing the overwhelming wedding websites available to stay up on trends and make sure I’m offering couples choices and advice that will improve their wedding ceremony. Every once in awhile I come across an article about wedding Officiants, like this one: 10 Questions to Ask When Interviewing an Officiant
It’s a cool article that talks about getting to know your wedding Officiant. I spend a lot of my energy trying to get to know you and make sure I’m setting the tone and using language that works for you. It’s only fair that you should be able to get to know me too. In an effort to do this, I’m taking the 10 Questions that get to the “soul” of an Officiant from JP Reynolds’ article and answering them here.
When we meet for our in-person meeting or over the phone, even texting or email, please know that you can ask me anything. I'm not shy and if I don't know the answer, I'm really good at finding one for you.
1. What was the most moving wedding you celebrated?
The most moving wedding ceremony I celebrated was held in a correctional facility. This was a wedding between a man and woman who each had nine year old daughters from previous relationships. These girls were so happy to be there and when his daughter saw him, she ran into his arms and he picked her up and held her for a while. Then he hugged his future daughter and the bride melted. Only after the girls had been hugged did he look towards his bride. The way they looked at each other was magical. I’ve never seen two people need to be with the other the way these two were – it was like I was in the middle of a novel. I’m not sure if it’s because he was incarcerated and she was his link to the outside world, or if she was so sure of her decision that their wedding could not wait, but the tenderness in how they held hands through the ceremony was palpable and intense. They shared their own written vows with each other and they were both written from the heart with a need to be heard by the other. I believe love can happen anywhere and to anyone and these folks proved it to me – and I love them for that.
2. What was the biggest wedding mistake you ever made and “vowed” never to repeat?
At the second wedding I performed, I didn’t check to make sure that the witnesses had signed both copies of the marriage license (there are two copies – one for the Office of Vital Statistics and one for the Register of Deeds). The wedding occurred on a Saturday and I realized this while I was standing at the Register of Deeds’ office on Monday afternoon. Oh. My. Goodness. I was so embarrassed. I immediately called the bride and explained what had happened, apologized, and let her know that I would fix this. She texted me the contact information for both her witnesses. I connected both witnesses, who thankfully lived in North Carolina. They each met me halfway that evening and I had the marriage license in the hands of the Register of Deeds the following morning. That was the first and only time that will ever happen!
3. Have you ever turned down a couple’s invitation to perform their ceremony and why?
I haven’t. It’s funny, in all of my meetings over the years, there was one couple that I didn’t feel I clicked with and I thought about letting them know, but before I could call them, they emailed me and very graciously let me know that after speaking with family that they had decided to move in another direction. Whew! When you know it, you know it. This is why I recommend for everyone to schedule an in-person meeting with your wedding Officiant. You are going to know if you work well together. They will too. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a second interview, references, or a sample ceremony.
4. What do you talk about when you meet with couples?
This is a great question. When meeting with a couple, we talk about how they met, their vision for the wedding, and weddings in general. I love observing people and listening to a couple explain how they met is a wonderful time for me to get a feel for a couple and their varying comfort levels. Not everyone is an extrovert and in most couples there is someone who would rather be doing anything than wedding planning. Meeting people where they are is something that comes naturally to me and in our in-person meetings, this is an advantage to me because I’ve been where you are and I think you’ll be in good hands with me. I have a calming sense and also a very playful and fun side. What I love most is geeking out about love.
5. What do you think is your main responsibility as an officiant?
My main responsibility as an Officiant is to show up for the wedding on time. Beyond that, it is to set the tone of your wedding ceremony with my presence and the words we choose for your ceremony. I am in charge of holding the space and making sure the ceremony flows smoothly, with you being married on the other side.
6. What’s the best compliment a wedding guest ever gave you?
I have two favorite compliments I’ve received from wedding guests.
I don’t have a church, but it was such a lovely compliment that led to a wonderful conversation about finding love and inspiration in places you never expected. I have friends who are voice actors and they work really hard, I've thought about it, but it's not in the cards for me right now.
7. What is your biggest challenge when officiating a wedding?
Acoustics are my biggest challenge as a wedding Officiant. I always arrive early to make sure I can work with the DJ or sound person to hook up my lavalier mic or make sure I am comfortable with whatever microphone is available. I don’t always use a microphone, but I prefer using one so I can settle into where my voice is its most velvety. I have no problem projecting, but there is a big difference in my voice when I’m sharing a ceremony by a quiet stream versus the oceanfront on a windy day.
8. What is the funniest or oddest moment in a wedding you celebrated?
There are two moments that jump to mind. The first was during a wedding when the bride and groom were sharing their vows. While the bride was very pragmatic and took and gave directions very well, the groom was really energetic and didn't listen to directions at all. They had decided on using a repeated vow, where I would say the phrase and they would repeat it to their beloved while looking into their eyes. The groom did a great job of repeating, but he looked at me the whole time. The bride cleared her throat and said, 'you were supposed to look at me!'. Everyone laughed and the groom apologized. I asked him if he would like a second try and he said yes. The guests were all smiling and the bride approved, so we did it a second time and he was perfect!
Another funny moment in a wedding I celebrated was recently on a farm in Maryland. There were peacocks, chickens, cows, horses, turkeys, you name it – but it was the cat that had to make an audible appearance. We were coming to the end of the ceremony and this cat wandered into the opening of the tent and started yowling. It yowled once and everyone looked. It yowled twice and everyone tensed up. I was glad I was at a place in the ceremony where I could improvise and said that ‘Even Meow-Meow approves’. Everyone laughed and the cat moved on. Moments like that are wonderful – they make us smile and give us memories.
9. What is your rock bottom wish for every couple?
That you can find a way to honestly communicate with each other. If you can do this, then you’re all set.
10. What do you love about celebrating weddings?
I love so many things about celebrating weddings. I am a lighthouse for two ships at sea. To stand with a couple at the beginning of their long and loving marriage is an honor – to be trusted with this responsibility is truly awesome. When I write personalized ceremonies for wedding couples, I pull from questions they’ve answered, my observations of them, and my own experience. My darling husband and I have been married for 16 years now and we have taught each other so much about love and what it takes to make a marriage work, how love will find a way – even if we have to stay up till 3am discussing how we feel. I get to watch brides and grooms hold hands while they start their next chapter in life – together, with all the potential for love and greatness. Being in the midst of this potential is what I love about celebrating weddings.
Time is precious, thank you for yours.
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