American Association of Wedding Officiants

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Archive for the ‘Ceremony’ Category

How to Include Your Pet In Your Wedding Ceremony

Posted by AAWO on April 20, 2009

The trailer I saw of “Marley and Me” had me laughing from the start. Pets do bring warmth and joy and humor … as well as challenges … that can make life better. And many Seattle brides and grooms are inviting their dogs or miniature horse (meet “Rocky”) or parrot or other much loved “companion” to be a part of their wedding ceremonies.

Flowerpups and ringbearing dogs bring the characteristics of their personalities to the ceremony. Some are playful and lively, some are dainty and precious, some have elan and chic. My husband, Kent, officiated at a wedding where a miniature fur friend wore a spritely pink tutu. She enjoyed it immensely and was so delighted to be with her family. Absolutely adorable!

At one of my ceremonies, the couple was active in the rescue of greyhounds. Two of their friends escorted their dogs to their beds of honor on either side of the bride and groom. It was quite an elegant entrance and the greyhounds brought a stately presence to the processional and the ceremony itself.

Here are some thoughts to consider when deciding whether your pet would be a welcome addition to your wedding ceremony.

Does your pet enjoy being around people, possibly a lot of people? Each animal has a personality and a tolerance for next places and people. We shared our home for many years with Mara, a Siamese/Tabby mix who was extremely people oriented. She would greet me at the driveway when I returned from errands and would follow me around in the house and accompany me when I tended our garden. At times, she even enjoyed taking a walk around the block. And she was alreadys ready to be petted and cuddled and loved to play. Our other cat, Callie, was quite the opposite: staying out of view until all was quiet and she could make her way directly to our laps for much desired attention. She needed privacy and serenity to show herself.

Is there someone you trust to take care of your pet’s needs during the ceremony? Someone your pet knows and enjoys being with? And afterwards who can bring them home or to where they will be residing while you are on your honeymoon? You will have so much happening on your wedding day. It is important that your pet have a dedicated person or two to reassure and notice what is needed. Water, walk, a quieter place to relax and to be fed. A happy pet makes a much happier wedding day.

What provides comfort for your pet? Perhaps it is favorite bedding or a toy or a certain treat? Does he or she have a certain schedule? When is nap time? Keeping to the normal pattern of life as closely as possible and providing familiar items assure your buddy that all is well.

Is your pet ready to be in the limelight? Is she or he well trained? Does the breed have the temperament to repose near you? To be trusted around lace and delicate materials? To be in your presence and still respond to a handler during the ceremony? You know your pet. What are her capabilities. Be honest and kind. Ask of your pet only what is possible and probable. A few surprises are endearing; expecting the impossible is stressful.

Is the outfit you have selected comfortable for your pet? Some garb is exquisite and some of our companions love to show their stuff. Perhaps a trial run will indicate if the attire fits well and will be tolerated for an hour or so.

If your fur baby isn’t ready for the wedding itself, it is always possible to include them in the engagement photographs, as well as the getting ready and post-ceremony pics. Your treasured companion can be included in your wedding photographs in a way that is fun for everyone!

And sometimes there is a serendipity about our interactions with our animal compatriots. This couple has known this cat forever although it is not theirs. At one time, they lived near the beach and would pet the cat on their visits. They called it Aslan (from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe). Aslan coming to see them was like its blessing on their union.

How can we leave this topic without mentioning two quite famous creatures: Basil and Borage of The Willows Lodge and The Herb Farm. Adored by all who see them, these two have witnessed more ceremonies than most people I know. I always stop by to visit with them after my ceremonies. Not certain if any of the vows bring tears to their eyes but I like to think they are touched in some way by the sentiments!

Yes, our pets do bring an element of “humanity” to our ceremonies … and we thank them for that. Make plans to include your companions in ways that suit them best.

Submitted by Pat Stimac


Posted in Ceremony, Weddings | 2 Comments »


Posted by AAWO on April 14, 2009

Traditions have for the most part remained the same over the last 100 years but couples have been personalizing some of the standard ones in recent years.

With more couples being married outside the church and in the great outdoors, the unity candle has become a challenge. We have heard ideas like drill out the center of the candles and insert the trick birthday candles so if blown out they will relight again and again.

2Also couples have moved on to sand ceremonies, unity bouquets even the mixing of wines. Here we see a sand ceremony coupled with their own tradition of jumping sugar cane. Both families are from sugar producing islands and sugar cane has always been a happy and positive entity in their lives.

1Rituals also provide an excellent opportunity to include family. Here we have a couple both with three children by utilizing a unity candle the youngest each lit a candle and passed the flame to the next until reaching the parents whom in turn lit the unity candle.

When planning a ceremony speak with your experienced Officiant –  ideas and challenges for new ideas are always shared among them.

Submitted by Reverend Michael Scarlett

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The DIY Trend

Posted by AAWO on April 12, 2009

copy-of-ajg_12561Who doesn’t want to save money on their wedding? Unless your name is Trump, Rockefeller or Hilton, you probably do. But is cutting corners the wisest way to go? In this economy DIY is the only way many couples can afford to even get close to their dream wedding. Let’s face it, weddings are expensive!

I think that it’s a personal choice per couple. If going this route, each couple needs to decide which things are the most important to them and spend the larger parts of their budget there. Anything that they are going to try on their own should only be attempted if it won’t “crush them” if it doesn’t go as planned, or if they have a KNOWLEDGEABLE family or friend member willing to help.

Ask to see examples of their work to be certain they are going to do things your way. If you don’t like how they do it, you aren’t locked in. Deciding to go with a professional will save you heartache, because it can’t be redone. However, if Aunt Paula is awesome at cake making and wants to help, by all means, take advantage of that opportunity!

I hear horror stories about couples that tried to save money by having a friend ordained online to marry them. This is fine if your friend is a great public speaker and writer, with some knowledge of how to put a ceremony together. However, I have bailed out a couple that had the person back out a month before the wedding with nothing done; and heard about the cousin that had a “couple of nerve calmers” before the ceremony and had to leave during the service for a minute to use the facilities!

If you want something done right you have to do it yourself. This belief leads people to hold on to too much. Unfortunately, people who cling to this belief often become an organizational bottleneck. Everything has to be done by, or through, them. It is hard for some brides to emotionally detatch themselves from every aspect of their wedding, so they decide to take care of it all. Those are the ones that end up extremely stressed out, things don’t turn out the way they wanted, and ultimately they didn’t enjoy their wedding day.

I think every aspect of the wedding can be a DIY, but not every aspect for every wedding.

Submitted by Rev. Carleen Burns

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SCREECH Unity Ceremony

Posted by AAWO on April 10, 2009

Shawn & Peggy’s Wedding
Philips Old Colony House,  South Boston, MA

Unity Ceremonies are not only for a joining together of two individuals but may also depict a merger of families, cultures and traditions. Candles, colored sand, flowers and sometimes a special beverage may be used as symbols depicting this joining.

Our Bride Peggy hails from Newfoundland where the drink of choice is SCREECH, a dark and flavourful rum (you can imagine how it got it’s name) and so it is most appropriate that what is also called “Newfie Holy Water” was included as part of their wedding ceremony!

The Bride drinks... the Groom drinks... and then the JP gets in on it, too!

Submitted by Alan Ulrich
Justice of the Peace

Posted in Ceremony, Rituals, Weddings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

If Rice is not an Option on your Wedding Day…

Posted by AAWO on April 8, 2009

What better day to try something different than on your wedding day? Remember  it’s Your Day ~ Your Way !!!  One small change that you can customize is the ‘rice throwing’. Granted not many people really throw rice anymore, but the sentiment of wishing the happy couple good luck is still there. So lets look some of the  options available:

– It’s the most traditional choice.  We’re cautioned not to throw rice at the bride and groom, because the grain will prove harmful to the birds who swoop down to eat it.  Uncooked, milled rice is no more harmful to birds than rice in the field, says Mary Jo Cheesman of the U S Rice Federation.  The birds are safe, but the guests could be injured if they were to slip and fall. If that’s not an issue, at your location, and the tradition of rice feels best to you then go for it!  They even sell it in a cooked format that is then shaped into wedding bells, doves, etc…

– Always nice to feed a few birds on your wedding day, but trying to get all that birdseed out of your hair is a nightmare and some facilities may feel the same way about birdseed as they do about rice!

– Fun and whimsical. They can be purchased in small favor sized bottles and even customized with the wedding information. Check your local Dollar Store for the best prices!!

– Beautiful thought to send butterflies free to fly around you, but you have to make sure the boxes you receive contain live butterflies and that you have enough to even be seen. Be sure to deal with a reputable vendor, only release on a day above 60 degrees and in the middle of the afternoon so they have time to find something to eat before they must find a place to roost for the night.

– Similar to butterflies.  Choose a reputable vendor and practice with them (before the ceremony) so you know the correct way to hold and release them.

Bells or other noisemakers
– Perfect for venues which don’t allow anything to be thrown, but be sure to let the little ones know they’re just to ring and not to throw!

– Can be bought in a variety of colors and glittering effects. However, it’s notoriously difficult to clean up even with vacuuming. For this reason most locations probably won’t allow it. On the plus side it can come in a variety of shapes and be great for a theme wedding even just spread out on the reception tables.

– Fantastic effect for an evening  wedding. Get the larger ones so that the sparkle will last longer.  They also make them with a wood center (rather than metal) so they are safer for youngsters.

Flower Petals or Lavender
– Very romantic and beautiful to see a shower of petals/buds. They are easier to clean up then confetti and without the hassle of birdseed getting in your hair.

Submitted by Reverend Melanie J. Maxwell
Infinite Blessings Ministries

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Jumping the Broom

Posted by AAWO on April 2, 2009

“Jumping the Broom” at a wedding is a custom that has lost its origin but adopted widely in England and the USA.

It is believed to be from a West African practice brought by slaves to the southern United States but adopted by many local people who could not find or afford a civil or religious celebrant of marriage.   Some think the Roma culture also had a similar tradition along with some Celtic tribes.

From where ever it came, it is now part of our wedding ceremony traditions and incorporated in marriage ceremonies in many places. Couples like to vary what is said and done at their wedding,  whether it be a special ceremony like giving a rose to mothers, a “Unity Candle”,  or a wine ceremony.

Using a decorated broom to jump just for the fun of doing a different tradition during the service has caught on locally. I have used it in many informal weddings I have done over the past 18 years as a wedding officiant and each time it gets a laugh from the people watching.  It is said who jumps the highest is the head of the new household but a man in slacks has the advantage.   Some couples like to decorate the broom in meaningful colors or flowers and may include a story about who will be in charge of the broom after the wedding.

Adding interesting elements to a wedding ceremony makes it a little more special for the occasion.

Submitted by Chaplain Jerry Schwehm

Posted in Ceremony, Rituals | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »


Posted by aawo on April 2, 2009


The American Association of Wedding Officiants is a professional group of wedding ministers, officiants, celebrants, and Justices of the Peace that ecourages education and professionalism among its members. With over 500 members throughout the USA the AAWO helps couples locate a profession wedding officiant to help with their wedding ceremony. Get more information about locating a wedding officiant  at this web page:

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