Monday, November 11, 2013

Ideas for Consideration Regarding Our Wedding Services in 2014

Exploration is important in order to establish comfort

It is so important that a couple opens our website and reads the unsolicited testimonials and blog postings, accessed from the website home page. The blog postings are not all directed just for a couple planning a wedding, but a scan over the last year will offer some very helpful input. This deliberate review will offer a sense of comfort about "us," even before we speak by phone.

Who is US?

Just for a bit of early clarification, my husband and I work as a team, both writing and delivering a ceremony. A description and background can also be accessed from the website home page. Our general pattern is that I handle most of the ceremony, and Rev. T. Wade Clegg III provides requested readings, poems, blessings, and assists with rituals as needed. We are both ordained Interfaith Ministers.  My personal background includes an MA in Pastoral Counseling, and completion of the University of Virginia Health System Intensive Chaplaincy Program in 2006.

There are NO obligations for exchanges

Many couples worry that having a friendly conversation through phone and e-mail exchanges may obligate them.  The first time there is an obligation is after you have complete details in an attachment which is sent by e-mail, after we have talked, and then receive an e-mail from you which requests my participation as your wedding minister. I will then dispatch by e-mail an agreement for return by regular mail along with a deposit. The date is of course secured while the agreement and deposit are in the mail.  Remember - you should not request a minister's services until a complete review of fees has been established.  You should have an agreement with all vendors and participants hired to perform services for your wedding, and that includes a minister or officiant.

Why are we asked to perform weddings?

Our efforts to personalize a ceremony in collaboration with a couple is the main reason. The core theme of all my weddings is the love of two people, and how we proceed to learn of hopes and dreams and other details of this growing relationship is obtained through the use of individual questionnaires. The questionnaire is not a test; it is a tool for knowing you and being able to produce text and tone to reflect for family and friends why this gathering is the most important day in your life's journey.  The answers are all known to each partner, and through tailored narrative responses, and perhaps more phone conversations, a ceremony is written and provided for your review.  Generally, a ceremony encompasses about 30+ minutes.

Personalization can be much more than just the text of the ceremony

Family involvement is so very important if there are close relationships. Involvement can involve family or friends performing a reading or a poem; having two close friends or family members each holding a ring; having parents involved in special rituals to honor their presence, such as lighting candles, or offering a blessing of the union. If there are children from present or previous relationships, and they are age appropriate for participation, then this should be considered. Information which is obtained from Questionnaires allows me to know what to suggest in order to make a ceremony family friendly and a lasting memory for everyone.

A personal meeting is always possible with adequate planning in advance

About half of couples who are planning a wedding many months in the future make a plan to visit us in Charlottesville, Virginia for a tabletop conversation, usually on a weekend day which is not already obligated for a wedding. Many week days are also available for planning.  We understand the need for some couples to have an added sense of comfort, and a personal meeting can be important. Most couples who travel from Maryland, Washington, DC, West Virginia and even hundreds of miles in Virginia enjoy coming to Charlottesville, and even plan for an overnight stay and enjoy the history of the area. However, when a meeting is not convenient for distance, work or obligations, the e-mail and phone exchanges between minister and couple has always proven adequate for purposes of creating an intimate ceremony. 

Remember - planning a wedding is part of marriage.  Stay involved together. Discuss and arrive at a comfortable place together. Now - complete that Contact Form accessed on the website home page, and let the conversation begin!

Blessings ... Reverend Elisheva

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Involve the Minister Early in the Wedding Planning Process

A Good Rule of Thumb ...
Once a couple has determined the most desired dates for their wedding, checked with key family members and friends to assess their ability to be present, and  talked to their favorite venue as to availability for the dates ... THEN it is time to talk to those ministers (or other celebrants) with whom there is a comfortability. Ask if they are also available for those dates. Quite frankly, with notes in hand and dates established with a venue THAT is the time to press on and make contact with all participants. Too often couples linger too long for completing their list of key personnel. Regretfully the minister is often near the bottom of the list. 

An Important Reminder
I am aware that many couples have limited exposure to ministers who seek to personalize a ceremony, making it intimate to them and their special audience. However, that is what my husband and myself do, and it is indeed different than so many very defined weddings. The intimacy  of a relationship and its depth of meaning to a couple will be fully expressed, whether a religiously oriented or a non-religious ceremony.

The Ceremony is the HEART of a Wedding Plan
I say it often and I mean it sincerely ... this is THE most important ceremony in a couple's life.  It is that time when two people face each other, before their most cherished friends, and declare to each other that each will be the support system totally committed for the well-being of the other for a lifetime.  The audience in a wedding is coming for that special memory when this relationship reached a new plateau. They did not come for the food,  the music, the dancing ...  those are the party elements which they can find at home. They come for the serious celebration, and then enjoy the other opportunities to celebrate openly with a couple.
But -  never think for a moment that the words that a couple will speak to each other, and have expressed by their minister, are not important. They are vital expressions which last with all who are present for their lifetimes. It is a precious gift when a couple shares this sacred happening.

Both Partners Need to Feel comfortable with their Minister
Several prior phone conversations or e-mail exchanges, perhaps even a meeting, will allow for a couple to establish a comfort zone. For some that will involve a trip to Charlottesville, Virginia, while distance or work schedules simply prohibit many from a visit.  Only about half of the couples we marry are able to meet personally before the wedding date.

A Meeting Before or After an Agreement has Merit
The personal meeting has never been a determining factor in preparation for a ceremony. Yes, a personal meeting does allow for easing the minds of many couples, but our use of questionnaires for each partner has provided a significant route through writing for knowing so very much. Each questionnaire is e-mailed separately to each partner with a request of no discussion with the other partner. I know the answers are indeed coming from each partner without the influence of the other. These questionnaires are NOT a test; they are a tool for learning of hopes and dreams and other matters of the heart.  The core theme of all my weddings is the love of two people. When each partner offers candid, open feelings about their relationship and goals for this journey, I will have the ingredients for a true reflection of their love affair.

Remember - professional wedding ministers are constantly receiving inquiries
When I provide a response to an inquiry, it is always based on a specific date(s) and time of day. The venue may change, but as long as it is within reasonable distance from the initial site, that is not a problem.  Date, time and town location are key items for an agreement. I also say that "at this writing I am available for your wedding date." Promises cannot be made until I receive a request for my participation, check again for availability, make sure that the couple has reviewed details from which to make a decision, and then I e-mail the wedding agreement. Initially,  I dispatch a detailed attachment to an e-mail with some initial questions, costs, suggestions, etc. In other words, a couple is immediately provided enough details for securing my services. DETAILS are important and in writing to the degree possible.  I will then hold the date while awaiting the return of the wedding agreement with a deposit for return by regular mail.  There is no obligation until a couple e-mails a specific request for my participation.

Some Final Thoughts
This posting is not meant to be a list of do's and do not's. It is an opportunity for a couple to consider the importance of the ceremony and the start of something really big!  It is a chance to think about the importance of this choice in life, and by writing about it in some small degree may awaken an even deeper appreciation of the words and phrases to be said.  Use these ideas as a guide, and once you have selected a minister, please remember to acknowledge the input of other ministers and celebrants.  No explanation is necessary as to why a couple is going in another direction. Perhaps it is a sense of needing a representative of a particular faith, or trying to honor some wishes of parents. Whatever reasons for a decision, it is a couple's joint collaboration, and that is what is important in maintaining a marriage. Within a week of receiving all details, and having conversation, and certainly after a personal meeting, it is so very respectful to simply contact a minister and relate your decision.  Just sharing.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Let's Talk Weather!

More specifically ...  Let's address the landscape which is Virginia

As wedding ministers who travel throughout Virginia, and into West Virginia, Maryland, Washington DC, and sometimes into North Carolina,  the opportunities every month of the year allows us a multitude of experiences.  It also allows for making suggestions to couples, which may mean some extra planning.  No - I am not talking about changing dates, since booking of a venue most likely has already been secured by deposit for a favored location. I am speaking of making plans to secure the best possible outcome for the ceremony.

Large or small weddings require the same attention to attendees

There is considerable flexibility for small weddings, but no less attention is required for even a few special guests.  They all come to enjoy, listen intently and remember your special day. It does not have to be a perfect setting or perfect weather; it does require adaptability for comfort.  If indeed there is a need to quickly move inside, has that move been reviewed and planned with adequate staff to take chairs, decorations, and equipment inside?  How long will such a change take?  Is there a planned cut-off time for making the move, and no procrastination?  If a small venue or home wedding, let the groomsmen know that they may be recruited for extra duties as the situation dictates.

There are better months for planning for outdoor weddings ... so pre-planning is best

When scouting venues, talk to location managers or locals, and listen carefully.  As said, we always look at the location on an inquiry form, plus the date, time of day, and size of audience. These factors are all important in early planning, especially for an outdoor ceremony. The very first response to most couples, especially when hosting a large to medium size audience is to make sure that an alternative plan is absolutely in place for moving inside quickly and efficiently.  Yes - it's wonderful to be out in a park or on a beach, until a storm arrives and everyone is forced to either run or sit in total discomfort for a twenty minute ceremony. This can be an adventure for many young people, but rest assured that elderly people with health concerns will not be so enchanted by nature's unexpected turn. 

Check the forecast beginning days in advance, and discuss deadlines for movement inside

There are months which can be bone-chillingly cold.  And there are months when the heat will melt the candles.  Both conditions affect the comfort of guests, and that can be very disappointing. Friends and family have generally traveled for a day of comfortable surroundings. Thirty minutes outside with a wind chill of thirty-five degrees and no covering can make for a very long ceremony. The same is true when the temperature is one hundred degrees at 3 PM on the lawn of a golf club.  The formal wear begins to be most burdensome.

Unexpected cool weather is generally the most disruptive... although heat can be dangerous

Cold and wet attire, wind chill, and sitting still and listening for 20-30 minutes is not enjoyable. Do not expect the best voice from a minister or reader, and especially for singers and musicians when the conditions are so challenging.  Sunrise weddings on Virginia Beach may work for an elopement for ten minutes, but quite frankly even ministers tend to pass on some challenges.

When a  minister speaks of situations from hundreds of ceremonies ... LISTEN!

As much as a couple can be determined to make it work, the first concern must be the guests and female members of a wedding party with naked shoulders shivering in the wind.  May -September are the most popular months, but when it's hot, heat stroke can occur. Standing members can become faint.  Most ceremonies can be situated outside at the time of day when shade will fall on the audience, or a tent may be erected to provide some cover. However, the heat may not be diminished very much, and guests should be provided water abundantly.  When direct sun is a concern, then guests should be allowed to stay in the shade until the last minute and then told to take their places in an open seating arrangement. They must NEVER be allowed to sit and boil while the wedding party is running late for entry.

A possibility often neglected

Venues in the cooler months should not be overlooked. Take the group inside a cozy resort or B&B for a wonderful environment.  Most venues will be less apt to be filled, and may even offer special price considerations.  Most ministers are delighted to receive inquiries during the winter months.  Of course there may be a need for caution for those months when snows can arrive, such as January-March in Central Virginia. This can diminish travel by air and auto, but generally not for more than a day. Also, many friends and family may actually be more readily available for attendance and able to leave working obligations in the early part of the year.  Just sharing.

Remember - whenever and wherever the ceremony takes place,  it will be the most important ceremony in your lives.  However, there is wisdom in close scrutiny and early planning.  Also - the couple who plans together will enjoy the process so much more.  Planning a wedding is a part of marriage. 
Much love ... Reverend Elisheva