How To Guide: Officiating Your First Wedding Ceremony

How To Guide: Officiating Your First Wedding Ceremony

You have been asked, “Will you marry us?”…you said yes.

Now, it is time to figure out how you are going to officiate your first marriage ceremony. Follow the ten steps below and you will deliver an inspired wedding day to remember.

Step ONE: Get Ordained 

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Becoming a minister online is a practice that dates back decades, celebrities do it, your friends do it, and if you are reading this, it is likely you will do it. There is no shortage of religious organizations that provide online ordination services. So how do you pick? There are several things to consider when choosing where to apply for ordination. 

  1. Religious affiliation and fit. Does the organization that will ordain you as a minister fit your belief and value system?

  2. Support. What resources are available to coach you through this process? Do they have sample ceremonies and other information that will be helpful to get you ready to be at the center of someone's big day?

  3. Federal Recognition. Are they a federally recognized 501(c)3 religious organization?

Step TWO: State Marriage Laws

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Marriage laws vary from state-to-state and sometimes by county. It is important that you do your homework to ensure you are complying with the laws of the state where the couple will be married. Officiant licensing and marriage licenses are most often administered and processed through the county clerk or recorders office in the county that the wedding will take place. For more details on marriage licensing, click here.

Step THREE: Meet With the Couple

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Undoubtably, what matters most during this process is fulfilling the happy couple's vision and dream for their wedding day. The best way to ensure you are creating a ceremony that will make those dreams come true is to get inside their heads.

  1. Homework. Have each of them fill out a couples questionnaire before you meet with them. Ask them to be sure to do the questionnaires individually and not to share them with each other. These responses give you amazing insight into their story and wishes for the future that you can use to guide your ceremony script.

  2. Vibe. When you meet with them ask questions that uncover the experience and feel of their ceremony. Things for discovery;

    • Formality. Would they like to be referenced by their full names, ie Mike vs. Michael. Do they have a preference on your clothing choice on the wedding day?

    • Family Dynamics. Is there anything you should know about the expectations of their parents, grandparents, ie family traditions, religious preferences?

  3. Wedding Party. How many people will there be in their wedding party. Will they include their dog, flower girls etc. Wedding party make-up can create more complications that you should be aware of or it can simply things.

  4. Rehearsal. Do they want you to run the wedding rehearsal?

  5. Ceremony. Are they comfortable with you writing the ceremony and then asking for their feedback after you have a solid first draft? Do they want to write their own vows? What is their expectation for ceremony length? There is a big difference between 5 minutes and 20 minutes, you should know that well ahead time.

Step FOUR: Write The Ceremony

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This is one of the best parts of officiating a wedding, writing the ceremony script. Embrace the creative process and remember you don't have to get it right on the first try, this is an iterative process. Click Here for a complete how-to on writing your first marriage ceremony script.

Things to consider as you begin to write:

  1. Find A Theme. Identify a common idea that you can pull throughout the script, the easiest places to look for themes are: nature, travel, and hobbies.

  2. Frame. Create an outline for the pieces of the ceremony you would like to include. A typical ceremony will include the following: (procession), giving away the bride or groom, words of welcome/charge to the couple, exchange of vows (I dos), exchange of rings, blessing of marriage, pronouncement of marriage, the kiss, introduction of the couple, (recession)

  3. Borrowing. Do not be afraid to borrow ceremony parts and pieces from other ceremony samples you find online. As long as they have been woven together thoughtfully and honor the vision of the couple, it does not matter how you sourced their ceremony master piece.

  4. Time It. If the couple has given a ceremony length you are shooting for, read it aloud and time yourself to ensure you meet their expectations.

  5. Approval. Send the couple a copy of the ceremony for edits and approval.

Step FIVE: Practice

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There is no such thing as too early or too often when it comes to rehearsing the ceremony. The more you have practiced, the more present you can be on the big day. Be an engaged story teller, not a reader. Pay special attention to the following:

  1. Volume. You may or may not mic'd up, be ready either way.

  2. Tone and Tempo. As you read aloud, note your tone and cadence. A monotone speech is always a disaster. Also note how fast you are talking, most of us can do with a few deep breathes and pauses..slow it down.

  3. The "Eyes" Have It. Work on your eye contact with the couple and the wedding guests.

Step SIX: Costume and Props

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Assuming you have asked the couple if they have any preference on your attire (color, formality, dress or pants, tie etc), make sure you have your wedding day outfit nailed down. Equal in importance to the couple's thoughts on your outfit, you need to feel comfortable and ready to run the show. The biggest thing to remember is that you WILL be in most of the ceremony photos, make sure your choice is appropriate and that it is fairly neutral as to not steal the show. All eyes should be on the couple, not on your clothing choice. 

The next big question, how will you be holding and referencing your wedding script during the ceremony?

Options:

  • iPad with a simple case

  • Portfolio, preferably black

  • Journal, book or bible, with script written or typed and pasted to the inside

Whatever you choose if your ceremony is outside be sure the script is secure and will not blow away in a gust of wind. If your ceremony is typed you should do the following:

  • Use font that is bigger than normal and easy to read

  • Have sentence and paragraph returns set up to give clues when to pause and help you find your place as you glance down

Step SEVEN: Remind Your People

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The happy couple have a lot on their plate, in addition to emotions running high they are being pulled in a million directions. Help them out and remind them of the following:

  1. The License. Direct them to the appropriate place to secure their marriage license, within the appropriate them frame. Send them the link to the county recorder or clerk they need to visit. You do not need to go with them.

  2. Vows. If they are writing their own vows, check in with them individually and see if they need help. You can also ask if they want you to hold those vows for them during the ceremony and hand them to them at the appropriate time.

  3. The License. Who will have it? What is their preference for the signing of the marriage license? Do they want to do it during, right after, or before the ceremony. All of these options are acceptable, it should really be up to them. Be sure you have a nice blue or black pen with you.

Step EIGHT: Rehearsal

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Verify rehearsal expectations, do they want you there, do they expect you to run it? There is a big difference between attending the rehearsal and running one, know what they expect and prepare. If you are running a rehearsal, some important pieces of the puzzle:

  1. Which Side? Looking out at the wedding guests, the groom stands to your left and the bride on your right.

  2. What Order? The processional can take many forms and will differ based on wedding party composition, family and size. The traditional processional order is as follows:

    • Officiant> Father of the Groom & Mother of Bride> Bridesmaid and Groomsmen> Best Man & Maid/Matron of Honor> Flower Children & Ring Bearer> Mother of the Groom and the Groom> Father & Bride

  3. Your Team. Get to know the photographer, musicians and what role they need you play. They may want you to cue them or they may cue you. The photographer may ask you step aside during a certain part of the ceremony, find all this out ahead of time.

  4. Marriage License. You can sign the marriage license at the rehearsal or if the couple would like to do it the "day of" you can offer to keep the license and bring it to the ceremony.

Step NINE: The Big Day

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Whether you have been prepping for the ceremony for months or weeks, the day of the wedding you will be nervous. That is OK, that means you care, so give yourself a break. Here is your day of check list:

  1. Practicing Close to Game Time. Do not rehearse the script too close to the ceremony time. This will amplify nerves and cause you to start overthinking. Stop looking at the script AT LEAST 2-3 hours ahead.

  2. Timing. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready and to arrive to the ceremony site early. Plan on being there at least 45 minutes prior to the ceremony, the wedding party may have some last minutes questions.

  3. Say No Thank You. Opt-Out of any ceremony pre-party. Drinking and public speaking never end well.

  4. Say Hello. If you have not had a chance to meet important family members or the musician or photographer, make a point to introduce yourself if they are not busy or focused on other important wedding day tasks.

  5. Don't Forget. Your script, a pen, and if you have offered to keep the marriage license, bring it.

  6. Smile and Relax. You have got this! They chose you, because you are the right person for the job.

Step TEN: Wrap It Up

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Before you get too deep into the post ceremony celebration be sure to do or consider the following:

  1. Sign The Marriage License. Be sure to fill out the marriage license completely and get all the required signatures. Click here for more information on completing the marriage license.

  2. Return The Marriage License. Be sure there is an agreed upon plan for who will return the license, if it is not you be sure to have a conversation with the person tasked with it to ensure it will happen.

  3. Script As A Gift. When you get home be sure to send a nicely formatted copy of the wedding ceremony script to the happy couple. Wedding days are very emotional and charged with nervous energy and excitement. It is highly likely that the couple only really heard a quarter to maybe half of the ceremony.

You did it. You have officiated a wedding ceremony. You were at the intersection of the happy couple's past and future. You were there for the promises and helped lay the foundation of their hopes and dreams. You have the best job in the world!  

 

Step-By-Step: How To Write A Wedding Ceremony Script

Step-By-Step: How To Write A Wedding Ceremony Script

Writing a wedding ceremony; telling their story and laying the foundation for their way forward as a couple. This is by far the most important and most rewarding part of your job as a minister and wedding officiant. So where to start? What to consider?

Sample Questions

  • How did you meet? What is your story?

  • Why do you two “work”?

  • How do you envision your life together? Goals, dreams, passions?

  • What makes your partner amazing? Think big, little, serious, silly, it’s all on the table?

  • What is your biggest relationship fear?

  • What are your biggest relationship challenges?

  • How does your partner’s family fit into your marriage?

  • Do you and your partner have plans for a family and if so, what would be the optimum size/makeup of your family? (pets included)

  • Style: Do you want this to be traditional? Are we incorporating either of your faiths?

1. Get In Their Heads

The very first thing you should do is have each half of the couple answer some basic and very insightful questions for you. If you are officiating for a friend or family member you may have your own insights into the couple, they asked you to officiate for a reason…you have been a part of their journey. If you are officiating for a couple you have just met this part of the process will be essential to getting the ceremony right.

 So what are you trying to uncover?

Several things, their story, their values, and their dreams. A well written ceremony should capture all of these things. Remember, the couples questions should be answered separately by each person. This will give you their individual perspectives that you can weave together in the ceremony and keeps a bit of mystery and surprise for their big day. [Full Couples Questionnaire]

2. Finding A Theme

All this homework will help you uncover a theme, an idea or thread you can pull through the entire ceremony. Some easy to use themes could be; life is a journey, the mountains, the ocean, nature, or growth. Typically, their story, how they met, and their hobbies will be a great place to start to identify potential themes. You can call on spirituality, literature, and poetry as well.

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Where does your theme belong in the ceremony? How do you use the theme? The theme can be referenced or be the foundation of the following sections:

  • Words of Welcome

  • Their Story

  • Exchange of Vows

  • Blessing of the Rings/Ring Exchange

  • Blessing of The Marriage/Closing Words and Wishes

3. Ceremony Parts, Creating The Frame

Wedding ceremonies can take on many forms, however, there is a basic format that most follow:

  1. Giving away the bride or groom. This is an opportunity to honor the parents. It can be a traditional father moment or can include both mother and father. This section can also include the parents of both couples. Traditionally this takes the form a question asked to the father of the bride but can be posed to anyone that holds a place of honor in the family.   

  2. Words of Welcome. This is your chance to set the tone for the day and introduce the significance of the day and this moment.

  3. Charge to The Couple. The purpose of the charge is to remind the couple of their duties and roles in marriage and prepare them for the vows they are about to take.

  4. The Story. This section is optional, but can be an amazing opportunity to become a storyteller and bring all the guests with you on the couple's journey and how they got to this day. Not everyone has had a front row seat to their lives, this is a privilege you can share.

  5. Exchange of Vows. These are the promises that the couple makes to each other. It is common for the couple to write these themselves.

  6. Exchange of the Rings. The declaration of consent (these are your "I dos") and the exchange of rings can be presented separately or combined. 

  7. Declaration/Blessing of Marriage/Closing Remarks. This is the conclusion of the ceremony. Wish them well and offer any advice that will be relevant and inspirational. 

  8. Pronouncement of Marriage. "......on this day.....I now pronounce you..."

  9. The Kiss. "You may now kiss the........"

  10. Introduction of Couple. For the first time ever, the new couple is introduced to the world.

There are many other ceremony parts that can be woven in such as; unity ceremonies, readings, prayers, ring warming, and many more. If you start with above you can work in additions later.

4. You Don’t Have to Reinvent the Wheel

If you are reading this, it is likely the first time you have penned a wedding ceremony. It is also very likely that you have no idea where to start, to this I say, not to worry, “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” -Arthur Ashe

There is no shame in leveraging existing pieces and parts of ceremony scripts as long as they speak to the couple’s journey, vision, and intent. You should absolutely read and utilize other ceremonies for inspiration, customize them and add your secret sauce.

There are a few questions you can ask yourself to ensure fit and authenticity for you and the happy couple:

  1. Are the words in this script ones that you would actually use in real life when speaking aloud?

  2. Does this fit the couple’s preferences on spiritual and religious beliefs?

  3. Is it the right level of formality or informality that the couple prefers?

 5. Reading Aloud & Timing

Once you have your first draft written, you should read it aloud for feel, flow, and confirm word choice. You should also time yourself to see if you are in the right ballpark for desired length.

 6. Like or Not Like

Now is a great time to run your first draft by the couple for directional input. Some couples may want the ceremony to be a surprise, in that case you could run the script by the best man or maid/matron of honor. Once you have some feedback, refine and put on the final touches.

 7. Practice Makes Perfect

It is never too early to start rehearsing.  The more you commit the ceremony to memory, the less nervous you will be. The more comfortable you are with what you have written the more likely you will become their guide and storyteller. As you read your script do the following:

  • Pauses. Look for natural pauses and breaks in the ceremony. Make those physical line breaks in your script or even type in the word “pause” if that will help.

  • Font Size. Choose a font that is easy to read at a glance, a font size 14 works great.

  • Ceremony Holder/Props. What will you use to reference and hold the ceremony? An iPad, journal, book, bible, pad folio? Whatever you choose make sure it is comfortable in your hands and easy to hold.

  • Page Breaks. Now that you have the content finalized, you should format for page breaks that reflect the distinct ceremony parts. It is best not to break a ceremony section across two pages. Remember, you will be glancing down during the ceremony to keep you on track. Set it up so it is easy at-a-glance and you will never lose your way.

8. The Gift  

It is likely that the happy couple will hear or retain very little of the ceremony, remember they will be overwhelmed by love, nerves and emotion. The biggest gift you can give them is a copy of the ceremony for them to read, reflect on, and commemorate their wedding day. Reformat the ceremony for this purpose and print it on some beautiful paper and send it to them.

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Creating the ceremony can seem daunting, but if written from your heart it is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding parts of officiating a wedding. Take your time and be thoughtful, it will show on the big day.

They have chosen you for a reason, likely the role you have played in their lives, your strength of character, and your sense of self. So create with curiosity, joy, and wisdom. Leverage those around you and those that inspire you.

Luck favors the prepared, you have got this.

All you need to do now is get started.

 

 

 

 

Party of One: Solo Travel Tips

Party of One: Solo Travel Tips

Not ready to quit your job and your family and travel for a living? Wanting to try your first solo trip a little closer to home than Nepal? Me too. This last week I recently went on my first solo (non-work) vacation. This is not so much a where to go on your solo travels, but really a how to frame your travels.

What is your intent?

Is your trip some well-earned time away for some R&R? Or perhaps, this is an adventure for personal growth. How about a combination of both? The first step is to ask yourself, what am I hoping to get out of this? To be clear, your intent should not be a plan. Most restful vacations and/or personal growth moments are not born from rigidity. They are born from a healthy balance of intent and flexibility. The most important piece of your intent is that we remember it is not a check-list. You may or may not get to all of your intentions and you may not do all of them well. Your intent is not a plan, think of it like a direction for your energy, energy flows where intention goes. For so many of us, solo vacations are rare, use them wisely and make sure you return home a better version of yourself.

 

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Intent Inspriration

  • Sleeping in

  • Taking public transit

  • Taking long showers

  • Dial down the cell usage

  • Getting lost (having days without a plan)

  • Doing something creative

  • Catching up on your reading

  • Talking to strangers

  • Giving compliments

  • Going to a community event

  • Doing nothing


Get Uncomfortable

Do something that is outside of your norm. This could be a yoga class, skydiving, or eating dinner out alone. The first night I dined out solo on my last trip, a toddler in a high chair looked over at me and asked, “Mama, why is she alone?”. Yikes, I think I actually broke into a sweat. Could it get more awkward? The mom looked up at me, her eyes darted away and she ignored her son. So, this was not me learning to scuba dive, but I put myself out there and it got kind of weird. The good news is I recovered and went on to more uncomfortable things with success, as will you.

 Making Friends

It is possible that you rolled out solo to get away from your people. Work people, family friends; we all need a minute. That being said, truly appreciating and experiencing a new community is much easier if you make friends with the “locals” or other wanderers. This is not a new trick, alone or with friends and family this is how you find the good stuff. Make fast friends with all of the service workers. Your servers, bartenders, front desk staff and shop owners, they know where all the best food is, they know the ins and outs of timing and access to activities. The most important thing to do is smile and make eye contact, it’s amazing how many people will talk to you if you just look up. Put you phone away and see the people and community that surrounds you. Yes; google it, map it, yelp it, photograph it, then put it away. Be present.


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Solo Dining Tips

  • Sit at the community table

  • Sit at the bar

  • Bring a book, map of the area or journal

  • Chips and salsa keep you super busy

  • Dine early or late, it’s easiest to get a seat and bonus, the server has more time to chat and share their thoughts on must dos and must sees.


Set Your Baggage Free, We Need Less Not More

Like it or not there is some inherent challenges being a party of one. Some can come from an already programmed toddler that believes it is unusual to be alone. Some can come from a bad server that is concerned that your party of one is taking up space, your bill will be small resulting in a small tip. Some can come from others in your life that have a “it must be nice for you” attitude. These are all things we can move through with ease if we don’t take it personally and we circle back to our intent.

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The larger more difficult baggage concerning solo travel can be our own. This baggage can take the form of projecting or assuming judgment or lack of support from a partner or co-worker that is holding down the fort while you are gone. It can also take the form of feeling guilt for leaving your kids, dog, your business, your boyfriend or spouse behind. Newsflash, it turns out they will live without you and will probably be better off if you come back renewed and refreshed than if you had stayed stressed out and haggard. This is easier said than done and will take some practice. So, the best way to move beyond this is to travel solo more often. Remember, you do not need to cross an ocean, climb a mountain or take a month off. You can do plan a two-day trip to the next county over. There is plenty to explore close to home too.

Make an appointment with yourself to rediscover you: the you without work, the you without family, the you that is growing and learning. You are amazing, take some time to get reacquainted.


Planning Your Grand Adventure: Take It EASY

Planning Your Grand Adventure: Take It EASY

The week, the day, and the hour before you leave on a trip is always full of anticipation. For some it is nervous fear-based anticipation, for others it is excitement, and for many it is both. Either way, as we are planning and packing, we are creating a story full of expectations.

Last night I left for my very first non-work solo travel trip. I have been dreaming about this for months, just me, my duffle bag, my podcasts, books on audio, and well-thought out playlists. What could go wrong? Right?!?

24 Hour Travel Recap

  • Night Driving for the nocturnally challenged.  Leaving three hours late and driving high mountain passes in the dark until 10:00 PM
  • Death by music. Discovering the execution to your new playlist is full of…why the “f” did I think that made sense? (…skip…next….skip)
  • Old does not equal vintage. Arriving at your cool, quirky vintage motel and realizing it’s just a motel…not cool or quirky.
  • OMG officer, I had no idea. Flashing lights and a speeding ticket, a tricky speed limit change from 65 MPH to 45 MPH for 500 feet and then back to 65MPH….are you kidding me with that?
  • Damn you global warming. Thinking you are leaving the snow behind for spring break and headed to flip flop and shorts weather and you end up driving for five hours in an Arizona blizzard…WHAATT?!?
  • Who is that old dirty hag? Unpacking and realizing you left a good portion of your everyday toiletries behind. Heading to the desert without moisturizer and cleanser is always a good idea.
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Choose The Light

The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.
— Captain Jack Sparrow

In our efforts to get out there and discover, we plan, we dream, and we check-list. Sometimes the dream of our journey gets a healthy dose of reality. Once we feel our disappointment and frustration we have a choice. The choice is to embrace change and be the flexible and resilient human we were born to be or get stuck on the “this is not the life I ordered” train.

As luck would have it, my wiser subconscious self, had the forethought to anticipate my journey with all of its beautiful flaws and thought to download the book, Bliss More, by Light Watkins. As I am listening to the book and recalling my series of unfortunate events, Light throws down the acronym: EASY (Embrace, Acceptance, Surrender, Yield). He uses this in the context of meditating, but I started to think about how this could work for me as I reflect on my last 24 hours. Below is my interpretation and adaption of the Bliss More, EASY approach:

Embrace: Allowing the existence of all your thoughts and experiences. Don’t try to pretend it’s not happening, to check the box on your version of how things were to turn out.

Acceptance: The attitude that whatever is happening should be happening. All of it: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Surrender: Be willing to surrender the idea of how you feel things should have happened.

Yield: Control what you can and accept the rest.

Sometimes the hard way is a great choice for the purposes of learning and growth, but sometimes the hard way is, just hard. So, the next time you are planning a big adventure, be sure to take it EASY when your story unfolds differently than you planned.

 

 

Spontaneity: The Fountain of Youth & Sanity

Spontaneity: The Fountain of Youth & Sanity

The following is entirely true and tells the tale of the battle between crazy and inspired adulting.  

It is a Friday morning and I am slogging through my work email inbox on what is supposed to be my spring break. I have been feeling itchy and agitated all week. Do you ever have the feeling you just need to run? By run, I do not mean exercise, I mean a deep seeded need to wander.

I start with the obvious, letting my mind wander, checking social media seems logical. I see one of my dear college friends checking in at San Francisco International Airport and is heading to Arizona; enter wandering phase two. I spend the next two hours checking flights to Phoenix and picturing myself with a cocktail by the pool. I go back and forth fighting with my scheduled responsible self and my long-time-gone college self that remembers freedom and spontaneity. Turns out, I favor growing older not up and the next thing I know I am packing a bag and on the open road to Arizona.

 9:23 AM  Facebook Creeping.  Stalk a friend who is headed to Arizona  11:30 AM  The Invite.  Text social media stalked friend & invite myself on her trip  11:33 AM  The Pitch . Call husband announcing my departure to Arizona in 30 minutes  11:45 AM  Holy _ _ _ _ This Is Happening.  Go home and throw together a duffle bag and map route  12:37 PM  The Open Road.  On the Road to Arizona, windshield time, 11 hours  Windows down, heater on and music up  4 pairs of sunglasses, 2 sundresses, some underwear, a bathing suit and no razor (sigh)  10:37 PM  The Promised Land.  Arrival...best friends ever, have cocktails and food on the ready  Palm trees and pool all queued up

9:23 AM Facebook Creeping. Stalk a friend who is headed to Arizona

11:30 AM The Invite. Text social media stalked friend & invite myself on her trip

11:33 AM The Pitch. Call husband announcing my departure to Arizona in 30 minutes

11:45 AM Holy _ _ _ _ This Is Happening. Go home and throw together a duffle bag and map route

12:37 PM The Open Road. On the Road to Arizona, windshield time, 11 hours

Windows down, heater on and music up

4 pairs of sunglasses, 2 sundresses, some underwear, a bathing suit and no razor (sigh)

10:37 PM The Promised Land. Arrival...best friends ever, have cocktails and food on the ready

Palm trees and pool all queued up

Crazy right? You are thinking good for you, life must be all unicorns and rainbows where you live, it is just not that easy. That is a true and partially valid reaction, however, I would like to present the circumstances where you can Photoshop yourself into this ridiculous and amazing adventure.

  1. You Must Have the RIGHT People in Your Tribe. First, you must have friends that are flexible and inclusive. It is not all friends that embrace and appreciate social media stalking and surprise visits. As you get older, these friends are increasingly rare, cherish them. Second, your partner must get you. They must get you in all of your complexities and understand that there are times when you have to put yourself first for sanity's sake. Nobody is better off having an agitated and passive aggressive other half around. 
  2. Give Yourself Permission to Wander. It is ok to free yourself from what you "should be doing". Many of us are hesitant to step out of their regular roles and routines. The idea of spontaneity and the unknown can be uncomfortable and scary, do it anyway you will be better for it.
  3. Picture the Worse Case Scenario. As you consider putting yourself out there, what is the worst thing that can happen? When I played this scenario out here is what I came up with: my friend could have said no, my husband could have said no, I could break down somewhere between home and Arizona. All of these outcomes were survivable. The act of committing to spontaneity whether it happened or not is still a fun and invigorating ride.

To assume that those in our social networks having adventures have more money, more time and fewer obligations is a bit of an exaggeration. In my case, I said YES to the unthinkable, absurd and unexpected. I got on my unicorn and rode the rainbow to Arizona. (not really, but you get the idea) 

Spontaneous adventures can be big and small, the clarity and growth you seek may not be convenient, but may be in a city far away, out our back door, in the mountains, or a beach across many oceans.

I walk away from this adventure knowing a few things:

  • Stretching beyond your comfort zone and saying yes more often keeps you young and flexible.  

  • Never underestimate your tribe;  you picked them for a reason they "get" you.

Lastly and most importantly, if you approach life with curiosity and gratitude; you never know where the day will take you. 

  Cheers, to believing!

Cheers, to believing!

Love on the Kenai

Love on the Kenai

Open Road Wedding (August 2016)

Wedding Recap, Minister Rachael--AK

[Insert Your Name Here]

[Insert Your Name Here]

 Setting the Stage

This is it.  It’s the big day. The day you have been planning for months. You have everything in place, all the spreadsheets and Pinterest boards are actualized. The air is electric, charged with excitement and anticipation. You walk down the aisle and are doing your best to hold back the tears. You see the cast of characters that have helped make you who you needed to be to find your way to this day. You are almost there, you look up and see your partner’s face smiling in anticipation of your arrival and in the center of your tribe, you see the face of a stranger…your wedding officiate [screeching halt, what the ?!?].

Stranger Danger is Real!

Not only did this scene play out on our wedding day, but our officiate mispronounced my name during the ceremony.  While the bungling of my name provided a bit of comic relief for those of us at the center of attention and made for some great candid photos, it is not what I hoped for. I planned for everything, but what happens when the minister can’t even pronounce your name.

Flip the Script

You need not be [insert name here] in a ceremony script that has been used hundreds of times.

The good news, is that today there are options. You need not be [insert name here] in a ceremony script that has been used hundreds of times. Your big day should be exactly that, YOUR day, a day to celebrate your journey and your story. Who better to be the person to stand with you during this moment in your life than a family member or friend that you both love and respect? Your wedding day third wheel, your storyteller, your master of ceremony should be someone who has been with you along your journey. Not someone you have spent a total of 30 minutes with.

Will You Marry Us?!?

There are many things to consider when choosing who you will ask to stand with you on your big day:

There is no perfect formula to officiate a wedding, every couple is different. Every family is different. Every ceremony is different. Often times ­it is the minister that is the special sauce that makes it unique.
  • Do you have a friend or family member that you both love and respect?
  • Does this potential officiate know you as a couple? How have they been a part of your journey as a couple?
  • Does this individual have stage presence? Charisma? Can they “bring people with them?”
  • [Full list of things to consider]

Once you have decided who will officiate your wedding ceremony, the next step is for your friend or family member to apply for ordination. Once ordained, your minister should also do their homework on the steps necessary to perform a legal wedding ceremony in your state [marriage licensing requirements by state]

Last but not least, your newly ordained minister has some additional homework to do; spinning your tale, your story…. writing your ceremony [ minister resources].

Will You Marry Us?

Will You Marry Us?

Will YOU MARRY US?

I bet that is something that you never thought would come out of your mouth. Before everyone gets weird, we’re not talking in a polygamous kind of way, but in the, “we love and respect you as a friend or family member, will you officiate our wedding ceremony” kind of way.

The last several generations have seen a fundamental shift in the United States regarding the role of religion in people’s lives. This reframing of religion has led to two distinct discussions:

  1. A shift in thinking on how couples view who is best qualified and most relevant to officiate their weddings.
  2. New conversations on religion and spirituality.

What does this mean for those planning a wedding? This means that the sooner the discussion on who will perform your ceremony happens, the better off you will be. The minute the word religion enters a conversation, one of two things happen; it either unifies or divides. It may or may not be divisive for the two of you, but let’s layer on two sets of parents, several grand parents, a couple of opinionated aunts and things get complicated fast.

 WHO SHOULD PRESIDE OVER YOUR WEDDING CEREMONY?

  • Are you getting married locally or is it a destination wedding?
  • Are either or both of you practicing in your established faiths?
  • Are your established faiths present and apparent in your day-to-day lives?
  • Have your religious practices played a significant role in your relationship and your lives together?
  • Do you practice the same faith as your partner?
...two-thirds of America’s millennials have been raised in a religiously unaffiliated household.
— Pew Research

Once you have considered these questions, the answer may be very apparent. Perhaps you are getting married in your hometown where you both grew up and attended the local church.  On the flipside, perhaps your path forward is less obvious…destination wedding, differing faiths, and religion in its traditional sense is less present in your everyday lives.  You may consider yourselves spiritual, but not religious. Maybe you have not put that much thought into your spiritually lately and you believe how you find your center, your clarity is your business and no one else’s. You are not alone; two-thirds of America’s millennials have been raised in a religiously unaffiliated household. 

 

SHOULD YOU ASK FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER TO OFFICIATE YOUR WEDDING CEREMONY?

  • Do you have a friend or family member that you both love and respect?
  • Does this potential officiate know you as a couple? How have they been a part of your journey as a couple?
  • Does this individual have stage presence, charisma? Can they “bring people with them?”
  • Is this person someone you want, literally, in your personal space on your special day?
  • Is this friend or family member vested in your path forward? Are they someone you can turn to for advice and guidance?
  • Are you in absolute agreement on who your officiate should be?
  • Is this friend or family member likely to not just say yes, but #%% YES?

IS THIS WEDDING ABOUT THEM OR US?

 If you choose not to elope, no matter how you look at it, your wedding day is not your own. You are also celebrating your tribe. Although this is your day, it is also a tribute to everyone you love. Having them in your lives has helped to make you who you needed to be to find each other. That being said there are a few last things to consider:

  • Are there religious or family traditions that you should honor during your ceremony
  • Can you honor these traditions in a ceremony officiated by an ordained friend or family member?

 If the answer is yes to question one, then the answer to question two can also be yes. Using a non-denominational ordained minister does not mean you have to have a pagan wedding where everyone renounces all things holy. A ceremony performed by an ordained friend or family member can be whatever you want it to be. 

 Planning a wedding is a wild ride, particularly if you have a destination wedding. We are often so focused on logistics and taking care of our guests that the ceremony takes a back seat. It is important that you select a wedding officiate that you are not only comfortable with, but trust to advise you as you create the ceremony and the promises that will be the roadmap for the next phase of your lives. 

Connection and personality matter.

If you have decided to have your friend or family member officiate your wedding ceremony, the first step is for them to apply for ordination. 

Checking Boxes & Chasing Rainbows

Checking Boxes & Chasing Rainbows

Church of the Open Road has been years in the making. Our more than twenty years together have been solid and without reservation, never a straight line and always an adventure. When someone asks us, "What qualifies you to start a church?” our simple answer is, we have been studying our whole lives for this.

Checking Boxes

Almost two decades ago we started our family and spent most of our lives doing exactly what you are suppose to do after finishing school: get a job, get a dog, buy a house, get married, work hard and have babies. Our life on paper was what was expected. After the birth of our second son, we sat down after a long day at work and looked at each other and said, "When we wake up in 30 years, are we going to be satisfied having lived this life?" The answer for both of us was a resounding "no."

Coloring Outside the Lines

We took this as an opportunity to reimagine our lives. We sat down after the kids were in bed and asked ourselves a lot of tough and exciting questions:

  • What is most important to us?
  • What do we value?
  • What kind of community do we want to live in and raise our children in?
  • How do we build a life we do not need a vacation from?
  • What is the minimum amount of money we need to get by?
  • How do we make a living? 
Our friends, families and colleagues thought we had lost our minds; we knew we had finally found them.

After a lot of soul searching, we sold our home, quit our corporate jobs, and moved our family to a small ski town deep in the Rocky Mountains: Crested Butte, Colorado. We landed in Crested Butte with each other, way too much stuff and a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., "Take the first step in faith. You do not need to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step." Our friends, families and colleagues thought we had lost our minds; we knew we had finally found them. We were starting a new life, one that we could live and not just pay for, one where we could be present, and one that would bring inspiration and clarity.

The Student Becomes the Teacher

 How would we we make a living? I had always wanted to teach and lucked into a full-time teaching position at the local university. I have spent the last decade educating and mentoring college students. I get paid to learn and inspire. I have never worked harder in my life, but I get to spend the summers exploring with our boys, and I have a job that keeps me young.

Where Is Your Church?

At different times for different reasons, we all evaluate our purpose, the meaning of life and our spirituality. Mike and I have always valued spirituality, but without the tether to a particular religion. Mike grew up going to a Methodist church and Catholic school. My parents were raised Catholic but did not practice as adults. While Mike was raised in a particular faith, he does not practice his faith formally. On the other hand, I have always struggled with the pressure to define or justify my beliefs. After years of searching for spirituality and religion without politics, the concept of Church of the Open Road emerged. 

Our goal is to fuel members with the desire for discovery, while reinforcing the values of embracing and finding happiness on life’s meandering path.
— Menon and Mike Billingsley

We created a community that welcomes all faiths and does not measure our devotion or salvation by the number of times we sit in a physical church. Our church is everywhere; it is the place where we find peace and clarity. For some it may be on a mountaintop, for others it may be at the beach or perhaps on a park bench. Our place of worship can be anywhere. What inspires us one day may not inspire us the next. The Church of the Open Road values nature, adventures, spirituality, community, and personal growth.