Since I became a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant in 2008, I have officiated at over 500 wedding ceremonies… because I was a minister. Even though I am trained as a Life-Cycle Celebrant, there just isn’t an easy way for a lay person to marry people here in New Jersey – we don’t have a justice of the peace option here.
So I was delighted when NJ recently passed a new law that allowed those who have trained at organizations like the Celebrant Foundation to legally solemnize weddings! CF&I’s program is an eight month long, intensive program that covers everything about being a Life-Cycle Celebrant – ritual theory, open communication, marketing, and it was frustrating to go through this extensive training, and then still have to jump through hoops to take care of the legal part of the ceremony.
I am proud to say that I am officially registered with the state department, and I can’t wait to sign my first marriage license as a “Civil Celebrant” on Tuesday!
A few years ago, when I was blogging for WeddingbeePRO, I wrote a post called “Wedding Ceremony 101,” that outlined a simple template and some tips for putting together a wedding ceremony. It’s been a very popular post over the years, and now it is new, updated, and improved, over on one of my favorite wedding websites, Offbeat Bride! Go and check it out.
I’m also featured on Allebach Photography’s blog today. I met Mike at an awesome wedding at the very beginning of September, and have been following him on Facebook ever since. If you want some very cool wedding inspiration, you probably want to like him on Facebook, too. He asked me to write up a guest post for his blog, about the importance of a wedding Celebrant. And then he wrote this very nice quote about me:
“Jessie Blum is one of the amazing Celebrants we recommend. Her ceremony of Jennifer & Jack blew me away. I had never quite heard anything like it. I highly recommend her!” – Mike Allebach
Courtney and Eric were engaged on the Brooklyn Bridge – a place that holds a special significance to Courtney, and now holds a special meaning for both of them. Their ceremony was held on the stunning Pebble Beach within Brooklyn Bridge Park, behind the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge. We included a handfasting, and they said there, “I do’s” while they were bound together.
Their personal vows were heartfelt and lovely, and the whole celebration seemed to capture them well – it was thoughtful, personal, meaningful, and unique. Their reception was held at reBar, in DUMBO, and the couple lead a parade of their guests through Brooklyn, to make their way to the celebration. Courtney wrote a really eloquent post on her blog about it, too (she has her first novel coming out soon!).
Thanks to Courtney for sharing these stunning photos with me. Just look at the bride and groom’s faces! They really say it all, right?
I am often asked, “Why do you charge so much?” Professional officiants and independent ministers in my area (New Jersey and New York City) have wide range of prices – you can find an officiant who is advertising “fully personalized wedding ceremonies” with fees from $100 to over $1000.
How can this be? Why would you even consider paying $1000 for an officiant when you can get the same service for $100?
Because you are not getting the same service from a $100 officiant, no matter what their website says or what they are telling you.
My average fee, for a full, custom, Celebrant ceremony is $800. This fee takes into consideration many factors, such as my training and expertise, as well as the literal time that goes into creating, writing, and officiating at your wedding ceremony.
Training: I completed an eight month intensive course through the Celebrant Institute and Foundation. These courses teach you the building blocks of ceremony, through studying ritual theory, and the works of people like Arnold Van Gennep and Joseph Campbell, as well as wedding case studies, ceremony writing, and more. My certificates are in their Weddings course, as well as their Family & Children’s course. I now teach Fundamentals of Celebrancy and Weddings & Other Ceremonies for Couples at CF&I, and have developed my own course for them, too: Tech Tools for the Savvy Celebrant, showing Life-Cycle Celebrants how to best use iPhones, Kindles, and other tech tools in their celebrancy practice.
Experience: I have officiated at nearly 500 ceremonies, and been a Life-Cycle Celebrant since 2008. My real world knowledge of how wedding ceremonies run and work is invaluable to my clients. I am calm, collected, and work well under pressure. I will never stress you out on your wedding day, and will do my best to make sure that everything I can is taken care of. I arrive early, look presentable, and make myself available to answer any and all questions on your wedding day – I want this process to be as easy and simple as possible for you!
Time: There is a lot of background and prep that goes into creating unique ceremonies. Each ceremony I write for my clients is original, and highly personalized towards them. The elements, rituals, and vows have all been written by me or hand-picked and carefully edited by me. So, before you even send me an email or give me a phone call, there is hours of work that has gone in already – hours of training, hours of experience, hours of research and writing.
Also, it’s important to remember that Eclectic Unions is my full time job, and primary income source. Many cheaper officiants out there will charge less because they are doing this on the side, or as a supplement to their income. I feel so lucky that I am able to support myself and my family with a vocation I am so passionate about, and being a full-time Celebrant also enables me to make myself more available for last-minute weddings, rehearsals, meetings, and other commitments. You and your wedding ceremony are my number one priority, the entire time that we work together.
So let’s start from the beginning – how did you find me? Advertising and website costs are a portion of my fee, too. I want to be sure my awesome clients can find me! I make sure my gallery and testimonials are updated, and will also frequently edit my copy, to keep it fresh and relevant.
Once you contact me and we set up a consult, I spend at least half an hour answering emails and calls, and prepping material for our meeting. Our meeting will take about an hour, but I always arrive half an hour early, because I know your time is valuable, and I don’t want to be late! I don’t count travel time here because I meet at a Starbucks very close to my home. Time spent: 1.5 hrs
Hopefully, we have an amazing meeting, and an instant connection. I spend some time after our meeting making extra notes. You decided the next day that you’d like me to officiate at your wedding, so I prep a contract and email it over to you. A few days later, I receive the contract and retainer in the mail, and I email your homework and all of my carefully crafted and written material over to you. I add all of your information to my calendar and client file, and file your contract and information. Time spent: 1 hr.
In the months before your wedding, I am always available for phone calls and email conversations. You email me a few times with some ideas, and we chat back and forth, staying in touch as your ceremony gets closer. I send you a reminder two weeks before the homework is “due,” (about three months before your big day!). Time spent: 2.5 hrs.
Now I get to work. I take out the notes from our meetings, compile all of the information you’ve sent me, and begin working on your ceremony. I have a few questions as I go, and we email or chat on the phone to clarify. I research and write any new rituals that are to be included, or edit and personalize the existing rituals I have, so they really express the meaning that my client is looking for with their ceremony. A ceremony will take me an entire day of work to complete, usually spread out over two or three days. Time spent: 8 hrs.
I email the draft over to you, and we collaborate. You make a few edits and corrections, and soon we have the final draft of the ceremony. I send information to you on how to apply for your marriage license, and help to edit the personal vows that you and your partner will plan to exchange. If you are having a program printed out, you may send it to me to make sure it’s all correct. About two weeks before the ceremony, I remind you that your final payment is due, and confirm the rehearsal. Time spent: 5 hrs.
It’s wedding week! I check in early in the week, to make sure that everything is going well, the ceremony is set, the vows are ready, and the marriage license has been acquired. I prep my ceremony script to read from on the day off. I prep all of the readings and vows you’ll be using in your ceremony, and print them for you on beautiful card stock, so it’ll look good in your photos, and you’ll have a lovely keepsake of your wedding day. I prep a cue sheet to bring, to make sure the venue coordinator has all of the information about the processional. And, of course, I am available via phone and email to assuage any last minute nerves, and help you in any way I can! Time spent: 2 hrs.
The day before your wedding, I attend the rehearsal. I arrive at least fifteen minutes early, because I don’t want to be late. The rehearsal takes about forty five minutes, and we go over the whole ceremony, start to finish, mostly concentrating on the processional and the recessional. I go over any details and information for the wedding day, meet the bridal party and venue coordinator, and collect the marriage license. Time spent: 1 hr plus travel time.
It’s your wedding day! I arrive at least half an hour early, but the truth is I’ve been sitting in the parking lot for half an hour beyond that – being on time to your wedding is so important to me, and I leave a lot of “buffer time” in case of traffic. I find you and your partner, and go over any last minute details or changes. I get the marriage license signed, and coordinate with the venue and your other wedding professionals to make sure we are all on the same page. I problem solve, if anything is going awry (Musician didn’t show up? Let me get my PA system from my car and plug an iPod into it. Venue coordinator doesn’t have the processional order? Hand them a cue sheet. Is your unity ceremony set up and ready to go? Do we have tissues in place?). And then, we start the ceremony! Time spent: 1 hr plus travel time.
Here’s the part that your guests see – a beautiful, unique, and personal ceremony, twenty to twenty five minutes in length. I guide you, your bridal party, parents, and anyone else involved with the ceremony through all of the steps, and make sure that everyone knows where they need to be and what they need to be doing. We’ve put so much time into planning this whole thing that the ceremony seems effortless. Time spent: ½ hr.
After the ceremony, I swing by the bridal suite for a hug and a goodbye, go over the information for your marriage license, and head home. I sometimes will stay for cocktail hour, but never stay for the reception. Time spent: Travel time.
The next day, I prepare and mail your marriage license, and email you a quick note of congratulations, along with the information on how to receive your marriage license. Time spent: ½ hr.
All in all, I spent at least twenty two to twenty three hours on each ceremony (depending on if you have a rehearsal or not), not including my travel time. And this doesn’t take into consideration the time I spend getting ready for the meetings, rehearsals, and weddings – I ask if you have any preferences for what I wear on your wedding day, and do my best to accommodate any requests.
So, if my base fee is $600 (not taking into account travel time or a rehearsal), this amounts to about $27 per hour. For a highly trained professional, this is a very reasonable hourly fee. You are not paying $600 for half an hour – you are paying $600 for twenty plus hours of work, and years of experience. I really think my testimonials speak for themselves here – my couples love their experience and love their wedding ceremonies!
When you are considering who to choose to officiate at your wedding, please don’t be scared away by high fees. Consider all of the time, training, and expertise that goes into creating a beautiful and unique wedding ceremony, and hire someone who will care about your wedding ceremony as much as you will. Your wedding day is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I want it to be as absolutely perfect as it can be. A Celebrant ceremony is truly an investment in your marriage and your memories.
I as so excited when Erica, a bride I married in March, contacted me to let me know her beautiful wedding was going to be featured in Sites & Services magazine. If you’re in New Jersey, you can pick up your copy now – it is the Summer/Fall 2012 issue.
Erica and Christian contacted me a couple of weeks before their wedding – they had most of their ceremony written, and were planning to have a friend officiate, but he was called to duty and was no longer able to be at the wedding. They had their ceremony and reception at the Waterside in North Bergen, which has a stunning view of the NYC skyline. Their ceremony included one of my favorite books of all time, The Giving Tree, and their personal vows were funny and heartfelt.
I loved working with them – they were such a quirky, fun, and upbeat couple! – and their ceremony and whole wedding celebration really reflected that, too.
I’m featured on Pink Chic Event’s blog today - learn how to choose a wedding officiant! Thanks, Melissa!
Choosing a wedding officiant can be stressful, but it really doesn’t have to be! Many couples are concerned when it comes to finding a wedding officiant, because they want their ceremony to reflect them – to be personal, special, and unique – and it can be hard to hand this off to a stranger, even if they are a professional! Here are some great questions to ask to be sure you find the perfect officiant for you!
Lauren and Hasan were married at reBar in Brooklyn in early May. For their ceremony, they chose one of my favorite rituals, The Circle of Love, and their friends and family were encouraged to place a tealight at the front, under their chuppah, to form a circle of love and support the couple would be married in. It went perfectly with their amazing chuppah and decor of the venue. It’s hard to believe, but these are LED tealights! They flickered and everything, and, even though I had suggested to the couple to go with LED tealights instead of real candles, for safety issues, I totally thought they were real when I walked in!
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house (Hasan included!) as the bride and groom exchanged their heartfelt and personal vows. Their ceremony was personal, lighthearted, and romantic. Lauren and Hasan met during college, and have been through a lot in their time together, and there were a lot of fun anecdotes to share that really captured their relationship. We also got a few mentions of their labradoodle Zooey in there too!
They were married under a chuppah, the Jewish marriage canopy, that represents the home that the couple is creating together. The sides are left open, to invite in their family and friends love. And Hasan broke a glass at the end, another Jewish tradition.
Lauren said: “Patient, professional, and comforting. Jessie did an incredible job with our ceremony. From our initial meeting, we knew we were in the perfect hands. She is extremely organized and really knows her craft. She responds to any questions or concerns extremely fast. Everyone at the wedding commented that our ceremony was beautiful and touching. Jessie helped make that happen!”
Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, and the unofficial start of wedding season! I had four weddings, each unique and different, and I get a lot of questions, from my couples and my colleagues, about what a multiple wedding weekend is like on my end, so I thought I’d take some shots and share my days!
My weekend started with a low-key Saturday morning and afternoon, where I caught up on some ceremony writing (finishing a wedding for July and a baby blessing for June!), and then got ready for my evening wedding! It was a backyard wedding, and a very simple ceremony – which was good, because it wouldn’t stop drizzling! We pushed through anyway, and just as the bride made her way to the front, the rain cleared up for the few minutes we needed for the ceremony.
Reading over the ceremony before hand.
Sunday was a two wedding day! I headed into the city to celebrate with Lesley and Perry, who were married at 91 Horatio Street. The space was so beautiful, awash in draped fabric and vintage-styled peach flowers. I met Lesley at the Lovesick Expo in January, and was so happy I could be a part of her wedding – her smile and gregarious attitude are just so inviting!
There was NO traffic on the way into the city, so I took a little walk along the High Line before heading to the venue.
The couple were married in a Humanist-styled, Jewish-centric ceremony, under a chuppah made from the bride’s great grandma’s tablecloth.
We signed a ketubah, the Jewish marriage certificate, before the ceremony – we had the moms sign the Ketubah, and the dads sign the legal marriage license.
I headed home after the wedding, and snuck in some time for lunch, a short nap, and an outfit change!
And some kitty snuggling, of course!
Connie and Don, my second couple for the day, requested that I wear all black, so I swapped my grey blazer out for a soft black draped cardigan, and touched up my make-up before heading to Red Bank. They were getting married at the Molly Pitcher Inn, overlooking the water, and I was keeping my fingers crossed that the rain would stay away!
Their beautiful ceremony arrangements!
We were lucky, and we got a beautiful, not too hot day on the water. I didn’t get a photo, but the bride’s bouquet was studded with grape hyacinths, my favorite flower!
Connie and Don’s ceremony was light-hearted and fun, with two great readings (Sandol Stoddard Warburg’s I Like You and Dr. Seuss’ Oh! The Places You Will Go!), and had a fun little shout out to their dog, Zooey, too! Their ceremony included two rituals: the wine ceremony, and the wine box ceremony.
Ceremony props, all ready to go!
On the Monday of Memorial Day weekend, we started off by having a very nice lunch with my parents, before heading down the Hamilton for my evening wedding at one of the most amazing venues I’ve ever worked at, the Grounds for Sculpture. I asked my husband to tag along, as he had never been, and I thought he would love the sculpture and art exhibits that are there.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to take any photos! There was a small emergency situation before the ceremony, with a missing marriage license (don’t worry! it has been located!), and it was 95 degrees outside! The ceremony took place at the Nine Muses, this beautiful sculpture surrounded by a moat, and it was a beautiful ceremony. The couple had reconnected, twenty-eight years after they had originally met, via Facebook, so we thanked not only the mutual friend who introduced them, but also Mark Zuckerberg (also a newlywed himself!). I hopefully will have a full blog post coming on this wedding, because it was really that awesome, as soon as I can wrangle some photos!
Lessons learned: bring a lot of water, band-aids, and double check the marriage license has made it to the venue.