Guest Blogs: Offbeat Bride and Allebach Photography!

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

A Life-Cycle Celebrant’s Worth

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.

Eclectic Unions Wedding Featured in Sites & Services NJ!

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.

Click to see larger!

 

How to Choose a Wedding Officiant

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!

Click over to Melissa’s blog to check out some more hints and tips!

Guest Post on Sage Wedding Pros

 

Check out Sage Wedding Pros to see my advice for fellow wedding professionals who would like to know how to refer couples to officiants!  Read more to learn what a professional officiant does, and how we add value to our couple’s overall wedding experience. Thanks for the opportunity, Michelle!

PS: Hi there!  I know I haven’t been blogging very much, but I try to keep Eclectic Union’s Facebook page really up to date – check it out to see what I’ve been up to, recent reviews and photos from ceremonies, and other fun stuff.  If you’re not already, you should “like” it!

Wedding Ideas: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Getting Hitched

Today (May 25) is Towel Day.  It is in honor of Douglas Adam’s and his series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  In honor of Mr. Adams and his amazing books, one is supposed to carry a towel where ever they go.  Why?

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours… you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough. (More – From the Towel Day FAQ)

But what does this have to do with weddings?  Well, I recently officiated at a wedding that used a great excerpt from Adam’s book So Long and Thanks for All the Fish – and it is a surprisingly appropriate and fun wedding reading!

For Arthur, who could usually contrive to feel self-conscious if left alone for long enough with a Swiss cheese plant, the moment was one of sustained revelation. He felt on the sudden like a cramped and zoo-born animal who wakes one morning to find the door to his cage hanging quietly open and the savanna stretching gray and pink to the distant rising sun, while all around new sounds are waking.

He wondered what the new sounds were as he gazed at her openly wondering face and her eyes that smiled with a shared surprise.

He hadn’t realized that life speaks with a voice to you, a voice that brings you answers to the questions you continually ask of it, had never consciously detected it or recognized its tones until it now said something it had never said to him before, which was “yes.”

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Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos with me, Rachel and Jeff!
They also had a sand ceremony, and a Wine and Love Letter ritual (which was introduced with a Terry Pratchett reading!)


Finding readings the fit and work well for the couple is one of my favorite challenges in creating unique wedding ceremonies… maybe a reading from Douglas Adams is right for you?

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My own nod to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on our wedding day – a Don’t Panic cake topper!


Check out my New Jersey wedding officiant listing on Thumbtack!

Honoring Mom

Mother’s Day is a great time to think about how you’d like to honor your mom (or any parent) in your wedding ceremony.

Consider having her walk you down the aisle. I love when my couples include their moms in the processional.  Walking in with your mom, or with both parents, is a sweet and simple way to acknowledge and honor.  And it’s not just for the bride – why not have the groom walk in with his mom, perhaps heading up the processional, instead of just “appearing” at the front with the Celebrant?

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You could feel their love when Maryann walked down the aisle with her mom at her wedding at the Madison Hotel. (Photo courtesy of Kamilla Harris)

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My husband walked down the aisle with his mom and grandma.  (Photo Courtesy of Sarah Schulte)

Include them with a ritual, or special reading. Many couples choose to include their moms with a unity candle, sand ceremony, or handfasting.  They can light the taper, pour the first layer of sand, or tie your hands.

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Sarah and John’s moms came up to present their wedding rings, taking a moment to warm them in their hands, and add their own love and blessings for their children, as they were married. (Photo Courtesy of Cindy Patrick)

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Blake and Jason, married at Merri-Maker’s At Water’s Edge in Sea Bright, NJ, had their parents join them at the front, for a moment, to say special vows of support.

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Janice and Allen had their parents present flower garlands to their new son- and daughter-in-law, which the couple then presented to their partner, as a symbolic way of showing the unique beauty and power of their love and commitment.

One of my favorite wedding rituals is a Flower Presentation, where you give your mom a rose, flower, or small bouquet, in honor of the love and support they have offered to you.  It’s a sweet way to recognize moms!

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My husband and I presented our moms with nosegays during our wedding ceremony (Photo Courtesy of Sarah Schulte).

And, if your mom is no longer with us, we can, of course, honor your continued love for her in the ceremony as well.  Placing a special flower or token on the chair that would have been hers in the first row, during the processional or during the ceremony, including a special item that reminds you of her in the bouquet or pinned to your dress, or lighting a candle in remembrance are all sweet rituals to include.

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Lisa and Quinn released butterflies in honor of Lisa’s mom, who is no longer with us.

Including words, an anecdote or story, or just the mention of how much you love your mom into the text of the wedding ceremony is another simple way to let your mom know, on your special day, just how important she is to you!

Our Eclectic Union: Honoring Marriage Equality!

I wrote a blog post about how Dan and I honored and included the fight for marriage equality in our wedding ceremony for one of my favorite wedding planning blogs, So You’re EnGAYged.  Here’s an excerpt – head over the the blog to check out the full post!

“Marriage is a promise that you make to that other person, a promise to stay in love with them forever, to be related forever, and that you’ll always be together.” – Dan Savage

Honoring marriage equality was really important to me while my husband, Dan, and I were working with our celebrant to put together our wedding ceremony.

We began by tying White Knots on our personal flowers – mine on my bouquet, and his on his boutonniere. The White Knot is a symbol of support for marriage equality – a statement that everyone should be able to legally “tie the knot.”

How did we work with our celebrant, April Beer, to include a reading and re-interpret a Jewish tradition to further incorporate marriage equality? Head over to So You’re EnGAYged to find out!

Reading Idea: A Lovely Love Story

I am always on the look out for fun wedding readings to suggest to my couples!  A recent couple chose a wonderful reading, a sweet and lovely modern day fable, called “A Lovely Love Story” by Edward Monkton, and I just had to share it.

 


How adorable are the little dinosaurs?

The fierce Dinosaur was trapped inside his cage of ice. Although it was cold he was happy in there. It was, after all, his cage.

Then along came the Lovely Other Dinosaur. The Lovely Other Dinosaur melted the Dinosaur’s cage with kind words and loving thoughts.

“I like this Dinosaur,” thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur. “Although he is fierce he is also tender and he is funny. He is also quite clever, though I will not tell him this for now.”

“I like this Lovely Other Dinosaur,” thought the Dinosaur. “She is beautiful and she is different and she smells so nice. She is also a free spirit which is a quality I much admire in a dinosaur.”

“But he can be so distant and so peculiar at times,” thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur. “He is also overly fond of things. Are all Dinosaurs so overly fond of things?”

“But her mind skips from here to there so quickly,” thought the Dinosaur. “She is also uncommonly keen on shopping. Are all Lovely Other Dinosaurs so uncommonly keen on shopping?”

“I will forgive his peculiarity and his concern for things,” thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur. “For they are part of what makes him a richly charactered individual.”

“I will forgive her skipping mind and her fondness for shopping,” thought the Dinosaur. “For she fills our life with beautiful thoughts and wonderful surprises. Besides, I am not unkeen on shopping either.”

Now the Dinosaur and the Lovely Other Dinosaur are old. Look at them. Together they stand on the hill telling each other stories and feeling the warmth of the sun on their backs.

And that, my friends, is how it is with love. Let us all be Dinosaurs and Lovely Other Dinosaurs together. For the sun is warm. And the world is a beautiful place