Monday, February 22, 2010

Sara and Birama Got Married in October at The Spruce Pine Lodge

Sara contacted me by email in January of 2009 from her Peace Corps post in Mali where she would be finishing up her assignment in just a few months. She'd be coming home in the summer and wanted to be married in North Carolina in October at Spruce Pine Lodge. Owned by the City of Durham, on Lake Michi, it's a wonderful venue for a small wedding. The grounds are large and the lodge has a rustic feel yet has all the amenities. I've done many weddings there over the years. And I know that weddings happen there all the time.

I really appreciated the ability to do initial planning via email but it began to be really fun with I got to meet Sara and Baba in the month before their wedding. They'd had a wedding in Mali surrounded by family and friends there, and now they were to have a wedding surrounded by family and friends here. Sara and Birama speak most easily together in French. Birama is learning English fast but it's not an easy language even for those of us who grew up here. So our conversation was in two languages, and I got to be reminded how much and how little I remember from my High School French classes.

It turned out to be a beautiful mid-October Sunday so we got to hold the wedding outdoors on the lawn.

There was wonderful music for both the ceremony and the reception. Miguel Joseph of Yeshuana Entertainment, and William Beasely of Rockstar Entertainment both offered their talents to the occasion. And the reception was catered by the always great, Durham Catering Company.

I also got an opportunity to bone up a little on my French so that during the ceremony I could say Birama's vows in French and tell him that he was married in French. I practiced so those now awkward syllables rolled a little more easily off my tongue. I was glad to be able to have some part of the ceremony in Birama's own language. It was fun for me and I hope it made the ceremony a little more personal to him.

We also did something in their ceremony that was so much fun that I now recommend it to other couples.

After I pronounced them married and offered words of blessing upon their marriage, I asked Birama and Sara to turn around and face their guests, then I asked if any of their guests wanted to call blessings out to them in Bambara, the language of Mali.
Since Birama's brother and best friend were there, as were several Peace Corps volunteers who had served in Mali, several happy people jumped to their feet, shouted a blessing (I gathered that some were traditional Bambara blessings) and sat down, to be followed close behind by another spirited person. It was lively, heart felt, and spontaneous, and was a perfect way to begin the celebrations.

Birama is a jewelry maker. I wish you could see the unique and stunningly beautiful wedding necklace he made for Sara. You can catch just a glimpse of it behind her flowers. I wish him much good fortune in selling his creations.

And I wish them both many blessings as they begin this new adventure together!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Open House at The Hilton in Durham Near Duke University

On a rainy Monday after noon in February The Hilton in Durham Near Duke University opened their doors to wedding professionals so we could learn more about their venue. While I'd been there in the past, when I had to remind myself how to get there I realized - Oh - this is easy. It's right off I-85 at the Cole Mill Rd. exit. Wedding Planning is managed by Sarah Huggins and group room bookings by Colleen Coburn.

For the open house, they'd planned a scavenger hunt for us of little hidden goodies (heart candies, balloons, ribbons, roses, etc) in all of their meeting spaces, restaurants, and ball rooms and even in a guest room. They even had fabulous hors d'oeuvres their staff had made for us, including créme brulée.

They've remodeled recently and the whole place sparkles. Their meeting rooms are huge and well lit. For an inside wedding, you have spaciousness that can't be found in lots of other local venues.
Yet the venue has an intimacy about it. You can't get lost and all the public spaces are on one floor.

I've officiated at lots of weddings that need a place for the wedding party and family to gather before the ceremony. This has it in the spacious bar.

They even have a free shuttle bus that operates within a 5 mile radius of the hotel (which gets you to lots of the fun downtown Durham places) and they recommend Super Shuttle for airport transportation.

Makes me wish I was getting married!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dallas and Allison at Delightful Inspirations

On October 24th, Allison and Dallas got married at Delightful Inspirations in Raleigh! (Dallas and Allison chose Delightful Inspirations partly because it everything could be in one spot and they provided the catering, too. Thanks to Anne Caspar there for all her help that day.) It's hard to believe that it's been almost 4 months. I'm so glad Allison sent me these pictures so that I can relive their wonderful day.

It turned out to be one of those October weekends where the rain comes and goes. The ceremony was meant to be outside and the weather held even through the rehearsal. But as so often happens in October, we had to go to Plan B. Luckily, we had rehearsed for that possibility, too.

I was glad because it freed them to just celebrate. And there was much to celebrate. Allison and Dallas' love developed slowly while partnering together on long shifts as they became friends who could count on each other through thick or thin. And that support has been important. During these years Dallas had learned how to be attentive and romantic, and Allison had learned how to accept and appreciate Dallas' playfulness and easy going way.

Allison and her father were piped in by bagpiper, Robert J. White, who is a US Army Special Forces Retired Sergeant 1st Class. (919-772-4231, We all felt especially grateful that Allison's father could walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. And it was an especially special moment for him, too. Now both she and her sister, Carolyn, her Matron of Honor, would be married to good men that he knew.

We honored this in the classic way of honoring a father's closeness to his daughter and his peace knowing she has a husband and partner she can rely on. I asked him, 'Who gives this woman to be married to this man?' And he answered, 'Her mother and I do.'

Dallas' playful manner was evident in their ceremony, as Dallas interjected soft playful kidding all through the ceremony. You'll see it in the twinkle in both their eyes.

Family and friends were in abundance, with even a cousin of Allison's coming all the way from Glasgow, Scotland to be at their ceremony.
Another wonderful note of her Scot's heritage.

Thanks To Annie Harrison of Annie Harrison Photography for all these great pictures. They had another light touches in their ceremony with the short Ogden Nash poem 'To Keep Your Marriage Brimming,' which goes: 'To keep your marriage brimming, with love in the loving cup, whenever you're wrong admit it, whenever you're right shut up.'

These light moments were joined by with the deeper heartfelt moments in which we thanked Dallas and Allison's parents for their unstinting support, and in which we honored the way that Allison and Dallas had grown their love through the daily choice they had made to prioritize their love for each other and to find the sustenance within it to grow as individuals and partners.

They had a sand ceremony within their wedding ceremony to symbolize the inextricable joining of their lives.

Then I got to offer the Scottish Wedding Prayer in their names,
Lord, help us to remember when we first met and the strong love that grew between us. To work that love into practical things so that nothing can divide us. We ask for words both kind and loving, and hearts always ready to ask forgiveness as well as to forgive. Dear Lord, we put our marriage into your hands.

And of course, we can't forget the kiss.

And the joy in their eyes as they recessed with just the partying ahead of them. After having eaten well, they all partied well into the night with the help of Jason Eder of Complete Music Disk Jocky Service.

I wish them tremendous happiness! This is a couple who have helped and encouraged each other to grow in love, confidence, courage, and generosity of spirit. It's shown itself in their professional lives and in all they touch.

They witness to the power of love in their own and in our lives. Blessings to them all ways and always!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Phil and Christina's Wonderful November Wedding

On November 7th, with much love and support, Christina and Phil celebrated their marriage at The Berryhill Estate in South Boston, Virginia. It was a gorgeous fall day and everything seemed to fall into place beautifully to celebrate Phil and Christina's love.

Christina and Phill planned well beforehand and I could see as their day unfolded that it all was paying off. Berryhill estate is in a quiet spacious setting with a modern inn attached so that all the festivities could be in one location. There's no road noise yet its easy to get to. Once there all the guests could relax and enjoy the wonderful separation from the reminders of every day tasks.

A note about weddings in Virginia: Officiants must register with the state of Virginia in person and only those ordained clergy who can prove their ordination by a valid ordaining body are authorized to perform weddings. Make sure that the officiant you choose is licensed to perform weddings in VA! Also in VA only the minister signs the license, while in NC you need two people to serve as witnesses.

Thanks for Shawn Mary Tomkinson of Shawn Mary Tomkinson Photography for these wonderful pictures. She and her associate were so easy to work and brought such skill to the day in this setting which could be tricky because of its grandeur.

The New Hope Players, the string quartet on the veranda with me, led off with the Air from Suite #3 in D Major by Bach, providing an elegant entrance for Christina and Phil's grandparents and parents. Then their Best Man, Patrick (Phil's brother) and their Maid of Honor, Valerie entered with Phil and Christina's dogs, Hailey and Rex. I remember Hailey romping in the long expanse of front yard before the ceremony. A dog's idea of heaven.

Rhonda van der Schagt from The Berryhill Estate was in wonderful charge of the procession as the wedding party entered from the right of the beautiful ante-bellam estate.
Christina entered to Pachelbel's Canon in D navigating all those steps in her beautiful floor length gown. Phil was there to help her and you could see his respect for her as he escorted her carefully up each step. I knew it boded well for their marriage.

Before they spoke their vows, Christina's grandparents, Nanny and Pappy read from Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, from the New Testament. It was touching to hear those classic words about love from people whose marriage bore witness to their truth . Then two friends read excerpts from 'The Bridge Across Forever' by Richard Bach which speak of finding our soul mate and what that means to our lives.

I was amazed at how well our voices carried easily in this larger than life setting. And I'm glad they did because Phil and Christina each wrote their own very personal vows to each other that were heartfelt, tender, down to earth, and timeless. They'll be able to draw upon them at many points in their journey together. They each sent me the vows they'd written beforehand so that I had them but they hadn't seen what the other had written. They're close to their families and all of us were touched by the very real and open affection they expressed to each other.

So often couples are shy. With Phil and Christina, I saw them take the power of the moment to let everything else fall away but each other and the love they wanted to express. I was so glad they claimed this for themselves. It will live forever in their hearts.

I got to say the following wonderful words of blessing upon their marriage at the end of their ceremony: "May the love that has brought you together continue to grow and enrich your lives, bringing peace and inspiration to each of you and to those who know you. May you meet with courage the problems which arise to challenge you, may you meet with strength the troubles that beset you. Phil and Christina, may your marriage be one of ever growing depth and meaning, understanding and love which you give to one another in the life you share. May you find far more in life than either would have found alone. May you find tolerance for the prejudices, reverence for the beauties, and respect for the truths you will encounter as you go forward together. Amen."

Then I had the fun of introducing them as a married couple. As everyone cheered, so did they.
I could tell that the reception would be a great celebration. And I was delighted for them adding silent blessings and delight in addition to those I formally offered in their ceremony.

True to who they are, they were gracious in their thanks to me, and I appreciated it a lot.
I got the following wonderful note from Christina after they returned from their honeymoon in Belize: 'Thank you so much for everything leading up to the wedding and on the big day. We received so many compliments from guests about our ceremony and how personal and meaningful it was, and I can't thank you enough for helping guide us through the process! I wanted to let you know I've posted a rave review to OneWed, and I wish you the very best!'

I seldom stay for the reception, preferring to come home to my own Sweetheart, Ruben. (We just celebrated our 10th anniversary!) Yet I know that many many more professionals work hard to make each couple's wedding special. I love to honor them and their efforts. For all of us this is a labor of love.

Phil and Christina's beautiful cake was made by Lisa Guadagnini of Tier Bella. The cranes were made by Christina. Christina's love and skill with origami was also evident in the amazing origami bouquets for the reception.

Christina's and her bride's maids flowers were done by Tre Bella Florist in Durham, NC. Notice the big lush hydrangeas. They were gorgeous.

And not to be forgotten, the DJ for the celebration was Greg Ramsely of the inimitable Joe Bunn Dj Company.

I wish Phil and Christina all the joy that marriage can bring.

Just thinking of them now brings a smile to my heart.