Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lake Lure Wedding - Sarah and Shane

 I just received these photos from a wedding I officiated at Lake Lure in October. As you can see, this is an absolutely beautiful location. And the best part... it's very affordable. Which means it is very popular.

The waterfront gazebo is located in the town park. There are several restaurants nearby so you could have a nice reception dinner without driving very far. And if you want more options for dining, Asheville in a short drive.

One couple from out of state planned an entire weekend for their guests, arranging for everyone to visit Chimney Rock State Park and take a boat tour of Lake Lure. (By the way, if you don’t know, Dirty Dancing was filmed at Lake Lure. Their guests were very happy to receive such special ‘treatment’. And this is really important when family and friends travel a great distance to be with you on your wedding day. Their comfort should be an important consideration.

 I met with Sarah and Shane before their wedding and they were able to give me a clear idea of what they envisioned for their ceremony. Shane had one main request, which I was able to honor...

The weather was perfect on the BIG day. I started watching the forecast about a week ahead of the date and felt like everything would be ok. But with the weather, you never really know. And... the gazebo at Lake Lure is large enough to move everything inside if necessary.

And here they are... all the planning.. all the work.. Finally married! Ready to celebrate with family and friends before heading to the Carribean.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Planning a wedding – Where to start

As you probably already know there are a ton of resources on the internet to help with wedding planning. Checklists of all descriptions, some basic, some very detailed. Every wedding and bride magazine has one. There are wedding planning books and journals to make sure every detail is addressed. It can be quite overwhelming… Even small weddings and simple elopements require planning and preparation.

Through the years I have received numerous inquiries from couples who want to marry but ‘have no idea where to start’. Many are coming from out of state or even out of the country. Wedding planning from a distance requires quite a bit of coordination. I gently remind them that I am a minister, not a wedding planner. However, having said that I am happy to point couples in the right direction.

If you are planning a wedding and don’t know where to start…here are some things to consider (in no particular order)

Type of wedding
Formal, semi-formal, casual, themed… traditional, contemporary, religious, inter-faith, multi-culture, spiritual, non-religious, civil… there are so many labels…

Oh more...  a  surprise wedding.. I have officiated several of these. Sometimes family and friends think they are attending a birthday party, cookout or some other event, only to find out they have been invited to a wedding! And once even the groom was surprised to learn his 'vacation' to North Carolina was his wedding. The bride made all of the arrangements and even had their wedding clothes (formal attire) shipped ahead of time. She told him on the morning of their wedding that they needed to get their marriage license. (he was thrilled!)

Number of Guests
Although the budget is important, the number of guests you plan on inviting will often determine the budget. Will your wedding be ‘couple only’, family and friends, or will it be a large affair, including several hundred guests? I suggest making of rough list, divided into three categories of guests, absolute, should, and maybe. (just an example) This will help you choose your venue and possibly affect or determine your budget.

Date of wedding
Many wedding venues book up quickly, particularly during spring and fall. You may want to have a couple of dates in mind. Weather, holidays, school calendars, work schedules may be a consideration. After you have a date in mind, check with the ‘key’ people (family and wedding party) to make sure there are no conflicts

Some venues will give a discount for off season, Friday or Sunday weddings. Even the time is a factor at the larger venues. Morning or afternoon weddings are sometimes less expensive that evening weddings.

Indoor or Outdoor: church, chapel, wedding venue, bed & breakfast, inn, estate, villa, winery, park or other public area, historical site, private home or rented cabin. (And yes, you can have a religious wedding at any of these locations.)

Many couples ask about waterfall weddings… After all there are thousands in North Carolina…I always remind couples to consider the physical ability of their guests. Most waterfalls require some effort. Hiking or a large number of steps (Looking Glass Falls) may be required. And there are no rest rooms. I have officiated weddings where the bride has walked a mile (or farther) dressed in a wedding gown and high heel shoes… in the summer… If this is your dream wedding, be sure to allow plenty of time… and make sure your guests are aware of what will be required.

And there was an instance last summer at Hickory Nut Falls (this did not happen to me) where there was a downpour when the wedding was taking place. Needless to say, everyone was drenched! I saw the bride and groom (after the ceremony and the rain had stopped) posing for photographs. They did not look happy!

Which brings me to another very important point…. have a backup rain site. This is not as important if you’re planning a small family wedding and everyone is ok with a little rain. But trust me; if you’re planning a large wedding your guests will very much appreciate the fact that you have a ‘back up’ plan. And it doesn’t have to be rain. In the spring or fall, the weather could be quite cold. It’s not unusual for us to have a ‘cold snap’ at the end of April or the first of May. And who knows what the fall will be like. This year the weather has been great. Here it is almost Thanksgiving and we’re near 70 degrees, for days now.

Have a plan… you can always wait until you see the weather forecast and make the call, even on the day of your wedding. Just be sure you have a way of notifying your guests…

Who will officiate
In North Carolina you have two choices: a magistrate or ordained minister. Some magistrates will travel but most are only available for weddings performed at the courthouse. If you are a church member, your pastor may not be available to travel to your location. Here’s where I come in…  I am a non-denominational ordained minister (Hospice chaplain) and can officiate any type of ceremony at any location. I will need to know the date, time and location before I can verify my availability. Once my service is secured, I will work with you to create the perfect wedding ceremony, each and every detail… This will allow you time and energy to attend to the other areas that require attention.

This is a biggie. When our daughters were married (within six weeks of each other) we started with a budget. I soon realized I did not have a clear idea of exactly how much a wedding would cost! (or should I say two weddings…) And… to be honest, our budget kept increasing…For us, the budget was important, not so much as a limit but to keep the weddings equitable. Neither of their weddings were large but as I’m sure you will quickly find out, if not already, the cost keeps increasing… venue, cake (and topper), food, flowers, photographer, DJ, chairs and tablecloth rental, invitations/postage, overnight accommodations for guests… not counting the dress, veil (and jeweled headband…), shoes, jewelry,… and don’t forget the expensive ‘gotta have’ undergarments that make the wedding dress fit perfectly… And the day of ….hair, makeup, nails etc…. the list and the budget keeps escalating…

Once you have an idea of the venue and the number of guests your expecting you’ll be able to calculate a budget. If you’re started with a fixed amount for your budget, chose the three most important things and allow for those expenses first. These should be the three things that will make your wedding perfect!

Buffet, sit down, or appetizers? Alcohol, full bar, wine and beer only, or perhaps ‘cash’ bar? If you include alcohol, this could increase your budget significantly, depending on what you choose. Some venues, charge a ‘corkage fee’ if you provide your own wine.

Some venues prepare the food on site or they may require that you chose from one of their ‘approved caterers’. I have officiated several small family weddings where the couple hired ‘personal chefs’. This was a great idea and I’ll be happy to give you more details if it interests you.

And there have been couples who, with the help of their families, prepared the food for the reception. This is a great way to save money but does add a lot of stress if the couple is actually doing the work themselves… If you’re looking at this option. ..Delegate.. Allow your family and friends to help. This is your wedding day and you don’t want to be running around like a crazy person…

Other things to think about..
Flowers, wedding cake and table decorations? What about music, live, DJ or recorded? Photographer? Wedding favors? Honeymoon?

So…… after reading through this, you’ve started to re-think the whole big wedding plan, ready to throw your hands up and elope…. Many couples become overwhelmed by the planning (and cost) and decide to have a personal private wedding. (hint... RiverMist) In many cases, there is a reception at a later date to celebrate with family and friends. This works perfectly for many couples and they’re relaxed, stress-free and can enjoy the celebration..

Whatever you decide, make your wedding about the two of you and what you want.

 I’m writing this while looking at the beautiful Atlantic Ocean, taking a little vacation from fall weddings…

The temperature is perfect, rates are low and the beach is deserted. At night I fall asleep listening to the waves, with the sliding door open, and wake up each morning to a beautiful sunrise over the ocean. 

Just me and the gulls on the beach. This one was taking a little siesta beside me and looked so funny with his head turned completely around and tucked under his wings.

North Carolina is wonderful… from the mountains to the coast......nothing could be finer….

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fall Wedding at Chetola in Blowing Rock

Fall is a wonderful time to get married in North Carolina. Just ask Chris and Sandra who traveled from Florida to marry at the beautiful Chetola Resort.

Chetola has many options for wedding ceremonies. There are several outside locations and small intimate weddings can take place inside, in front of a beautiful stone fireplace.
We included an oathing stone as part of the vows. Chris and Sandra each held rose quartz (the stone of love) as they made their promises, thus ‘setting them in stone’. This stone was later used in the ceremony as part of the ring blessing. After the ceremony, the stone will be placed in a prominent place in their home ‘to keep love alive’.

Looks like that won't be a problem for these two.

The area by the lake is a great spot for photos and I wanted to share a few with you.

Many thanks to Jeremy Gouge the photographer who took these lovely photos!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kindred Spirits, Rayne and Lake, Re-United

Goodness, where to start… I guess at 5:30 am. Well, the alarm clock was set for 5:30. I was actually awake at 5:15, excited and ready to start my day.

Amanda, now known as Rayne, and I have been communicating by email and phone for several months. She had a good idea of what she wanted and by using some of my resources we planned the perfect ceremony.

Rayne and Lake have a very special love which was just 'meant to be'..  Life kept moving these two toward each other and now they will travel side by side…

There’s a funny story about their wedding attire, which was hand made using hemp. Evidently airport officials were alarmed with a package containing the word ‘hemp’ so the package had been opened by airport security. (They were kind enough to repackage it once they discovered it contained clothing.)

We had originally planned for a noon ceremony but after giving it some thought, they decided to start their new life together at the beginning of a new day.

This morning was a perfect fall morning, chilly but not too cold. (it was 32 degrees… I guess that counts as cold, at least my fingers and toes thought so..Luckily we had lots of hot coffee..)

Symbolism was an important element in Rayne and Lake’s ceremony. We began with a hand washing ceremony. We used natural spring water and they combined a mixture of herbs representing the attributes they wanted to bring into their marriage:
Sweet marjoram – joy and happiness
Lavender – devotion
Chamomile – patience in adverse times
Sage – long life, good health
Rosemary – remembrance
Ivy – friendship and loyalty
First Rayne washed her hands and then Lake washed his, not to wash away the past but to begin their marriage anew. Then they washed and dried each other’s hands signifying that they will always express loving kindness toward each other.

After personal vows, their wedding rings were blessed using the four elements, air, fire, earth and water. It was a touching moment as they repeated ‘ I take a piece of my heart and place it into yours…..’
But here’s the coolest thing… They wanted to get married just as the sun was coming up, which is a little later for us since we’re in a valley.. I had been paying close attention to the sunrises so I was hoping the timing would be perfect.
and…. VoilĂ 

A new day and a new life!

It was obvious that Rayne and Lake have a deep love of nature. They were like two young children exploring the creek. We left them there while we downloaded the photos.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kelly and Shaun - Happily Married

Kelly and I have been communicating for several months. She and Shaun chose our retreat center for their small family wedding. Originally, they planned on getting married with only their two sons present. However, after giving this some thought, Kelly and Shaun realized they could not get married without having their immediate families present.

Their wedding took place on the deck overlooking the Broad River. Guy and I were laughing before they arrived. I worked hard, sweeping the leaves off the deck and then decorated the railing with artificial leaves. Go figure!

 I really wanted to include this picture. It's amazing how the expression changes once a couple is  pronounced husband and wife.
 Their boys were paying close attention.
 A Family Unity Sand Ceremony was included. They chose fall colors and they blended beautifully.
Isn't this a lovely vase?
 Lots of bubbles... You just never get too old to have fun blowing bubbles.
 See how the expression has change. Whew...
 And then off for their honeynmoon!
When planning a wedding there are a lot of decisions to make. Even simple elopements require some planning. Spend time talking with each other about what you truly want. Large wedding, simple elopement or something in between. There are many options.... Don't settle.. Make your dreams a reality...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Christian Unity Candle and Unity Sand Set

I love sharing information and am very excited to learn of a local craftsman who is making beautiful Christian Unity Sets. If you are planning to incorporate a unity candle or sand ceremony I highly recommend, Michael Sharp of RazorSharp Woodworking.

The original idea was to create a personalized Unity Candle and Cross Set but after receiving numerous requests, the design has been modified to create a Unity Sand and Cross Set as well.

Rather than purchasing a 'off the shelf’ set why not consider something of lasting quality. You may want to start a tradition in your family as your children and grandchildren get married using the same candle cross set. The base of the set is made of three scalloped pieces of wood representing the trinity. The cross has a new tree of life growing out of the base, two entwined rings representing the union and a descending dove to bless the union. The set comes with plain white candles to encourage you to use it each year on your anniversary to renew your vows. Sets are made from Ambrosia Maple which has striking wood grain and character.

You may want to include a personalized ‘children’s board’. This is a wonderful way to bring children into a blended family.

Michael, who lives near Winston Salem, was born in Southern Arkansas and began his love affair with wood in Potlatch’s pine forests while visiting his grandparents as a young boy. After many years of crafting furniture for his, now college age children, he has decided to offer his creations to the wider community.
When speaking with Michael, it becomes evident that he takes great pride in his creations and is honored to have his crafts lovingly displayed.

Here's another one of his creations. Wouldn't this make a wonderful wedding gift?

There are also many unique holiday pieces on his website and well as beautiful carved crosses.
If you have questions or would like more information please contact Michael 336-473-5218 or email

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fall Weddings in North Carolina

October has become very popular for weddings in the mountains of North Carolina.. And that should come as no surprise. Warms days and cool nights…What could be more perfect than an outdoor ceremony surrounded by the beauty of nature.

It was my honor to officiate several ceremonies during the past month. There were a few couples who hired photographers so I’m hoping to have those photos to post soon. For now here are a few that we took.

Many couples are choosing non-traditional wedding ceremonies. Jennifer and Steve wanted a ceremony that reflected their personalities. Steve, an enviromental scientist, and Jennifer love the outdoors, particularly hiking in the mountains. On the day before their wedding at the Inn at Mill Creek they hiked the area, gathering flowers and berries for the bridal bouquet.
Don't they look happy... Relaxed and stress-free...
And we had a couple of weddings at our Retreat Center. Karen and Mike were such a fun couple and were looking forward to spending their honeymoon hiking around the Asheville area.
They included a 'Celtic Bell of Truce' in their ceremony. Whenever a disagreement occurs, either one of them can ring the bell and call a 'truce', without fault or blame. I don't think they will be using this bell very often!

We concluded the ceremony with the 'breaking of glass'. May their  bond of love be as difficult to break as it would be to put together the pieces of the broken glass.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wedding at Crooked Oak Mountain Inn - Asheville

It's been a while since I officiated a wedding at Crooked Oak Mountain Inn and I was excited about seeing Bear and Patti, the innkeepers.

The location is perfect. One minute you're in downtown Asheville and then suddenly you're away from the traffic and hustle/bustle and enter a magical place. You can just tell from these photos that this place emits love.

When I arrived, after a hug and kiss on the cheek, Bear parked my car for me. Such a gentleman... he did remark about my Midnight Milky Way wrapper in the floorboard. (A girl's gotta do something while she's driving down the road.... ) He confessed that he 'approved' of my choice. I just can't tell you how nice Bear and Patti are! They are so friendly and happy. You feel like you are visiting family and it's always a joy to officiate a wedding at their inn.

I met Daniel, the groom, as soon as I arrived. He immediately commented on how happy he was to have his wedding at this location. He and Cindy wanted to get married at a Bed and Breakfast and had a list of several they visited. He said the Crooked Oak Mountain Inn, well Bear and Patti to be exact, was the only one that would even consider what they wanted. He said the other places were not even interested in talking with them about their plans. Too bad for them... they missed being part of a wonderful wedding celebration!

Cindy contacted me many months ago. And it was a good thing... she wanted to marry on October 10th. 10/10/10. I would love to know just how many couples were married on this day. I guess the next big one will be 11/11/11. If you considering this day, I suggest you start planning now!

Because of the ages of their sons, Cindy and Daniel (being wise parents) wanted a fairly short ceremony and they wanted something to include their sons. They decided a family unity sand ceremony would be perfect. They took each son, individually, to choose a container and color of sand. Wouldn't you know it! Both boys picked the same container and same color of sand.
Also, being wise parents, they had a 'practice' about a week before the wedding.

There is one other thing I want to say about their wedding. Smash cake! Have you heard of this? The cake is made of hardened chocolate. There is a small hammer and you 'smash' the cake. The inside is filled with wonderful chocolate truffles. Heaven for a chocoholic and what the boys were most excited about. This cake was prepared by The Chocolate Fetish in Asheville. My camera battery 'died' before the smashing but Cindy has assured me that she will send photos soon..
And she did...
And here's the 'smashed' cake.. yummy

There will never be a dull moment for this family!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Beautiful Fall Wedding in NC

Couples have been asking me if the leaves have started ‘turning’. This may seem like a strange term, ‘turning’. But if you’ve ever been to the mountains in the fall you know exactly what I’m talking about. I guess the correct question would be, ‘Have the leaves started changing colors?’.

Anyway, the answer is yes… I was at Boone on Saturday and I can say first hand, ‘the leaves have started turning'.
By searching the internet Darby and David found a seven bedroom/seven bath estate that was the perfect location for their small family wedding. The estate was completely private and… beautiful. I’m sure on a clear night you could see a bazillion stars.
Hopefully, when they return from their honeymoon in Hawaii they will send me a few photos of their wedding. I snapped this photo while waiting for the witnesses to sign the marriage license.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Wedding at Belmont Estate - Promises Kept

I am so very happy to be updating my blog with photos from the wedding I officiated yesterday.

In April 2009 there was a promise of engagement before the end of the year if North Carolina won the NCAA tournament. Well, I must say the man is good for his word. Kris proposed, Ally said yes... and the rest is history.

What a wonderful wedding celebration! I have known Allyson since she was in middle school and have known Kris for several years now. It was truly an honor to be part of their wedding celebration.

Officiating the wedding of a friend can be emotional. This was one such wedding. As soon as Kris saw Allyson, I heard him 'sniffle'. I was not about to look at him so I looked at her sister, the matron of honor. She was crying. As I looked down the line of bridesmaids, every one of them was crying... Now to look at the moms. Tears there as well... But such happy tears! I took a deep breath. I knew my voice could not crack! 'We are gathered here in the presence of God to celebrate the marriage of ......'

Their ceremony was very touching. Each had written their own wedding vows. And not something they found in a book or over the internet. Very special words written just for each other. I was told that even the DJ was crying!

Allyson wanted to recognize her Irish heritage so we incorporated a handfasting in their ceremony. She selected a plaid fabric and after rings were exchanged we 'tied the knot'. Then she and Kris repeated Irish wedding vows in unison.
We swear by peace and love to stand.
Heart to heart and hand in hand.
Mark, O God, and hear us now,
Confirming this our sacred vow;
Here is my hand to hold with you,
to bind us for life so that I’ll grow old with you.
Having fun taking photos!

And I have to include this one. They had a 'sweetheart' table for the reception. They actually thought they would be able to eat without interruptions. Needless to say that didn't work...

And yet another photo. When I officiate a wedding I don't normally stay until the end of the reception.

A few of the guys, (maybe my son-in-law - actually both of them...) slipped away to 'decorate' the car. There was an orange traffic cone sitting on top.. Well just look at the picture. What you can't see is that someone (CT) decided to decorate the car with CheezeWhiz. Now have you ever heard of that!

This car was decorated inside and out..I'm not sure it will ever be the same...

It took a lot of planning, and a few dollars. Photos like this say it all. It was their dream wedding. I wish many, many years of happiness for these two. I love you, Allyson and Kris! It was a wonderful wedding...    What God has joined together, let no one put asunder..