Marrying the Millennials

In case you haven’t heard, this year is our 20th anniversary officiating weddings in the Central Texas region. Earlier this week, as we pondered twenty-year-celebration logistics and timelines, Rene (amazing PR Director here at Austin Weddings Unlimited), asked me: What’s our “why?” At first I thought this was the opening line of some new take on Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on first?” What’s our why? Why what?  Huh?!

But then I realized what Rene was asking: Why change up what has worked so well for twenty years? Well, the answer was easy for me. I mean sure, some of it is just me. I am a personality who likes adventure, innovation, and dynamic environments. After all, I am a Sagittarius! But truth be told (and I am a truth-teller), it’s because of you, our clients. You changed — and you changed us!  Happy day.

Wedding Ceremonies and Millennials

Indeed, as millennials came of age and began to marry, they brought with them their creative and innovative ideas about marriage. As natural collaborators, teamwork was important, and design and customization, agency and voice began to drive our conversations. The millennial way of being in the world was a natural fit for us (“Custom-made weddings, uncustomary service”), our vision, and our mission.  Their ideas breathed new life into our motto, vision, and mission. We began to handwrite entire elements of their wedding ceremonies. We worked to customize meaningful vows. We collaborated on reading ideas, ceremony rituals, and new ways to define marriage and intimate relationship. And we loved all of it!

We found ourselves energized and were invited to enter the larger storyline of our clients’ lives. Social media kept us connected, and we and our wedding clients shared in births, house warmings, vow renewals, grief, and death as we journeyed alongside each other.

New Traditions Require New Ceremonies

Our millennials got us thinking about ourselves, what we love to do, and how we’ve been changed and bettered by them. Twenty years seemed the perfect time to not only continue to serve our current clients, meet new couples, but also expand our mission. 

So, guess what? Next week, we’re going to tell you all about it! Next week is the where and why and what-for these next 20 years and the big reveal.  Get excited! We certainly are.

20 Years of Us!

Happy anniversary, to us! That’s right, y’all, Austin Weddings Unlimited is twenty years old.  It’s hard to believe, but wow – do we have so many things to celebrate! But, as anybody knows, before the celebrating begins, we must reflect on these past twenty years and all our experiences encompassed in that time.  Why, this almost sounds like marriage anniversaries, right?

Over these past twenty years we have learned so much from the people we’ve met along our journey.  Let’s start with our own little business. When we started, Veronica Anderson owned the business, and she trained Sarah.  When Veronica moved out of state, Sarah became a “lonely- only.” Sarah quickly learned what Veronica already knew: we are better together. So Sam Riccobene joined Sarah, followed by Carolina Treviño and Cam Burton

And just as marriages grow and change in surprising ways, twenty years later, guess what?  Veronica is back! and rejoining Sam and Cam, while Carolina embarks on new adventures in a church setting. So, while time has seen us grow as both individuals and as a team, one thing has remained the same: our commitment to excellence and top-notch service, as well as to each other. Austin Weddings Unlimited is no hobby or side-hustle for us. Austin Weddings Unlimited is our job, our vocation, and our priority!

We’ve also learned so much from our colleagues as we’ve grown up alongside Austin. Why gosh, we all remember when you could get to Dripping Springs in 25 minutes (yes, really!), and when Bastrop was not the surrounding area!  These memories make us laugh, and also bind us to each other. If there is one thing we can say about the Austin Wedding Industry, it is this: we are a collegial group.  Even now, as we’ve grown, there is a general attitude of looking out for each other, and helping each other.  The commonwealth mentality that makes a marriage thrive also makes our wedding industry thrive. Lucky us!

And finally, we’ve learned so much from you!  When we started, Gen X was marrying, and ceremonies were pretty straight-forward and simple. Now? We marry millennials and even the first members of iGen/Gen Z.

To meet the changing needs of our clients, we, too, changed how ceremonies are designed and customized. We hand-write elements of every ceremony now. We adore this process as our clients teach us about intimate relationship just as much as we teach them. More and more we stay in touch with our clients, sharing not just their weddings, but also participating in other life events.  We’ve blessed babies as they joined families. We’ve buried loved ones and grieved with our clients. We’ve ushered in resurrection – of marriages, of friendships, and the earth. We’ve even created new rituals for particular needs and desires of our clients.  And in participating in each of these rituals, there is a mutual blessing and a mutual binding that continues to astound and amaze us. Indeed, we are far greater than the sum of our parts.

We never imagined how rich and rewarding these past twenty years would and could be for us. We never could have dreamed how such an interesting little wedding service could have and would have and did change us all for the better.  So, here we are at this threshold moment with so much to celebrate. We are grateful and thankful for all of you. We are better for you, and even now, as we turn towards the next twenty years, we know we can only do it alongside you.

After all, it’s not just about weddings around here . . .

 

Demystifying Your Wedding Ceremony: The Kiss and Pronouncement!

Hey!  You made it this far? Well, good things come to those who wait. This is our last entry in our first-ever series, so thanks for joining us.  AND, it’s the last part of the ceremony, too. Time to seal the deal, and celebrate with food, cake, and dancing.

The Kiss

And that is the purpose of the closing:  to seal what has been said and done, and turn everyone towards the next steps. At rehearsal, I often remind my couples, as well as the wedding party, the kiss is not some mere throw-away moment just for pictures.  Yes, it makes a great picture (which is why your officiant should step aside and get out of it), but the kiss serves a very distinct purpose. It seals the binding with breath. And breath is life. In ancient times, particularly Greco-Roman, all contracts were sealed with the exchange of breath and life. Isn’t that a really cool and beautiful way to seal this love and marriage deal? Indeed!

The Pronouncement: When the wedding becomes a marriage

After the kiss, it is time to remind everyone, including the couple, why we are there. Not only do we announce what just happened with a hearty “You’re married!”-kind-of-pronouncement, but also, in turning the couple and facing them outward, we literally send them back through the community of witnesses and support as they begin their journey of marriage.  So, the couple and the community are reminded that marriage, in all its ups and downs and ins and outs, lives and thrives (and can even die) within the broader network of relationships and community.

We belong together. Marriage is just one way we are together. It’s a beautiful way. A miraculous and amazing and adventurous way. And the wedding ceremony from beginning to end says and demonstrates that, as it sets forth the couple on their journey.

Mazel tov!

 

Demystifying Your Wedding Ceremony: Rings

Symbols – that’s what we say about wedding rings. But then . . . what is a symbol?  Shiny, sparkly pieces of jewelry that all point to something much deeper and profound – love and commitment.  The ring exchange is really the peak of the wedding ceremony, in my opinion. It is the ritualistic binding, or the seal on the covenant just spoken. It takes something intangible (words), and makes it physical (rings). That, when you think about it, is pretty profound.

Meaning of symbols within a marriage ceremony

And this would be the point, of course. “Symbol” comes from a Greek word which roughly translates as “to throw together.” Wow, isn’t that the truth? Not only are the wedding bands symbols that seal the vows, but symbols of the people wearing them. Over time, they gather scuffs, dents, scratches, and point to a particular story of a particular marriage. The rings are symbols of the tangible and intangible aspects of intimate relationship. They mark time. They mark those who wear them (even physically!) The wedding rings create boundaries even as they are limitless in their design. They re-member (as in, put back together) the promises that were spoken into space and air. They memorialize fleeting words. So, yes; layers and layers of meaning thrown together into a little band wrapped around a finger.

Wedding bands can be a sacramental symbol

In certain Christian marriage ceremonies, we even suggest that the wedding band is a sort of sacrament.  You might have heard someone say, when holding the rings, that they are “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” Now, we can (and do) debate within theological circles about whether or not marriage is a sacrament. I don’t know myself, and change my mind all the time. But, without a doubt, there are sacramental pieces to marriage. And those rings? Well, they are part of that sacramental piece. They are no small matter, and far more than a pretty piece of jewelry. As the liturgical scholar Gail Ramshaw says, “A symbol not only is something, it does something.”

Rings symbolize the infinite nature of love’s role in our lives

Yes, marriage does something. It transforms us. It challenges us to move beyond ourselves in every possible way – physically, mentally, spiritually. It stretches us, calls us back, sends us out, bends us, deepens us, and can sometimes even break us. And those little rings with their circular shape invite us into the endless mystery of marriage. Pretty cool, right?

Next week? Those moments after the ring exchange are pretty cool, too.  Tune in!

Demystifying Your Wedding Ceremony: Vows

For better or for worse (see what I did there?!), here we are at the center of the ceremony! At the very heart of this grand affair are the wedding vows. And wedding vows are far more than a few sweet and pretty words spoken before the party begins.

So, then, what is a wedding? Why marriage? Why vows?

Marriage is a binding. It’s stating there is something far greater at work than just the couple and their love.  It is boldly declaring that the love discovered in each other is something deeper than infatuation — it’s something alive and growing. In that sense, you might even say a wedding births a marriage! The wedding ceremony itself should point to this discovery, and to the commitment of couple to continue to birth, nurture, and tend to the relationship in all its twists, turns, ups and downs.  It’s truly binding two people together to tend to this third intangible “us” being created.

So, vows? Vows are the marriage contract; the covenant; the mutual agreement. Embedded in vows are the promises a couple makes around what marriage is and what marriage means.  Vows are promises to tend to themselves (I), the other person (you), and (mostly) to the space between them that is their marriage (us). In fact, the kiss at the end of the wedding is a reminder of the gravity of this agreement. The kiss is not a mere throw-away moment for the sake of romance or a good picture. In ancient times all contracts were sealed with the exchange of breath and life. In keeping the kiss in the marriage ceremony, we acknowledge this unique sort of contract or covenant, and agree to it – with our very breath.

Often, our couples come to us wanting to personalize vows, and many end up doing just that. Our job is to help guide that process by unpacking vows, and asking important questions about the relationship:  What will your marriage contract cover?  What is important? What is unspoken?  What should be left out?

For example, the traditional vows I’ve jokingly referenced at the beginning of this blog go something like this: “I, [insert name], take you to be my wedded spouse. And I promise before these witnesses to stick with you for better or worse/richer or poorer/sick or healthy/for life.”  These classic promises are excellent vows – they’ve certainly withstood the test of time. And the timeless, enduring nature of these vows bind couples not just to each other but to a community of married couples across time and space. That’s pretty cool.

A more unique, personalized, and fun take on vows (and still a favorite of ours) was a couple who customized their vows by capturing their delightful, humorous, and artistic personalities. She lives in the fashion world, and he is an artist.  She promised to listen to his music and not max out her Nordstrom credit card. He promised to admire her purchases, and not play his instruments until the wee hours of the morning. Together, each vow set ended by clearly stating they promised to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever for who they are and who they will become.  It was truly beautiful – both in its unique and universal statement.

How would you write your vows?  Will they match?  Will you see each other’s promises beforehand?  What interesting vow ideas do you have? We’d love to hear about them, as we think they are not just the core of marriage, but the heartbeat of intimate relationships!

Next Week? Rings, beautiful rings.

Demystifying Your Wedding Ceremony: Consent

I do!

It’s a part of every wedding. I mean, the line is virtually a wedding gimmick. More than a few wedding industry types have incorporated “I do!” into their business names, hashtags, blogs, speeches, and posts.

But wait a second: what do you do? I mean, in order to get to “I do” as a response, you must have a question.

This question is actually one of the few things required by me as a professional minister marrying couples.  It’s a question required (in some form) in every State in the United States of America . . . but not every country in the world. It is not, as one might initially think, about being in love. Kinda weird when you think about it. But, it is just as important. It’s just as weighty. What’s the question?

Do you consent? Do you understand and agree to enter this binding, intimate agreement with the other person standing before you?

Now, I could go on for pages covering the history of consent in marriage. I could write a dissertation or two, and some people have (google on, my loyal readers). I could cover everything from empires to geography, east versus west, culture, sexuality and gender, power and even love in its various forms around the question of consent. But this is a blog, so I am going to get to the point. Children cannot consent. Women historically have been denied consent. You cannot marry your horse. Many marriages have happened without consent. Lack of consent is grounds for calling a marriage null. So yes, consent is a big deal.

Now, lest we feel all heavy after pondering consent, here’s the punchline from those of us well along our path of marriage: the answer should probably be no. No way did I understand the gravity of my decision.  No possible way I could have understood what would lie in front of us, or how deep and intimate the marriage space could go. No way no how did we even begin to “get” marriage. So, even as I laugh about the fact that we both said “I do” and thought we did — we didn’t. But we still do. And lots and lots of us still do. And maybe in another 25 years we will look back at now and laugh all over again at the absurdity of thinking we finally did — but still really didn’t.

So, I often wonder about how to better write a question of consent. I have some ideas. Do you? How would you like to see the question asked?

Next week: OH BOY HOWDY!  It’s the best part ever:  vows!!!!

Demystifying Your Wedding Ceremony: The Wedding Address

Parisa and Jeremy at Nature’s Point. Photography by Anahi Navarro.

No, no . . . not the physical address. Although that is important (see my previous post on welcoming words). This is more about the message to the bride and groom. You know – dearly beloved,  marriage is a new way of life created, ordered, and blessed and must not be entered into carelessly, selfishly but responsibly blah, blah, blah [wake me up in 10 minutes for the kiss].

Now, I could get in some hot water for dissing the traditional wedding address. And honestly, there isn’t anything overtly wrong with it.  Twenty-five years later, I am here to say it has worked quite well for my husband and me. It’s just — well — it’s outdated, impersonal, and frankly, it’s boring. Everyone has heard some version of it. So all that work of gathering your friends and family together in attention and intention? Gone. They’ve all just checked out.

That’s why we spend a lot of time with our couples figuring out how to personalize the message. Sure, marriage is universal, but it’s also unique. We like to embrace both sentiments at once. We are drawn in for a universal ceremony, but we mark the particulars of each couple as they enter their own, unique marriage relationship.

I’ve talked before about a couple’s DNA, or their watch word and spirit animal, or a theme that really resonates from the two of them. For some of my couples, it may be about family. For other couples, it’s about telling a story.  It might be love, or companionship, hope, laughter, or adventure. Part of the fun of crafting the marriage address is digging in deeply with our couples to uncover just who they are as a couple. Hopefully, the gems we uncover (even if it takes a few tries and several meetings) are gems that they carry forward for the remainder of their marriage.  Hopefully, the words we share engage and inspire the friends and family gathered around our couples. And hopefully – and usually – even we , the officiants, learn more about what we do, and about this amazing, intimate relationship we are helping create.

What themes would you want to hear about you and your beloved? What ways would you imagine capturing the spirit of who you are as a couple?

Next week: consent. It’s a hot topic word these days, and guess what? It’s part of getting married (but maybe not the way you are thinking)!

Demystifying Your Wedding Ceremony: Gathering

Gather in, gather ’round. It’s the opening strains of a good story.  And the first words, the first notes, the first movements matter. They will either hook the listeners or lose their interest. Think of all the amazing first lines of great books: Genesis, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, A Tale of Two Cities. And can’t you hear the opening notes of “Star Wars”? Or “Stairway to Heaven”? Or Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”?

Weddings are no different.

The opening words gather the guests into a single purpose – to join together in creating a marriage between two people. It’s a joyous occasion, so those opening moments should set that happy tone. The guests are not just there to while away some time passively watching and waiting until the reception begins. No way – the guests are special people. They’ve been invited to be present because they matter to the couple. They create the community that will surround the couple during the wedding, and also into their marriage.

Additionally, those welcoming words should gather the couple into the sacred space of marriage. Walking into the wedding is always the most emotional moment. The anticipation, the entrance of the wedding party, and finally the bridal entrance with beautiful music. It is important to center the wedding couple after all of that – center and focus on each other.

One of the biggest jobs of the officiant, then, is to not just show up. And it’s not to emcee an event.

Your officiant is more of a narrator.

In those gathering moments, they should be gifted in delivering the opening notes of your marriage. They should be gifted in creating a warm, comfortable, and welcoming space for you and your guests to relax into the unfolding love story being told.

There might be one other funny purpose of those opening lines, as well!

One of the funniest stories I have ever heard about a gathering is from a couple friend of ours. They had traveled to a friend’s wedding in another state. Miscalculating travel time to the church, they missed the processional, but slid into a pew in the back of a church just in time to hear the pastor’s welcoming words. Within three sentences, they realized they were in the wrong place. When the pastor welcomed the bride and groom, my friends did not know the names. Looking around, they realized they knew none of the guests. They’d gone to the wrong church. So, while I think the gathering does all of the above, it also, humorously, serves as a double-check — did you show up at the right place?

Next week I’ll talk about moving from the welcoming moments into the message, sermon, or homily.

 

Demystifying Your Wedding Ceremony: A Series

Because who doesn’t want to have a blog (or blog series) with the word “demystifying” in it?

Well, here we are chugging straight towards one year of blogging. And wow, have I learned a lot. I hope you have, too.

Time to tackle new things . . . like a blog series! Over the next few weeks, we are going to unpack the wedding ceremony structure for you. Our hope is that it helps you better write and customize your wedding ceremony, as well as better understand what is happening in any wedding ceremony (and even your actual marriage).

There is a basic structure to almost any wedding ceremony no matter the cultural or religious background.  This serves several purposes. First, people function better when they aren’t trying to figure out what is going on.  That goes for the bride and groom, as well as the guests. And when there is a flow and structure, people focus on what is happening, and are far more vested in the moment and the ritual . . . which is actually pretty important and amazing!

A basic structure also helps provide a framework from which to edit. It is much easier to edit and customize a document when you know what you are editing and customizing. A great example is adding a reading. Readings function best as a compliment to the marriage address. Occasionally they can help close out a ceremony. Sticking them in the welcome section can seem jarring and disjointed.

Finally, perhaps most importantly, the overall structure of a wedding should always have one goal:  to unite two people in the bond of marriage. Keeping the end goal in mind keeps weddings from digressing into other messages or platforms, or shifting focus away from the couple. With the goal always centered on the couple, the wedding ceremony structure can equip the couple to do just that – remain centered in their own marriage even as life throws along its inevitable, for better or worse, curveballs.

Next week? We’ll talk about the opening moments of a ceremony: the introduction, welcome, and gathering of the ceremony.

Getting to “I Do” with Wedding Reviews

My mission is to create families through marriage.  It’s fun, meaningful, and truly my vocation. My preference, of course, is to spend all my time with my couples writing ceremonies, talking about marriage, and getting to know each other.

But, as is true in every job, there are things we are required to do to keep our companies running. In a world driven by social media and reviews, gathering these reviews is a requirement. It’s a must. I find this less than exciting on several levels.

First of all, sales are not my strength. I’ve figured out over time how to sell who we are, but I am thoughtful and meticulous when I need to be speedy and responsive. Fortunately, I come from a faith tradition with a motto of “reformed and always reforming.” We are, as a business, always looking at adding systems and services that are helpful for our couples.

Secondly, chasing down reviews often feels like a game to me.  It is not a game I enjoy playing. I know it’s required, but to me, it doesn’t serve my clients because weddings aren’t a game. I take officiating at weddings very seriously. It’s my calling, my vocation, my passion.

What worked for years in my business (a list of references), is no longer enough with the importance of sites like Wedding Wire and The Knot. What seemed easy and obvious in the past is now mysterious and shifting. And interestingly, marriages are the same.

Time, circumstances, and even the players in relationships change. While a marriage without pets, kids, and mortgages can click along nicely, the addition of any or all of these requires negotiation and renegotiation. We are required – yes, required, to revisit what we do, and why we do it. It does not mean it is easy, we want to, or we like it. But, it is a sign of growth – good growth, I think. And that is almost always a good thing. So, okay, I’ll go get some more reviews like my marketing director wants me too! 😂

*P.S.  So, now that I’ve admitted that getting reviews is not my strong suit, would you help us by sharing your experiences with us online? Did we marry you? If so, would you take a few moments to review us on WeddingWire, The Knot, and even Yelp?  We sure would appreciate it. Thank you!