New Year, New Look!

Victoria and Nathan with Sarah at Lincoln Chapel. Photo credit: Tiffany Hofeldt

Rebranding is work, y’all!  We are still busy running down our checklist of to-do items.  Lately, our primary task has been our new Central Ceremonies website. Want a sneak peek?  Of course you do.

Check out www.CentralCeremonies.com and tell us what you think.

Thank you! Central Ceremonies awarded Couples’ Choice 2020

We are truly excited to share the news that couples – our couples – selected us as a top choice vendor.  If you’ve been following along, you understand why this makes us so happy.

After all, our couples make us who we are.  They drive our business model, they’ve shaped our rebranding, and they keep us growing and changing.  We are so grateful to know that you – our couples – feel the same way.  Thank you, and cheers to 2020!

Five Questions To Ask Your Potential Wedding Officiant

Call me biased . . . because I am! I think one of the most important, overlooked, and underrated decisions you will make concerning your wedding day is who will perform your ceremony.

Ideally this person helps set the tone for your wedding day, as well as equip you with some tools for the marriage journey. It doesn’t mean that this person has to be a certain way, a certain gender, have certain degrees, or even be married themselves.

It does mean they should be able to tell you why they are doing what they are doing, and articulate some underlying philosophy around their job. We think it is a little like dating. There are no right or wrong answers, but you are looking for a match. Is this someone who can capture who you are as a couple, what you are doing, and hold the space around you as you marry? Here are some good, fun questions we like to be asked:

1. How long have you been marrying people?  Why are you still doing it?

There are all sorts of versions of this question. For example, “How many couples have you married?” or “What got you into this line of work?”  In any form, we love being asked!  This question allows us to unpack and explain what we do, but also suggests to us that you care about the answer.

In our business, we’ve been marrying people for over 20 years. And for us, marrying people is a lot more than simply loving weddings and the fun of the day (and it is fun!) We believe this day is not about us, but about our obligation to be there for you – our couples! We want to speak about you, and equip you for your marriage.

Our biggest hope and dream (yes, we have hopes for you) is for our process to help couples better understand what they are doing not just the day of the wedding, but throughout their marriage. And here is a truth: we are still doing what we do because we believe in the mutuality of it. Our relationships are better because of what we’ve learned from couples, just as we hope our couples learn from us.

2. How does your ceremony process work?  How much input do we, the couple, have?

Are there timelines, processes, and commitments? For us, yes! We have a process that walks a couple through crafting and customizing their ceremony step-by-step. It works regardless of how much input our couples want or need. Some want little input, and others quite a bit. We have refined it over the years, and continue to adjust to best meet needs.

We set timelines and deadlines for our couples so not only they can relax into their wedding day, but so we are prepared as well. By thinking through a process, we are free to be flexible. In our opinion, it’s easier to make changes from a framework versus figuring it out on the fly. The point is, we’ve thought through what does and does not work for us and for our couples, allowing us to bring tip-top professional services to your big day.

3.  How many weddings do you do a weekend, and what is your back-up plan?

Different people have different answers to this question, and there is no perfect answer. We encourage couples to look for consistency. Our answer aligns with our business philosophy, and reflects our commitment to highly customized, professional service. In our business, we do not stack weddings.

We never do more than one wedding a day, and rarely more than one a weekend.  We have internal procedures in place that allow us to access each other’s files in case of emergency, as we do not work alone. We are part of a connectional community, and not only cover for each other, but have many trusted colleagues who are capable of stepping in should circumstances require it. We know this means our couples pay a little more, but we are committed to bringing our whole selves and the work we’ve done together with our couples to their wedding day.

4. Describe a really cool wedding you did.

Here, too, there are several ways to ask and answer this question. For us, this question allows us to talk more about our process of customization. It also highlights our “couples-first” way of being in this business. For us, examples are cool not just because they are cool, but because it shines a light on our couples and who they are.

Naz and Johnny’s Persian sugar ceremony. Photo by Franck Boutonnet

Ways we articulate or ritualize wedding ceremonies vary. So, while origami wishing stars are really awesome, they were specific to our Japanese bride the way the sugar ritual was perfect for our Persian bride. Often the most fun we have with our couples is exploring and uncovering what would work (or not) for them.

5. What rules do you have?

We do have a few rules. We’ve been doing this long enough to know what does and does not work for our couples, but even more – what does and does not work for us. We know we are not a perfect match for every couple, and every couple will not want to work with us.

Saying no is just as important as saying yes . . . not just to your marriage and spouse (truth!), but also with your wedding vendors. So, in some ways, we are modeling the boundaries we hope our couples will learn to adopt. There are some things we won’t do (allow you to wing it on your personalized wedding vows), but there are also many things we will do (sure, you can write your own vows!)

Now, go out and find your perfect officiant, ok?  Maybe, if we are lucky, it might even be us!

The Gospel According to Baby Yoda

I am an ordained minister so perhaps titling an article “The Gospel of . . .” and then not following with Matthew, Mark, Luke or John is a little provocative. Good. After all, gospel means good news. And Baby Yoda is good news.

Now, if you haven’t yet been introduced to Baby Yoda, welcome to this plane of existence.  Because Baby Yoda owns it.  Baby is out-polling Democratic presidential candidates, announcing collegiate football coaches, promoting music by pushing all sorts of buttons, and trending non-stop. Social media? Baby Yoda. Disney+, the internet, Etsy crafts, the national conversation? Baby Yoda. The galaxy (well, galaxies, since we know along with Earth, Arvala-7, Tatooine and Sorgan are all enamored with Baby Yoda) is now firmly in the grip of this tiny, precious, three-fingered, coo’ing, green tyke.

If we are honest, we wouldn’t want it any other way.  Because Baby Yoda is the cutest thing to exist. Ever. If we are honest, we need it to be this way.  We need Baby Yoda.

After marveling over the Baby Yoda phenomena, my PR Director, René, asked me, “Why? What is it about Baby Yoda that has captured us?”  Without missing a beat, I replied, “Hope. Baby Yoda is hope.” We all need hope these days.

Actually, that’s how the entire Star Wars saga opens. Episode IV:  A New Hope. For the most part (but not always), Star Wars has mastered mythological narrative, timing, and even marketing. In my opinion, it is no small thing that The Mandalorian was released in the dark days of winter. It’s no small thing that Baby Yoda is referred to as The Child. It is no small thing that we are at a critical time in the Star Wars saga – the end of one order, and the rise of something new. The in-between days. Star Wars is being handed from one generation to the next.

And, in my theological opinion, it is no small thing that we find advent overlapping with Baby Yoda. Heretical? Not really. The word advent is rooted in the Latin meaning arrival, particularly of something or someone important. Perhaps it is not even a small thing that we are having to wait – a concept so foreign to our microwave, Amazon Prime existence – for our Baby Yoda merchandise. We are being asked to pause. Consider.  Anticipate. Wonder. Let go. And yes, we are being asked to hope.

At its best, mythology works because embedded within it is Truth.  At its best, myth parallels reality in mysterious, beautiful, even heartbreaking ways.

I think it is common knowledge we live at a time when hope seems lost. Institutions are collapsing. Empires are dying. We are told truth is not truth. The common good has been sacrificed at the altar of individualism. Those entrusted to protect us sell us out to the highest bidder. Paradigms and systems are toxic. Dystopian literature resonates with our youth in strange and sad ways.

But myth tells us that in the darkest times, hope is birthed. A baby will be born. A child will appear. A light will flicker. The oil will last.  At the bottom of a Greek jar, Elpis remains. That which we thought was dead will live again. It is so much easier to let go of all that is broken, dark, evil, wrong, and dead when we can see something – anything – on the horizon. Hope is what we see, and what we grab even as we let go of all that is lost and dead.

We don’t always know exactly what hope is, of course. Mary did not know how Jesus’s life would unfold. No one knew how long the oil would burn in the Temple.  Or that Elpis was in Pandora’s jar. Or that a 17 year old boy would defeat Voldemort. Or Hobbits would ensure the Ring’s destruction. We do not know how Mando and Baby Yoda’s story will play out. And yet, somehow we do know. Because in so many ways, their story is already working.  Hope has already arrived. We are already better for Baby Yoda. We talk to each other again. We share memes with each other again. We wonder together again. We anticipate together again. We hope together again.

Hope is often portrayed as a thing with feathers.  Or small.  Or easily overlooked.  An ember.  While I think there’s something to all of these images, we cannot forget that within an ember lies fire. Within a child, great human potential. So, in this winter time when we ponder the coming of new ages, new springs, new awakenings, it should not and cannot be forgotten:  Hope is also a force.

May the force be with you. May the force be within you.

Time to celebrate!

Cue the bubbly.  And just look at these precious Prosecco bottles with our new Central Ceremonies logo!  Hey, we pride ourselves on being professionals, but  sometimes we get to be cute and silly and fun!

This month we are hitting the road to visit some of our great vendors – or as we call them “friendors” – and celebrate our new name and expanded services

As we look forward to starting the new year with our new name, logo, services, and website, we do so knowing it’s a partnership.  Lucky for us, we have some amazing partners.

So, “Salud,” “L’Chaim,” “Santé,” “Cheers,” “Kampai,” “Prost,” or however we raise a glass together.

To life lived together, friends!

Giving Thanks (Rebellion Style)

Baby Yoda belongs to Lucasfilm and Jon Favreau. But Baby Yoda really wants to come live with me. I am sure of it.

Setting: Coffee shop meeting between René, Central Ceremonies PR Director and Sarah, Owner of Central Ceremonies

René: We’ve had a lot of blogs about the rebranding. Since it’s Thanksgiving, let’s have some blogs about giving thanks.

Sarah: (looking at phone)  OK.

René:  What are you thankful for?

Sarah:  Baby Yoda!

René:   . . . . (Blank Stare)

Sarah:  LOOK at him! Have you ever, in your entire life, seen anything so cute? No. You have not.

René:  Yes. He’s cute. Maybe you could do a blog about being thankful for all the help we received from the Beta Babes on rebranding?

Sarah:  Baby Yoda.

René:  Ummm, ok.  We could also do a blog on how many families we’ve created this year.

Sarah:  Look at this picture, Rene! He has wittle bitty teef  . . .

René:  Maybe we could blog about . . .

Sarah:  Baby Yoda.  We can blog about Baby Yoda.

René:  I don’t think we can blog about Baby Yoda. *She thinks the conversation is over.

. . . .

I am Sarah de la Fuente, owner of Central Ceremonies, and I approved this blog.

Mostly, may your Thanksgiving be full of good food, fun, family (in whatever form feeds your heart), love, rest, plenty of makes you happy — and some good laughs, too!

And also, Baby Yoda.

Giving Thanks, Part 2

It’s been an exciting, busy, fantastic year over here. And we aren’t even done . . . we love our December and New Year couples for all the winter sparkle they bring to the holiday season!

But during this Thanksgiving week, it is customary, of course, to name some of what fills our hearts with happiness. This blog is just one of several on the subject of thankfulness. And this is the one that matters the most.

Because at the end of the day, it is the families we create that make our business. Without you, our clients, there is no Central Ceremonies. You are the reason we exist, the impetus for our brand expansion.

You are the ones who consistently push us, challenging us, and give us new ways to think about rituals and relationships. Therefore, we would be remiss if we did not say that you, our clients, are our greatest cause for gratitude within our business.

This year we are so happy to say we helped create 62 new families!  Sixty-two knots tied.  Sixty-two bindings.  Now, that number may seem small to some, and certainly we have colleagues in other areas of the industry with much higher client numbers. But, given what we do, how we do things, and the philosophy that guides our work, that’s a big number!

You see, in the end, what we do and how we do it has little to do with numbers.  It has little to do with reviews (although we like good reviews) and followers (also like followers) and social media likes (and yes, also enjoy receiving hearts on Instagram).

Instead, we think what we do – bind you together – should be more than just a ceremony with some pretty words and a signature to a piece of legal paper. For us, it’s a counter-cultural statement. For us, it is saying all those cyber connections, reviews, social media likes, and FB friends are in the end not enough to sustain us.

Here at Central Ceremonies (formerly Austin Weddings Unlimited), we believe deeply that what we do fosters the creation of real, incarnational (oh – that’s a big word) communities. And guess what? Apparently you do, too!

Yes, we need each other. It’s being together that matters – at weddings, over a meal, in a home, sharing coffee or tea in a local shop, listening, laughing and crying side-by-side. Each ritual shared not only births new families, new beginnings, and new hope, it reminds us that being with, for, and among each other is really, truly the greatest gift.

So, to each of you we met this year along the way, you mattered to us and made us better. We are grateful to have mattered to you. To those of you we will meet soon — we cannot wait to enter your story and your community. We welcome you.

Thank you. We are truly grateful.

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving week is upon us, and anyone who knows me knows it is not my favorite holiday . . . because that would be Halloween, duh! But let me say what I love about Thanksgiving is the thanks-giving part. I love the posture of gratitude. I love the push to frame our minds around giving thanks. This year, in particular, our business has a lot for which we are grateful.

No surprise that our thanks is all about community and relationships . . . after all, that’s sort of our “thing.” With all the changes in our business, it is quite easy to venture out willy-nilly because you think you have a brilliant idea all by yourself. Successful ideas, however, are vetted. Our idea to grow this business out in new ways, shift brands, and change our name would never have worked without feedback, streamlining, and fine-tuning by some most amazing people – we affectionately call them our Beta Babes.

These Beta Babes are trusted colleagues, as well as friends. They’ve know us for a long time, and innately understand who we are and what we do. They trust us, and believe in us. They pep talked us, and gave us critical feedback. They were the first to see our mood board, they voted on logos, they threw out ideas and tweaked our work over lunches.  They gave us their time simply because we asked them.  These women are at the heart of the wedding industry in Austin, Texas, veterans in the industry, and full of insights and knowledge.  We are grateful and thankful for them.  We are better for them, and in this week’s post, we give thanks for them:  Amy Mader with Platinum Wedding and Events

Barbara Hearne with Barbara’s Brides

Dawn Earley, the Fairy Godmother of Travel

Kristen Lloyd with The Terrace Club.

Thank you BetaBabes for the role you played in our business rebranding!

May the holiday season bring to mind those people in your life who create fun, beautiful, honest, and trusted community. May the very thought of them warm your hearts.

New name, new logo . . . but it’s still us!

We pause within our regularly scheduled blogging to check in and see if you’ve noticed. Have you? If you follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, you may or may not have seen our name and handles shift over to Central Ceremonies. Some changes are, of course, still in progress because this all takes time. But we just wanted to remind all of you out there in the virtual & real world that while we’ve changed our business name, logo, & look  – it’s still us!

You Are More Than A Wedding To Us!

Baby J, whose parents were married by Reverend Sarah, is baptized by Reverend Cam.

So, rebranding is sorta like a wedding (and a lot like marriage, too!)  You realize after you decide to jump in, it’s so much bigger than you imagined.  And a lot more work than you thought. So, why go through all the trouble? Why bother with changing our name? And shifting our look? And updating our website? After all, we have over 20 years of brand recognition and equity. You know us, where to find us, what to expect of us!  Why fix what isn’t broken?

Well, it’s true. It isn’t broken at all, but perhaps just a bit too small?  The truth is that to our great delight, and more and more, we found ourselves called back to you, our couples, as you wished to mark milestone moments in your lives.

Marking Life’s Milestone Moments

You knew us, trusted us and believed in our work.  You knew we would be committed to creating sacred space around your most special moments. You asked us, and invited us, and of course we said yes.  Creating beautiful ceremonies to mark particular moments is what we do!

We’ve shared all sorts of events with you, all over Texas and the country.  Some happy.  Some sad.  Some anxious.  Some loud.  Some quiet.  And because of all these moments, we came to realize that just as marriages grow and change so, too, do businesses.

We thought about all these various chapters of your lives we’ve shared with you, and we realized it was time. It was time for us to evolve, joining you in deliberate and meaningful ways, marking life’s central moments.  And likewise, it was time to reflect that in our brand — so not just you, but others, too, can find us when they need and want to mark time.

This Japanese jizo, from Buddhist teaching, represents the guardianship of children, and was part of a memorial service.

Expanded Services, Same Commitment to You

So, yes!  Yes to a new logo, a new brand, and a new name to reflect this expansion. And we are actually expanding in several ways (more on that next week), but most obviously and perhaps most importantly, our services will now include ceremonies such as:

  • Weddings (of course!)
  • Vow Renewals
  • Pre-marital and Relationship Coaching
  • Baby Namings and Baby Blessings
  • House Blessings
  • Pet Blessings and Memorials
  • Graduation Launches
  • Endings and Final Chapter Markings
  • Memorial and Funeral Services
  • Relationship and Marriage Retreats
  • Speaking Engagements and Preaching

Of course, our focus and commitment will continue to include creating highly customized ceremonies alongside the uncustomary service that you’ve come to expect.   After all, we’re still us — the same group from Austin Weddings Unlimited you’ve always known (even as far back as knowing Veronica!)  Now, though, our name and brand reflect our broader understanding of ceremonies, and our response to your request to mark these moments together.

What special moment have you imagined marking?  We want to journey with you as you do!