It’s the Logo reveal, y’all!

If you’ve been following along, we’ve unveiled some new, cool things over here at our business. You’ve seen our new mood board, setting a nice, relaxed, yet classic vibe. You’ve learned our new name, Central Ceremonies, capturing our broader service offerings. And because we like to keep the exciting reveals going . . . today, our new logo!

With today’s big reveal, all these changes will become more visible. You’re going to start seeing our new name & logo more and more over these next months as we really start to embrace our new identity. Because you will start seeing these changes everywhere, we thought you should know a little bit about our new name and  logo!

As we’ve said (and we really mean it) much of our expansion is a response to you, our clients! You wanted more services from us, and we love providing them. It’s true: we want to be there for all the great people we’ve met in the past 20 years for more than one day. The wedding day is a milestone moment, but so, too, the day that your child arrives, the day that you move into your new home, the day that you start a new job, the day that your child goes off to college, and when your loved ones pass away. We want to walk alongside you during all of these life events. Frankly, we’ve already been helping many of you mark these life events,  and it’s been our privilege.

It also had us thinking about how fundamental these milestone moments are to people – all people. We, as humans, need to mark time and events in order to make sense of life. It’s essential and central to our sanity. Central. Hmmmm. And we live in Central, Texas. And work in Central Austin. Gosh. Even though it took us months to land on our name, it seemed obvious once we got there:  Central Ceremonies!

Our Central Ceremonies logo symbol as a wax seal.

Now, the logo. Well, embedded in this image you will see the Cs from our new name. And the Cs are open – to make space for each other, for growth, and for a myriad of ways of being in the world. Find rings embedded in our new logo. Those point back to our 20 year history as Austin Weddings Unlimited, even as they keep us aligned with our strong affinity for weddings. Do you see the center point? Ceremonies center us, focus us, and ground us. And don’t forget the nod to the infinity symbol. Life has cycles and our job, as professional officiants, is to mark places along this limitless life journey. Finally, quite simply, we think it’s pretty!

Rebranding is a lot of work, y’all. Nothing happens quickly, and each step has to be carefully planned and communicated so we don’t lose you – our community and clients – along the way. So, behind the scenes, there have been a lot of gatherings and conversations (opinions and voting, too!) with some really amazing and dedicated folks (after all, we believe deeply in community and commonwealth). A big thank you to our PR Director, René Craft; our graphic designer, Rachael Earl Design; and our team of trusty wedding colleague beta-testers who gave us a lot of their time when they didn’t have to; Amy Mader, Barbara Hearne, Dawn Earley, and Kristen Lloyd.

Now! You tell us — what do you think?

The Big Reveal: New Name, Steadfast Service

Calm, classic and professional. These words clients and colleagues use to describe our services. We sought to communicate these attributes when creating the mood board that guides our rebranding efforts. Mood board by Rachael Earl.

Hey y’all!  It’s time!  Here (finally) is our big news, and exciting announcement: Austin Weddings Unlimited is evolving into Central Ceremonies! I know exciting right? This follows years of requests by you, our couples, for more ceremonies from us to mark life’s milestone moments. So, this idea to expand has been germinating for years. And now, it’s coming to fruition. We’re excited!

Our name change is a reflection that we provide much more for our clients than wedding officiating services.  We are transforming our name, look and feel in the coming months to reflect that reality, and are excited to invite you along with us. After all, you are the reason we dreamed this dream! 

Milestone Moments

Our goal has always been and will remain crafting custom ceremonies to mark not just your wedding day, but all of life’s milestone moments.  So be assured, even as we shift and evolve, some integral things will remain. 

Our commitment to you, our mission, our vision won’t change.  You can still expect us to be that calm, reassuring presence on your wedding day, as well as other pivotal moments in your lives.  You will just start to see more services, more ceremonies, and more ways to solidify important milestone moments in your  lives before and beyond the wedding day. Your life is a journey and we like sharing it with you.  

New Logo Coming

What’s our next big reveal?  Wait ’til ya see our newly redesigned logo next week!  We invite you to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We also invite and encourage you to participate. As we present our new look and feel to you, let us know what you think of our colors, our logo, and our services. 

Come along with us for these next twenty years . . . because we are all better together, and you are part of our together!

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.