I’m a trend-setter! Who knew?

Chanelle’s take on the non-traditional “non-wedding wedding” trends for 2024

A “non-wedding wedding” photo at the Upper Lake at Conconully, Washington. The gorgeous Bride is wearing her favorite color, purple; groom is wearing shorts, a short-sleeve shirt AND tie and they travelled from rural Iowa (where they left all the family) to rural Washington state to get married. Photo credit: Roxanne Best, Roxtography

The article that inspired an article that inspired this post

I just received an email this morning from one of my wedding colleagues at Maroo.us about Vogue’s December article claiming that “non-wedding” weddings (non-traditional weddings) are on the rise for 2024 and thought I would share my thoughts about the subject with you too, but rather than copy their article, I’ve attached the link to the Maroo article, Are “non-wedding” weddings on the rise? Here is a roundup of the ins and outs of 2024, written by Prianka Dhir, in case you’d like to read it for yourself.

Photo credit: Emilee Setting

Who knew officiating non-traditional ceremonies YEARS would make me trendy in 2024?

What struck me as really noteworthy about these articles is that I’ve been doing ‘non-wedding’ weddings here in the Pacific Northwest with my couples for YEARS without even realizing I was setting a new trend! (Yes, I’ve been celebrating marriages for a while now.) I invite you to check out my blog post, What Does a Wedding Officiant Do & Tips from an Officiant For Your Wedding Day. So, what is a “non-wedding wedding”? According to the article referenced above, a “non-wedding wedding” is essentially a non-traditional wedding. They are casual, less formal and characterized by intimate ceremonies, family-style food menus, and in the moment, real-time photography. Couples are realizing that this most important day in their lives (up until this point) can be whatever they want it to be so it looks and feels authentic and reflects their personalities, and they’re often hiring wedding stylists, designers and other professionals to help bring their vision to life. The photo above is from a breezy July intimate family wedding up at Tipsoo Lake at Mount Rainier. Their wedding planner, Katy Warner from Seattle Stunning Events was super organized, found the exact spot on the lake to have the best view of the mountain AND had a rug for us to stand on to create our sacred space for their beautiful, personal and unique ceremony (photo above). Back at the air B&B where they all gathered for their family meal and post ceremony celebrations, once again, Katy had everything organized and beautiful (though also simple and elegant), so Nathan and Lauren just got to relax and enjoy their moments (photo below). Afterwards, our couple headed up the mountain with their flowers, backpacks and sparkling wine for a toast and their photographer to capture some truly breathtaking, intimate and authentically Nate and Lauren moments (second photo below).

wood table set with dishes and flowers in a wooded setting, staged by Seattle Stunning Events and photographed by Emilee Setting Photography
Staged by Seattle Stunning Events and Photo credit: Emilee Setting Photography
Man in black suit, woman in white wedding gown sitting on the ground with snowcapped mountain in background.
Photo credit: Emilee Setting Photography

Chanelle is truly a gem – Personable, funny, intelligent, and such a pro at tailoring a memorable ceremony...Our other wedding vendors and our family even commented that Chanelle felt like family, and we could not agree more. It was evident that there was so much careful thought and intention behind each interaction with her.” – L & N (Summer intimate family wedding at Tipsoo Lake in shadow of Mount Rainier)

Some “non-wedding wedding” ideas, Pacific Northwest style

I never realized how much we were ‘bucking the trends’ (or setting them as in the case of this article) with non traditional weddings and elopements and our sustainable practices. For instance, picture sharing your most personal vows with your loved one in the presence of your closest family and friends on a hiking trail on Whidbey Island, or the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, on a farm in Leavenworth, or maybe you prefer the beach at sunset, or overlooking the Pacific Ocean on San Juan Island or at sunrise on Mount Rainier at Sunrise (can’t get less traditional or “non-wedding-y” than that). For those wanting a ceremony with their closest family and friends and a low key-no worries intimate reception afterwards, wineries offer a great option with beautiful scenery and relaxed, family style meal settings under the stars. Check out my blog post here for some options in Lake Chelan, or as in the case of Lauren and Nathan, you could rent an air B&B and have your wedding planner bring your vision to fruition in the forest. As for sustainable – in the the Pacific Northwest, we’re all about sustainability (recycling, animal welfare, clean water, land conservation and farm to table dining). Not only that, but as individuals we’re also very community minded. I’ve been volunteering in my communities (wherever I have lived) since I was seven years old and my business has been donating a portion of my fees for every wedding to one of six non-profit organizations since 2020. When you book me as your officiant for your custom wedding, you get to choose which of the six organizations, you’d like the donation from your wedding to go. Want another sustainability idea? Did you know that you can donate your wedding flowers to retirement and memory care centers so they can live on and bring joy to others after your wedding? Yep and in North Central Washington, Lilies of the Valley in East Wenatchee, Washington can help you with that.

Soapbox: The reason for the wedding is the WEDDING part – otherwise, it’s just a fancy party.

There is a part of this article which frustrates me a tiny bit (pardon me as I step up on my ‘soapbox’). It is just that most of the trends listed (awesome as they are) focus mostly on the reception and party. The ceremony (you know, the part where you actually share your non-traditional vows with each other –ask me about this– and join together in marriage…) feels like an aside. Why does it frustrate me, you ask? Well, as your Officiant, I am passionate about helping you start your marriage off with a custom, all-about-the-two-of-you, wedding ceremony, which is beautiful, authentic and memorable for all the right reasons. You’re getting married after all. These trends seem to focus less on the getting married part of a wedding, and more on the party part and yet that’s why you’re having the party (or “non-wedding” wedding) – to celebrate your marriage. – (OK – I’m getting off the ‘soapbox’ now)

Chanelle truly helped to make our whole wedding feel like the most special day in the world...she tailored our wedding to completely fit around us, our belief’s, and our family. “ – L & S (Winter air B&B elopement in Leavenworth with only their children as their witnesses).”

You don’t have to do it by yourself.

I remind all of my couples that your wedding is one of the most important days of your life. There is a lot that goes into planning a wedding ceremony (a “non-wedding” wedding or not) and most couples have never done it before so it can feel a bit overwhelming. There are many, many resources available to help alleviate stress, including amazingly talented and committed wedding professionals. The most important thing to remember is that the two of you have decided that you want to be together and whether you choose to commemorate that with a large family wedding at a larger venue, an intimate family wedding at your favorite winery or elope to your favorite hiking trail with your witnesses and officiant, it’s YOUR special day and you want it to be meaningful to the two of you, not stressful. If you want to start with an easy conversation about your ceremony, please feel free to reach out. I am here to answer questions and help you have the most beautiful ceremony – whatever that looks like for the two of you. This is a magical time, and I’m absolutely delighted for you. Best wishes for a lifetime of love. – Chanelle, Your Pacific Northwest Elopement and Intimate Wedding Officiant and Celebrant for LifeTM.

Photo credit: Roxanne Best, Roxtography

About Chanelle

Chanelle Carlin is Your Celebrant for Life. She is an ordained minister, professional wedding officiant, coach, and owner of Chanelle Carlin Weddings, LLC (and now ‘trend-setter’). Believing that life and love should be celebrated every minute, she collaborates with couples who’ve already started building the foundations of their relationship over the years and are now ready to venture forth into marriage with a custom, memorable (for all the right reasons) elopement/intimate wedding ceremony. While Chanelle works throughout the Pacific Northwest primarily, she gladly travels to wherever her couples prefer to marry. As their Celebrant for Life TM, Chanelle also celebrates all the special milestones and moments that matter in each of her couples’ lives. She lives with her family in rural Okanogan County, Washington, USA, and totally LOVES her life. You can visit Chanelle at www.chanellecarlin.com, on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.

“Elegance doesn’t have to be complicated.”

Introducing Georgia Williams and Queen’s Hand Calligraphy

Eample of hand-calligraphed envelope with the queen's choice font style.
Example of hand-calligraphed invitation envelope – queen’s choice font style.

A serendipitous inter-web “oops”

A few weeks ago, I received an email from another wedding professional, Georgia Williams, owner of Queen’s Hand Calligraphy, on the other side of the U.S., who was taking time to research and contact wedding planners across the country to begin networking and promoting her business. You all know that I am not a wedding planner, but I DO love to help people whenever I can, especially other wedding pros, so I looked at her website and social media and then we set up a time to chat. After spending a few minutes talking with Georgia, I knew I wanted to find a way to introduce her to my friends, family and couples…anyone who may love the idea of something beautifully handwritten (think custom wedding invitations, announcements, place cards, poems as a gift, holiday card envelopes, thank you card envelopes).

So, here we are…my little blog post…(and just because I know some folks will wonder, I do not receive anything from Georgia or Queens Hand Calligraphy for introducing her to you or for any future business she may receive – I just think she does amazing work and someone would love to see it.)

Meet Georgia Williams, the founder, owner and head Calligrapher of Queen’s Hand Calligraphy

Georgia Williams, founder and owner of Queen’s Hand Calligraphy

Georgia has more than 40 years calligraphic experience with 15 of those years as a professional. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Loyola University and taught school for over thirty years. (maybe we should call her Saint Georgia?) Georgia told me that as a school teacher, she required her middle school students to write in cursive because she believes it develops a discipline in them for the rest of their lives. That sounds very teacher-like, doesn’t it?

Couple signing their marriage certificate during their ceremony. Photo credit: Greenhouse Photo Company

Cursive writing – a lost skill

“Handwriting is more connected to a movement of the heart.” – Natalie Goldberg

I am of the age where penmanship was still taught in elementary school and our papers/homework still had a penmanship grading component through high school. If your assignment wasn’t neat enough for the teacher to read, you were going to get a bad grade. End of story. So…we learned to write as neatly as possible. I still admire the penmanship of my aunts, grandmother, great-aunts and even some friends. Their letters flow together so nicely with curves in the right places and it’s so easy to read. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you don’t like writing), with the entry and domination of the computer in the home, workplace and now schools, penmanship (aka cursive writing) is one of those skills that is truly being lost.

“Sending a handwritten letter is becoming such an anomaly. It’s disappearing. My mom is the only one who still writes me letters. And there’s something visceral about opening a letter – I see her on the page. I see her in her handwriting.” – Steve Carell

I see it each time one of my couples goes to sign their marriage certificate. There is a glint of panic in their eyes as they ask the question, “Do I have to write in cursive?” which is quickly followed up by “I don’t know how.” For those of us who have been out of the classroom for decades, this might not be a surprise, especially if our work doesn’t involve any writing, but even at my most recent elopement, the witnesses were young and still not confident in just signing their name in cursive.

Personally, I love to hand write notes, cards, envelopes, certificates, but I do know how intimidating it can be, so to have someone to go to who can write beautifully and create works of art on an envelope makes my heart sing with joy!

Calligraphy — the dance, on a tiny stage, of the living, speaking hand. – Robert Bringhurst

Resurrecting an Art Form

Example of hand-lettered invitation envelope surrounded by flowers
Example of hand-calligraphed invitation envelope – Alexandra font style.
“Nothing can replace the hand-written word when it is done with beauty and grace.” Queen’s Hand Calligraphy

Back to Georgia. She began as a professional calligrapher when she and her daughter started a calligraphy business, which they ran together for about 15 years. They handled invitations and announcements for weddings, corporate events, bar/bat mitzvahs; legal certificates; love poems; Christmas card addressing for large corporations; place cards; and reception favor tags. Eventually, her daughter decided to make a career change and Georgia started Queen’s Hand Calligraphy.

Then…a global pandemic… and the world seemingly stopped – particularly the world of weddings and events. Thankfully though, Georgia hasn’t stopped and she is now in the process of resurrecting this art form that has seemingly gone by the wayside in this world of computers and machines and is sharing it with us.

Do you even remember the last time you received a hand-written letter or card in the mail? I don’t mean one with a mailing label (although these can be really nice too, especially at Christmas time), but an actual piece of mail that has your name and address handwritten (in cursive) on the front of the envelope and when you opened it up, there was paper inside with a hand-written note. Do you remember how it felt to receive it?

Do you still have it?

Sampling of some of the handwritten letters I have saved over the years.

As you can see, I do. They’re special. I receive so few that I treasure them. I even have some of the notes I wrote to my mom when I lived in Ireland (because she saved them)!

You only get one chance to make a first impression

So, what if you would like to have custom lettered envelopes for your invitations or announcements of place cards for your reception, but it feels a bit royal-like. Well, conveniently enough, Georgia believes that just as every bride should feel like a princess on her wedding day, your guests want to feel special when they are being invited to a wedding. What better time to do this than with your invitations? After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression. All of the work done by Queen’s Hand Calligraphy is done by hand! Nothing is computer generated, which truly makes your guests feel that you (as a couple) took the extra time to make them feel special—like they are being invited to a truly wonderful event.

Example of hand-calligraphed invitation envelope – charlotte font style.

Most of my couples are having smaller weddings and elopements with between two and fifty guests. Sometimes, it is to save money, but most of the time, it is just who they are – they don’t want a lot of fuss or working parts that come with a large event, but they DO want their guests (family and close friends) to know how much they mean to the couple. There is an entire industry that creates custom wedding invitations now, but who do you get to write out the envelopes? Most of the time, they have typed labels or at best, they’re hand-printed; but…what if you could have your beautiful, custom-made invitations addressed by a professional, calligrapher, someone who has turned a lost skill into a beautiful art form? Now, receiving that in the mail would be something!

“Calligraphy is a kind of music not for the ears, but for the eyes.” – V. Lazursky

How does it work?


Think it’s probably a “hassle” and maybe too much work?

According to Georgia, it’s not at all. It is their goal to make every one of their couples getting married have one less thing to worry about. It is obviously working. They have been told their process is the easiest part of wedding planning and they have a five-star rating on theknot.com.

Queens Hand Calligraphy on the Knot.com

All she needs from you is a type-written list of guests’ names and addresses and some envelopes. They will even stuff your invitations for a nominal fee.

Awesome, right? I know!

I’m already thinking of special items I would like hand calligraphed, including my Christmas card envelopes for next year. (OOhh!) How about you? Wedding invitations? Baby Announcements? A poem for your special someone for their birthday or Valentine’s Day?

“Calligraphy paints words.” – Author unknown

Q & A Time

So…now…for those of you with a few more questions, here are some FAQ’s (and answers) – you can also find more details on Georgia’s website at https://www.queenshandcalligraphy.com/

We have some guests with mixed names. How do you address the wedding invitation envelopes?

We advise on and use all the proper traditional etiquette in addressing the envelopes. Salutations are written out (Doctor, the Honorable Judge, Officer, Master). No abbreviations are used on street names (Court, Boulevard, Avenue, Road). Numerals up to 100 are written out in word form (three, seven, ten). However, while we advise on etiquette, we will abide with the couple’s wishes if they prefer something else.

Why do I need to send extra envelopes?

We require 25-30 (depending on the size of the order) extra envelopes. Often people move; or guest couples break up and no longer want to be on the same envelope; or a mistake was made on the list.

Can I choose the color of ink for my Calligraphy project? What colors can I choose from?

Of course. The color choice of ink and font selection is up to our customer. Black is the color most often chosen because it is the most elegant. We also letter in blue, charcoal gray, gold and silver. If you have another color in mind, we often suggest you find the color you would like and we can work from there.

Example of a place card with gold ink.

Can I choose my preferred font?

Absolutely. Elegance doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some samples of beautiful fonts to choose from. If you have questions, please ask.

How do you deliver?

With over 35 years of experience, we have handled every situation with ease. Local clients drop off and pick up their orders (Naperville, Illinois). Out of state customers ship either by USPS, Fed-Ex, or UPS and items are returned by the same method.

How long does it take to create my project?

Feel confident that Queen’s Hand Calligraphy is dedicated to giving your order the personal attention it so rightly deserves. We will notify you via email once your order has been received by Queen’s Hand Calligraphy.

Our turnaround time is 7-10 business days once we receive your complete order.

Upon completion of your order, we will notify you again via email that your order is being shipped back with a return tracking order.

Do you only do wedding invitations?

No. Queen’s Hand Calligraphy provides hand lettering for:

· Invitation envelope addressing
· Place cards
· Save the Dates
· Certificates
· Special projects
· Corporate addressing
· Thank you notes
· Birth announcements

Hand-calligraphed Place card for "The Bride", which is decorated with crystals at the bottom.
Place-card decorated with crystals.

How can I contact you about a calligraphy project?

You can visit our website for information and details at Queenshandcalligraphy.com and then send me an email or even the old fashioned method of a making a phone call: (630) 286-9382.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Georgia, learning about her business, Queen’s Hand Calligraphy and seeing some of her beautiful work. I certainly have. Please feel free to share this blog post with anyone you think might be interested in beautifully hand crafted, hand lettered invitations or gifts.

About Chanelle

Photo credit: Roxanne Best, Roxtography

Chanelle Carlin is Your Celebrant for Life. She is an ordained minister, professional wedding officiant, coach, and owner of Chanelle Carlin Weddings, LLC. Believing that life and love should be celebrated every minute, she collaborates with couples who’ve already started building the foundations of their relationship over the years and are now ready to venture forth into marriage with a custom, memorable (for all the right reasons) elopement/intimate wedding ceremony. While Chanelle works throughout the Pacific Northwest and Ireland primarily, she gladly travels to wherever her couples prefer to marry. As their Celebrant for Life, Chanelle also celebrates all the special milestones and moments that matter in each of her couples’ lives. She lives with her family in rural Okanogan County, Washington, USA, and totally LOVES her life. You can visit Chanelle at www.chanellecarlin.com, on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.

Thank you for your service

“Everyday someone new turns to us for a helping hand, be it for health care, veterans’ benefits, housing needs or employment assistance, with contributions such as the one received, it assures that those who courageously served our country will not ever be forgotten.” – Jack McManus, National President VVA, 11/2/2023 in a thank you letter to Chanelle Carlin Weddings, LLC
Veterans Day 2023 image of American flags flying at Spring Canyon Cemetery near Grand Coulee, WA. Photo credit: Chanelle Carlin

Since starting my business, it has been my genuine desire that I would provide the highest quality officiating and coaching services and that Chanelle Carlin Weddings would exemplify my continued commitment to community. After each wedding, I donate a portion of my fees to a not-for-pofit organization whose mission I support and whose financial dealings I feel are honorable and trustworthy. Over the past three years, Chanelle Carlin Weddings has donated thousands of dollars on behalf our couples to their chosen organization. One of those organizations is the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and I am mentioning them in this article because just this past week, I received a letter of thanks from their National President. Having worked for many years in the not-for-profit sector, I know how important every donation is and I also know that thank you letters are generally sent out to thank donors, let them kow how their donation will be used and to invite them to donate more. This wasn’t the first donation that Chanelle Carlin Weddings, LLC has sent to the VVA and we have always received a nice email and receipt in the past for our donations, but this is the first letter we received from them so I wanted to acknowledge it and tell you a little about the Vietnam Veterans of America and why they are one of the chosen organizations of Chanelle Carlin Weddings.

First, the VVA is the only national Vietnam veterans organization congressionally chartered and exclusively dedicated to Vietnam-era veterans and their families. Although the war was declared finished in 1975, by the late 1970s, it was clear the established veterans groups in America had failed to make a priority of the issues of concern to Vietnam veterans and there were many. In January 1978, a small group of Vietnam veteran activists came to Washington, D.C., searching for allies to support the creation of an advocacy organization devoted exclusively to the needs of Vietnam veterans. VVA, initially known as the Council of Vietnam Veterans, began its work. Finally, in 1986, Congress recognized them with an official charter. Today, the VVA has a national membership of over 85,000, with over 650 chapters throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and the Philippines dedicated to serving the needs of Vietnam veterans and those who serve our nation regardless of the war they fought in.

Second, in case you’re still curious about why I chose the VVA, it’s simple and relates directly back to my own life. My Dad, Fred is a Vietnam Veteran who served as a teenager like many others of his generation. In 1969, at the age of 19 (younger than my son and three of my nephews now), he was seriously wounded by a land mine. Many were killed. My father was thrown, and initially presumed dead, though thankfully he wasn’t. Dad suffered many physical and psychological traumas during this conflict, only some of which were the result of this accident. I have chosen to support this organization to support the efforts and healing of all Vietnam Veterans, their families and the Veterans who remain in harm’s way today. Their founding principle, of “never again will one generation of veterans abandon another” touches deep within my heart. The VVA members know what returning veterans face. They have been through it before and understand full well that despite all the heart felt “thank you for your service” comments, returning veterans will face major hurdles. It is their mission to make sure that those who serve our country receive the care and respect they have earned and I support that mission.

In case you’d like to learn more about the work of the Vietnam Veterans of America and how they help all veterans, I invite you to check out this YouTube video which I found on their website. It describes their history and current work far more effectively that I can in this short article.

Brief video of history of Vietnam Veterans of America and their mission, found at https://vva.org/who-we-are/history/

Just for a little lighthearted fun after talking about such an important topic, here is a photo of teenage me as cadet in the Civil Air Patrol in the mid-1980’s. Taken by another cadet, we were “in the field” at our monthly search and rescue training program in Shelton, Washington. For those who don’t know, I grew up in a family that believes in military service and at that time I had grand plans to join the air force. While my life took another direction (many, in fact), I treasure the memories of this time in my life and also still hold the gratitude of all who have served in the military. See, the things you learn about your wedding officiant when you read their blog posts. 🙂

Chanelle in the mid-1980’s as a Civil Air Patrol cadet. Photo credit: Kathleen Holly Waud.

Now, back to the thank you letter…

Thank you letter from Vietnam Veterans of America for donation.

I’d like to personally thank Ciara and Joshua DeLys for allowing me the honor of officiating their intimate wedding ceremony and also because it was their decision to choose the VVA as their preferred donation recipient.

Also, thanks to my dad for his service and to all other service men and women who have responded to the call of our nation and served bravely (even if you didn’t feel brave sometimes). It is never easy and no one ever knows what they’re signing up for or sacrificing. I am grateful to each of you.

As I mentioned above, the Vietnam Veterans of America is just one of the organizations that Chanelle Carlin Weddings donates to and they are the only national organization. Each of the other organizations is unique to the Pacific Northwest:

Camp Fire of Snohomish County – https://campfiresnoco.org/
Oregon Dachshund Rescue, Inc. – http://www.odr-inc.org/
KSPS – Public Television in Spokane – https://www.ksps.org/
KSER (90.7) – Everett – http://www.kser.org/
Washington Trails Association – https://www.wta.org/

I’ll highlight another organization in a separate blog post, but since we’re so close to Veteran’s Day AND I just received this lovely letter, I thought I would start with the Vietnam Veterans of America. I’ve included links to each of the other organizations website though in case you’d like to learn more about what they do as well.

If you’re ready to schedule your consultation to talk about your wedding OR how you can donate to one of these organizations, please feel free to reach out. I’d love to chat with you.

About Chanelle:  

Photo credit: Roxanne Best

Chanelle Carlin is Your Celebrant for Life. She is an ordained minister, professional wedding officiant, coach, and owner of Chanelle Carlin Weddings, LLC. Believing that life and love should be celebrated every minute, she collaborates with couples who’ve already started building the foundations of their relationship over the years and are now ready to venture forth into marriage with a custom, memorable (for all the right reasons) elopement/intimate wedding ceremony. While Chanelle works throughout the Pacific Northwest and Ireland primarily, she gladly travels to wherever her couples prefer to marry. As their Celebrant for Life, Chanelle also celebrates all the special milestones and moments that matter in each of her couples’ lives. She lives with her family in rural Okanogan County, Washington, USA, and totally LOVES her life. You can visit Chanelle at www.chanellecarlin.com, on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. 


by Chanelle Carlin, Your Washington Wedding Officiant and Celebrant for LifeTM

As an officiant, each wedding I officiate is so special to me and always stands out in my memory for a few reasons. First and foremost is the relationship I’ve been honored to build with the couple. After all, there is no wedding ceremony without them. After that are the truly beautiful venues – in this case, Gray Bridge Venue in the forests of Sultan, Washington. Last, but certainly not least, are the amazing wedding professionals I’m fortunate to work alongside. Here are some of my favorite reflections from this beautiful spring wedding along with some incredible Gray Bridge Venue photos taken by the very talented, Joanna Monger.

Chanelle Carlin officiating Zack & Brianna’s Intimate Family Wedding at Gray Bridge
Wedding Venue, Sultan, WA; PC Joanna Monger Photography

Zack and Brianna are an amazing couple who live in the Los Angeles area of California. I was honored to first “meet” them virtually in the fall before their spring wedding. We spent time getting to know each other long-distance through a couple of Zoom meetings and a bunch of emails. They are sweet, fun, very gracious and down to earth. I love how much respect they have for one another and how much in love they are with each other.

Why Washington and Why Gray Bridge Venue?

One of the questions I asked, is why get married in Washington State and why at Gray Bridge Venue? They both told me how much they LOVE the Pacific Northwest. They love the outdoor lifestyle and their dream is to have a home in the forest one day up in Washington (or maybe Montana). When they decided to finally get married, they started looking for places in Washington that felt like the two of them. Gray Bridge popped up. The first time they visited for the Open House, they knew they definitely wanted to be married there. I also found out that they enjoy wine so when we finally got to meet in person, I brought a bottle from our local winery in Omak.

During their venue walk-through on Valentine’s Weekend, my husband Bill and I got the property tour from then owner of Gray Bridge, Matt McGregor, while Zack and Brianna were confirming logistical details with Keri their wedding planner and Stacy McGregor. Once our tour with Matt was done, and they were finished chatting logistics for a bit, we had time to sit on the benches over-looking the pond where they were planning to say their vows. We chatted, laughed, got to know each other a bit better and confirmed plans for their ceremony.

The Wedding Day arrives

A few months later and we were all back at Gray Bridge Venue. The day of their wedding was a typical spring day in Washington…a mix of rain and sunshine. Thankfully, the folks at Gray Bridge were well prepared for both. Zack and Brianna even had clear umbrellas for their guests in case it rained during the ceremony…which it did, though only just a little bit. Their Wedding Planner, Keri was not worried in the slightest and knew just when the rain was supposed to stop. The big tent was up, the tables were set under the tent, and the DJ, Clinton Dove had all his equipment set up under the tent as well. Everything was well under control.

As the wedding started, the guests were seated, with umbrellas at the ready. The groom, Zack escorted his future mother in law to her seat. He then went back to escort his own parents to their seats and then made his way to the ceremony spot. After Zack was in situ, their Best Man, Ryan and Maid of Honor, Caitlin came down the steps and took their places. Next to come was Colton, the two-year-old ring bearer, extraordinaire, who nearly stole the show. 

A Ring Bearer with Personality

When it was little Colton’s time to join the procession, I looked up and saw Wedding Planner, Keri. She was enticing the smartly dressed little gentleman dressed in a Navy Tuxedo along the path, with what I assumed were little candies or snacks. Picture a little bird following a trail of bread crumbs – it was that cute! As Colton got to the aisle and started to walk down, he realized he didn’t have the ring box. Stopping, he turned and went back up the ‘almost too long for his two-year-old legs’ steps. He accepted the ring box from Keri, and one more candy (for good measure). Ring box in hand, he then headed back down the steps toward his date with destiny.

A ring bearer with personality coming down the steps at Gray Bridge Wedding Venue; PC Joanna Monger Photography

As he got to the ceremony spot, he headed over to the best man. Little Colton transferred the box and received his payment…a candy diamond ring lollypop. As he headed back up the steps to sit with his family, Colton clenched his fist around his prize. Laughter exploded from the family all around as he excitedly said, “I NEED this!” 

“I NEED this!” Gray Bridge Wedding Venue PC Joanna Monger Photography

A hush fell…

Then, amazingly, a hush fell. Everyone’s attention was diverted. One of the most special things about Gray Bridge Venue, is that guests can see across the pond. Our bride, Brianna gracefully made her entrance through the forest, around the pond to where her father was waiting for her. We were spellbound. It was happening. We got to celebrate what we had come to celebrate…the love and commitment of this amazing couple. 

Beautiful Brianna glides around the pond and through the forest, Gray Bridge Wedding Venue;
Photo credit Joanna Monger Photography

Brianna’s father, Mark was waiting for her in the forest about half-way around the pond. When Brianna reached him, I invited the guests to stand while Zack continued to face the other direction. Once they arrived at the ceremony spot, I asked Mark if he supported Brianna in her marriage to Zack. (This is a question I ask only if requested by each couple). Mark said he did. I then stepped back into my spot and waited for Brianna and Zack to hug her Dad.

Bride escorted by her father from the forest to the ceremony spot at Gray Bridge Venue
Brianna with her Dad, Mark as they enter the ceremony spot from the forest at Gray Bridge Venue.
Photo Credit: Joanna Monger Photography

Once Mark was with the rest of the guests, I had Brianna pass her flowers to her sister, Caitlin. Zack and Brianna held hands. They closed their eyes. I grounded them in the moment with a simple breathing exercise to calm the wedding day nerves. Once they opened their eyes, they only saw each other. When they told me they were ready, we continued with the rest of their beautifully intimate, personal ceremony.

A Final Wish

After Zack and Brianna declared their intent to marry, they shared traditional vows, exchanged rings and created a beautiful sand sculpture as a visual reminder of their day. To conclude the ceremony, I shared a poem written by Pierre Tielhard de Chardin as a final wish for their marriage. “Love is an Adventure” fits the two of them to a “T.”

“Love is an adventure and a conquest. It survives and develops like the universe itself only by perpetual discovery. The only right love is that between couples whose passion leads them both, one through the other, to a higher possession of their being.

Put your faith in the spirit which dwells between the two of you. You have each offered yourself to the other as a boundless field of understanding, of enrichment, of mutually increased sensibility. You will meet above all by entering into and constantly sharing one another’s thoughts, affections, and dreams. There alone, as you know, in spirit, which is arrived through flesh, you will find no disappointments, no limits. There alone the skies are ever open for your love; there alone lies the great road ahead.”

Mr. and Mrs. Bergman

I then pronounced Zack and Brianna married. They kissed to the joyful cheering of their family and then headed up the steps to begin their celebrations.

Newlyweds kissing as they exit the ceremony at Gray Bridge Venue.
Zack and Brianna stop for another celebratory kiss as they exit the ceremony at Gray Bridge Venue. PC: Joanna Monger Photography

Another quick note about Gray Bridge Venue

Gray Bridge Venue is a truly beautiful, magical, elevated wedding venue in Sultan, Washington (Snohomish County). It allows couples and their guests to celebrate in a fun, relaxed and safe atmosphere. Gray Bridge Venue also offers a touch of whimsy. With the forest, the ponds, the horses, friendly host cat (and the gray bridge), it feels like a place of magic. They have almost everything you need, or can connect you with whomever you need.  You will LOVE getting married here and your photos will be spectacular.

Couple standing on the Gray Bridge at Gray Bridge Venue
Zack and Brianna share a private moment on the Gray Bridge at Gray Bridge Venue. Photo Credit: Joanna Monger Photography
Couple enjoying farm animals at Gray Bridge Venue
Zack and Brianna enjoying the animals at the farm on their wedding day at Gray Bridge Venue. Photo Credit: Joanna Monger Photography

Other Wedding team members

Venue: Gray Bridge Venue – www.graybridgevenue.com 

Wedding Coordinator: Keri at KW Events& Weddings – www.kweventslls.com 

Photographer: Joanna Monger Photography – www.joannamonger.com 

DJ: Clinton dove – www.playdjusa.com 

Catering: Navi’s catering Kitchen – www.naviscateringkitchen.com 

Florist: Pollin in Love – www.polleninlove.com 

Photo booth: Aha Party Co – www.ahapartyco.com 

Transportation: Butler Seattle – www.butlerseattle.com 

Drinks/Bartending: Party on the Rocks Seattle – www.partyonthe.rocks 

Cakes and Desserts: Birch Bakery – www.birchbakery.com 

Hair and Make-up: Anne Timms (Mstimmsmakeupartist) – www.annetimms.com 

Officiant: Chanelle Carlin Weddings – www.chanellecarlin.com 

Photo credit Roxanne Best

About Chanelle: 

Chanelle Carlin is Your Celebrant for Life. She is an ordained minister, professional wedding officiant, gratitude coach, self-care coach, and owner of Chanelle Carlin Weddings, LLC. Chanelle believes that life and love should be celebrated every minute. Her couples have already built the foundations of their relationship over the years and are now ready to get married. They’re seeking a custom, memorable (for all the right reasons) elopement/intimate wedding ceremony. While Chanelle works throughout the Pacific Northwest primarily, she gladly travels to wherever her couples prefer to marry. As their Celebrant for Life, Chanelle celebrates all the special milestones and moments that matter in each of her couples’ lives. She lives with her family in rural Okanogan County, Washington, USA, and totally LOVES her life. You can visit Chanelle at www.chanellecarlin.com, on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest