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?

Intrigued?

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. 

JOINING IN JOY | REFLECTIONS OF A NATIVE WEDDING CEREMONY IN COULEE DAM, WASHINGTON FROM YOUR CELEBRANT FOR LIFE AND PNW WEDDING OFFICIANT

Exchanging rings during an intimate Family Wedding at Coulee Dam, WA

A Wedding Officiant for All People

As a wedding officiant, it is one of the real pleasures of my job to become a chameleon for my couples. What do I mean by this? I mean that every couple- their history, customs, religion, culture, orientation -is different and unique, and should be honored. The uniqueness of their love is honored largely by their wedding officiant on their wedding or elopement day. 

Contact Chanelle about Officiating Your Ceremony. – pc: Roxanne Best

Your wedding officiant is more than just the person who helps you legalize your marriage. They are more than a moderator for a wedding ceremony. They are storytellers. They are given the great privilege of understanding what is important to a couple, where they came from, where they are going, and who they are, together and separate, in all aspects. 

Officiant for a Traditional Native Ceremony

I was honored to officiate my husband’s cousin’s wedding ceremony in Coulee Dam, Washington. Each couple that asks me to officiate their wedding honors me. This wedding was even more so, because it was family and also because I was asked to participate in a sacred, traditional, native joining ceremony. I have never witnessed this kind of ceremony before, let alone had a part to play in it. 

It was a bright, warm, sunny spring day – the equinox, actually. Brenda and Jason’s big moment was actually six years in the making. Children were outside in the front yard waiting, and adults were inside the house preparing food, arranging chairs, also waiting patiently. Soon enough, we heard the bell. The ringing bell says it is time! It’s time to come together. It’s time to begin. It’s time to join this couple and their families together.

Every Aspect was Sacred

Native couple honoring their children with unity ritual blending families
Jason and Brenda honoring their children

As we gathered indoors, we moved to our separated seating areas: Women on the left. Men on the right. Every aspect of this ceremony was a tradition passed down. From an elder between the two seating areas praying as the ceremony commenced, to every song that was sung. After three songs, which initiated the ceremony, the wedding party began to enter.

First to enter was the groom, Jason,  dressed in his traditional wedding clothes. As he came forward toward the elder, he was escorted by his eldest son, Chris. They gracefully danced around the wedding blanket on the floor and took their places in front of where the women guests were seated. 

Next, wearing her beautiful, red traditional wedding dress, the bride, Brenda, entered with her eldest son, Jaymon and eldest daughter, Monica. The couple was then joined by their remaining five children. The elder offered prayer and songs and then called the elders of the two families forward to exchange gifts. 

This gift exchange is an acknowledgment that they all support the marriage of Jason and Brenda. In previous generations, they may have exchanged horses, but on this day, they exchanged beautiful Pendleton blankets and shawls chosen specifically for the occasion. 

Every Wedding I Officiate Makes Me Better at Living my Purpose

On a personal note, I can share that as I stood, watching, listening and taking part in the traditional joining ceremony and waiting for my part as the officiant, I felt wholly inadequate. I felt underdressed, and quite nervous. I so wanted to make sure Brenda and Jason’s wedding was all they hoped and dreamed it would be. They had waited six years and been through much alone and together.

With each couple, whose wedding I am honored to officiate, I spend time getting to know them and to learn more of their story. I learn about the details that most people don’t know: their dreams, their fears, their favorite things about each other and their frustrations. Then, we create their sacred ceremony. 

Every couple who works with me deserves their own version of a sacred ceremony. I spend time with them to learn what’s most important for them? For Brenda and Jason, it was always about their family and their children – all eight of them. Their lives revolve around them. Their ceremony should, therefore, include and honor their children and all children of the family. 

A beautiful, blended family

One more song, then onto the second part of the ceremony…my part. This included sharing their story, leading them through their vows to each other, to their children and finally, after six long years, pronouncing them legally married! Even at this moment, this brings tears to my eyes!

Even though this was the first wedding of this traditional background I had ever done, when it came time to do the work, I felt at ease and well capable. I have officiated more than a hundred weddings that have brought a couple’s unique journey to life, and honored them. This was no different! 

In my process, I take the time to deep dive into my couples’ stories. This allows me to connect, to envision, to fully comprehend, and embody. I may not have come from the same heritage or cultural experience as Brenda and Jason, but I was certainly able to learn, to listen, and to celebrate them and all that they are. After the ceremony and the vows were spoken, I watched Jason, Brenda and their guests as they took in the last of my storytelling and the sacred vows. Watching the love and joy fill the room filled me with so much gratitude for what I get to be a part of.

After the Vows were Spoken

After a blur of hugs, laughter, photos, and congratulations, the groom called everyone to the tables with the sacred bell. As their officiant, Brenda and Jason had me sitting at their left, in a place of honor. This gave me a chance to ask lots of questions, which Brenda kindly answered for me. I have to say, I  felt just like I did the first time I traveled to Europe in my 20’s. It’s so exciting to experience and admire traditions from other cultures. 

Once the guests were seated, a prayer was sung, the tables were set, water was poured and food was served. Once the food was placed on the tables, the daughters joined the family at the table, the groom again rang the bell and sang in prayer. He then explained what would happen next. He would call for the water, we would drink. He would call out the traditional foods, we would honor each and then we would eat what we needed to nourish ourselves. Food was passed around in a traditional manner, and then we were encouraged to join in feasting and speech-making!
 

Find a Wedding Officiant Who will Celebrate You

I could go on and on about how much it meant to me to be a part of this ceremony. To be embraced in such a sacred tradition, such a precious event, was truly a privilege. I aspire to learn and grow from every wedding officiating experience I have. What can I take from this experience into the next? What have I learned? What will I remember? I want to speak to any couple who has found their way here! If you have not yet found your wedding or elopement officiant, I encourage you to think about the following things:

What about your history, traditions, customs, culture, make you and your partner, together and individually unique? Is it important to you that these things be honored on your wedding day?

Do you dream of having a custom wedding ceremony written for you that honors the details and nuance of your story?

Imagine having a wedding officiant who creates a custom wedding ceremony that makes you laugh, cry, brings you down memory lane, and makes you feel completely understood. On that believes as strongly in the success of your marriage as they do your wedding day.

I would be honored to talk with you and answer any questions you may have as you journey forth in choosing an officiant and planning your elopement or wedding ceremony.  Please feel free to reach out!

Photo credit Roxanne Best

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. 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.

YOUR E.P.I.C. WEDDING CEREMONY

Camas Lily

A Wedding Ceremony Planning Framework to help you create your perfect ceremony. 

As a professional Wedding Officiant, I receive a lot of questions from couples who don’t even know where to start thinking about their wedding event, let alone their ceremony (the part during which they actually get married) and they start feeling stressed. Fortunately, while there can be a lot to consider when planning a wedding and putting together a wedding ceremony, you don’t have to do everything by yourself.

In fact, for every part of your special day, there is a wedding professional available and desiring to assist you: Wedding Venues, Wedding Planners, Florists, Stylists, and Stationary designers, Party Rentals, Caterers, Bakers, DJ’s, Musicians, Photographers, Videographers Jewelers, Tailors, Retailers, Hotels AND, of course Officiants. Each professional can lead you to another. 

The emails from stressed couples often start like this: 

“HELP! We’re getting married. We want a beautiful, simple ceremony that is unique to us, but I don’t even know where to start.”  

  • Where should a couple start? 
  • Choose a date? 
  • Find a location? 
  • Photographer? 
  • Caterer? 
  • Music? 
  • Minister/Officiant/Friend? 
  • Decide what type of wedding to have? Large wedding, intimate wedding, elopement? 

Oh My Gosh! There is just so much to think about!  

Make Your Ceremony E.P.I.C.

If you’re already feeling the pressure, please know you’re not alone, but also that it doesn’t have to be so stressful.  I have spoken with two couples recently who have been engaged a short period of time and whose weddings are more than a year away, and they are already worried about the details. Planning a wedding should be a fun and an enjoyable process for the two of you. Hopefully, after reading this brief article and learning about my wedding ceremony planning framework, E.P.I.C., you’ll be able to relax a bit, enjoy your engagement and let go of the anxieties that planning a wedding can cause for couples. I will also provide some resources for next steps and one very important MUST have, if you intend to be legally married in Washington State.

But first, let’s start with celebrating, shall we? You’re engaged! Congratulations! This is an amazing time and as I said before, planning your wedding should be fun. You’re preparing a celebration to begin the rest of your lives together. If you haven’t already, take some time away from planning to just breathe and enjoy the bliss of your engagement. 

There is a lot that goes into planning a wedding ceremony and most couples have never done it before. Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life. Big or small, it doesn’t matter and you want it to be just right and all about the two of you. The idea of E.P.I.C, my wedding ceremony planning framework is to help you create the wedding you dream of with as little stress as possible.

There are four stages to E.P.I.C.: Envision, Plan, Implement and Celebrate. Ready to plan your wedding ceremony? 

Stage 1: Envision

Jason and Sheila eloped from Iowa to the Okanogan to get married; Photo credit: Roxanne Best.

Before you tell anyone else, even your parents, your children or your best friends, enjoy the experience together. After all, the two of you have just decided you want to spend the rest of your lives together. You may as well start now. Give yourselves a few days to a few weeks to live in the bliss. Talk about your future together. What do you envision? What will your life look like as a married couple? Why? 

Talk about your ideal wedding…How will it look and feel for you? and your guests? Who do you hope to share this day with and why? Are you wanting a faith-based ceremony, completely religious in a church, no religious aspects whatsoever? Will it be outdoors, indoors, something in between?  

As the two of you decide what’s most important to you, you’ll be able to answer the questions that your friends and family will ask just as soon as you share your news and your wedding planner and officiant will ask later. Most importantly, enjoy this time together. 

Stage 2: Plan 

This is where you start thinking about things like a budget, a guest list and thinking about details such as a location, ceremony only or ceremony with reception.

Family Wedding at Sunshine Ranch Wedding Venue, East Wenatchee, WA; Photo credit: Tiffany Joy Photography

You can use our friend, the Internet (aka Google and Pinterest), like Letty and Marc did (above photo) as well as friends who were recently married. Wedding sites such as the Knot, Wedding Wire & Style Me Pretty are just three of the many internet resources for couples (you can google those too). They have checklists, lists of vendors and the capacity for you to create your own wedding website where your guests can go for details. AND…we all know that person whose wedding you attended last month or last year. I bet they would love to share their experiences and maybe even their Pinterest page with you. They know the things you definitely want to do and totally want to avoid. I mean, isn’t that what friends are for? 

Leave it to the ‘Pros’ 

My recommendation is to hire professionals and start with a Wedding Planner and your Officiant (the person responsible for making sure you’re legally married). They can help you define, design, plan and execute your vision for your wedding day and ceremony with little stress to the two of you. Oftentimes, couples tell me that because they’re planning a small wedding or elopement they don’t need a wedding planner or they can just ask a friend or family member to help. While I agree that elopements and intimate weddings have fewer moving parts than larger weddings or multi-day events, planning one still takes a lot of time and energy. Most couples have never planned a wedding before and… they usually work full time at jobs in addition to planning a wedding.

Photo credit: Reid Johnson, Best Made Videos

Wedding Planner 

The wedding planner’s role is to help bring YOUR vision for your perfect wedding day and night (overall celebration) to life. I mean, they do this for a living. They help you know what to think about and when, as well as help you manage all the little details and vendors, and they are indispensable on the day of the event. You WILL appreciate the support…trust me. If you can’t swing a professional planner or Day of Coordinator, connect with someone in your life that is excellent at organizing events, just make sure they’re ok with not enjoying your wedding as a guest, because they’ll be busy taking care of you and the details of your day most of the time. 

As an example, I recently officiated two weddings in a weekend, one without a planner/coordinator and one with. At the wedding without the coordinator, which was an intimate event with about 20 guests. The groom and his groomsmen were hurriedly building the arch that they wanted to be married in front of an hour before the ceremony was to start at 10:30 a.m. and the bridesmaids were decorating it at the original planned for start time. The bride had had to return home because her dress had been left behind and ended up almost getting a ticket because she was running late. The ceremony started over an hour late. 

In contrast, the very next day I officiated a wedding where the couple had asked one of their sisters to be the planner and day of coordinator, even though the bride is extremely organized herself. When I arrived, the entire outdoor area had been transformed into a beautiful wedding venue, the 100+ guests were having a great time mingling and munching on their own blend of trail mix, no one in the bridal party was building anything and everyone was completely relaxed. We signed the marriage certificate, had the ceremony and the couple had a brilliant time just enjoying their guests. Their wedding coordinator managed to get over 16,000 steps in by the time the ceremony ended and the reception was in full swing. 

In case you’re still feeling a little anxious and wondering where you find these people; no worries. If you would like the names of some amazing wedding planners, let me know. I will happily ‘hook you up’. 

Wedding Officiant 

Contact Chanelle about Officiating Your Ceremony. Photo credit: Roxanne Best

Your Wedding Officiant’s role is two-fold, though some, like me, provide a wide variety of related services. They help you create a ceremony that fits your personalities and vision for your perfect wedding, provide expert, caring officiating for you on the day AND just as importantly, more so for some, ensure that your marriage is legal. Yep…that’s a thing and there is paperwork involved. 

I can see the ‘deer in headlights’ look now. Wait! I thought the Officiant just showed up on the day, ask a couple of questions, pronounce us married, sign the paper and left! 

Well, yes, they can do that if that’s what you’re looking for as a couple. Most of the couples I have officiated for have waited their whole lives to marry this person and they want to start their marriage with a ceremony that is beautiful, meaningful and unique to them. If you think about it, you’re never going to marry each other again and you’ve asked at least two people (your witnesses), or possibly 200 to come share in the experience with you.

I recently saw from another officiant who tracked all the things an Officiant does for their couples (he does custom weddings in Canada). There are actually 36 (yes, thirty-six) different steps from the time we first have our consultation call until you receive your recorded marriage certificate in the mail after you’re married.

You can find wedding officiants the same way you find a wedding planner or a photographer. If you belong to a church or house of worship, you’ve already got someone you can ask. If not, you can ask your friends who’ve gotten married recently, search on Google, Pinterest and internet wedding sites, even ask the county auditor when you get your marriage license (though this is pushing it time wise). As with all wedding professionals, you’ll want to make sure the officiant you choose is a good fit for your personalities as a couple and the services that you’re hoping for and that they can work well with the rest of your wedding team. Talk with them, read reviews from other couples, make sure they’re insured. 

That’s ok, we have a friend/family member who will officiate for us. 

In Washington State, you can always ask a friend or family member to get ordained and officiate for you. This can be lovely for some couples. My oldest nephew did this for his younger brother’s wedding and it was beautiful. On the other hand, just like asking a friend to plan or photograph your wedding, things can go wrong (really wrong sometimes) and it can add to the stress and sometimes harm a lovely relationship. We’ve all seen those videos where friend officiants told inappropriate stories or jokes during the ceremony, while the couple stood there, visibly uncomfortable. Even more frequently, non-professional officiants back out of weddings (for any number of reasons). It’s hard to imagine, but at least ¼ of the couples I have officiated for have come to me after their friend/family member backed out of officiating for them at the last minute (this was even pre-pandemic). One of my couples had a really tough time. Their first officiant passed away and their second officiant, a friend of the groom’s just stopped responding to them a month before the wedding. By the time they called me, the couple and their family were very distressed and worried they wouldn’t be able to find someone to officiate. The other part to be mindful of with lay (friend/family) officiants is the paperwork. Washington State requires that the officiant return the completed (signed and dated) Certificate of Marriage to the county to be recorded. Professional officiants are used to this, have a policy and a practice of doing this after every wedding so the couple can be assured that they’re legally married. Most dads, uncles and friend officiants don’t, though they can learn and most counties do provide helpful information. 

Stage 3: Implement 

This is where you start hiring the rest of your wedding team and nailing down all those plans and where having a Wedding Planner can be of HUGE assistance. They have lists of amazing wedding pros, know what to do when to bring your vision to life and will make sure you stay on budget for your event.

Creating the Ceremony 

Most ceremonies officiated by professional officiants take around 15-20 minutes to complete on the day of your wedding from the time you enter the ceremony spot until you’re pronounced married. If you have lots of elements, it may go a little longer, but not terribly long. Really, the sky’s the limit when it comes to how you want your wedding ceremony to feel. Just remember that it’s your wedding so it will be beautiful. 

While the ceremony may only take 15-20 minutes, the planning and crafting of your unique, custom, E.P.I.C. ceremony takes a bit more energy, time and effort. Remember at the beginning when we talked about the two of you envisioning your wedding before jumping into planning? This is where taking that time together comes in handy.

These are some of the things your Officiant will ask you:

How do you want your ceremony to feel for you and your guests? If you start here, your Officiant can help you with the rest. 

Do you want a faith-based ceremony? Non-religious? A combination? multi-cultural? themed? 

Would you like an outdoor ceremony or indoor ceremony? 

Do you want a large event that includes all your family and friends, or an intimate affair with just a few?   

How many people (if any) you want to be in your wedding party?

Do you want any readings or music before or during the ceremony? These add to the feel, without adding to the length of your ceremony…trust me. 

Would you like some traditional vows, to create your own vows or have a combination of the two? and 

What type of unity ritual you would like (if any)? This is a great way to honor your family/ cultural backgrounds.  There are almost as many unity rituals/ceremonies and variations to each as there are people getting married and they can add texture and depth to your wedding ceremony, again without taking a lot of time.

One of the most common is the Handfasting and it can be done as a quick ritual within a more traditional wedding ceremony (tying a knot over the couple’s hands with one cord/ribbon) OR, as one of my couples did, an entire ceremony can be created around the Handfasting, incorporating multiple-colored ribbons, and multiple family members offering blessings, specific to the couple. 

Another example of a unity ritual that can be a quick part of a ceremony or the ceremony itself and be a perfect reflection of the couple and their life together is the traditional Jewish Shabbat (Seven Blessings). I have had two couples with brides from Jewish backgrounds and grooms who were not Jewish. Each requested to have the Ritual of Seven Blessings incorporated into their ceremony. One couple had a relaxed outdoor wedding (all the guests stood in a protective semi-circle around the couple) and asked specific family members to read a blessing and share a personal wish for the couple. The second couple had the ritual of the seven blessings as the major part of their ceremony and asked family members to offer the blessings in Hebrew and English while the couple performed a circle dance (symbolically creating their house to protect their new family). Both were beautiful and a unique reflection of the couple.

Lillian and Michael dancing during the Shabbat to “create their house.” Photo credit Tetiana Photography

In order to create a custom, personal wedding ceremony that fits YOUR vision for your day and matches your personalities, your officiant needs to get to know you as much as they can. As I am getting to know my couples, I ask a lot of questions. We start with safe, easy questions: 

What are your favorite movies? Favorite music? Fave books? 

What do you enjoy doing together as a couple? 

What do you enjoy doing on your own or with your friends? 

Then we move on to the more mushy stuff: 

How did you meet?  More than one couple has told me their love story is boring or non-romantic. I ask them to tell me anyway. Whether they met in college, on the internet, or at work, the story is always fun and brings smiles to their faces…now that’s romantic! 

What did you do on your first date? Favorite memory from that date? 

What made you want a second date with each other? 

How long did you date before you got engaged and what did that look like? 

One thing almost all couples have in common is that when they “plan” their engagement, it almost NEVER goes according to the plan.

One of my couples planned a helicopter flight over their favorite national park. The groom had the ring in his pocket and intended to ask his beloved in a private space on the flight, but he just couldn’t find the right moment. When they landed afterward, he seized the moment, got down on bended knee with ring in hand and found himself surrounded by on-lookers with phones out. 

Another couple planned a trip to Europe. The groom had everything planned for a beautiful hiking proposal, but by the time they were almost to the spot, his bride to be was so hungry/hangry, that she couldn’t go on and needed to turn around and find a burger! It took three more attempts on that trip until just the right “them” moment presented itself. Thankfully, both ladies said yes.

After even more love story related questions, we start talking a bit more about the ceremony and plans for your marriage after the ceremony. After all, there is a whole life that will continue after this one day and all of it helps to create that very unique, magical, ceremony that celebrates your one-of-a-kind love.

That ONE thing you MUST have to be legally married in Washington 

Janelle and Tom’s Marriage Certificate; PC Bill Black

I mentioned above that as your officiant it is my role to make sure your marriage is legal. In the State of Washington, you must have a marriage license, which you must obtain as a couple. There is a three-day waiting period to get married once it has been issued, and it’s only valid for 60 days. So, once you receive your marriage certificate, you must wait three days to get married and the marriage must take place before the expiration date of the license. Washington State also requires your officiant, the two of you (the couple) and two witnesses sign the Certificate of Marriage. The Officiant is then required to return it to the county of origin within thirty days (this varies by state). If you have questions about this, remember to talk with your officiant.

A virtual elopement during the pandemic (couple was in San Luis Obispo, California); PC Aaron Black.

Stage 4: Celebrate

Mitch and Christina Celebrate their Marriage at Washington Pass Overlook, Okanogan, WA; PC Forthright Photography

Cue the confetti and balloons.  

Finally, after envisioning and planning for this moment and implementing the plan comes the Celebration…the BIG DAY…Your E.P.I.C. wedding day. Your ceremony, your reception/party afterward, your honeymoon AND, don’t forget… your married life together. Yes, then too. The celebrations don’t end with the wedding. Your life together will continue to be filled with special moments worth remembering and celebrating. 

Your wedding day is one of the most important days of either of your lives. There is a lot that goes into planning a wedding ceremony and most couples have never done it before. 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 the ranch or sign your license with your witnesses and officiant in the mountains or at your favorite winery overlooking the lake, it’s YOUR special day and you want it to be meaningful to the two of you, not stressful. There are many, many resources available to help alleviate stress, including amazingly talented and committed wedding professionals and E.P.I.C., my Wedding Ceremony Planning Framework that I’ve shared in this article, but if you start with remembering to breathe and enjoy your engagement together, all will fall into place. Hopefully, rather than a panicked email asking for help, your next email to your officiant might be a thank you or a positive Google review. This is a magical time, and I’m absolutely delighted for you. Best wishes for a lifetime of love. – Chanelle 

Photo credit Roxanne Best

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. 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.