In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, a reflection on one of my favorite Irish symbols – The Claddagh by Chanelle Carlin, Washington State Wedding Officiant and Your ‘Celebrant for Life’

For those who know me or have spent any time reading my website, you know that I lived in Ireland for eight years…and loved every minute of my time there. So, in honor of the month we’re in…March… and a little over a week from St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I would share a post today about one of my favorite Irish symbols and one that couples often ask about…the Claddagh.  Before I get to that, I thought I would reflect on Ireland for a sec. It is the one place apart from Camp Killoqua in Stanwood, Washington that ever truly felt like home. Sometime, I will share a bit more about my Irish experience and how it influences me as your Celebrant for Life. In the meantime, here are a couple of photos from my time there. The first is a photo of the top of the street that I lived on when I first moved to Ireland (after staying with friends). If you look closely, there is a red brick building in the middle of the photo on the right. That was my building. I shared a flat (apartment) with two other girls. My first job in Ireland was down at the other end of the street on the left.

Dublin Street, Monaghan. The street where I first lived in Monaghan, Ireland. 

woman standing in a pink coat next to a hedge in rural ireland with gray buildings in background
Me standing along the side of a hedge in Clogher, Co. Tyrone (approx. 2010)

The Claddagh – enough about me for now…

I thought you might enjoy a little history as well as info on how to wear the Claddagh ring, plus one VERY important piece of info that you’ll want to read at the very end. 

The Claddagh is one of Ireland’s most recognized and precious images. Two hands embracing a heart adorned with a crown symbolize the purity of a cherished relationship – friendship (hands), love (heart) and loyalty (crown).  

Image by Mégane Percier from Pixabay 

Claddagh is a Place 

When we hear “Claddagh”, most of us think ring or maybe even door knocker. But Claddagh is actually a place. It’s located in County Galway on the west coast of Ireland and THE place where a fisherman-turned-goldsmith transformed his undying commitment to the woman he loved into the renowned band of gold. (More about the legend in a bit…)  

In an area once known as the Fish Market and named after the Irish word for “shore” – an Cladach, Claddagh is one of Ireland’s oldest former fishing communities. It is located in Galway city, just across the River Corrib from the Spanish and Caoċ Arches, the remaining structure of a protective wall constructed in 1584. Very little of the original village is present today due to shifts in industry, emigration, disease and war but the history and lore remains. You can find out more about Claddagh here .

Image by Snail from Pixabay

Hands, Heart & Crown 

There are many legends surrounding the original design of the Claddagh ring and most point toward Galway fisherman Richard Joyce.  In the late 17th century, Joyce was captured by pirates and sold into slavery. While in servitude, he forged a ring of gold for his true love back in Galway featuring three symbols: a heart of love, a crown of loyalty and hands of friendship.  After his release back to his village of Claddagh, he married the woman who had waited years for him to return. “With these hands I give you my heart, and I crown it with my love”. 

Image by Mégane Percier from Pixabay   

Traditionally, a Claddagh ring was passed from a mother to her daughter. Or in my case, from daughter to mother. I gave my mom a pair of Claddagh earrings when I lived in Ireland. Often a family heirloom, the symbol of love, loyalty and friendship is also commonly exchanged between friends.  

Most popular though is the wearing of a Claddagh ring as a symbol of romance. The Claddagh ring is to be worn in a specific way depending upon your relationship ‘status.’ 

How to Wear a Claddagh Ring 

Before getting married, the ring should be worn on your right hand. 

If you’re single, wear the ring with your heart facing out. This tells people you’re open to dating, i.e. that your heart is available to give to another person. The heart should point toward the end of your finger, rather than the center of your hand, and the crown should point inward. 

Once you’re dating someone and you feel committed, wear the ring with the heart facing in. This shows your heart is currently unavailable. The Claddagh should be turned around so the heart points toward the center of your hand. 

Once you are married, the ring can be moved to the left hand. For some, you can move the Claddagh ring to the left hand once you’re engaged (heart pointing out to the tip of your finger) and then turned around to have the heart pointed toward the center of your hand as part of the wedding ceremony. 

Image by Kilkenny Design 


Regardless of whether or not you’re looking for love, one thing is certain – never buy your own Claddagh ring. It must be gifted or received. It’s bad luck, and who knows more about luck than the Irish? 

Image by Alexa from Pixabay   

I hope you enjoyed this brief little post about one of my favorite Irish symbols as we get ready for St. Patrick’s Day. Do you have a favorite Irish symbol? Have you been to Ireland? I’d love to hear one of your stories. 

Thank you as well to and for much of the information gathered for this post. 

About Chanelle:  

Photo credit: Roxanne Best

Chanelle Carlin is Your Celebrant for LifeTM. She is an ordained minister, professional wedding officiant, author, gratitude coach, self-care coach and owner of Chanelle Carlin Weddings, LLC. Chanelle believes that life and love should be celebrated every minute. She collaborates with couples who’ve found “The ONE” to create custom, memorable ceremonies for their intimate wedding or elopement at Lake Chelan and throughout the naturally beautiful Pacific Northwest and celebrates all the special moments that matter in their lives. She lives with her family in rural Okanogan County, Washington, USA and LOVES traveling throughout the Pacific Northwest to officiate weddings. You can visit Chanelle at, on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. 


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 LifeTM. She is an ordained minister, professional wedding officiant, author, gratitude coach and owner of Chanelle Carlin Weddings, LLC. Chanelle believes that life and love should be celebrated every minute. She collaborates with couples who’ve found “The ONE” to create custom, memorable ceremonies for their intimate wedding or elopement in the naturally beautiful Pacific Northwest. She lives with her family in rural Okanogan County, Washington, USA and LOVES traveling throughout the Pacific Northwest to officiate weddings. You can visit Chanelle at, on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.


Why & How to Care for Yourself Leading up to Your Big Day

There are so many ways to practice self-care before your wedding but the main thing to understand is why. You’re planning your wedding. It’s going to be beautiful, special and you’ve been thinking about it for years. You want it to be perfect so you and your partner need to take care of yourselves (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually).  It’s just that there is SO much to do beforehand…even when you have your wedding team in place, it can feel overwhelming. I know.

Well, as your officiant, one of my promises to you is to encourage you in your self-care, so here I am, doing just that. There are lots of easy things that you both can do to take care of your mind, body and spirit and if you’re wanting help along the way, I’ve got you covered there too.



Staying up all night watching IG videos or pinning your favorite wedding decor might sound like a good idea, but it’s really not good for sleeping.  Studies have shown that the blue light from your phone suppresses melatonin, which keeps you from sleeping well and ultimately feeling refreshed, not to mention possible connections with diseases such as diabetes. The best thing to do? Start a sleep schedule where you try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day (even on the weekends). And as far as the blue light, aim to put down all your electronics 2-3 hours before bedtime (OK  – at LEAST half an hour before bed). One of the things I have found helpful is to put down/shut off the electronics and hour before bed, take care of final tasks in the kitchen or around the house, grab a cup of herbal tea, wash my face and brush my teeth. All of that takes me about 45 minutes and by then, I am calm and ready to sleep, my house feels ready for the morning and my skin is ready for nightly rejuvenation. If I’m still a bit awake, I will read a book (old-fashioned kind – no electronic versions).

Sleep, good sleep is vital


I know…there is so much to do in our daily lives even without planning a wedding that our nutrition can get off track. However, when we don’t eat properly, there are all kinds of potential impacts: weight gain, weight loss, digestive trouble, skin irritation and dark circles, stress, frustration, injury and illness to name a few. Some basic things to try: 

  • Drink less caffeine (we PNW folks LOVE our coffee and tea), alcohol and pop – there is a lot of sodium in sodas. 
  • Drink MORE water – this will keep your skin hydrated as well as keep your digestive system working the way it is designed to.
  • Increase your fresh veggie and fruit intake (mostly veggies), even by a little bit. Our bodies thrive when they get treated to fresh food. It also helps the hair, skin and digestion.
  • Decrease processed foods as much as possible. I love pizza as much as the next person, but it’s not good for us to eat it every day, or even twice a week.
  • You may even want to try a nutritional cleanse.  In 2008, I began a nutritional cleanse program and lost 70 lbs in six months. It was AWESOME. Don’t have six months until your wedding? That’s ok. In the first 90 days, I had lost over 40 lbs and felt AMAZING. You might not need to lose that much or ANY for that matter. A nutritional cleanse is more about removing toxins from the body that come from stress, the environment and processed foods.

I am once again working with and using Isagenix cleanse products because I LOVE knowing that I am giving my body the nutritional support it needs with products I know are life-changing (they already have been for me). If you’re interested in learning more, you can visit my website here. If you have questions, I will be happy to answer them and share my story in more detail. 


So…did you already join the gym? Are you going as often as you planned? If yes, you’re a rockstar and well done! If not, that’s ok. I don’t judge. I have bought more gym memberships that went unused in my lifetime than I care to think about. BUT… exercise/movement is important for a healthy body, mind and spirit. I actually prefer to go for walks, hikes, dance around my kitchen and living room when no one is watching, play ball with my cat (I know it sounds weird, but he loves to race them). AND, these don’t have to take a lot of time. 10-15 minutes at a go, can be really beneficial and with as much time as most of us scroll social media in an evening or on a lunch break, we can usually find 10 minutes for a quick game of chase the ball with your cat, I mean stroll around the block. 🙂 

Taking care of your skin

You’re most likely having some photos taken at your wedding. Lack of sleep, poor nutrition and stress can really take a toll on our skin. Since I know that you want your photos to show your natural, just married glow, try to prioritize a skincare routine. Ideally, twice per day, you should cleanse and moisturize, but if that is too much, at LEAST do it before bed. Our skin cells rejuvenate overnight when our bodies are sleeping. Washing and moisturizing before that just aids in that process. 

I recently became a brand ambassador for a luxury skincare line that also has a super yummy, drinkable collagen. My skin feels AMAZING (I live in the desert and have been experiencing dry skin for years), my dark circles and dark spots on my forehead and hands are almost gone).


Emotional self-care is just as important as taking care of our physical health. Our minds and hearts need attention too.

Time Together

Date night

How about Date Night once a week?

Wedding planning can become all-consuming, so I encourage you and your partner to take a night, once a week if possible, and go out here so you don’t talk about the wedding. Just have fun, laugh, tell jokes, talk about work (right?!), maybe even go for a walk or a hike and take care of some physical self-care at the same time.

“You” Time

time for a bubble bath

Sometimes we are so busy taking care of our partner, the kids, the parents, working, planning a wedding, and answering questions from everyone else, that we forget that we need to have time alone too. You know, just to breathe and BE. This is a great time to lock yourself in the bathroom and take a bubble bath. Turn on some music, SOAK and relax.

Time with Friends

After you’re done having your “You” time, maybe try some time with friends just to relax and NOT talk wedding stuff. How about a movie or girls’ hike or even a spa day (pedicure?).

self care time with the girls – pc Joel Muniz (via

Don’t estimate the power of time with your girlfriends/guy friends. Yes, guys need to practice self-care too and they need time with their buddies.

self care round of golf with the boys – pc Getty Images/creator pixelfit

To-Do Lists

All this time talking about not talking about wedding stuff may have you thinking, yeah, but Chanelle, I have a wedding to plan and I can’t NOT talk about it or DO wedding things. I get it, but I also know how deep the rabbit hole can get sometimes, so I recommend setting aside a certain number of hours per week for wedding research/planning/doing AND I recommend sticking to that allotted amount of time. Keep track of things you want to get done in your wedding planning notebook or “to-do list”.

To Do List…

Best Self Care Idea Yet – Get Support

Hire a Wedding Planner. I promise you that the amount of stress, energy and emotional overwhelm that you will save by having a wedding planner will far outweigh any money you spend. These folks are awesome and like your officiant (yours truly), they live for weddings. The things it takes you hours to find and do, take them no time at all. Their whole job is to alleviate your stress and help your vision for your wedding come to life. AND…there is a wedding planner for every budget (I promise). If you would like a recommendation for an amazing PNW Wedding planner, let me know. I work with some incredible, talented and creative people.

Even if you decide not to go with a wedding planner, ask for help when you need it! Your family, friends, and bridal party will happily help you plan and take things off your plate when it all gets to be too much.


As I said at the beginning, we need to care for our body, mind and spirit when it comes to self-care. for some, this can mean worship and time at church or temple. For others, it may look a little less structured.



Taking a few moments to decompress each day will help keep you sane. Even if you think regular meditation is silly, all it takes is 5 minutes to help center you and focus on the day ahead. I generally set aside an hour each day for my devotional time (reading scripture, prayer), but I have found that just taking 15 minutes a day to write down all the things I am thankful for that day and in that moment (from the biggest, down to the most detailed things) helps me feel calmer and peaceful.


Couple walking. Photo by Catalin Paterau on

I’m a HUGE fan of walking and not just for exercise, but to clear my head. I’ve also managed to solve all the world’s problems on more than one long walk (too bad no one was ever there with me to listen in). 🙂 Your walks don’t even have to be long ones or even overly speedy. If you just get out for 10-15 minutes at a time, you’ll likely find your stress level going down and your energy going up. In the winter, when it is too cold outside (we often have sub-freezing temperatures), I walk the halls of our house just to ‘get my steps in’. 

Monthly favorite treats

We all have something we love to treat ourselves to, and when you’re planning a wedding (or just living life in general) it’s always nice to take the time to take care of yourself. If you love a great massage or a mani/pedi, treat yourself to one. Maybe it’s decadent dark chocolate (my favorite) or an insanely good book. Enjoy this time of your life in every way possible!

book, lilac flowers, coffee from pixabay
Getting a manicure. Photo by Kris Atomic on Unsplash
Dark Chocolate. Image by Alexander Stein from Pixabay

As I mentioned above, self-care care is vital for you and your partner every day, but especially for you both to truly enjoy the wedding planning process and your most amazingly beautiful wedding day. I hope some of the information and tips in this article have been or will be helpful to you. If you would like further support or clarification, please reach out and let me know.

While I only link to products and services I think you will love, some of the links on our site are monetized. If you click on the link and make a purchase I may receive a commission, which helps me build a residual income and keep bringing great content to you! All opinions expressed are my own.

Photo credit Roxanne Best

Chanelle Carlin is Your Celebrant for Life. She is an ordained minister, professional wedding officiant, author, gratitude coach, self-care coach and owner of Chanelle Carlin Weddings, LLC. Chanelle believes that life and love should be celebrated every minute. She collaborates with couples who’ve found “The ONE” to create custom, memorable ceremonies for their intimate wedding or elopement in the naturally beautiful Pacific Northwest. She lives with her family in rural Okanogan County, Washington, USA and LOVES traveling throughout the Pacific Northwest to officiate weddings. You can visit Chanelle at, on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.


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 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 religion what so ever? 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 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 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, 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.

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 personality 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 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 from the time you enter 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. 

Remember at the beginning when we talked about envisioning your wedding? 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 EPIC 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. 

Remember, 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. 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 Lake Osoyoos, 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 LifeTM. She is an ordained minister, professional wedding officiant, author, gratitude coach, self-care coach and owner of Chanelle Carlin Weddings, LLC. Chanelle believes that life and love should be celebrated every minute. She collaborates with couples who’ve found “The ONE” to create custom, memorable ceremonies for their intimate wedding or elopement in the naturally beautiful Pacific Northwest and celebrates all the special moments that matter in their lives. She lives with her family in rural Okanogan County, Washington, USA and LOVES traveling throughout the Pacific Northwest to officiate weddings. You can visit Chanelle at, on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.


Each wedding 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 that are the truly beautiful venues and wedding teams I’m fortunate to work with and one or two memories from the day. Here are my personal reflections from this day… May 14, 2022

Intimate Family Wedding at Gray Bridge Wedding Venue, Sultan, WA; PC Joanna Monger Photography

Zack and Brianna are an amazing couple that I was honored to “meet” virtually in the fall before their spring wedding and then I got to meet them when they came back up to Washington for their venue walk-through on Valentine’s Weekend. They are sweet, fun and very gracious. I also love how much respect they have for one another and how much in love they are with each other. The day of their wedding was a typical spring day in Washington…a mix of rain and sunshine and the folks at their venue were prepared for both. Zack and Brianna even had umbrellas for their guests in case it rained during the ceremony…which it did, though just a little bit. Their Coordinator, Photographer, DJ and caterer had everything under control just in case…I’ll share the list of wedding team members below. 

As the wedding started, the guests were seated, the groom, Zack was in his spot (after escorting his future mother-in-law and his own parents to their seats) and their Best Man and Maid of Honor were also in situ…next to come was Colton, the two-year-old ring bearer, extraordinaire. 

A Ring Bearer with Personality:

As it was little Colton’s time to join the procession, I looked up and saw Kerry, the Wedding Planner enticing a 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 he got to the aisle and started to walk down, we realized he didn’t have the ring box. He stopped, went back up the ‘almost too tall for his two-year-old legs’ steps, accepted the box and one more candy (for good measure) and headed back down the steps toward his date with destiny.

A ring bearer with personality; PC Joanna Monger Photography

As he got to the ceremony spot, he headed over to the best man. Little Colton transferred the box, received his payment in the form of a candy diamond ring lollypop and headed back up the steps to sit with his family. As he turned to go, his little fist clenched around his prize, he very excitedly said, “I NEED this!” (in his little two-year-old voice). Laughter exploded from the family all around. 

I need this! PC Joanna Monger Photography

A hush fell…

Then, amazingly, a hush fell. Everyone’s attention was diverted and transfixed as the bride, Brianna gracefully made her entrance through the forest and around the pond and we got to celebrate what we had come to celebrate…the love and commitment of this amazing couple. 

Beautiful Brianna; Photo credit Joanna Monger Photography

A quick note about the venue:

Gray Bridge Venue is a beautiful, magical wedding venue in Sultan, Washington that allows couples and their guests to celebrate in a fun, relaxed and safe atmosphere that also has a touch of whimsy. 

Other Wedding team members: 

Venue: Gray Bridge Venue – 

Wedding Coordinator: Kerry at KW Events& Weddings – 

Photographer: Joanna Monger Photography – 

DJ: Clinton dove – 

Catering: Navi’s catering Kitchen – 

Florist: Pollin in Love – 

Photo booth: Aha Party Co – 

Transportation: Butler Seattle – 

Drinks/Bartending: Party on the Rocks Seattle – 

Cakes and Desserts: Birch Bakery – 

Hair and Make-up: Anne Timms (Mstimmsmakeupartist) – 

Officiant: Chanelle Carlin Weddings – 

Photo credit Roxanne Best

About Chanelle: 

Chanelle Carlin is Your Celebrant for LifeTM. She is an ordained minister, professional wedding officiant, author, gratitude coach, self-care coach and owner of Chanelle Carlin Weddings, LLC. Chanelle believes that life and love should be celebrated every minute. She collaborates with couples who’ve found “The ONE” to create custom, memorable ceremonies for their intimate wedding or elopement in the naturally beautiful Pacific Northwest and celebrates all the special moments that matter in their lives. She lives with her family in rural Okanogan County, Washington, USA and LOVES traveling throughout the Pacific Northwest to officiate weddings. You can visit Chanelle at, on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest