Christmas Wedding at the Salish Lodge

Since it’s Christmastime, what better wedding to write about than a Christmas Wedding at the Salish Lodge.  Let me start by saying that Rosa and Joe, the couple whose wedding I am going to share with you, just celebrated their one-year anniversary.   Again, happy anniversary Rosa and Joe!

Last year Rosa contacted me to discuss her upcoming Christmas wedding at the Salish.  The first time we met, I was impressed at how sweet and lovable Rosa and Joe were.  They were so in love and so excited about their wedding.  I was also really impressed by how Rosa had thought out each little detail of her vision for her winter wedding, right down to the lipstick! .  She definitely knew what she wanted, which was a very romantic wedding that expressed their love for each other.  I was able to weave in creative ideas to the ceremony that complemented the romance Rosa and Joe were looking for.   One example is that Rosa and Joe are huge movie buffs.  I suggested that they each choose a line from a movie to read to each other that was special.  We incorporated the lines into the personal statement I wrote for them and this is how it went:

Because Joe and Rosa love to share movie quotes with each other, I asked them — each privately — to share with me one of their favorite movie quotes that best describes their feelings on this day.  This will be a surprise for both of them:

This is Joe’s movie quote for Rosa:

“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible”….From the movie When Harry Met Sally

This is Rosa’s movie quote for Joe:

“It was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together….and I knew it.”  ….From the movie Sleepless in Seattle.

Next, we added a tree-planting ceremony.  I suggested a little tiny Christmas tree that they could plant in their yard and watch grow over the coming years.  Rosa and Joe and Joe’s two sons planted the little tree together.

Everything about Rosa and Joe’s winter wedding at the Salish represented the love between them.  I was honored to be a part of their joy.  I have put together some of my favorite photos from their wedding….there were so many!  Please enjoy.


Rosa and Joe Wedding

Rosa and Joe Wedding

Rosa and Joe Wedding

Rosa and Joe Wedding

Rosa and Joe Wedding

Rosa and Joe Wedding

Rosa and Joe Wedding

Rosa and Joe Wedding





Over the pass & thru the woods to Gini & Matt’s wedding!

Yesterday I drove to Cle Elum for Gini & Matt’s wedding at Suncadia resort.  Located just over Snoqualmie pass, Suncadia resort is tucked into a forest with beautiful surroundings including a winery, golf course and private homes that can be rented for your event.  Gini and Matt rented one of these beautiful lodge-like homes for their private wedding in the mountains that included about 30 of their family and friends.

Suncadia resort, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Elaine Way

When I walked in, it was so warm and comfortable.  A fire was going in the big rock fireplace and Gini and Matt had a video running on the big screen TV above the fireplace of themselves and different adventures they had been on together.

suncadia resort wedding, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Destination Wedding, Elaine Way

Food was catered by Debra Lane at Chef to Go.  Gini and Matt had requested an “upscale comfort food theme,” which Debra orchestrated brilliantly! Before the wedding, guests nibbled on a beautiful assortment of local cheeses and wine, and post wedding Debra put together a wide variety of items including tomato fennel soup with grilled gruyere cheese sandwiches, beef tenderloin crostini with caramelized onion jam and gorgonzola cheese, and Italian meatball sliders with provolone and parmesan cheese.   Special requests, such as gluten free items, were also provided by Debra.

Food to go catering, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Elaine Way, wedding catering

The wedding was conducted upstairs from the balcony where the  guests down below could look up and see us.  Gini and Matt requested a short ceremony so they could focus more on their guests.  Right after the ceremony they came down, signed papers and came out to start the party!  Because of the intimate atmosphere of the lodge, guests could easily mingle around — picking up food or heading out to the deck overlooking the grounds.

Suncadia Resort Wedding, Seattle wedding officiants, Elaine Way

Suncadia lodge, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Elaine Way, Suncadia resort wedding











I was truly inspired by the decorations, the food, Gini’s dress, Matt’s calm and the general happiness of everyone who traveled to this unique “real wedding” in the woods!  Congratulations Gini and Matt!

DIY wedding, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Elaine Way, Suncadia Resort Wedding

The Show Must Go On

I recently experienced the death of my mother and was inspired to write a little bit about how to “do life” when you are grieving.

Picture yourself in the middle of your wedding planning.  You have your heart set on that special person in your life — whether it’s your father, your mother or an uncle — walking you down the aisle.  Maybe you are expecting a distant relative to travel to your destination to share your joyous event.  Enter life.

We are all on our own journeys with expectations that this or that is going to happen at a particular time.  Life, however, doesn’t work that way.  Even with the best event coordinator money can buy, life has other plans for us.

We must be ready to go with the flow, be strong and bounce back – even when it sucks!

So if you lose a loved one that was supposed to walk you down the aisle or be sitting with your other guests supporting you on your very special day, here are some ideas to honor them in spirit:

1. Wear something that your loved-one wore on their wedding day (for example if the person is your mother), or pin a photo into your dress so they can be with you. You can also place a small photo of your loved on in your bouquet (in a tiny frame), or incorporate it into the ribbon.

2. You can leave a chair empty where the person would have sat at the ceremony and/or reception, out of a sign of respect. Or, a separate chair can be set up to represent theirs, with their photo on the chair.

3. Ask the officiant to say a few words about those who aren’t able to be present in body, but are in spirit. He or she has likely done this before, and can help you with the wording.

4. Write a letter or poem of what you would say to that person on that day. You can read it, have someone else read it, or keep it private.

5. Use flowers or candles in the church to symbolize the loved one(s). You might want to include this in the program, so the guests understand the relevance of the candles or flowers. You may designate someone specific to lay out the flower(s) at a particular time (like carry in a single long-stem rose when they enter the church and lay it up front), or you may light a candle for that person when you light your unity candle.

6. Have a nice photo frame set up at the reception with your loved one’s photo in it. You might also set up a digital photo frame which would rotate through different pictures. This would also work well if you are doing any type of photo “tribute” to the bride and groom, and their lives (from babies up). Include photos of them with their remembered loved ones in the photo rotation or slideshow.

7. Include a short poem, or thought on the program itself, along with who it is in memory of, and list the name(s).

8. Mention them in your wedding toast or speech- but keep it short & sweet, otherwise you’re liable to turn into a blubbering bride!

9. Some brides & grooms will forego buying traditional favors and will instead make a donation to a charity or cause of choice. You could do so for a loved-one, and have a card on the table that states you’ve made a donation to _________ organization, in memory of that person or people.

10. Find out the person’s favorite reading or poem and work it into the ceremony. Or, if they had a favorite song, include this at the reception. Dedicate the dance to them.

Grieving a loved one is tough.  It’s exhausting and real.  Remember that your wedding day is meant to be full of joy and love.  Take some time for grieving — it’s important.  But give your guests what they came for:   A big smile and lots of hugs and kisses.  That’s what your loved one would have wanted for you.

red rose for wedding, Seattle Wedding Officiants, Seattle Wedding

Fear and Loathing of Public Speaking (as a Wedding Officiant)

This is a story about how I learned to get over my fear of public speaking in conjunction with becoming a wedding officiant.

About four years ago I became friends with a woman who suggested I become a wedding officiant.  She had been an officiant for 22 years and thought I had a knack for it.  At the time I was running three other businesses and I just couldn’t see myself wearing another hat.  But I am a huge risk taker so I agreed to listen to her.  When she finally convinced me, we began putting together Seattle Wedding Officiants.

To break into the field I offered free officiating services for the first five couples.  I needed to get my feet wet and free is always good, right?  I really didn’t think too much about my fear of public speaking.  I had been working out of my home for the past five years and no longer had to attend big meetings where I wanted to crawl under the table if anyone asked me a question.  I was truly one of those white-knuckle express speakers.  The less I had to speak, the better.

So I got my first wedding.  The bride and groom were an amazing couple and they were very enthusiastic about their ceremony.  They not only wanted a traditional ceremony with a greeting, vows, ring exchange, etc., but they also wanted a Hawaiian lei exchange, a unity candle ceremony and a Celtic hand fasting ceremony.  I was already reeling with anxiety about officiating my first ceremony but the prospect of adding these “mini” ceremonies sent me over the top.  I contacted my mentor and expressed my concerns.  She told me, “Elaine, it figures you would get something like this for your first ceremony.  You will probably never get another one like it!”  (Note:  She was right about that.  I have never been requested to do another ceremony like this one!)

I really wasn’t sure how to proceed so I did the only thing I could do:  I began practicing and practicing and practicing.  I read for my brother.  I read for my father.  They thought I was great.  I thought I was a nervous wreck.  Finally, as a last resort I called upon my two most trusted and devoted companions: my two chocolate labs, Oscar and Oliver.  Yes, that’s right…every morning I called them out to the living room by saying: “Let’s go get married.”  They would wag their tales and come out with me and sit down and wait for their treats, which was their cue to settle down.  The interesting thing with them was that the more enthusiastic I got, the more enthusiastic they got.  I spoke, they wagged; I spoke and they got a treat; I spoke and they barked with happiness!  I married them about 45 times to practice for that first wedding.

Two Chocolate Labs

Oscar and Oliver

I went on to do my first wedding brilliantly and have officiated hundreds of weddings since then.  These days when I get an inquiry from a couple and their numbers are up around 200 guests, I say: “Bring it on!”  I now LOVE to speak in front of any size group as a result of taking the plunge four years ago and perfecting my public speaking along the way.

I have to admit, however, that my dogs were a great help to me.  Their adorable faces looking back at me as I read through that first ceremony is something I will never forget.

Who Should Officiate Your Wedding: Family Member or Professional Officiant?

One of my colleagues recently asked me this question:

“Many of my couples ask me how can a wedding officiant who has only met them once make their wedding personal vs. having a family member do the ceremony who has known them their whole lives? What would you say are the pros and cons?”

Choose an officiant wisely!

Choose your officiant wisely!

Let me begin by saying that having a family member officiate your wedding ceremony is a lovely idea.  Weddings are all about bringing family members and friends together to enjoy a personal moment in a couple’s life.  So it would make sense to invite a family member to tie it all together. Having a family member speak about the couple is something that cannot be duplicated by an officiant.  Many of the guests will know this speaker personally and will naturally look forward to hearing him/her share the couple’s story.  Those are some of the pros.

Here are some of the cons:

  1. What if the family member gets cold feet?  Public speaking isn’t for everyone.  If a family member doesn’t have experience with speaking in front of 150-200 people, chances are they are going to be extremely nervous and might freak out at the last minute.  Make sure your family member is really comfortable with public speaking.
  2. What if the family member has a conflict with the couple’s beliefs?  The couple could want a nondenominational ceremony and the family member could have strong religious beliefs and want to incorporate something to that affect.  Make sure your family member is in agreement with performing a wedding ceremony that complements your religious beliefs.
  3. What if the family member has a conflict that day and can’t make it?  While this day is one of the most important days in a couple’s life, not everyone feels the same way – unfortunately, this includes family members.  This person could be travelling from across the country and decide at the last minute that they cannot afford the trip.  Confirm with your family member at least 4 weeks and then again in 2 weeks that they are still on board.
  4. What if the family member just flakes out?  (I don’t mean to sound pessimistic but I have received many calls from brides frantic because their family member changed their mind at the last minute.)  Families…what can I say?  It happens.
  5. Last but not least, what about the paperwork?  Does your family member understand how to fill out the marriage license, including obtaining witnesses?  Do they know little details such as the fact that the courthouse requests that the marriage certificate be filled out in black ink?  Make sure to go over the wedding packet prior to the ceremony.  Call the courthouse with questions if necessary.

Now let’s take a look at the more commonly used option:  hiring a professionally trained, licensed and ordained minister.  I cannot speak for other officiants, but here are some of the pros of working with me:

  1. The first thing you are going to get when you hire me is a prompt reply to your inquiry.  I pride myself on responding to inquiries usually within one hour.  By the time I have received your contact information that you have filled out via my website, I already have 11 pieces of information about you.  This allows me to begin building an outline of what it is you and your fiancé are searching for in an officiant.
  2. Next I will confirm my availability via e-mail and advise you about how to proceed – a quick phone chat is usually the next step where we set up a free one-hour consultation.
  3.  At the consultation the very first thing I will ask you about is “your story”: how and where you met; how long you have been together; the proposal, etc.  Next we will talk about your vision for your ceremony.  Do you want a non-denominational ceremony; do you want me to read something from the bible; do you want a short ceremony or a long ceremony?    I will then go over all the paperwork involved before, during and after the ceremony: the marriage application; whether you are taking your husband’s last name and the process of obtaining a certified copy so that you can legally change your name; filling out the actual paperwork at the ceremony (witness requirements), etc.
  4. The other element to my consultations is that I not only cover the ceremony portion of the wedding, but I also have a wealth of information about local vendors.  Therefore, if you have any missing links for your wedding, i.e. photographer, caterer, etc. I can refer you to someone I know and trust.
  5. Lastly, I will make myself available before, during and after the ceremony by phone, e-mail, or Skype.  When you hire me you get someone who is committed from beginning to end.  There really is no end to our relationship actually.  I am still in contact with many of my couples as they have their first anniversary or celebrate the birth of their first child.
Wedding packet

Making it Legal!

I can’t really think of any cons.  I guarantee that I will be there and while I do have a caveat in my contract that clearly states that if I get hurt and can’t make it, I have six back-up officiants that I work with all year long.  By the way, I have officiated hundreds of weddings and I have never missed one!

In summary, you do not want to – and shouldn’t have to stress out about your officiant.  Whether it’s a family member or a professional like me, you want to feel comfortable that you have chosen someone you can count on.  You want someone who is knowledgeable about the ceremony process before, during and after the ceremony.  So take the time to make the decision of whether you want Uncle Joe or a licensed and ordained minister who has officiated hundreds of weddings and has all the answers you need to enjoy a seamless ceremony experience!

Please feel free to share your officiant experience in the comment section below!

The Wedding Ceremony

I blog about everything wedding: venues, style, vendors, traditions and more!  What I haven’t blogged about, however, is the actual wedding ceremony.

One of the first things I always tell my couples is, “There is no right way or wrong way to craft your ceremony.  Only your way.”  Having said that, there are some basic components that are a good guideline when you are setting up the structure of your ceremony.



They are:

The Greeting
Reflections on Marriage
Ring Exchange
Blessing or Well Wishes for the Future Couple

In this blog post I would like to address the Greeting.

After the bride has arrived at the front of the venue to take her place next to her groom and all the guests have been seated, there is this quiet moment right before the ceremony begins.  It is a moment of anticipation for the couple, the guests, the family, and me.  At this point in the wedding everyone is really wondering what is going to happen next.  I  believe that the first words that come out of your officiant’s mouth should be thoughtful, meaningful and engaging so that everyone can feel at ease and personally invited to this celebration.  I always like to begin with something like: Welcome Friends and Family to the celebration that will unite (bride and groom) in matrimony!  Next I might say something special about family and/or friends that have traveled all the way from (fill in the blank); and/or those that have passed but are acknowledged in our hearts; and/or how the couples’ wish is that everyone will soon have the right to marry; and/or a special thank you and acknowledgement of both sets of parents for raising the couple and guiding them on the path that brought them to this moment.  At this time the couple may even choose to honor the parents by presenting them each with a bouquet of flowers as a special “thank you.”

In summary, the Greeting is really a time to set the tone for the remainder of the ceremony.  It is an opportunity to put everyone at ease and welcome them as a community to not just watch the couple get married but to feel they are a part of the celebration.

Bella and Jin at Snoqualmie Falls 2011

In future posts I will cover each component of a wedding ceremony.   Next will be “Reflections on Marriage.”

Do you have a special greeting that you incorporated into your wedding ceremony that you would like to share?

Ballard Locks Wedding

Who says weddings have to be expensive?    You can have a Ballard Locks wedding in a beautiful garden and view of Puget Sound without breaking the bank.  The Ballard Locks offer four different areas for your wedding ceremony and are available for you to reserve for a small donation.

These beautiful botanical gardens are a tribute to the devotion of horticulturist, Carl S. English, Jr.  During the 43 years working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Carl transformed the barren lawn, left after the construction of the locks, into a garden worthy of serious study.  These lovely grounds are a masterpiece of horticultural splendor, combining the elegant lines and vistas of the romantic English landscape style with the original character of more than 570 species and 1,500 varieties from around the world.  One of Seattle’s best kept secrets is yours to enjoy.  The garden offers color fragrance, and open spaces to awaken your senses all year long.  I have officiated dozens of weddings in the formal garden and rose garden which is reserved for groups of 10 or less (section A).  The other three areas (sections B, C & D) can accommodate up to 50 guests each.

Consider this — my fee to marry you in the gardens is $295, and the space is available for a small donation.  If you want to do a picnic after your ceremony you can keep it as simple as fish ‘n chips at the nearby Lockspot Cafe, or somewhere with a view of Puget Sound and a fantastic menu like Ray’s Boathouse.  One note of interest: the Ballard Locks does not allow loud music or alcohol on the grounds.

Call me to help you reserve a garden at the exciting Ballard Locks and Carl S. English Botanical Garden for your Ballard Locks wedding.  Please enjoy the following pictures of the rose garden (section A) for your Fall, Winter, Spring or Summer Ballard Locks wedding.  Read more about small, Elope or Last Minute Weddings.

Seattle Wedding Officiants, Elaine Way, Ballard Locks Wedding, Carl S. English Botanical Garden wedding, Seattle Wedding, Garden Wedding Small Wedding, Last Minute Wedding, Elope Wedding

Seattle Wedding Officiants, Elaine Way, Ballard Locks Wedding, Carl S. English Botanical Garden wedding, Seattle Wedding, Garden Wedding Small Wedding, Last Minute Wedding, Elope Wedding

Seattle Wedding Officiants, Elaine Way, Ballard Locks Wedding, Carl S. English Botanical Garden wedding, Seattle Wedding, Garden Wedding Small Wedding, Last Minute Wedding, Elope Wedding

Seattle Wedding Officiants, Elaine Way, Ballard Locks Wedding, Carl S. English Botanical Garden wedding, Seattle Wedding, Garden Wedding Small Wedding, Last Minute Wedding, Elope Wedding