Thank you for your patience!

When the company that hosts this blog upgraded their blog software things broke in a spectacular way. A big “Thank you!” to everyone who hung in while we all waited to get things back on track!

Special thanks to Seth for his wizardry and to Kaye for her wisdom.

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Eloping is easy in Connecticut!

In Connecticut it is very easy to elope! At least a couple of times a week I get phone calls asking “How can we elope?”. For your convenience, there is a whole Page to help you Elope to Connecticutsm.

When you plan to elope, please plan on bringing your cameras, or at least your cell phone cameras with you! I’m always happy to take your pictures when you elope.

One frequently-asked question about eloping is “Where should we elope in Connecticut?”. In the fall the trees turn bright colors, so your photos will be colorful if you elope in a place like Devil’s Hopyard or Mohegan Park. A beach elopement is always an option for places like Rocky Neck Neck State Park or Stonington Connecticut. Almost any time of year, Gillette Castle is a popular place to elope because there is never an admission charge and there are several great places for your ceremony.

“Do we need rings to elope?” is another question couples ask frequently. The answer is always “No, you don’t.” Some people decide, after being together for years, that it is time to take the next step on their journey together. Quite a few couples have eloped the day after they made the decision, or as soon as they could get a marriage license, and they put off the purchase of rings.

“If we elope, just the two of us, can we still have a wedding later?” couples ask me several times a year. The answer is always “Yes!” Most of the couples who elope with my help have reasons of their own why they want a private ceremony. (I never ask why!) Most of my eloping couples have a large celebration of their marriage later, and many times their family and guests think that that is the “real” wedding. In a sense, it is. The couple is making a social, public statement that they are committing themselves to each other. As far as I’m concerned, if I’ve helped a couple elope then there’s no need for me to tell anyone that the couple is already married….

“Do we need a marriage license to elope?” people sometimes ask. In order to be legally married, the answer is “Yes.” You need to get your marriage license in the town where you will be eloping. That nearly always means that you’ll have to get your license during the times that the Town Hall is open, usually Monday through Friday. There are some Connecticut Town Halls that have some evening hours.

Earlier this year a couple asked “We’re moving [out of state], but our friends want to celebrate here before we go. Can you help us?” “Of course! I’d be happy to!”, I replied. The didn’t need a marriage license because they were going to be legally married where they were going to be living. Their guests were very happy to participate in the couple’s commitment ceremony.

Your elopement will special, both to you and me! Please give me a call at (860) 543-2334 to arrange your elopement in Connecticut.

Elope to Connecticut is a service mark of Ernest Adams. Please see Elope to Connecticut.

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Brief hints for working with photographers for your wedding

Working with a professional photographer is the best route to getting exactly the photos that you want of your wedding day.

Even though I always offer, no professional wedding photographer has ever needed us to pose / reenact parts of the wedding ceremonies. Professional photographers know that your wedding is going to be a one-time event, not something that they can stage a week later if they accidentally erase the pictures. Professionals also have in their minds the list of shots that you will want, and most likely you and your photographer will have discussed must-have pictures.

Pro photographers are always on the lookout for the unexpected. They will capture the shy ring bearer and flower girl as they reach for each other’s hands. The pro will not take a shot of a bridesmaid having a wardrobe malfunction. A professional will help a groomsman straighten his tie rather than have it be crooked in your wedding album. Pros are virtually invisible during your wedding ceremony.

What happens when you have a friend take pictures of your wedding?r They may get some good shots. Hopefully they won’t be using flash during the ceremony. Telling your friend in advance exactly what ceremony elements you want photographed will help a lot, especially if your friend makes a written list. (Everyone should know without being told that the ring exchange, unity ceremony [if you have one], and The Kiss are absolute must-have shots.)

Experienced wedding photographers will know all of the following. Telling these things to you friend who is going to be taking pictures for you falls into the category of A Good Idea. Be gentle and polite! If you friend gets angry, then your friend is not a good candidate to be your wedding photographer.

  • Stay sober for the ceremony. Party at the reception. (Everyone is entitled to have fun. You’ll need a clear head to do good photography.)
  • Don’t get distracted. (It doesn’t matter that a plane just flew overhead. Ignore the car alarm.)
  • Leave your children with a sitter. (Yes, I’ve seen children run down the aisle chasing their parent, the camera person.)
  • Completely charge your camera’s battery the day before. If your camera doesn’t use rechargeables, buy brand new ones from Radio Shack, not a convenience store where the batteries on the shelf may be years old.
  • Dress to be invisible. Black works wonders. Minimum, if any, bling.
  • Work quietly. The couple getting married should not be able to hear you say “Excuse me.”
  • Your job is to document your friends’ wedding, not create art masterpieces. Faces should be in focus.

As long as I know who your photographer is going to be, whether professional or family friend, I will go over the wedding script with your photographer so that they will know what to expect and when.

We are all part of your wedding team, there to help you have the best day of your life, with as little stress as possible!

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Apologies to all!

There have been reports of this blog not being available. I’m sorry! The problem lies with the company that hosts the Web Site. They claim to be working on the problems.

Please give me a call if I can help you!

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Ernest
(860) 543-2334

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Maid of honor 101 (part 1)

Traditionally, the maid of honor’s responsibilities on the day of the wedding are to help the bride keep calm, help her get dressed, arrange the bride’s train on her wedding dress when the bride is standing next to her groom, hold the groom’s ring before the bride puts it on his finger (I’ll give you help during the rehearsal), and hold the bride’s bouquet when the bride needs her hands free. At the reception the maid of honor may give a toast to the newly-married couple, usually immediately after the best man. The maid of honor should also be considered the bride’s right hand, coordinating all of the bridesmaids and helping them do what the bride wants for her wedding. Of course the maid of honor should be the leader in arranging the pre-wedding parties, especially the bridal shower and / or bachelorette party. The maid of honor should always be an ear for the bride when the bride is nervous.

Keeping everything running on time is extremely helpful, and having all the bridesmaids have the maid of honor’s cell phone number is essential. Probably the maid of honor’s cell phone should be the last one turned off on the wedding day. Any bridesmaid or flower girl or ring bearer who is lost or running late must be able to get directions and assure the wedding party that they are on their way.

The maid of honor should do all in her power to be sure that the wedding day goes smoothly, and that the bride have as little stress as possible. That may mean delegating tasks such as getting the bride a bottle of water, finding a misplaced earring, and asking a loved one to come to the room where the bride is getting ready. The maid of honor can also make sure that the bride and all of her attendants have had something to eat on the wedding day. More than one bride has become faint or dizzy because her stomach was empty!

21st Century brides often have two maids of honor rather than have one best friend be the maid of honor and the other one a bridesmaid. If you want to honor two of your best friends, and want them to be considered completely equal, you could call both of them “maid of honor” or both “bridesmaid”. Probably etiquette would suggest “maids of honor”. Grooms, too, are having two best men these days. (As an aside, please note that maid of honor, bridesmaid, best man, groomsman, and other titles are not capitalized when written in a sentence.) It would probably be best not to use the phrase “co-maids of honor”.

Letting it be known where the bride and groom have arranged a gift registry is also a very helpful task that the maid of honor can perform. It would be considered tacky for the bride or groom to have to tell their wedding guests where to shop! On the day of the wedding, the maid of honor should be able to tell guests where to put gifts, where the ladies’ and gentlemen’s restrooms are located, and generally act as a second hostess. Putting any gift envelopes in a safe place would also be very helpful.

Keeping the bride laughing is a great antidote to an attack of nerves. The maid of honor must remember to enjoy the wedding, too!

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Rehearsal 101 (part 1)

These thoughts and suggestions are offered to help you make an informed decision about whether to have a wedding rehearsal, and what you and your wedding party should expect. Nothing here is a complaint!

One of the first things that we will talk about is whether you will have a maid of honor, best man, bridesmaids, groomsmen, and other honor attendants. Other than your own opinion, the number of people standing beside you during your ceremony is the biggest factor in deciding whether a rehearsal is necessary. A rehearsal will definitely be needed if there are more than two attendants on either side. Of course, you are welcome to have a rehearsal no matter how many honor attendants you have!

A wedding rehearsal is more than just the prelude to the rehearsal dinner. At the rehearsal each person will see exactly where to stand, when to move, and how best to help you have the best wedding pictures. Because your wedding pictures are very important to you, they are very important to me. Professional photographers have, over the years, given me dozens of tips for helping our couples’ wedding album. Even something so simple as “Please ask the ladies to hold their flowers with two hands.” helps your pictures. Your attendants will probably be amused when I take my pen out of my pocket, then they’ll laugh when they catch on. But most important, they’ll remember what to do.

Everyone is encouraged to ask questions at the rehearsal! If one person has a question, then other people may have a similar question and be too shy to ask it. All that I ask is that people ask questions relevant to what we’re doing right then, or at the end. A groomsman asking “What about the rings?” when the couple are rehearsing exchanging vows is not the best use of our time. If you or your spouse-to-be has an idea, a way the family has done things, or a tradition that you want to include, the rehearsal is the best place to practice it.

Flower girls, ring bearers, and other young people are not only welcome at the rehearsal, they’re especially invited! Practicing going up and down the aisle at home is a good idea too, of course. The younger the people, the better they will get with practice. Rehearsing with the rest of the wedding party will make the wedding seem more real, and a lot less scary. Everyone must keep in mind that whatever the child does on the real wedding day, it is the right thing! Many a small person has become reluctant to walk at the last minute and has been carried instead.

One frequently-asked question is “Do we have to have the rehearsal at the same place as the ceremony?” The answer is always “No! You can have your rehearsal anywhere there is room.” Saint Clements Castle, for example, does not hold wedding rehearsals there, only weddings and receptions. We have held rehearsals in back yards, at country clubs, in driveways, on beaches, in restaurants, and many other places. It is very helpful to know how much space we will have for the actual ceremony, then arrange for a similarly-sized place to rehearse.

Just as for wedding ceremonies, it is very important for everyone to show up, and be ready on time. Every member of the wedding party is important. It is very helpful to have the people who are going to be escorting one or both members of the couple getting married. The maid of honor, best man, and the two attendants standing farthest from them are key to the success of both the ceremony and the rehearsal. Having everyone present will enable everyone to time their actions, move smoothly, and have your wedding go according to plan.

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Why should you have a professional DJ? (part 1)

At a recent wedding ceremony I was reminded (again) why a professional Disc Jockey is an essential element of a formal or semi-formal wedding.

First, please bear with me while I attempt to define “formal” and “semi-formal” weddings.

If you are planning on having 250 of your family and closest friends at your wedding ceremony and reception, you’re having a formal wedding. If you send out engraved invitations, you are very likely going to have a formal wedding. Weddings held late in the day tend to be more formal.

If you (or your fiance) are going to wear a suit and tie, a cocktail dress, or a fancy skirt and top, then you’re most likely having a semi-formal wedding. A morning wedding is almost always an informal or semi-formal wedding.

If you have from zero to twenty guests, have your wedding on a beach where your or your spouse-to-be wears shorts or khakis, send invitations via email, then your wedding is probably best described as informal.

There are always exceptions, of course, no matter what terms are being defined. If you are having an event planner’s help, you’re probably not thinking of having an informal wedding. But you might be; an informal ceremony with a clambake reception would most likely be a fun event that your friends will talk about for years, and having a professional’s assistance would relieve you of a lot of stress.

Now, back to the topic of “Why a pro DJ?”

Your professional DJ will know what to play as background music while your guests are being seated. Usually that will mean instrumental music, unless you have some favorite songs that have lyrics that you want your guests to hear. Your professional DJ will have the music playing gently in the background, enabling your guests to chat quietly before you come down the aisle. Also, your pro DJ won’t let the background music end before it is time for the processional to begin, even if you are delayed. At a recent wedding, the person designated as the controller of the iPod had no idea what to do when the background music playlist ran out of tunes several minutes before the processional was ready to start.

In most cases, the processional will have two different pieces of music: One for the honor attendants (bridesmaids, with or without groomsmen, etc.), and a different selection for the bride. A professional DJ will be sure there is long enough music for all of the honor attendants to get from their entry point to their final positions near where the bride and groom will be. At a recent wedding, the DJ-for-a-day ran out of processional music before the maid of honor and best man were half way to the gazebo. That led to nervousness on everyone’s part. A professional will also fade the honor attendants’ music out when the attendants are all in place, pause for just a couple of seconds, then begin the bride’s processional music. The pause should never be cause for “Where is she?” or “Is she here?” questions and mutterings from the guests. And it goes nearly unsaid that the bride’s music must be faded out when the bride is in her position near the groom. (The exception is if the bride is processing to vocal music.)

At the end of the ceremony, after the couple has kissed, and almost immediately after the guests start applauding, the DJ will begin the recessional music. Timing is important then, too. There should be no delay before the couple begins walking, and there should be enough music for all of the honor attendants to exit. After the honor attendants have left, the professional DJ will know that the officiant will give brief instructions to the guests so that they will head to the place where the cocktail hour or reception will be held. The careless person would have muted the officiant’s microphone!

Music during the cocktail hour, dinner, and dancing, plus being the MC, is far beyond the subject of this Post. I’ll leave it at this: You want all of your guests to have a good time; guests’ (reasonable) requests for specific songs should be honored; no matter how much you and your guests have to drink, your DJ should be completely sober. A DJ who works for dinner and drinks will probably not be in good enough shape to do a decent job for long. Your professional DJ will keep your guests on the dance floor and having a good time.

Full disclosure: I do not receive compensation for recommending a specific DJ or DJ organization, nor would I accept any payment of any kind if it were offered. The only DJ that I recommend personally is Jim Hogan’s Music Mix. I recommend Jim Hogan highly because we have worked together at several couples’ weddings. He is always a gentleman (but not stiff!), dressed perfectly whether setting up his equipment or in the company of guests, and he has completely portable (battery-powered) equipment. Jim always has backup equipment with him, and even backup to the backup.

Please take a look at the American Disc Jockey Association Web Site, where you can see some excellent tips for finding the right DJ for your wedding (just click on "Find Your DJ" or "Find a DJ"). You can also search for "iPod wedding" using Google, Bing, or your own favorite search engine.

Looking forward to hearing your DJ play your processional and recessional,
Ernest

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A designer’s blog that almost gets it right

Today I visited the blog of a clothing designer who offers some wedding advice. For you who are planning to get married, I suggest that you buy his clothes and take his wedding advice with a grain of salt (or maybe a whole salt shaker full). For him, my best advice is to stick to what he knows and not give advice which includes things which are not legal.

Here are my takes on his advice, with his Site’s advice within quotation marks:
1. “There are four basic types of vow exchanges.” Sorry. There as many kinds of vows as there are people getting married. (Notice that I didn’t say “couples”, I said “people”. Not every couple has identical vows for both people!) Your vows should be unique, just as you are unique. When we meet I will ask you what kind of flavor you have in mind for your ceremony, and from there we will work on your vows.

2. “Interview a few prospective officiants.” What is “a few”?r A dozen?r Half a dozen?r Most officiants will be willing to spend some time talking with you, and I will be happy to sit down with you for a planning session. Spending a few minutes on the phone with a potential officiant should give you a good idea whether it is worth your time and theirs to meet in person. For most couples, we spend about an hour in a face-to-face meeting after we have spoken on the phone. Of course, there are always follow-ups, too!

3. “Explain your ideas to the officiant up front.” Hooray! Great advice! Tell me what you want. It’s your wedding; I’m here to help.

4. “Know and abide [by] the rules of your place of worship.” More good advice! Whether you get married in your place of worship or in a state park, we must obey the rules. When we talk on the phone we will discuss the rules that your wedding site has. Because I often officiate at Harkness, for example, I can tell you a couple of rules that the management is very strict about enforcing.

5. “Answer the officiant’s questions.” Well, yes and no. Some questions are important (“Will you each be giving and receiving a ring?”) and others are purely social (“How did you two meet?”). I will not ask you a lot of the questions listed on the designer’s list, such as “Why did you decide to get married?”. It’s your decision, and it’s none of my business! I’m not a counselor. You contacted me because you two decided to get married. Now it is up to me to help you have the best wedding ceremony possible. Period.

6. “Listen to the officiant’s suggestions.” Yes, as long as you treat them as just that: suggestions. It is your wedding. You decide. I suggest.

7. “Look elsewhere if the officiant isn’t receptive to your ideas.” Also good advice. Your ideas should be the heart of your wedding ceremony. Your ideas may spark suggestions, but that’s what they are: suggestions. I will never tell you “You can’t ….”

Elsewhere of the designer’s Site he suggests having no officiant, but instead having a group of people witness your vows and sign the contract. That may be legal in some state, but not in Connecticut. In Connecticut you can elope with just the three of us, or have a wedding with hundreds of guests, or somewhere in between, but an officiant is a legal requirement.

Looking forward to talking with you soon to decide if we’re a match for each other!

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What do they say instead of “Kiss the bride” at gay weddings?

This question keeps coming up in various forms, so it is time to answer it.

As has been discussed often, I treat all couples alike. For me at least, there are not “gay weddings” and “straight weddings”, there are only weddings. Period.

Different couples want to have different things said at their ceremonies, during the beginning, middle, and end. No two weddings are exactly the same. One recent couple wanted “You may now kiss your handsome groom.” Frequently I say “… seal the promises … with a kiss.”, leaving out both the word “bride” and the word “groom”, as well as the words “wife” and “husband”. “… kiss your beautiful bride.” is requested some of the time, too.

Can you tell which expression was used at an opposite-sex wedding and which at a same-sex wedding?r No; you can’t. And that’s my whole point. Equality for everyone is more than just an idea; it my idea of customer service.

When we meet for a planning session, you’ll be given choices. Many, many choices. The next-to-last choice you’ll have is “Is the wording … what you’d like as an introduction to the kiss, or would you prefer …, or would you like me to say something else?”

As with every part of your wedding ceremony, it’s your choice!

Looking forward to discussing your choices for your ceremony,
Ernest

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JP Wedding Myths

Just a few minutes ago on Google+ I read a Post that began “Which is better a traditional wedding or Justice of the Peace?” Unfortunately, that Post continues to promote several myths and stereotypes that are outdated (if they were ever true!). This Post will attempt to explain why some perceptions may be no longer accurate. By “traditional” I assume that the writer means a wedding in a church, synagogue, mosque, et cetera; in other words a religion-based ceremony.

First, however, I must state my very strong personal belief: If you and your fiance are religious people and are considering whether to have your wedding in your place of worship, then I urge you to consult with your clergy person. Having a Justice of the Peace as your wedding officiant is not for everyone. I support every person’s right to their own beliefs and would never encourage anyone to choose me over their own religious leader.

Now, the myths: 1. You can have more guests at a traditional wedding. Sorry; no. It has been my honor to officiate at weddings with more than 200 guests. “JP wedding” does not equal “limited guest list”.

2. You can’t have photos, videos, and stories at a JP wedding. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your guests can take pictures, your professional photographer(s) can take stills and video, and there’ll be lots of great stories to tell. In fact, each engaged couple is encouraged to tell their love story (how they met, fell in love, and about the proposal) as part of their wedding ceremony. Professional photographers know how to be invisible, what specific shots you’re going to love, and where to be when.

3. “You and your soulmate are able to dress up and are treated like true [royalty]“. Of course! You must be able to wear what you want to your own wedding. If you are not treated with dignity and respect, you’ve got the wrong officiant! Your wedding day is exactly that: Your wedding day. Whether you want to wear a pair of jeans or a dazzling wedding gown, a tuxedo or shorts, it is your choice.

4. Traditional weddings are very expensive. Well, it depends. Any wedding, traditional or DIY, can be as expensive as you would like it to be. You can usually use your place of worship for a nominal fee, wear clothes you already own, exchange simple rings, have a potluck reception (or food cooked by family), and you’ll spend less than $1,000. On the other hand, you can rent a fancy place, have a orchestra for the ceremony, buy all new clothes that you’ll never wear again, purchase rings for enough money to feed a small nation for a day, have a $250 per person sit-down dinner for 400 guests, and have top of the line entertainment for your reception.

5. “Planning a traditional wedding can be very stressful.” Sure, if you try to do everything yourself, any wedding will be stressful. That’s why you hire a professional officiant, a professional photographer, a professional DJ, …. A professional wedding planner may save you from all stress, and save you money, too. You get what you pay for.

6. Other people (well-meaning friends and family) will try to take over. Another reason to use professionals. We won’t let anyone highjack your planning. My contract says “In the event of a third-party payer, the Couple is solely responsible for making decisions and communicating with the Officiant.” In other words, you are in charge. Other people can offer advice, but your decision is final.

7. “The average cost associated with a JOP ceremony is approximately $XXX.” Justice of the Peace fees vary widely, depending on the services offered, the degree of customization, and years of experience. You can find a JP for $50. The JP may show up, may be sober, and may give you a canned, one-size-fits-all ceremony. Probably not where you want to save a few dollars.

8. “You are only allowed to have 2 witnesses and 2 guests at these ceremonies.” Sorry; simply not true. Connecticut does not require witnesses; I never limit the number of guests, nor does my fee increase if you add 100 extra guests. You receive the same amount of attention and homework whether you are eloping or have 350 guests.

No matter whether you choose a “traditional’ wedding or me as your officiant, I wish you a joy-filled day!

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