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Your Photo Guide to Wedding Unity Rituals!

It has been a (very) long time coming, but I have finally put together a unity ritual guide for my clients who are considering adding a ritual to their Savannah wedding or elopement ceremony. As your officiant, I have experience with creating and performing many different rituals for unique wedding ceremonies and love to help clients pick the perfect one for them.

When some people hear the word “ritual” in regards to a wedding ceremony, they may picture one of two things- (1) something overtly religious that you may see in a church, or (2) something very new-age. And that is not true at all! A unity ritual is a fun way to physically join your love together as part of the ceremony, and in many cases, create a keepsake that you can take with you to be part of your home as a newly married couple.

Here is an overview of our most popular rituals that I perform. However, there are always new rituals to be created, and ways to personalize the standard ones, so if you want to talk more about your ideas, let me know.

All pictures are by It’s Megan Jones Photography unless otherwise noted. 


The Sand Ceremony

The Sand Ceremony is the most commonly requested unity ritual, at least for my couples. It involves joining separate containers of sand together in an act of unity. It is popular for a few reasons. One, it is fun and colorful! Second, we are a coastal community and the idea of sand and nature appeals to some people who choose to be married in Savannah or Tybee Island. Third, the symbolism of the sand ceremony speaks to many of the clients who choose to work with me and how they think of marriage. The sand is beautiful on its own, and does not ‘need’ the other sand to exist… but they are even more beautiful, unique and strong when they are combined together. I have a sand ceremony script I use on my Ceremony Example page.

I encourage my clients to purchase their sand ceremonies online, either from Amazon or Etsy, unless you know a local crafter in your community who makes them. While you can buy a basic sand ceremony kit at a chain craft store, the choice is greater online and you can also have them personalized. You can also buy sand in every color you can imagine on Amazon.

As you can see from these pictures, there are many sand ceremony kit designs.

Morgan & Brandon, February 2016
sand ceremony ritual in Savannah wedding ceremony
Morgan & Brandon, February 2016
Rachael & Tye, July 2017
Rachael & Tye, July 2017
Sarah & Anthony, July 2017
Sarah & Anthony, July 2017
Lacey & Aaron, June 2017

I love how Angela and Douglas poured their bright sand to make a unique pattern.

Douglas & Angela, July 2017
Douglas & Angela, July 2017

Jessica and Brian’s sand ceremony set kept with their Steampunk wedding theme. 

steampunk wedding sand ceremony
Jessica & Brian, April 2016
steampunk wedding in savannah
Jessica & Brian, April 2016
Kimberly & Marc, April 2016
Kimberly & March, April 2016
Olivia & Miguel, July 2016
Olivia & Miguel, July 2016

The Sand Ceremony is also a great way to involve children and symbolize the blending of a family. 

Carmen & Natalie’s son was super excited to participate!

Carmen & Natalie, July 2017
Carmen & Natalie, July 2017

Laure-Jo & Luke involved all four of their children in their sand ceremony. 

Luke & Laurie-Jo, February 2016

Finally, one of my recent couples, Stephanie and Todd, chose a Unity in Glass Ritual which is similar in intent to a sand ceremony. Stephanie and Todd poured glass crystals into a common container and then sent it to the Unity in Glass team to create a work of art. Here is their finished piece.

Todd & Stephanie, April 2017

Handfasting Ritual

The second most popular unity ritual we perform is the handfasting ritual. It is the origin of “tying the knot” and it has Pagan and Celtic roots (though there are other versions). During a handfasting, the couple gives consent to have their hands tied and a reading is performed. Couples have used all sorts of cords for their handfasting, many handmade or having familial significance. 

(While I don’t have a picture, I also once did a handfasting with the Lasso of Truth, dressed as Wonder Woman, for a Haloween wedding!)

Kristen & Lee, May 2016
handfasting ceremony on Forsyth Park in Savannah
Kristen & Lee, May 2016
Susan & Jaden, July 2016
handfasting in troup square in Savannah
Jessica & Kevin, December 2016
Jessica & Kevin, December 2016
Shannon & Michael, April 2017
Kate & Joseph, April 2017
Kate & Joseph, April 2017

The Fisherman’s Knot Tying Ritual

The Fisherman’s Knot ritual also involves some tying, but the couple themselves tie the knot, a “true lover’s knot.” The knot represents the strongest bond possible, one that does not break and even becomes  stronger under pressure.

I love this ritual and its symbolism, but of all of them, it is one that the couple should practice in advance because tying the knot may not be easy, especially if you are nervous!

Sarah-Grace & William, May 2017, Photo by Dianne Dodd Photography.
Sarah-Grace & William, May 2017. Photo by Diane Dodd Photography.

Wine Ceremonies

Wine ceremonies are fun! There are lots of variations from simply toasting to your future, to combining white and red wines and drinking from the same cup and everything in between. I have also conducted a ceremony with beer, for a couple who were beer aficionados and even got engaged at their favorite brewery. You could also substitute other liquor for a toasting ritual.

Chiquinn and Antoine combined white and red wines, and then passed a common glass that they had personalized. 

Chiquinn & Antoine, July 2017
Chiquinn & Antoine, July 2017

Stephanie and Paul used one wine and drank from the same cup. Jess & Bob mixed red and white prior to the ceremony and drank from separate cups to be able to toast to each other. 

Stephanie & Paul, November 2016
Jess & Bob, November 2016. Photo by Apt B. Photography.

Love Letter Box Ritual

With the Love Letter Box ritual, the couple writes love letters to each other to read on a future anniversary. They store the letters in a beautiful box and lock it together. The boxes can be found on Etsy and Amazon and usually also include space for a bottle of wine and two glasses for relaxing when you do sit down to read those heartfelt letters.

Roy & Tereza, October 2016
Roy & Tereza, October 2016
Roy & Tereza, October 2016

Unity Canvas Painting Ritual

The Unity Canvas Painting Ritual is a fun ritual you can include when you are blending a family. Together, everyone contributes their unique creativity via paint and a canvas. The canvas can be blank, or you include an image, to start. Here is some of the text I read while Amanda, Robert, and their daughter Cimone painted on their heart.

“… this blank canvas symbolizes the start of your new journey together, the new family that you are now forming and are dedicated to build together.
 
Your canvas represents the passion, love and tenderness at the core of your family, and which will be the building block of your new life as one.”
 
Amanda & Robert, March 2017
Amanda & Robert, March 2017

Candle Lighting Ritual

I don’t have many candle lightings requested, mostly because our ceremonies are outside. Many people also think they are only for church ceremonies, but a candle lighting can represent more. Here is what I read during this candle lighting with Renee & Vanadis at the Savannah Cozy Chapel.

“This candle you are about to light is a candle of marriage.
 
Its fire is magical because it represents the light of two people in love.
 
This candle before you is a candle of commitment because it takes two people working together to keep it aflame.
 
This candle is also a candle of Unity because both must come together, giving a spark of themselves, to create the new light.
 
As you light this candle today, may the brightness of the flame shine throughout your lives. 

May it give you courage and reassurance in darkness; warmth and safety in the cold; and strength and joy in your bodies, minds, and spirits.
 
May your union be forever blessed.”

Renee & Vanadis, November 2016

Affirmation of the Community Ritual

The Affirmation of the Community comes from many denominations, as well as the Quaker tradition where individual guests give a dedicated wish to the newly married couple. With a large number of guests, that can overwhelm a ceremony. In a simple Affirmation of the Community ritual, I speak to the guests about the importance of their presence in the couple’s lives and then ask them to give their communal blessing to the couple for their marriage.

People choose the Affirmation of the Community for a variety of reasons. It is a very positive and spiritual ritual and is appropriate for all situations. For Whitney and Kim, every person in the room on their wedding day had seen them through to that moment, when not everyone in their world was supportive of their love. It was extremely important to them to include everyone who had been with them on their journey. 

Whitney & Kim, March 2016
Whitney & Kim, March 2016

Willam and Danielle met when they were in high school and were surrounded by people who had seen them through multiple stages of life, including graduate school, law school, job changes, and relocations. They wanted a ritual that included EVERYONE who was part of their story.

William & Danielle, April 2017. Photo by Geoff Johnson.

Breaking of the Glass

The Breaking of the Glass is primarily a Jewish wedding ritual. Glass is fragile, like all human relationships, so it is a reminder to protect what is important. Breaking the glass is also an irrevocable act, which committing to marriage should be.

breaking the glass wedding ritual in Savannah
Kristen & Lee, May 2016
Kristen & Lee, May 2016

It is more traditional for the groom to break the glass, but many people use a more modern interpretation and break the glass as a couple as Alyssa and Gary did. 

April & Gary, April 2016. Photo by Dream Weaver Photography.

Jumping the Broom Ritual

The Jumping the Broom has roots that are long and storied. While there are European cultures that also perform it, it is primarily associated with the African-American community today. As Danielle Young summarizes

“Jumping the broom was a part of African culture that survived during American slavery. Once Blacks could have weddings with rings that were recognizable by anyone as a symbol of marriage, the broom ceremony wasn’t required. During this time, jumping the broom fell out of practice from the stigma it carried, and in some cases still carries, among African Americans who wanted nothing to do with anything associated with that era. However, because of Alex Haley’s book “Roots,” the jumping the broom tradition saw a resurgence.”

Sometimes, the couple sweeps with the broom before jumping, to ward off negative energy before they jump into married life. Often, the broom is made and laid down by an important family member. 

jumping the broom at a Savannah Wedding
William & Cliffton, November 2016. Photo by Lyndi & Jason Photography.

Finally, there are a number of other rituals I have performed, but do not have pictures of, such as planting seeds together, unveilings, the cord of three strands, the red string of fate, and others. If I get pictures, or perform new rituals, I will update this blog post! And if you have a ritual from your culture that you would like to use or adapt, please let me know.

A final note: Rituals are included in my custom ceremony packages. They are not included as part of the Tracy’s Choice or Popup Elopement Package without an upgrade. You can view all my ceremony packages here

Thanks for reading!

Tracy Brisson, Founder of Savannah Custom Weddings & Elopements

 

Hiring Savannah Wedding Officiant

I’m Hiring Partner Officiants for Fall 2017

 

Hey y’all! I am hiring three new partner wedding officiants for our team to start this fall. Partner wedding officiants officiate weddings when I am unavailable or double booked. Depending on the season, and their availability, partner officiants can marry 2-10 couples per month.

Hiring Savannah Wedding Officiant

I am looking for one officiant based in Savannah and two officiants based in Hilton Head and the St. Simon’s and Jekyll Island areas, respectively. Because we are so booked in Savannah and Tybee, we usually have to turn down all requests for those coastal areas and I would love to change that. 

Here is a brief overview of how the Partner Officiant process works.. Partner Officiants conduct wedding ceremonies written by me. Partner Officiants usually only communicate with their clients a few weeks before the wedding, those some clients may want a pre-hire consultation via Skype or FaceTime. 

If you would like to apply, please send an email and resume or link to your LinkedIn profile at tracy [at] oppsproject [dot] com. Qualified applicants only, please. 

 

Responsibilities:

  • Officiate pre-written wedding ceremonies and Signing Services as assigned
  • Provide high level of customer service to all clients with enthusiasm
  • Keep information about weddings and clients confidential
  • Dress appropriately for the occasion (generally cocktail or formal business wear for women, suit for men)
  • Be prompt for all events and arrive before the scheduled time
  • Respond to emails from clients and Slack notifications from our team members promptly.

Qualifications:

  • Significant experience with public speaking or performing
  • Experience working with difficult people and unique situations
  • Experience as an independent contractor who organizes his or her own work and has been responsible to customers
  • Ease with mobile technology and apps (our job is very mobile and we use a lot of technology)
  • Flexible schedule on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends
  • Belief in the concept of a modern marriage
  • Belief that ALL people deserve to be married, regardless of their sexual orientation
  • Belief that weddings can be joyful and fun while recognizing the importance and responsibility of the event
  • Comfort with performing ceremonies that are both non-denominational and non-religious

Partner officiants must have reliable transportation to get to weddings.

Compensation:

  • Partner Officiants are contractors and paid a flat fee per gig or rehearsal. They will be issued a 1099 at the end of the year. Payment is monthly by invoice.

Hiring Process:

  •  If interested in becoming a Partner officiant, please send a resume and cover letter by September 1st to tracy [at] oppsproject [dot] com. Interviews will happen on a rolling basis. Finalists will be asked to conduct a mock wedding ceremony in front of the Fountain at Forsyth Park. If the opportunity arises, you can also watch me officiate a wedding after being interviewed. 

Please note:  I am looking to bring in a person that I can work with long-term and is a part of my organization, not someone I can simply refer weddings to when I am booked. If you are looking to market yourself as an independent wedding officiant in the future, or currently have a website or Facebook page marketing yourself as an officiant, this is not the position for you. 

I look forward to your referrals and applications!

Meet Buffy Nelson, Partner Officiant

Since 2016, Buffy Nelson has been working with me as one of my Partner Wedding Officiants when I am unavailable or double booked. Buffy was originally hired to just cover my summer 2016 maternity leave, but has become a beloved member of the Savannah Custom Weddings & Elopements team and our clients love her!

Savannah wedding officiant Buffy Nelson

Buffy brings rich experience to her job. She has lived in Savannah for 20 years and is a graduate of the Savannah College of Arts and Design. She was born in Dalton, GA and was lucky enough to fall in love with her best friend, Adam, and they have been together almost 25 years.

Here are some questions I asked Buffy and some pictures of her officiating ceremonies! Here is probably my favorite picture from all her ceremonies. 

Savannah wedding officiant Buffy Nelson

 

What made you want to officiate marriages?

I wish I had a definitive explanation, but I don’t. When I discovered you were looking for another wedding officiant, I knew I wanted to do it, and I knew I would be good at it. I have never been that confident about anything ever! LOL!

I really like being around happy people. It makes me happy!

What has surprised you the most about officiating?

How calm the couples are when they get married. How intimate the ceremony really becomes. We could be on the beach, in the park, one of the squares, people all around, and for those few minutes, it doesn’t matter. It’s just them. It’s so sweet.

Is this your only job?

Actually, I am also a licensed real estate agent with Seabolt Brokers, LLC.  This is not my only job, but this job can turn a bad day into a good one. On any given day, a couple gets married, I get to marry them and everyone is happy. Who wouldn’t want to do that?!?!?

Thanks for all you do for your couples, Buffy! 

Wedding Photo Fun with Cupcakes!

As part of our Savannah Elopement Experience and Intimate Destination Wedding ‘ceremony plus photography’ packages, we offer cupcakes for you to enjoy as part of your post-ceremony newlywed photography tour among our historic squares. We’ve found that having a sweet treat together after the ceremony (and sometimes, paired with a glass of champagne) can make our couples relaxed and happy, which is exactly the vibe we are striving for with your Savannah elopement! They also make a great prop for photos, both sweet and silly.

As a summer treat, here are some of our favorite pictures of our couples enjoying their post-wedding ceremony cupcakes. We provide your cupcakes from Gigi’s Cupcakes of Savannah because they are so tasty and easy to order for just for the two of you. The most requested flavor, is of course, Wedding Cake, but our favorite for photos is Confetti Fun.  

Photos by It’s Megan Jones Photography.

Savannah Elopement in Pulaski Square
Aly & Kris, May 2017
Wedding cucpakes
Amanda & Robert, March 2017

Cupcakes also lead to sweet wedding kisses. 

Wedding kiss in Savannah
Heidi & Rich, May 2017
Shiloh & Keith, June 2017
Pulaski square savannah wedding photography
Amanda & Timothy, May 2017

Jacob told us that he left all the details for their elopement to Katie, but insisted on picking the cupcake flavor himself!

Kate & Jacob, April 2017, Confetti Fun
Katie & Jacob, April 2017
Keisa & Sheldon, April 2017

Sara & Zach really got into posing and we loved it! How fun is their relationship?!?

Sara & Zach, June 2017
Sara & Zach, June 2017
David & Angel, February 2016

I love how the cupcake looks with her nails! 

Victoria & Matthew, February 2017, Strawberry Shortcake
Lacey & Aaron, June 2017
Kristen & Ben, September 2016
Lindsey & Ryan, January 2016
Maggie & Nathan, April 2017
Shannon & Michael, April 2017

Rob & Josh teased a cupcake smash… but held off on it. 

Rob & Josh, May 2016

However, our final featured couple, Stephanie & Paul, did the traditional cake/cupcake smash. To date, they have been the only ones who have gone through with it… and it was awesome!

Stephanie & Paul, November 2016
Stephanie & Paul, November 2016
Stephanie & Paul, November 2016
Stephanie & Paul, November 2016

How amazing and sweet were these photos!? We love our couples. 

One last note: We are happy to provide cupcakes for our two elopement packages, but we like our couples to consider these two thoughts in planning and filling out their questionnaire with their ceremony preferences.

One, is that because Savannah does get SO hot at times, there may be a chance of melting or icing sliding off that we can’t help. That can especially be the case in late spring and summer. Even if that happens, they will still be delicious!

Second, while the general idea of cupcakes probably sounds awesome when you are filling out your questionnaire for your package, if you don’t see yourself as the type to take pictures like these, or really don’t like sweets, you may want to pass on having them for your hour with us.

And on that note, after looking at all these pictures again, I am off to Gigi’s to get a cupcake of my own (my personal favorite flavor is Chocolate Chip Cooke Dough)!

 

Until next time,

Tracy Brisson, Founder of Savannah Custom Weddings & Elopements 

 

Three Planning Tips for Writing Your Wedding Vows

I love when couples decide they would like to write their own vows to each other, or even offer personal statements before the “official vows.” While it is not necessary to write your own vows to have an authentic and personal ceremony, it can make it something extraordinarily wonderful if you are open to it.

For many years, I have offered a free vow writing guide to couples who are looking for help on what to write about in their vows. Here are some more things to think about when you write about your wedding vows for your ceremony. 


1. Decide on the format, structure and length together.

Tybee Island Wedding Vows

    Amanda & Gregory, July 2016, with officiant Buffy.

This depends on the couple, but I always thing it is a good idea for a couple to decide how ‘aligned’ they want their vows to be. Some people are natural speakers, and even prefer speaking from the heart rather than preparing anything in advance. Some people want to make sure that there are no surprises at the ceremony. Whatever you decide to do, the most important thing is to decide together what “ground rules” you will have for writing what you say on your wedding day. Specifically, I encourage you to sit down and answer these questions together.

  • Do you want to use a narrative format where you talk about your love or a list of promises to each other or a combination?
  • Do you want to have the same format or are you okay having each person choose the format that goes naturally with their writing and speaking style?
  • Do you want to stick to the same length?
  • Do you want to each say your own vows or have Tracy repeat them in question format and simply say “I Do” at the end?

Generally speaking, for clients who are nervous about the vow writing process, I recommend the following framework to get them going. 

  • Begin with 1-2 sentences of why you are excited about marrying this person
  • State 3-5 specific promises you want to make to this person
  • Make a closing statement, maybe even the same one. 
  • Stick to 250-500 words total.

2. Make them specific.

Michael & Nicole, November 2016

The best vows are specific to your relationship, in addition to promising to love, cherish and take care of each other. My previously mentioned vow guide has a number of prompts that can help you think back of things you share, quirks you know about each other, and moments you have experienced together. Here are some examples some of my couples have used in writing their own vows.

J & S, June 2016

  • Do you promise to make sure there is always cheese in the house, to tell her honestly if there is food in her teeth, and to get her a chocolate from the freezer whenever she asks?
  • Do you promise to listen to him, to support him in all his endeavors, and to accept that 82 games is the perfect length for a hockey season?

C & W, November 2016

  • I promise to put my phone on silent when we’re watching a movie.
  • Thanks for being patient with me, especially when I’m hungry. Oh, and thanks for not judging my insane obsession with Asian cuisine.

M & K, May 2016

  • She promises to always be your biggest fan and make sure that all new friends are immediately informed that you were named best dancer in high school.
  • She promises to go on fishing adventures with you, even if those adventures require bringing along a machete.

F & W, May 2016

  • There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I love you with all my heart and soul, and to me, this will always have been enough.
  • As Twitter user Jomny Sun said “falling in love is like having spent your entire life reading a thesaurus and someone hands you a dictionary.” And I know that’s cheesy, but so are you, and I want to be cheesy together.

3. Choose the best way to read them that works for you and your ceremony. 

Alfredo & Vanessa, March 2017

An important consideration is to consider how you may want to read your vows on the day of your wedding. Please don’t try to memorize them! You can bring your vows handwritten or typed on any type of paper, bring them in special notebooks, or have them included as part of your ceremony script and read them off my tablet. The pictures included in the post demonstrate the different ways you can choose to read your vows.

  • If you choose to bring them on paper, think of the weather conditions and quality of paper. I unfortunately had a ceremony out on Tybee where the weather conditions make a groom’s notebook paper vows tear and run so he had a hard time reading them. if your ceremony is during a rainy or windy time of year, cardstock may be a good idea.
  • If you’d like to handwrite your vows, a vow notebook is perfect. You can find them on Amazon or Etsy. Small colorful Moleskin notebooks are also great options.
  • Finally, think about how you will want to keep the vows after your ceremony, if you are creating a memory box or scrapbook. If you include your vows electronically with my ceremony script, you can also print them later for your keepsake plans.

 

I offer a review of your personal vows as part of any of my custom writing ceremony packages. If you send me your vows, I’ll read them and give joint and individual feedback on how they mesh without spoiling your surprises. I hope this post makes you confident that you can definitely write the perfect wedding vows, the ones that are romantic, joyful, meaningful and authentic to your relationship!

Until next time, 

Tracy Brisson, Founder of Savannah Custom Weddings & Elopements

Harry Potter wands

My Harry Potter Inspired Wedding Ceremony

When I am writing ceremonies for my clients, I take all sorts of information into consideration in how to choose and create a wedding ceremony that is special for them. For couples who select my Choose Your Own Adventure package, the Savannah Elopement Experience or my other custom writing packages, I offer a “playful” theme and when a couple picks this option, my inner nerd squeals! For most of my playful ceremonies, I use references from literature or pop culture that resonate with the couple and unless the couple asks me otherwise, I keep it subtle (quotes, etc.). Some references I have used have included Dr. Seuss, other children’s literature, Star Wars, The Office, Parks & Recreation, The Big Bang Theory, LOST, Friday Night Lights, and Marvel comics, among others. However, without a doubt, the most popular playful reference request I receive is to include some Harry Potter.

[One weekend, I had 3 separate playful ceremonies that invoked references from Parks & Recreation, Marvel comics, and Harry Potter respectively. The experience left me wanting to write fan fiction where Leslie Knope defeated Hydra at Hogwarts, all in the name of true love!]

Why Harry Potter might one ask? To be fair, it is not a very romantic “text.” While you can admire the deep love Snape had for Lily, it is tragic. Harry and Ginny’s love is somewhat muted and often boring (in my opinion), and there are whole essays all over the internet about how problematic Ron & Hermione’s relationship is at times. But Harry Potter is still more about love than your average romantic sonnet is. It is about universal love that is unequivocal and pure and so strong, love that can defeat evil on its own. What marriage would not want that strong force behind them?

For many others, Harry Potter is an easy bonding experience for couples in those early days, something not very risky they can discuss and love together as their relationship grows. That was certainly true for my husband and I. Just a few months into dating, we went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando where we bought wands and all sorts of gear. It was a magical trip that is a fond memory I will always have of us and a happy milestone in the progression of our relationship.

Harry Potter wedding
I mean, how cute is he? Wouldn’t you fall in love just based on that enthusiasm?
Harry Potter wands
We really don’t see ourselves as evil people, but these were the best wands, hands down.
I am a Gryffindor
I always say that I thought I was a Ravenclaw, but small business ownership made me a Gryffindor.

A wedding officiant always has to consider how many of her secrets she should give away, but in the interest of love and and nerd culture, I am publishing one of my Harry Potter influenced ceremonies. Again, because most of my couples are looking for subtle, the influences are understated.


INTRODUCTION AND ADDRESS

We are assembled here today to celebrate and support the marriage of YYY and XXX. They are delighted that you are here and thank you for your participation on their special day.

Today there will be no dearly beloved, no betrothed, and no ancient rhyme of the married.

Today there are no dead languages to solemnize vows that are very much alive and will remain so for a lifetime.

Today is about promises that become permanent and friends that become family.

Marriage is the clasping of hands, the hearts, the union of two lives as one. Within the circle of its love, marriage encompasses all of life’s most important relationships. A husband and wife are each other’s best friend, confidant, lover, teacher, listener, and even critic… and we can do that, because in marriage we say not only, “I love you today,” but also, “I promise to love you tomorrow, the next day and always.”

Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open. Marriage is also a place of freedom. Freedom to fully express who you are, knowing that you have someone there to catch you when you fall, encourage you when you are discouraged, and applaud your successes.
 
Marriage makes you strong- independently and together.
 
This is all true. These are essential parts of a good marriage, but there are also other important components – friendship, courage and even risk -because marriage is a risk – a great and glorious risk when you embark on the adventure in the same spirit. It is also a great responsibility. In the words of Albus Dumbledore, “We can’t choose our fate, but we can choose others… The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed.”
 
However, when you accept that responsibility for someone’s heart, there are rewards you receive when you take risks, share your journey with your whole heart, and let love walk into your life.

You find your soulmate.

Someone who has locks that fit our keys and keys to fit our locks. And we know that when we feel safe enough to open the locks, we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be.

Our soulmates make us feel treasured, safe and loved beyond our wildest measures. We get the partner and lover and protector we always desired, and maybe even needed.

YYY and XXX  met at a mutual friend’s birthday party where [something amazing and unique happened]. It may sound silly, but beautiful love stories often start this way, where someone does something small, unexpected and quirky and playful. Because it is the amalgamation of small things that slowly help you discover that the person you were meant to be with, your companion for life, is already there right beside by you.

And, that is how the bonds of marriage are formed. For marriage, which is always spoken of as a bond, becomes actually, in this stage, many bonds, many strands, of different texture and strength, making up a web that is taut and firm, a web that is fashioned of love.

YYY and XXX, may the promises you make here today, reflect the love and sincerity of your truest intention for this union. When life is peaceful and when it is painful, may you continuously be reminded of the deepest intention of the vows you make here.

VOWS & RING EXCHANGE

Your rings seal the vows of marriage and represent a promise for everlasting love. It is a physical manifestation of the promises joining the bride and groom together.

XXX-

Do you promise to stand by YYY always, have faith in her and encourage her,
to listen to her and laugh with her and to hold her,
to communicate fully and fearlessly with each other,
to value your differences as much as your common ground,

and to be her friend, lover, and partner for all the days of your lives as her husband?

[XXX: Always.]

YYY-

Do you promise to stand by XXX always, have faith in him and encourage him,
to listen to him and laugh with him and to hold him,
to communicate fully and fearlessly with each other,
to value your differences as much as your common ground,

and to be his friend, lover, and partner for all the days of your lives as his wife?

[YYY: Always.]

BLESSING & PRONOUNCEMENT

YYY and XXX, may your marriage be blessed with love, peace and happiness. As you go out into the world and begin your new origin story as a married couple, please remember that you are only as strong as you are united, as weak as you are divided. You are protected, in short, by your ability to love.

YYY and XXX, you have promised each other your love, devotion, and commitment. By the authority vested in me by the state of Georgia, I pronounce you husband and wife and publicly present you as Mr. and Mrs. ZZZ. You may kiss the bride!


And who has a Harry Potter influenced wedding ceremony? Just about anyone! Of the 15 couples who requested Harry Potter references over the last year, they ran the spectrum in age and other demographics and the formality or casualness of their wedding ceremony differed greatly. Here are just three couples who used variations of this ceremony.

Bill & Shawn, June 2016
Fallen & Jason, March 2017

 

Maria & Tyler, February 2016

My Harry Potter influenced wedding ceremony is available through my Choose Your Own Adventure or Savannah Elopement Experience package as is or with edits, and parts can be used with any higher level custom writing package as well. If you are a big Harry Potter fan, there are lots of other options you can also use for ceremony rituals, including a ‘sorting’ ceremony, a ritual to honor the physical representation of memories for a Pensieve, or a unity ceremony with potions, among others. I’d love to brainstorm them with you!

My final thoughts: Your wedding ceremony is a blank slate. Make it about you and bring in as much or as little nerd as you’d like. You’ll never be sorry.

May you Also be protected by your ability to love.

Tracy Brisson, Founder of Savannah Custom Weddings & Elopements

Here Are 7 Reasons Why You Should Elope In Savannah, GA

I recently helped a reporter write a piece on the top destination wedding spots in the United States. The reporter ranked Savannah as number 10 out of 15 and used many of the details I provided which made me really happy. However, the conversation with her made me want to write my own list on why you should elope to Savannah or plan your intimate destination wedding here. When you review the facts, you’ll see that we are actually the BEST wedding and elopement destination in the country.

All photos in this post were taken by It’s Megan Jones Photography as part of one of our signature elopement packages, the Popup Elopement Package and the Savannah Elopement Experience. 


  1. Georgia’s Easy State Marriage Laws

Georgia has some of the easiest marriage laws in the country, if not the easiest of them all. This is important because you do not need to make your travel plans to include waiting periods, invite guests you don’t want to meet a witness requirement, or dig up a ton of documents for your application.

There is no waiting period for marriage licenses in Georgia so you can get married the same day you arrive as long as you have time to visit our courthouse when it is open (every weekday from 8-12 and 2-4). Our marriage licenses also never expire so you can get them on your first trip and get married on your second! Finally, our laws do not require witnesses for your ceremony and you only need your government IDs, as long as you have never been married before. If you have been previously married, you’ll also need a copy of your original certified divorce decree, but that is it. 

Here is more information on how to obtain your marriage license at our local courthouse.

Keeping it simple deserves a high five and a woo hoo! 

lafayette square elopement, savannah
Denise & Vincett, October 2016, Lafayette Square
orleans square elopement, savannah
Tifani & Heather, June 2016, Orleans Square

2. Beautiful Locations For Your Wedding or Elopement Pictures

If you have looked at my location guide, you know that we have AMAZING places to have your pictures and if you are eloping, you can go ahead and have your ceremony and photos at any of our 22 historic squares as well as Forsyth Park and Tybee Island for free. Outdoor spaces like the Wormsloe Historic Site and Greenwich Park are also available for small fees.

elopement, whitfield square, savannah
Victoria & Matthew, February 2017, Whitfield Square 
wedding pictures in savannah
Amy & Dean, January 2017, Chippewa Square
pulaski sqaure wedding pictures
Whitney & Michael, July 2016, Pulaski Square
forsyth park elopement, savannah
Shawn & Bill, June 2016, Forsyth Park
tybee island wedding kiss
Amanda & Gregory, July 2016, Tybee Island,
Tina & DJ, May 2016, Greenwich Park at Bonaventure Cemetery
Wormsloe wedding picture
Erin & Tracy, March 2017, Wormsloe Historic Site

3. Experience Good Weather All Year

While it is true that there are peak spring and fall months for wedding ceremonies and elopements in Savannah because of perfect temperatures and amazing blooms, you can have your wedding here in the winter months of December, January and February or the summer months of June, July and August and the odds are in your favor that the weather will be just fine and you will have an incredible day. 

winter wedding in savannah
Brandi & Matt, February 2017, just off Columbia Square
wedding photography in Savannah
Cassie & Jared, August 2016, just off Forsyth Park

4. Make Use Of Our Experienced Wedding Vendor Professional Community

In many cities, wedding professionals are only available on weekends or have minimum purchases for flowers, wedding hair and makeup, or even desserts. Not in Savannah! In 2016, our officiants married 381 couples and the majority of them were during the week because of Savannah’s reputation for elopements. If you would like to take advantage of a quiet weekday to enjoy your elopement and be pampered, our wedding vendors will not be surprised and will be eager to help and give you the same level of service you would expect for a larger weekend wedding. 

wedding bouquet savannah
Nicole & Michael, November 2016. Bouquet by Pink House Florist.
bouquet in savannah for elopement
Alison & Brian, February 2017. Bouquet by Urban Poppy.
Katie & Jacob, April 2017. Hair & makeup by Laura at Roots Southern Salon. Pedicab by Royal Bike Taxi.
Jennifer & Jeff, April 2016. Makeup by Lindsey Wihrt.

5. Eat & Drink Your Way Through Your Elopement Week

Savannah is known for its incredible food and restaurants. We have Southern food and amazing seafood, from fancy to casual, as well as everything in between. Some of my favorites include The Olde Pink House, Vic’s On The River (my favorite shrimp & grits in the city), Tybee Island Fish Camp, Local 11Ten (splurge on the chef’s tasting), and The Grey, the recipient of many prestigious national awards. For more casual fare, you can also fit in some delicious grass-fed burgers at Green Truck, breakfast at Clary’s, and lunch at Mrs. Wilke’s

Savannah also has liberal drinking laws and our restaurants and bars offer our drinks “to-go” in clear plastic cups as you can drink alcohol while you’re walking anywhere north of Jones Street which covers most of downtown Savannah. It is an incredibly relaxing and liberating experience to stroll around our squares on a sunny day, sipping a cocktail. 

6. Explore Our City…  Without a Car

Savannah’s historic district is completely walkable and includes walking tours, trolley tours, carriage rides, and more. You can get a full week of entertainment and activity without a car and getting bored. We also have pedicabs and Uber, Lyft, and Taxis to get around if you need them. One of the best things about getting away for a vacation is not having to worrying about your vehicle, parking, or following maps while driving!

7. Extend Your Trip and Travel the Coast from Charleston to Jacksonville. 

Savannah is in the heart of beautiful strip of coastal towns and cities that extends two hours north to Charleston, SC and two hours South to Jacksonville, FL. Rent a car for just a few days while you are here and explore each way, viewing sites like Beaufort County, Sea Islands, Huntington State Park, and Folly Beach to the north and Jekyll Island, St. Simon’s Island, Cumberland Island, and Amelia Island to the south. There is nothing better than an adventure to celebrate your new married life. 

To recap, Savannah is a great place for you and your love to say I Do. So when are y’all booking your elopement package with us?!?!

Until next time,

Tracy Brisson, Founder of Savannah Custom Weddings & Elopements

My Wedding Ceremony Tips For Anxious Couples

A few years ago, I wrote this post for a wedding publication with ceremony planning ideas for brides who struggle with anxiety. The publication that ran it did not do much to promote it, and I have decided to re-run it here with some small edits so I can easily provide a link to the information to clients. I was an anxious bride myself and used many of these tips!


Couples who hire me to officiate their Savannah weddings often tell me up front that they are looking for ceremonies and vows that are “short and sweet.” When I first began my work, I wondered if brides thought I charged by the word!

After getting to know my couples, I realized that many brides – and grooms – seek “short and sweet” ceremonies because they are uncomfortable being the center of attention. Some are inexperienced at having everyone’s eyes on them and that makes them nervous; others have been under treatment for clinical anxiety and the walk down the aisle is an idea that keeps them up at night.

Keeping your ceremony short is one strategy for dealing with jitters, but if you’re truly anxious, even five minutes can seem like a lifetime. Instead, I encourage my clients to plan their ceremonies with their anxiety in mind. Here are tips that some of my clients have used to help them have a wonderful, stress-free day.

Orleans square wedding ceremony
No anxiety here!

#1. Practice.
You do not need to have a formal rehearsal to get comfortable with your wedding ceremony and the flow of it before your big day. Get the script from your wedding officiant and practice at home with your fiancé. Understand what it feels like to stand with him. Learn whether holding hands will make you feel more comfortable or if you want to hold your bouquet instead. You’ll likely find that standing in this together isn’t as scary as you think.

 

#2. Have a private “first look.”
Many couples decide to have a private “first look” between the bride and groom rather than having the groom see the bride for the first time she walks down the aisle. You will feel so many different emotions the first time you see each other; making it a private moment can help eliminate the anxiety.

My colleague, wedding photographer Megan Jones of It’s Megan Jones Photography, agrees based on the weddings and receptions she has shot. “A wedding day can be a hectic time taken over by family, so insist on a private moment with your fiancé with your photographer. When I am asked to photograph a private first look, I have seen the calming effect of it throughout the whole day.”

My couple, Jeff and Jennifer, decided to have a private first look and walk into the ceremony together. Look how calm and relaxed they look.

Couple's first look at Forsyth Park
Photo by It’s Megan Jones Photography

It will still be special even if it is not in front of everyone. Look at Jeff’s expression as he saw Jennifer approach!

Groom reaction to bride
Beautiful.

#3. Skip the procession or change it.

Yes, I said it. You don’t have to walk down the aisle and have everyone’s eyes on you if you don’t want to. Depending on your venue, you could have cocktails before your ceremony and mingle with guests without an entrance. When you are ready to begin, you can quietly take your place with your fiancé and officiant and have your coordinator or musician give cues so guests know that you are starting.

You might also feel strength in numbers. I walked into my wedding laughing and surrounded by amazing women who had been an essential part of my journey as a single lady. It felt empowering and instilled a sense of confidence that carried me throughout the ceremony.

savannah ga wedding
From my own wedding. I showed this to a client once, and she said we looked like a girl squad from a Taylor Swift video.

If you want to skip the procession, but are concerned about missing a special moment with your dad, you can make sure to schedule private moments with your parents. In all the weddings I have performed, fathers always seems to be the most anxious of all and uniquely nervous about messing up the job of walking the bride down the aisle. I suspect many would be happy to be relieved of their duty as long as they know you haven’t forgot about them.

 

#4. Have your officiant say your personalized vows for you.

Couples often think about wedding vows as black and white – you can have customized wedding vows that you read yourselves, or the traditional vows that talk about sickness and death. That is not the case! Ceremonies and vows come in many shades of grey.

If you would like to have personalized vows but are too nervous to read them yourself, work with your officiant so he or she can read them and you can say “I do.” I do this all the time! You do not have to have a cookie-cutter ceremony just because you do not want to speak.

 

#5. Skip the reception rituals or enlist some help.
The entrance, the first dance, the throwing of the bouquet can all be triggers for the anxious bride. Once again, you don’t have to do any of these or can change them as you see fit. If you want to have a first dance with your husband but don’t want the spotlight in you, tell some special friends and your bridal party what your song is beforehand and let them know that you want them to join in as soon as they see the two of you hit the dance floor. Everyone else will get up and dance, too, and give you a more private moment.

 

#6. Hire vendors that make you feel comfortable.

If you suffer from anxiety, the rapport you have with the people who will make your wedding special will be very important. If a vendor is going to question every decision and make you feel guilty for breaking tradition, you are probably not a match, no matter how well regarded they are in the wedding industry.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and tell your vendors about your anxiety. Vendors will appreciate your honesty and be grateful. You’ll get better service because they’ll communicate with you more carefully and provide more targeted ideas. If you are nervous about being assertive in person, communicate through email.

Tybee Island wedding
I know when everyone is laughing like this that they are definitely comfortable!

#7. Choose your officiant wisely.
Your officiant will set the tone for the ceremony, the time of the day when most people will have their attention directly on you. He or she is there to provide a safe and warm experience for you to both express your love and feel your emotions. Make sure that the officiant you hire makes you feel that he or she can do that for you and respect all the needs you might have.

You do not have to have a boring and impersonal wedding just because you suffer from anxiety or hate attention. Some creative thinking can help you plan a day that is authentic, meaningful, full of joy, AND relaxed!

 

‘Til next time!

Tracy Brisson, Founder of Savannah Custom Weddings & Elopements

Modern Elopement Photo Shoot at the Savannah Cozy Chapel

Hey y’all!  I did a model call for a photo shoot at The Savannah Cozy Chapel to demonstrate what fun a couple can have in our space. Luckily, the amazing Renee & Vanadis volunteered, a week before they were actually married in front of their family and friends at the chapel! Renee & Vanadis met on Instagram and it not surprising that they attracted each other on that platform because they are so photogenic.

Here is a list of other vendors who participated in the shoot.


First up are some shots of the Savannah Cozy Chapel’s space.

Savannah Cozy Chapel at 2421 Waters AvenueExterior of the Savannah Cozy Chapel Flannery O'Connor Book Trail Stop at the Savannah Cozy ChapelLighted Wedding Arch in SavannahNon Religious Wedding Ceremony at the Savannah Wedding ChapelSand Ceremony Ritual at the Savannah Cozy ChapelUnity Candle Ritual Table at the Savannah Cozy ChapelSigns and bench for your Savannah elopement photographyEvery love story is beautiful but ours is my favoriteThe Cupcake Parlor in Savannah, GASavannah Cozy Chapel back wallHappily ever after starts herei want to love you every single day


And then here is Renee & Vanadis during their photo shoot, being romantic and playful all at the same time.

Savannah Cozy Chapel is located at 2421 Waters Avenue. We got married at the Savannah Cozy Chapel! Wrapped in flowers at the Savannah Cozy Chapel Love at the Savannah Cozy Chapel You're my favorite of all time sign Your love story is my favorite sign You're my favorite love story in the garden at the Savannah Cozy ChapelAll because 2 people fell in loveKiss at the Savannah Cozy Chapel Wedding Officiant at the Savannah Cozy ChapelRed & white wine unity ritual Sand ceremony ritual at the Savannah Cozy Chapel Asking if you vow to love forever Officiating a Savannah wedding after the first kiss at the savannah cozy chapelI love you quote at the Savannah Cozy ChapelLook of love at the Savannah Cozy Chapel Love pillows at the Savannah Cozy Chapel Happily ever after starts here for this Savannah couple first dance at the Savannah Cozy Chapel The modern Savannah Cozy ChapelPopping confetti at the Savannah Cozy Chapel Confetti in the air after a Savannah wedding

 

Thank you so much to Renee & Vanadis for participating and being great sports about all the poses I put them in. If you’d like to book your elopement or intimate wedding at the Savannah Cozy Chapel, you can learn more about it and contact us about your date.

 

‘Til next time!

Tracy Brisson, Founder of Savannah Custom Weddings & Elopements

Model call at The Savannah Cozy Chapel

Model Call: Get Free Professional Photos of Your Love

Hey y’all!

Though we’ve been open in our new space since June, I still don’t have professional photos of the Savannah Cozy Chapel, my modern location for non-denominational and secular elopements and small weddings. I am finally going to do that this month and I am holding a model call to find 1-3 couples who would be willing to be photographed as part of a photoshoot. You’ll get free photos in return. See details below the picture.

Model call at The Savannah Cozy Chapel

When and where is this photo shoot?

It will take place one afternoon for 2 hours between 1PM and 5PM on November 21st, 22nd or 23rd at the Savannah Cozy Chapel at 2421 Waters Avenue between Maupas Avenue and 41st Streets. We’ll choose the date best depending on the couples’ availability.

Why participate in this photo shoot?

You will get a free digital gallery of yourselves that you can share and print as you’d like. The gallery will be several hundreds of dollars worth of professional photography work.

What are the requirements?

The couple(s) chosen must be able to take direction from the photographer and be comfortable showing affection to each other, smiling, and being serious when asked. The photographer will choose all poses and you’ll be asked to pose in multiple locations within the chapel and its outside gardens and sometimes hold props. You’ll also sign a model release that will allow us to use your pictures in online advertisements for the chapel.

Who should apply?

Are you a couple in love? If the answer is yes, the answer is you. The Chapel serves diverse couples and we are looking for models who reflect that. Couples of all sizes and ages should submit. If you have tattoos, alternative hair colors, bring it on. I am also interested in featuring at least one same-sex couple.

You do not need to be married to apply, but you must be in love and be comfortable showing that on camera. Past clients welcome and encouraged to apply.

What should I wear?

My goal is to portray how modern and fun the space is. For women, think classic white, flowy elopement dresses or colorful options. For men, suits or a business casual look would be best. Women are also free to wear something traditionally more masculine if that is your jam. Clothes must  fit you well.

Your outfits must be approved in advance by me and the photographer. We’ll ask you to send you us a picture.

I will pay for a makeup and hair artist for women participating. You’ll have that done at the Chapel prior to the shoot.

How can I apply?

Please submit a contact form on my website to tell me you are interested in being considered. Tell me a little about your love story and provide a link to an Instagram picture of yourselves. I’ll follow-up with next steps.

Thanks!

Tracy Brisson, Founder of Savannah Custom Weddings & Elopements