Hey y’all! We get lots of questions about how our Client Concierge service works. I thought it makes the most sense to just show you examples of how awesome this service is! Our Client Concierge service is included in our Intimate Destination Wedding Package and Savannah Elopement Experience, and can be purchased as an add-on for our Popup Elopement and Create Your Story packages.
These services are managed by our Client Concierge, Jennifer Griffin Curts, who is a master of organization and vendor relationships. She spends her days texting, emailing and calling our partner vendors to get things ready for your wedding ceremony, with the occasional assist from me.
As your Client Concierge, Jennifer helps clients virtually with tasks in ten categories.
Research lodging options
Make dinner reservations
Complete permit applications
Order and have a bouquet delivered
Book a hair and makeup artist
Book an acoustic musician
Order and have a cake delivered
Book a videographer
Assist with reserving chair rentals and delivery
Make pedicab reservations for your extra hour of photography
Here is a summary of services we have booked for clients in each category.
Research lodging options and make dinner reservations.
Jennifer can conduct initial research for lodging options, based on your location preferences and budget, for both you and your guests. We can also get quotes for dinner and party options on the day of your wedding, as well as some other limited reservations for your stay.
We don’t take photos of the celebration after we end our couple’s photography session with you, but we have helped couples arrange for celebrations at all sorts of restaurants including The Olde Pink House, 700 Drayton at the Mansion, Rocks on the River, Vic’s on the River, Moon River, 45 Bistro, The Pirate’s House, The Chart House and the Savannah Riverboat, among others.
We have also helped couples cater in their celebrations, whether it was for the couple staying at an AirBnB, or for 30 guests in a small venue. The possibilities are only limited by our imagination, the places available for your date, and your budget.
Complete permit applications (and assist with chair rentals).
For couples who have the number of guests where a permit is needed, we’ve helped dozens of them rent squares and Forsyth Park through the City of Savannah, as well as arrange permits for Bonaventure Cemetery and the Wormsloe Historic Site. We’ve also helped get quotes for chair rentals for those couples who have wanted chairs.
Greenwich Park at Bonaventure Cemetery, Bonaventure Cemetery and the Wormsloe Historic Site all require permits, even if it just the couple.
Order and have a bouquet delivered.
We work with a few floral designers who create unique wedding and elopement bouquets. Here are a few of our favorites from the past winter and spring seasons.
We can also help you order flowers for the whole family, including corsages and boutonnieres.
Book a hair and makeup artist.
Hair and makeup is our most popular requested service for both our elopements and weddings. It’s fun to get glammed up for your photos! Here are some looks created by our most popular artists, with the brides’ directions.
Book an acoustic musician.
We can book any type of musician for your ceremony, but our most popular, by far, are our violinists!
Order and have a cake delivered.
We assist with lots of cake deliveries, but we don’t have many photos in our library because we’re not at the post-ceremony celebration. We did snag some photos from Erica & Jonathan’s Intimate Destination Wedding of these delicious desserts at the Savannah Botanical Gardens.
Make pedicab reservations for your extra hour of photography.
And finally… if you have two hours of photography with us, we highly recommend that you let us book you pedicabs with Royal Bike Taxi. Chris and his team will drive you around town in their pedicabs so you can get photos with twice as many backgrounds, as well as relax and drink some champagne, feel a nice breeze and share some snuggles as you come down from the highs of making your lifetime commitment to each other. Our couples have reported it is one of their favorite experiences of their wedding.
We’re so excited to work with you and make your elopement or Intimate Destination Wedding in Savannah perfect! If you need more information to help you decide which package is for you, you can read our planning guide, too. You can also fill out the form below if there are additional questions you’d like us to answer.
Hey y’all! You may wonder how the process works once you have booked us for your wedding ceremony. It’s a great question! My goal is to make everything as stress-free and organized as possible, meaning I am big on processes and timelines. I also value responsiveness, so if you ever have a question you can’t find an answer to, or need to adjust something, email us and we’ll answer it as soon as possible.
Here is an overview of how we’ll work together.
For All Clients
After you have sent us an inquiry, had all your questions answered, and booked your package with us, we’ll send you an email with a basic timeline for your wedding. Within a few days after that, we’ll also send two emails. One email will include a link to our Client Portal, a collection of resources and wedding advice I have developed over the years, and a link to your personal Document Center. The Document Center hosts all your event information, contract(s), invoice(s) and questionnaire(s). I encourage my couples to create a special email folder for all the emails you might receive from us!
The second email you’ll receive is a questionnaire you’ll complete to tell us your ceremony preferences. This is an important one! Depending on which package you’ve purchased, the questions will be different. We recommend that you complete the questionnaire as a couple, as soon as you can, and make the experience as enjoyable and east as possible. The more information you give me, the better I can select or create a ceremony for you.
Once I review your questionnaire, I may send you some follow-up emails with tips if you have selected a specific theme or have told me you’d like to write your own vows. If you are having an elopement and are unsure about the location, I’ll also follow-up to narrow down choices and talk through the pros and cons of each.
Throughout the planning process, you’ll receive emails from me or Jennifer, our Scheduling Manager & Client Concierge, to check in. Some will be automated, such as at 90 days before, and some will be specific emails to your experience, like at our 30 day check in where we make sure all your original wedding ceremony preferences are correct. If you have chosen a package that includes a video or in-person consultation (Create Your Story or Intimate Destination Wedding packages), we’ll schedule that 90 days out, unless you give us a different timeline for your appointment based on travel or other circumstances.
After the 30-day mark passes, I’ll begin writing your wedding ceremony! If you chose the Tracy’s Choice or Popup Elopement Package, I’ll use the answers to your questionnaire to select a pre-written ceremony from my personal library for your event. If you choose any of my other packages, I’ll use your other information from your questionnaire, or my notes from our consulting session, to prepare your ceremony.
[FYI: I ask all my clients to provide a song I should listen to while I write their ceremony. I love these songs and keep them on a Spotify playlist!]
About 14-7 days from your wedding, I will send you a copy of your ceremony with a final confirmation of any logistics, such as how to pay your balance (if you have one) and arrival times. If you are working with one of my Partner Officiants, you’ll receive a formal introduction and during that email exchange, I’ll transition your primary correspondence to her.
Leading up to your wedding or elopement date, I’ll prepare for your ceremony! After the ceremony, I will take care of your marriage license based on the directions you provided during the planning process.
Ceremony Plus Photography Clients
For our clients who choose a Ceremony Plus Photography package, the ceremony creation process is exactly the same, but other things may be also happening at the same time to make your day perfect.
If you chose the Savannah Elopement Experience or the Intimate Destination Wedding package, Jennifer, our Client Concierge and Scheduling Manager, will help you with all your wedding planning tasks so they are set up and confirmed for your wedding or elopement. She’’ll send you a separate questionnaire, and send you a timeline on her work before she contacts other amazing Savannah wedding vendors. You can also add on this service for the Popup Elopement Package.
Here are some of the tasks Jennifer can help you with.
Research lodging options
Make dinner reservations
Make pedicab reservations for your extra hour of photography
Order and have a bouquet delivered
Order and have a cake delivered
Book a hair and makeup artist
Book an acoustic musician
Book a videographer
Complete permit applications
Arrange for chair delivery for your wedding
On the day of your wedding or elopement, your photographer, Megan Jones from It’s Megan Jones Photography will capture your day! How long you’ll be with Megan will vary, based on the package you booked with us.
If you selected the Popup Elopement Package, Megan will photograph the ceremony as well as take portraits of the couple in the same location. The whole process is designed to be simple and only takes about 20-25 minutes!
If you are a couple who chose the Savannah Elopement Experience, you will spend an hour with Megan, including the ceremony, and you’ll take a newlywed walk where you’ll get photos in multiple squares.
If you are having an Intimate Destination Wedding, Megan will photograph you for two hours, including the ceremony. For this package, we recommend reserving pedicabs with Royal Bike Taxi for the second part of the package. Jennifer can book the pedicabs on your behalf.
Within one to two weeks following the ceremony, Megan will cull through all the photos, edit her selections, and deliver an online gallery that you can use to share, download the digital files, and even order prints from. If you would like physical products with your photos, such as beautiful leather wedding albums, wall art in gallery wraps and gallery wrap clusters, she can send you a product guide and schedule a no-obligation, free consultation with you to review the options.
If Megan is already booked for your requested date and time, you may work with one of our Partner Photographers- Matthew & Ashly Fine Art + Film and Photos by Rich Burkhardt. If that is the case, you’ll know when you book, and the rest of the process will be exactly the same.
I hope that gives you a good overview of our client process and we look forward to working with you to officiate your ceremony, or plan your elopement or intimate wedding! And special thanks to Somi Benson-Jaja from Shot by Somi for the wonderful photos he took of us during a fun shoot, and Lindsey Wirht who did my makeup.
If you follow the conventional narrative, you may believe you only have two choices- an impersonal and cheap courthouse elopement, or a big and expensive wedding with everyone you know. Luckily, in today’s world, you can have any celebration you want! For most couples, their perfect celebration will fall in between those two extremes and most will bravely go forward with their unique vision for their celebration. And as a beautiful, destination tourist town with a professional wedding community that works 7 days of week, Savannah is a location uniquely positioned to help with any wedding you’d like to experience.
While my team and I officiate all sorts of ceremonies across the area, I also offer packages with photographer It’s Megan Jones for couples who want to experience something authentic, joyful and lovely, and yet simple. We also offer additional planning services as part of some of our packages, too. If you are currently deciding what may be the perfect experience for you, consider which of these situations describes you.
I think I want to elope!
Once upon a time, an elopement was specifically a wedding ceremony that was secret and last minute. Over time, the concept of an elopement has evolved as people plan their lives further ahead and travel more. Some wedding blogs have expanded the definition so far that it is any wedding under 50 guests. Before we go further, let me be clear that, nope, that is definitely not an elopement! For our purposes, we have two criteria that an elopement must meet- (1) there are ten or fewer guests (immediate family and/or closest friends), and (2) there is no “setup” required (venue rentals, seating, decorations, etc.).
An elopement is perfect for almost every couple who wants things to be simple and to celebrate themselves. An elopement may not be a great fit if you really want to include more than ten people or you are concerned about family interference clouding your day. For the second issue, every couple’s relationship with their families is different and you know best.
If eloping is for you, the Popup Elopement Package or Savannah Elopement Experience Ceremony Plus Photography packages offer the perfect elopement experiences, depending on how much photography you’d like. The Savannah Elopement Experience also includes a Client Concierge service where we can help you book other services for your wedding, detailed in our Planning Chart at the end of this post. You can add this service on to the Popup Elopement Package.
Here are some examples of how couples used one of our elopement packages this year.
Carmen & Natalie included their son in their Popup Elopement Package and he was adorable.
2. Alison & Brian from Washington, DC brought Alison’s sister and brother-in-law to celebrate their Savannah Elopement Experience and weekend in our city!
Virginia & Robert visited us from Michigan. Not only did the come alone for their Savannah Elopement Experience, they announced where they eloped only after Megan published their sneak peak on her Facebook page!
Many of our Savannah Elopement Experience couples also add an extra hour of photography with pedicabs through our Adventure Hour add-on. With our add-on, you can get photos from Forsyth Park to River Street and everything in-between. Sarah & Schuyler had a fantastic time on their adventure!
I decided that I’d like a small group of my close friends and loved ones to celebrate with me!
For clients looking to celebrate with more family members and friends than an elopement, we offer the Intimate Destination Wedding package. With that package, we provide the officiant and photography, plus Jennifer, our Client Concierge, to connect you directly with other trusted wedding vendors and enter into contracts with them. We also provide pedicab transportation to help you get photos in all of best locations in historic downtown Savannah. Based on our experience working with over 500 couples, we have decided that the specific type of services we’ve included in this package, especially the two hours of photography, are the minimum we need to have a successful event.
When planning an event for this amount of guests, your additional cost considerations are that (1) you may need to rent a venue for your ceremony, as well as possibly seating, and (2) the costs associated with your post-wedding celebration. Every additional guest has the potential to bring their own complications, too, that you may not feel as greatly with larger weddings.
If you have 7-16 guests, and ARE flexible about the day, time, and specific location of your wedding for this package, you can have your ceremony in one of Savannah’s squares or parks without a permit. If you have between 16-30 guests, you will need to reserve a location. The cost of that can range from $50 an hour for Greenwich Park at Bonaventure Cemetery, $200-400 for the Savannah Botanical Gardens, or $325 for a Savannah square or park (plus security), depending on your date. Chair rentals, if needed, usually run between $2 to $5 a chair.
The $325 rate for Savannah squares and parks is a local rate we can obtain for you as your host. If you apply on your own and not a resident of the City of Savannah, the rate is $450 to $650, depending on the month.
Finally, if you have 20-30 guests, you may also need to pay a room rental fee for the place where you choose to have your post-ceremony celebration, usually in the high hundreds to low thousands. We also allow couples to book the Intimate Destination Wedding package for up to 50 guests with prior approval and on-site assistance from our Client Concierge at an additional cost.
If these additional costs still sound okay with you and you want to celebrate in Savannah, we truly believe the Intimate Destination Wedding Package is your jam. The services that our Client Concierge can help you book are described in the Planning Chart at the end of this post.
Here are some examples of how couples used the Intimate Destination Wedding Package in the past
Rachael & Tye from Beaufort, SC married at Forsyth Park on a Saturday in front of 24 of their friends. They rented the square and chairs, as well as secured vendors for hair & makeup, flowers, pedicabs for their photography tour and they had their evening celebration at The Pirate House.
2. Lucia & Pratik from North Carolina married in Whitefield Square on a Saturday in front of about 18 family members. They reserved the square but did not rent chairs. We helped with hair & makeup, flowers, pedicabs, and arranging for a lunch celebration at 45 Bistro.
3. Lori and Rob from Florida married at the Fountain at Forsyth Park on a Thursday in front of about 14 family members. Since they were flexible about the time and day, they did not rent the fountain or chairs, but also understood that if the Fountain had been busy, we would have quickly relocated their ceremony to another location in the park or even another square. We made reservations for their large party for three separate events at Hitch, Rocks on the River at the Bohemian Hotel, and 700 Drayton at the Mansion.
I considered my options and I want a huge party with everyone I know and I want it in Savannah!
Many people want a big wedding and I admire that certainty. If you have the budget and you know lots of people, big parties can be awesome! If this fits your description, I recommending contact one of our favorite full-service wedding planners and consider us for your officiating needs with one of our Ceremony Only Packages.
Now that I have made my decision, how much is this going to cost us?
Once you have figured out what kind of wedding fits your needs and desires, you will still need to look at your budget and what works for you. If your budget feels stretched, your next steps are to decide (1) if there are any services you can live without and (2) if your guest count is flexible.
Below are average costs for the various services most people use for their wedding. There are two pages (click on the PDF to scroll). You can also download the PDF here.
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.
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.
I love how Angela and Douglas poured their bright sand to make a unique pattern.
Jessica and Brian’s sand ceremony set kept with their Steampunk wedding theme.
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!
Laure-Jo & Luke involved all four of their children in their sand ceremony.
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.
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!)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Keeping it simple deserves a high five and a woo hoo!
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.
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.
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.
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), 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.
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.
#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.
It will still be special even if it is not in front of everyone. Look at Jeff’s expression as he saw Jennifer approach!
#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.
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.
#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!
Thanks to all who read my blog series earlier this year on locations in Savannah and the lowcountry where I officiated weddings in 2015. I am glad it was such a hit! Many couples have emailed thank yous and I thought I would write one index post with links to the individual pages to make it even easier for you to review potential locations.
If you did not read my original series, each post includes pictures and videos of weddings I performed in 2015, as well as thoughts about each location. Click through to see the full posts and dozens of pictures. Here’s a companion map to the downtown area where all the squares are located.
This blog post covered various venues in Savannah, coastal Georgia, and lowcountry South Carolina. Highlights include The Mansion on Forsyth Park, Vic’s on The River, the St. Simon’s Island Lighthouse and Hilton Head Island.
Part 4 covers two underrated and inexpensive places to be married in Savannah- Greenwich Park within Bonaventure Cemetery and the beach on Tybee Island.
Unless otherwise noted, the professional photographs are from It’s Megan Jones Photography. The collages are made of pictures I took with my phone and posted on Instagram. Reference material on how to have your wedding or elopement at Greenwich Park and Tybee Island are included in the post.
Greenwich Park at Bonaventure Cemetery
Greenwich Park is a beautiful park located within Bonaventure Cemetery. It is about 15 minutes from the historic district. When you rent the park, you get the entire park which includes a white bridge over a pond, trees with sweeping Spanish moss, and winding pathways. The only drawback to Greenwich Park is the potential for bugs because of its closeness to the marsh. Wear a little bug spray for mosquitoes and avoid the grass in case you happen to step on a fire ant hill. Follow this advice and you and your guests will enjoy the beauty of the park.
Lori & Brenda, November 2015
I am including lots of pictures of Lori & Brenda’s sweet wedding with their son so you can see all of the different backgrounds at Greenwich Park that you can use for your ceremony and pictures. Lori & Brenda purchased our Popup Elopement Package.
How to Have Your Wedding & Elopement at Greenwich Park
Even if it just the two of you, you must obtain a permit to be married at Greenwich Park. The permit fee varies every year, but varies based on the time of day. The capacity for Greenwich Park is 30 people, including your officiant, photographer and you. Greenwich Park is booked through Savannah’s Department of Cemeteries.
The Beach @ Tybee Island
I am often struck by how lucky we are in coastal Georgia to not only have the beautiful parks and squares of historic Savannah, but the gorgeous beach at Tybee Island. There are not many experiences that are more romantic than a wedding by the ocean (says the girl who was brought up in a fishing town close to Cape Cod!). Tybee Island has many areas to get married in, including the popular South Beach and North Beach areas which have fewer beach goers than the boardwalk area. All of Tybee provides a great background for your wedding.
Ashli & Ryan, May 2015
Ashli and Ryan were married in front of about 20 friends and family members around 7th street.
Stephanie & John, September 2015
Stephanie and John were married in North Beach. I am including extra pictures because the laughing ones make me happy. Weddings are supposed to be fun! Also, they took pictures in the ocean after their ceremony which is a great photo opportunity on Tybee.
Elaine & Paul, May 2015
Elaine and Paul were married in South Beach. One of the great features of South Beach is the random driftwood you’ll find in nooks and crannies close to the dunes.
Kate & David were married in an inlet at North Beach. Mary from Yes Love Weddings posed them and their guests for some great group shots.
How to Have Your Wedding & Elopement at Tybee Island
If it is just you and a few guests, it is free to have your wedding on Tybee Island. The beach is first come first serve. You cannot get married on the dunes. If you are going to have a large group, chairs or other structures such as an arch, you must receive a permit which is $25. You can contact the city directly to obtain the permit. There are restrictions on what decorations you can use as part of your wedding. You can contact the City of Tybee Island directly to obtain a permit.
Stay tuned for my final log post in this series, Part Five, which will feature some favorite inside venues and other locations in coastal Georgia & South Carolina!