Civil vs Spiritual Weddings: What’s The Difference?

Beach wedding

For most of recorded history, the majority of couples marrying each other did so according to the guidelines of their religious faith. However with the rise of interfaith couples and with the steady drift of people away from allegiance to any particular religion, more couples are deciding on civil or spiritual wedding ceremonies. But how do you know the difference and decide which type is best for you? As an independent celebrant, I offer both types of ceremonies and this blog entry presents the key differences so you can decide which is right for you.

Civil Ceremonies:

Civil ceremonies are also known as secular ceremonies. Typically these ceremonies make no mention of Deity or Higher Power. However they may address such concepts as the Higher Self.

Civil ceremonies are more likely to appeal to atheists as many times they focus solely on the relationship between the couple and/or their community rather than on any relationship yof God.

Depending on your jurisdiction, a civil ceremony may be solemnized by a judge, mayor, notary public or other public servant. They can also be performed by an independent celebrant or wedding officiant.

Spiritual Ceremonies:

Some couples may not adhere to any particular religion but may still consider themselves to be spiritual and opt for a spiritual ceremony. Such ceremonies will not follow the restrictions of any particular faith but may combine the elements of different faiths and spiritual systems. Some spiritual couples may elect to add wedding customs from their own culture or borrow from other cultures. They may even add religious elements from the faith that they grew up in, such as a Jewish Glass Breaking or the reading of a Christian Bible verse. Spiritual ceremonies are normally performed by officiants and celebrants who are also ordained as interfaith or nondenominational ministers.

Different states and jurisdictions have different requirements that determine who is allowed to perform legally binding wedding ceremonies. If you are marrying outside an established house of worship, it’s always prudent to do your due diligence to ensure that your officiant is legitimate.

5 Ways To Make Bacon Part Of Your Wedding Day

December 30th is National Bacon Day. In honor of this special day I present five ways ways to include this tasty meat in your wedding day: from procession to reception.

1. Bacon Bouquet. Want something different from the traditional wedding flowers? How about walking down the aisle clutching a bouquet of bacon roses.

Photo credit: Foodbeast

2. Bacon hor’doevres: offer your quests these petite hor’doevres to snack on while your wedding party is out taking wedding photos.

Image may be subject to copyright

3. Bacon with bourbon chasers: because nothing goes together like bacon and booze.

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4. Bacon Bar: Having a morning affair? How about pairing a bacon bar with an omelet bar and waffle station?

Photo credit: Sweet Rhodes Photography

5. Bacon Wedding Cake And finally, the piece dela resistance! The bacon infused and decoraed wedding cake.

Photo credit Daniel Taylor Photography

Elope at Compton Creek Natural Park

Bridge at Compton Creek Natural Park

Would you like to elope near a creek, bike path and hiking trails without having to drive to Griffith Park?

Compton Creek Natural Park in Compton, CA is an oasis of natural beauty and serenity located in the heart of the Hub City. The native plants and tranquil surroundings will provide a picturesque backdrop for your elopement photos.

Compton Creek Natural Park

Compton Creek Natural Park

Visit my website @ to learn about my elopement services.

Dawn & Mark’s Joyful Seaside Ceremony

Los Angeles Wedding Officiants, Long Beach Weddings

The dating website boasts about the high number of marriages between its users. Now it can add Dawn and Mark to that number.

Los Angeles Wedding Officiants, African-American Wedding Officiants

Los Angeles Wedding Officiants, African-American Wedding Officiants

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The couple chose to exchange vows at the beautiful Hotel Maya in Long Beach, CA. They chose the location because they loved the gorgeous Spanish theme and the spectacular  views of Long Beach Harbor and the city skyline.



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If Dawn could sum up her wedding day in three words they would be: amazing, loving and memorable Says Dawn “My big day was exhausting but the excitement of going from Ms. to Mrs was exhilarating. I was filled with love, happiness and joy to share my vows with the man I love in the presence of all our friends and family.”


The Wedding Guest’s Guide To Bow Ties

Did you know that the bow tie, the platinum standard in elegant wedding attire, has its origins in the Thirty Years War as nothing more than a means for Croat mercenaries to close the necks of their shirts?

In the 18th century the bow tie, or cravat, was adopted by the French who turned into a high fashion accessory.

August 28, 2017 is National Bow Tie Day. So today’s post is all about helping the well dressed wedding guest determine which tie is appropriate to wear to which wedding. Today bow tie options  are plentiful, but the following advice from The Genlemanual will help you choose the right bow tie for the wedding that you’re attending.

1. The White Tie Wedding

The white tie wedding is the alpha and omega of wedding elegance. It requires a black dress coat with tails and black patent leather shoes. A white bow tie is a must for the white tie wedding. White or black dress gloves are optional.

Bow tie vs Neck tie2. Black Tie Weddings

Black tie weddings are generally fancy evening affairs. The dress code calls for a formal black tux and a black bow tie

How to wear a bow tie to a wedding3. Formal Weddings

For a formal wedding a dark suit can be worn instead of a tux and the bow tie can be replaced by a regular neck tie.

How to choose a necktie for a wedding 4. Semi-formal:

Again either a bow tie or neck tie is acceptable. The appropriate choice of suit color is dependent upon the time of day; lighter colors for daytime affairs and darker colors for evening affairs.

5. Casual or Business Casual

For this type of wedding, you may choose to forego a suit and tie altogether. You wouldn’t even be amiss to wear a nice pair of clean, pressed khakis and a polo shirt.

All photos from The Gentlemanual

The Art Of Hosting The Office Bridal Shower

How to host an office bridal shower

So your office mate is getting married. Congratulations! You now have a reason to eat cake at the office. Not only do party calories not count but it’s  a nice gesture to throw a shower in the brides honor. She will feel appreciated  “and” it’s always good for co-workers to have a chance to celebrate over happy work place news that offsets all of that time spent jointly commiserating over work place woes. In general a work place bridal shower is not much different than any other bridal shower but there are some points that set them apart and should be remembered.

  • The general rule of etiquette is that only those who are invited to the wedding are invited to the bridal shower; However this rule does not apply to work place showers. In these cases everyone, men included, in the office should be invited, but in larger organizations the guest list may be limited to the department in which the bride works.
  • Gift giving to a bride that you don’t know well can be awkward, especially if there is no registry. If that’s the case, then a gift card or general household item in a neutral color is a safe bet. If there is a registry, then perhaps the shower organizers can ask the attendees to each chip in to buy one large item such as that $400.00 set of chef quality kitchen knives.
  • Skip games that focus on knowing the bride well. Instead opt for games like “Bridal Word Scramble” or “What’s In Your Handbag” where  each participant gets a number of points for having certain items in their purse. The rarer the item, say a silver dollar, the more points awarded. The winner is the one with the most points at the end of the game.
  • Ask each participant to contribute a food item or to make a monetary donation towards purchased food. Also try to take into account any special dietary needs of those who are donating. No one wants to help fund a party only to arrive and find out that there’s nothing for them to eat.
  • Avoid serving alcohol. It’s never a good look to be tipsy in an office setting. Serve punch, sodas or other non-alcoholic drinks instead. Alcoholic gifts to the bride are OK.
  • Lastly, do not shame or cajole anyone into participating in the shower. This should be a fun event, not another workplace obligation.How to host an office bridal shower

    Bridesmaids, What Are They Good For?

    Before writing this post I spent some time lurking in bridal forums. Whenever the question of what constitutes bridesmaids duties came up, the answer was invariably that they are there to support the bride. The problem I saw was that many brides-to-be seem to set a pretty low bar when defining support. For more than a few brides, support from bridesmaids consisted of nothing more than showing up to the wedding, standing there and looking pretty (as long as they don’t look prettier than the bride).

    According to tradition and etiquette, there are customary duties with which  your bridesmaids and maid of honor should  be willing to assist you and I don’t mean just holding up your dress when you have to go to the ladies room. I’ve included a list of a few of those duties here. In today’s busy world it may be unrealistic to expect any one bridesmaid to be able or willing to help with everything; However, if you have a bridal party,  or individual member of the party, that consistently refuses to help with “any” of these duties then you can save yourself a lot of aggravation by letting that member go or by foregoing the idea of a bridal party altogether. Just be sure to do so before they start purchasing their dresses. At a minimum, your bridesmaids should be willing to do the following prior to the wedding day:

    Attend bridal shows with you: Part of the excitement of planning your wedding is attending at least one bridal show, However having to attend them alone is no fun at all. When deciding which bridal show to attend, it’s best to choose an event that’s far enough in the future that it will give your ladies time to work it into their busy schedules.

    Throw you a bridal shower or bachelorette party: The maid of honor should be in charge of throwing the bridal shower or bachelorette party. But your bridesmaids should be willing to help out by chipping in cash, helping to send out invitations, setting up and taking down the decorations and all the other details that go into throwing the party.

    Actually attend your bridal shower or bachelorette party: After all, how can you trust someone to show up for your wedding if they can’t show up for your pre-wedding parties.

    Show up for the rehearsal: With the exception of out of towers, your bridesmaids should show up for your wedding rehearsal. Failure to do so can result is a less than smoothly running bridal entrance and exit.

    Help you choose your wedding dress: You can’t realistically expect your bridesmaids to accompany you to 15 different bridal boutiques, but you should be able to count on your maid of honor to assist you in deciding between the final three or four choices. You may also want to include your mother and at least one sister in this decision because nobody will be more brutally honest about what does or doesn’t  look good on you than a mother or sister.

    Help you address wedding invitations: This is a classic bridesmaids task. However it should only be trusted to those with good penmanship and attention to detail because you only get so many envelopes with your order of invitations.

    Pay for their bridesmaid dress and shoes: Some brides can afford to and will pay for the dresses that their ladies will wear. If that’s  not you then it’s perfectly acceptable to expect each bridesmaid to pay for her own dress and shoes. On the other hand,  you as the bride should not choose bridesmaids dresses that will put a financial strain on anyone. As a gesture of appreciation, you could gift them each with a necklace, pair of earrings or a bracelet to wear on the big day. It’s also nice to choose bridesmaids dresses that can be worn for other occasions.

    Lastly, your bridesmaids should provide plenty of emotional support:The weeks and days leading up to your wedding are going to be fraught with anxiety. You are going to need someone to bitch to regarding your groom, your future in-laws, those last five pounds, etc. So make sure you choose bridesmaids who will be there when you need a sympathetic ear.

    The Most Awesome Autumn Florals For Your Awesome Autumn Wedding

    The Most Awesome Autumn Florals For Your Awesome Autumn Wedding

    The autumn season, late August through early December, is a great time to have an outdoor wedding in Southern California. The temperatures have started to come down and Mother Nature is showing off her keen sense of fashion as she dresses the area in colors ranging from the yellows and golds of falling leaves to the the deep , rich hues of black calla lillies.

    You may associate flowers with springtime, but trust and believe that there is no shortage of beautiful, seasonal flowers and plants with which to decorate your seasonally themed autumn wedding or to carry in your bouquet. Here are a few of my favorites. In fact, black calla lillies were the main flower in my September 2006 wedding bouquet.

    Asiatic lilies: Unlike stargazer lilies with their lovely but overpowering fragrance, Asiatic lilies have no fragrance. What they do offer is a wider range of eye pleasing colors than other lilies. They tend to bloom early and have a long blooming season that ensures they will still be in season come autumn.

    Autumn wedding bouquets

    Gebera daisies: Gebera daisies are the fifth most popular flower in the world. These natives of South Africa come in a multitude of hues and symbolize innocence, purity and happiness. The large heads make beautiful and inexpensive centerpieces when placed atop river stones in large glass bowls or vases.

    Autumn wedding bouquets

    Roses: Roses are the Beyonces of wedding flowers. Not only do they come in a myriad of colors, white roses can be dyed to match a rainbow of color schemes. For autumn weddings, try matching blush colored roses with darker colors. Blush colored roses pair well with navy, burgundy or black bridesmaids  dresses.

    Autumn wedding bouquets

    Sunflowers: Known as the “happy” flower, sunflowers symbolize adoration, loyalty and longevity; all the qualities that you want in your marriage. Sunflowers always look towards the sun, the brighter side of life. In doing so they carry the energy of faith and belief in something “out there”. Photo credit Marisa Taylor Photography

    Calla lilies: The word “calla” means beautiful in Greek. Calla lilies have a wide array of meanings. White calla lilies are associated with the Greek goddesses Hera, patroness of marriage, and Venus the embodiment of lust and sexuality. From a Christian perspective they represent the purity of the Virgin Mary and the resurrection of Christ. Pink calla lilies represent innocence while black (purple) calla lilies represent royalty or passion, depending on your source. Photo source, The Bouqs Co.

    Autumn wedding bouquets

    Hydrangeas: According to the Flower Shop Network, “Hydrangeas are mostly used in spring and summer weddings. However due to their year round availability they are also popular in autumn and winter wedding bouquets: especially for winter brides who want a large white bloom.” To make a lovely autumn bridesmaids bouquet, wrap one or two hydrangeas blooms with burlap or seasonally colored ribbon. Photo credit Florium Soto Grande.

    Succulents: Nothing says California wedding like succulents. These tiny cactus cousins can either serve to accentuate your bouquet, as in the photo at the start of this post , or they can be the focal point as in this creation by Succulently Urban.  They are available in such seasonal colors as eggplant and pomegranate. Succulent bouquets add a really nice touch to outdoor and rustic weddings.

    Coffee berries: Coffee berries., aka hypericum berries, are a popular and less expensive means to fluff out a bouquet. These berries come in red and green and add a colorful pop to your florals.

    Autumn wedding bouquets

    Autumn leaves: Brightly colored autumn leaves are a charming way to add a seasonal vibe to your wedding. They can be added to bouquets and centerpieces or strewn along the runner instead of petals. They can also be used to decorate arches, chairs and place cards. Autumn leaves make beautiful props for wedding photos.  They can be used as background or you can take photos of your rings resting atop single or multiple leaves as I did with my husband’s and my rings

    Wedding rings resting on autumn leaf
    Photo credit: Connie Jones-Steward

    Wheat and barley: The autumn season is all about the harvest and nothing symbolizes the harvest like wheat and barley. This boutonniere, featured on the Wisconsin Bride blog, would look right at home in a barn wedding. Before deciding to use  dried wheat and/or barley in your wedding florals, be sure to inquire of your florist if she has experience working with dried plants.

    Autumn wedding bouquets

    One final consideratiion in selecting your wedding flowers is to factor in the impact on the planet. When you choose locally grown plants that are seasonal to your area over those  that have to be transported from long distances,  your wedding will leave a much lighter carbon footprint on the environment.

    5 Ways To Relax Before Your Wedding Day

    5 Ways To Relax Before Your Wedding Day

    It’s quite natural to feel stressed out and overwhelmed in the last  weeks leading up to your wedding day. You’ve got a to-do list as long as your arm and you’ve got a dozen nagging fears. What if nobody shows up? What if your bouquet arrives in a less than fresh state? What if the guys who deliver the cake trip while getting it out of the van? What if it rains? These are the worries I had during the countdown to my wedding day and you probably have a few of your own. You may not be able to “not worry” but there are things you can do to help you ease your stress and greet your wedding day in a calmer state of mind. Here’s a list of five strategies  that are almost guaranteed to help calm even the most nervous of brides.

    1. Get some exercise: Exercise releases endorphins and endorphins help relieve stress. Take a walk or jog to clear your head. If the gym is your thing take a hot yoga class or a cycling class. During this busy time, exercise may feel like just another chore that you have to squeeze into your already brimming schedule, but once those endorphins kick in you’ll be glad that you did.

    2. Make a spa date: If you plan on getting a facial or having your brows waxed, obtain these services at least a week or so in advance to avoid any facial redness on the wedding day. While you’re at it get a full body massage to work out the kinks and knots.

    3. Don’t worry about the weather. You’ve
    likely been  tracking weather systems and checking  forecasts for some time now, but you still have to accept that the weather is out of your control and surprise rain showers may s shows up  Therefore it’s always  a good idea to have a back up plan if your wedding or reception is outdoors. If it does rain just chill and know that some cultures consider rain on a couples wedding day to be a portent of good luck.

    4. Have a girls movie night in. Invite your bridesmaids, sisters and gal pals over for a wedding movie marathon. I suggest “The Best Man” and  “Jumping The Broom”. I also suggest you avoid “The Best Man 2” harder than you avoid letting the groom see your wedding gown before the ceremony.

    5. Take care of your spiritual body. Have a reiki session to help relax the mind and soul. Take time out to meditate. Instead of focusing on seating charts and timelines turn your focus inward for a little time alone with your thoughts. You’ll feel the pre-wedding jitters melting away into a limpid pool of calm.

    Have A Beach Of An Elopement In California

    Have A Beach Of An Elopement In California

    California has hundreds of miles of the most beautiful, sandy beaches in the world. That’s why couples come from near and far to elope where the sand meets the Pacific Ocean.

    When reality TV producer Tony Brown and his bride Debbie Joles (shown above) of the Los Angeles area decided to elope, they chose the Muscle Beach area of Santa Monica Beach. I wrote a short and sweet ceremony for them that incorporated the poem “A Gift From The Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. At the end of the ceremony, onlookers cheered as Tony kissed his bride.

    Santa Monica Beach Elopement
    Tony and Debbie., near Santa Monica Pier. Photo by Deon Steward

    When marriage equality became the law of the land, Tammy M. of Tennessee contacted me about officiating  her elopement to her partner Ramona. They and fellow couple Audra and Cathy wanted to come to Los Angeles to elope on the beach. They were all married in back to back ceremonies near the Santa Monica Pier.

    Santa Monica Pier Elopement, Los Angeles beach elopement , lesbian elopement
    Tammy and Ramona, Santa Monica Beach , Photo by Connie Jones-Steward
    Santa Monica  Pier Elopement, lesbian elopement,
    Tammy and Ramona, Santa Monica Beach. Photo by Connie Jones’Steward
    Audra and Cathy,  Santa Monica Beach. Photo by Connie Jones-Stewnard.

    Indie rock crooner Ariel Rubin,  of Ariel + The Undertow, and her fiance Steve Davis chose Carpinteria State Beach, near Santa Barbara, as the site for their destination elopement. They traveled from the Boston, MA area to combine getting married with seeing the sights of California. They considered many sites, including Joshua Tree National Park before deciding on a beach setting.

    Beach elopement, Carpinteria State Beach
    Ariel and Steve, Carpinteria State Beach. Photographer Barbara Morgan
    Beach Elopement,  Carpinteria State Beach,
    Ariel offering her bouquet to the ocean.. Photographer Barbara Morgan.

    Couples elope for varied reasons. Some choose to elope initially and have a grander affair at a later date. However, many couples today are choosing to elope as an alternative to the hustle, bustle, stress and expense of a traditional wedding. An elopement only requires three components; the couple, the officiant and the marriage license. Obtaining a California marriage license is easy. There is no waiting period and the process can be started online. The State of California even offers a confidential license that doesn’t  require the signature of a witness to your marriage. However be advised that the confidential license is only valid for marriages in the county in which it is issued.* If eloping is right for you, contact me and let’s discuss a ceremony built for two.

    *For a list of links to offices that issue California marriage licenses, please visit my wedding officiant website,, and click on the  the Marriage License Information tab.