Since we weren’t blogging back in 2008, I’ll share our wedding experience with you in a series of posts here at The LOH.
We decided that all of the music would be 1920s-1950s. We decided to do this so that the old folks wouldn’t feel left out, and it worked out even better than we had anticipated. Mothers were dancing with sons, fathers with daughters, husbands with wives, godparents with godchildren, Armand with our aunts, me with our uncles, etc. We set the volume level at ‘loud enough to dance, but low enough for easy conversation’. Armand and I were so thrilled that the music worked out so wonderfully. We wanted everyone to have fun and dance, not just the young folks! We had the playlists on CDs. Armand pre-recorded voiceover tracks directing folks to the lobby for cocktail hour, announcing special dances, and such.
Here’s a sampling of the tunes:
(approx. 80 min. of music – we just stopped it when we were ready)
Black and Tan Fantasy …….. Duke Ellington
Talking Picture …….. Johnny Hamp and his KY Serenaders
World War One Montage …….. Beatrice Lillie
Maple Leaf Rag …….. Sidney Bechet
The Charleston …….. Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra
Make the Best of It …….. Jimmy Durante
How Long Will It Last …….. Joan Crawford
I Want To Be Loved By You …….. Helen Kane
Let’s Misbehave …….. Irving Aaronson and his Commanders
The Chant …….. Jelly Roll Morton
West End Blues …….. Louis Armstrong
Let’s Fall in Love …….. Dorsey Brothers and Bing Crosby
Petite Suite (ii – Cortege) …….. Claude DeBussey
Some of These Days …….. Sophie Tucker/Ted Lewis Orchestra
Varsity Drag …….. George Olson
Making Whoopee …….. Eddie Cantor
My Man …….. Fanny Brice
Louise …….. Maurice Chevalier
Whispering ……..Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra
I’ve Found a Brand New Baby …….. Sidney Bechet
Doctor Jazz …….. Jelly Roll Morton
Darktown Struthers Ball …….. Ted Lewis and his Orchestra
Lucky Lindy …….. Nat Shilknet and his Orchestra
If You Knew Suzie …….. Eddie Cantor
Grandpa’s Spells …….. Jelly Roll Morton
Black Bottom Stomp …….. Johnny Hamp and his KY Serenaders
Mr. Jelly Lord …….. Jelly Roll Morton
Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World …….. Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
(approx. 5 hours of music – lots of Rat Pack)
Our First Dance: You’re Getting To Be a Habit With Me …….. Bing Crosby
Father/Daughter Dance: Beauty & the Beast …….. from the Broadway musical
The next three are a Tansley family joke
Two Buffaloes …….. Rolf Harris
Court of King Caractacus …….. Rolf Harris
Where is the Love? …….. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway
We used Neale Donald Walsh’s ceremony as a starting point and then restructured/rewrote whatever was necessary to make it more reflective of us and what we believe. We also asked both sets of parents if they would like to speak, with both of the fathers taking the bait.
Our original officiant, dropped out via email 2 1/2 days before the wedding. I had told him a few months prior that we had written a ceremony and I’d emailed him the final draft a couple of weeks before the wedding. He sent it back to me 6 days before the big day with massive revisions and additions that were not what we had discussed. The Corinthians quote (Love is Patient…) had been added with commentary (we aren’t Christian, and didn’t want the Bible in our wedding), a Shakespeare quote with commentary, and the ceremony proper had been changed to a theatrically-themed (I felt it was quite cheesy) event. Imagine the verbal equivalent of decorating an entire place in Comedy/Tragedy masks.
Examples: Us – “May your lives be woven into one design.”
Changed to – “May your lives be woven into one real life drama.”
Us – “May your home be a place of laughter.”
Changed to – “May your home be a theatre of laughter.”
You get the idea.
I emailed him, complimented his work, thanked him for spending the time on it, and explained that we thought the theatrically-themed ceremony would be a distraction from the point of the ceremony. After all, we weren’t celebrating our careers. Also, we’re not Christian.
This was the resulting email exchange:
Him – “I did not realize that you were not Christians as you referenced ‘God’ and ‘Holy Communion’ several times in your original ceremony.”
Me – “Christians don’t have a monopoly on God!”
Him – “Dear Brooke, I have done over thirty weddings for a number of people, many of them famous, many interracial and inter religious. I know my stuff. I am not comfortable being a mere set piece reader at your wedding. There are, in addition, a number of moves at your wedding that are not workable, including the ring part. I do not think you need the services of a Superior Court Judge to read your words. Any Justice of the Peace will do. Count me out. And have a great life together!… Why deny the theatre connection while you are being married in one and on the stage at that! In our culture, the connection was a given!”
The sad thing is, is that we didn’t want him to marry us because he’s important. We wanted him because he and I performed in many shows together at that theatre throughout my childhood. He was the only person with the legal authority to marry us that has a connection to both the theatre and my family.
I got this email while my Aunt and Cousin were at the house helping my mom and I construct pomanders for ceremony decor.
Immediately, everyone got on the phone to help us find a replacement. After nearly ending up with different JOP who asked if she would at least have a few minutes to speak about herself at the ceremony and wanted to add that same Corinthians quote, one of our guests came through with a wonderful friend that became a JOP when him friends could not find an officiant to perform the ceremony they wanted. So he was perfect.
Dr. Raphael Schwartz and his wife came and joined the celebration, and both of them expressed to us that our wedding, our families, and our love for each other made them feel renewed. He performed the ceremony as a mitzvah, with honest intent, emotion, and energy, and as a result we were all so moved. Both Armand and I cried through the whole thing, and during the reception it was wonderful hearing each guest try to find the words to describe how it made them feel and what they saw in it. We got to do the ceremony that we wanted, and that was a reflection of who we are, what we believe, our beliefs concerning marriage, and our wishes for each other, ourselves, and our loved ones. I will never forget it.
The theme of our wedding was ‘Our Family Tree’, making our wedding a celebration not only of the love between Armand and I, but of the generations of love that brought us into being and that we all share today. We had the processional entrances go by generation. The grandparents, Armand’s parents, my parents, our attendants with the flower girl (representing the up-and-coming generation), and then us. Finding a way to make tradition, feminism, and respect all come together in a wedding ceremony was a challenge. I couldn’t be okay with being given away or escorted by my father (of course I love my father, but I don’t love the history of this tradition) so instead, both sets of parents were invited to speak (with both fathers stepping up). Armand and I exchanged rings, but then placed our own rings on ourselves, symbolic of marriage being an active free choice by two individuals.
It was wonderful hearing everyone struggle to find just the right words to express how they felt about our ceremony. People were genuinely and deeply moved, and really got it. I’m so happy that we fought to do it our way.
The ceremony, clocking in at 31 minutes in its entirety (including speakers and the processional), is included below:
Armand and Brooke have asked you here today to bear witness to their love for each other and their commitment to live, work, and grow together as husband and wife. They have asked me to thank you for being here to witness this choice that they have made. You are the people that are closest to them in all the world. Thank you for coming. They also have asked me to express their wish that this wedding will bring all of us closer together in our relationships. Every wedding is not just a ritual of love, but a reminder of its limitless possibility.
(Officiant introduces the first speaker, the Father of the Groom, Gabriel DesHarnais. Father of the Groom speaks.)
(Officiant introduces the second speaker, the Father of the Bride, Robert Tansley. Father of the Bride speaks.)
Now Armand and Brooke, you have told me it is your firm understanding that you are not entering into this marriage for reasons of security . . .
. . . that the only real security is not in owning or possessing, nor in being owned or possessed . . .
. . .not in demanding or expecting, and not even in hoping, that what you think you need in life will be supplied by the other . . .
. . .but rather, in knowing that everything you need in life . . . all the love, all the wisdom, all the insight, all the power, all the nurturing, all the compassion, and all the strength . . . resides within you . . .
. . . and that you are not marrying the other in hopes of getting these things, but in hopes of giving these gifts, that the other might have them in even greater abundance.
Is that your firm understanding tonight?
(They say, “It is.”)
And Brooke and Armand, you have told me it is your firm understanding you are not entering into this marriage as a means of in any way limiting, controlling, or hindering each other from any true expression and honest celebration of that which is the highest and best within you – including your love of God, your love of life, your love of people, your love of creativity, your love of work, or any aspect of your being which genuinely represents you, and brings you joy. Is that still your firm understanding tonight?
(They say, “It is.”)
Finally, Brooke and Armand, you have said to me that you see marriage as producing opportunities . . .
. . . opportunities for growth, for full Self-expression, for lifting your lives to their highest potential, for healing every false thought or small idea you ever had about yourself, and for ultimate reunion with God through the communion of your two souls . . .
. . . that this is truly a Holy Communion . . . a journey through life with one you love as an equal partner, sharing equally both the authority and the responsibilities inherent in any partnership, bearing equally what burdens there be, basking equally in the glories.
Is that the vision you wish to enter into now?
(They say, “It is.”)
What symbols do you bring as a reminder of the promises given and received today?
(BM gives Officiant the rings. Officiant holds rings in his hand as he says . . .)
A circle is the symbol of the Sun, and the Earth, and the universe. It is a symbol of holiness, and of perfection and peace. It is also the symbol of the eternality of spiritual truth, love, and life . . . that which has no beginning and no end. And in this moment, Brooke and Armand choose for it to also be a symbol of unity and of joining.
Now Armand and Brooke, please take these rings you wish to give, one to the other.
(They take each other’s rings.)
Armand, please repeat after me.
I, Armand . . . ask you, Brooke . . . to be my wife . . . to love and cherish from this day on . . . for richer . . . for poorer . . . and in sickness and in health . . . I declare my intention to give you my love . . . in the good times . . . and in the hard ones too . . . not only when you are acting with love . . . but when you are not . . . I further announce . . . before God and those here present . . . that I will seek always to see the Light of Divinity within you . . . and seek always to share . . . the Light of Divinity within me . . . even, and especially . . . in whatever moments of darkness may come . . . It is my intention to be with you forever . . . that we may do together God’s work . . . sharing all that is good within us . . . with all those whose lives we touch.
(The Officiant turns to Brooke.)
Brooke, will you be Armand’s wife?
(She answers, “I will.”)
Now Brooke, please repeat after me.
I, Brooke . . . ask you, Armand . . . to be my husband . . . to love and cherish from this day on . . . for richer . . . for poorer . . . and in sickness and in health . . . I declare my intention to give you my love . . . in the good times . . . and in the hard ones too . . . not only when you are acting with love . . . but when you are not . . . I further announce . . . before God and those here present . . . that I will seek always to see the Light of Divinity within you . . . and seek always to share . . . the Light of Divinity within me . . . even, and especially . . . in whatever moments of darkness may come . . . It is my intention to be with you forever . . . that we may do together God’s work . . . sharing all that is good within us . . . with all those whose lives we touch.
(Officiant turns to Armand.)
Armand, will you be Brooke’s husband?
(He answers, “I will.”)
Please then, both of you, take the rings you would give each other, and repeat after me: With this ring . . . I thee wed . . . I take now the ring you give to me . . . (they exchange rings) . . . and place it upon my hand . . . (they place the rings on their hands) . . . that all may see and know . . . of my love for you.
(The Officiant closes . . .)
And so now, inasmuch as you, Brooke, and you, Armand, have announced the truths that are already written in your hearts, and have witnessed the same in the presence of these, your family and friends, and God – we observe joyfully that you have declared yourself to be . . . husband and wife.
Let us all take hands and join now in prayer.
In all the world, two souls have found each other. Their destinies will now be woven into one design, and their perils and their joys shall not be known apart. Armand and Brooke, may your home be a place of happiness for all who enter it; a place where the old and the young are renewed in each other’s company, a place for growing and a place for sharing, a place for music and a place for laughter, a place for prayer and a place for love. May those who are nearest to you be constantly enriched by the beauty and the bounty of your love for one another, may your work be a joy of your life that serves the world, and may your days be good and long upon the Earth.
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