“Backyard” Wedding Ceremony in Selma

Now that things are slowing down a little bit (April and May have been NUTS) I figure it is time to catch up on the blog. I have been so fortunate to be a part of some really unique, special, and just plain NEAT wedding ceremonies over the last 6 weeks – and I can’t wait to share them with you!

Matt & Kim contacted me only 10 days prior to their April 6th ceremony. There was a miscommunication with the officiant they had previously hired and they found themselves scrambling for someone at the last minute. I am so glad they found me! In our initial meeting they explained the significance of their wedding date…

Kim’s birthday is 5 / 7

Matt’s birthday is 8 / 9

Their wedding date was 4 / 6

And you guessed it… the ceremony start time was 1:23!

That kind of fun, personalization, and creativity was evident throughout their wedding day! They held the ceremony on Kim’s parents’ property in Selma, NC. I say “Backyard” in quotes, because really it was all over the property! The ceremony was held on a beautifully green patch of grass next to the pond that is along the drive that leads up to the house.

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When I met with Matt and Kim, they had already written their ceremony. They did a lovely job making it very personal, including a reading (“The Art of Marriage”) from Kim’s Aunt Cindy and writing their own vows.

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This was the first time I got to be part of a “Wine Box Ceremony” and I LOVED IT! The couple wrote letters to each other that were sealed. They also had their parents write letters that were sealed. All of the letters, along with a bottle of their favorite wine, are put in a beautiful wooden box and nailed shut during the ceremony. The couple is supposed to display the box in their home as a reminder of their wedding day. The box gets opened, letters read, and wine drunk on their 5th wedding anniversary. Then repeat!

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Wine box ceremony

It was a 3-4 minute walk down the drive to the reception area, but Kim and Matt kept their guests entertained with beautiful arrangements along the way that shared some important dates in their journey!

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And directions in case anyone needed them! 🙂

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The reception was tented in the backyard, but also spread out into the grass with fun games like cornhole!

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Remember those personal touches I mentioned? They were EVERYWHERE!

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In front of the garage were Kim and Matt’s bikes that they love riding together.

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The bouquets were made of broaches given by family and friends. Kim’s dress (pictured above) was worn by her grandmother at her wedding.

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I loved their unique guestbook as well… guests wrote their happy wishes and advice on little wooden hearts that would eventually take their place in the shadow box frame around the wooden tree.

After the wedding the happy couple was off on a cross-country road trip on Historic Route 66! What an awesome honeymoon for a wonderful couple! Thank you guys for letting me share your day!

Kim wrote a wonderful review for me on Wedding Wire: “Katherine is the most wonderful officiant a bride and groom could ask for!! With 10 days until our wedding and our previous officiant bailing we found Katherine here and lucky for us she was available! We quickly met with her and she won us over immediately. She is so personable and genuine. She is totally open to doing the ceremony however you want but will give options and feedback if you need/want it. She is punctual both in person and via email and is always professional. She answered any question we had prior to, the day of, and even after the wedding. Our wedding day would not have been the same without Katherine as our officiant. We are both so happy that things worked out as they did and she was the one to share our day. Book Katherine today!! 🙂 ”

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Interfaith Ceremony at NC Wesleyan College

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On Saturday, April 5th, I officiated my second Jewish-Christian interfaith wedding ceremony. It took place in the quaint Leon Russell Chapel on NC Wesleyan College’s campus on an absolutely perfect spring day! The couple chose lavender and a pastel green as their colors which was just lovely for the season.

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I love interfaith ceremonies, because they are so rich with tradition and culture from each of the couple’s backgrounds. Amber and Ari chose the “Completely Custom” package and I’m so glad they did! They had such an amazing story of how they met, and sharing it during their ceremony hardly left a dry eye in the chapel. The custom package also allowed them to include all of the traditions they wanted, including a chuppah, wine ceremony, unity candle, and breaking the glass. It also included a special remembrance for both the bride and groom’s father, both of whom passed away from lung cancer.

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The chuppah was lovingly made by Amber and her mother. They used PVC pipe to keep it lightweight and easy to move since it was relocated to the reception for pictures following the ceremony. I thought that was pretty smart! During the ceremony, I gave guests the following explanation of the chuppah:

“In front of us is a beautiful chuppah. The chuppah represents the home. Its four poles symbolize the four pillars upon which a strong marriage is built: family, friendship, love and respect. A shelter that is open on all sides we see as an invitation and a sign of welcome to those we love. The chuppah’s delicate structure reminds those beneath it, that the only thing real about a home is the people in it, who love and who choose to be together as a family.”

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During the ceremony, the couple participated in a unity candle ceremony, which is commonly included in Christian wedding ceremonies. There are several ways to do the unity candle, and Amber and Ari chose to leave the original taper flames burning after their unity candle in the middle was lit. For this, I gave the following explanation during the ceremony:

“Although you are now entering into a marriage relationship, you do not, however, lose your personal identity. Rather, you will use your special individuality to create and strengthen the relationship of marriage. Therefore all three candles remain glowing. The individual candles represent all that makes each of you the wonderful and unique person the other admires and respects. The Unity candle in the center symbolizes the union of your lives, families, and friends, as well as your shining commitment to each other, and to a lasting and loving marriage.”

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Following the unity candle was the ring exchange, then the wine ceremony. The wine ceremony is traditionally included in Jewish wedding ceremonies. There are also several ways the wine ceremony can be done – I like to give my couples lots of options! Amber and Ari chose the single goblet that they shared from. I love the closing wording for the wine ceremony done with the single goblet: “As you have shared the wine from this goblet, so may you share your lives. May you find life’s joys heightened, its bitterness sweetened, and all of life enriched by God’s blessings upon you.”

The ceremony was concluded with the traditional Jewish breaking of the glass, which I also explained for guests: “The traditional breaking of the glass which marks the end of the ceremony, is a reminder of both the strength and the fragility of the spiritual bond that is marriage. It is a reminder to appreciate all that we have now, to embrace change, and to always hold the important things in life above all else. As the glass is broken, I invite everyone to shout “Mazel Tov,” which means “congratulations and good luck.”

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There was one hiccup in the ceremony, and that was right before the vows when one of the groomsmen passed out. It was warm in the chapel and the bride suspected he was not well hydrated. After a brief pause to tend to him and call EMS, the ceremony continued. I have to say the bridal party took what could have been a stressful situation and turned it around when they gave bubbles to the paramedics so that they could participate in the fanfare when the couple left the chapel! I know the photographer got some great shots of that!

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Lake Benson Elopement

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Lakeside ceremonies were the theme for me the last week of March and first week of April! Michele and Dave just wanted a small, simple, quick elopement ceremony with only a few family members by their side. We initially planned to have the ceremony in my living room, but since Spring decided to poke it’s head out and say hello that week, we made a last minute change to Lake Benson.

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For a town the size of Garner, they have a really impressive Parks and Recreation department. Lake Benson park is absolutely beautiful and has a lot to offer. It is really at the heart of the community in Garner. If you are interested in getting married there, you should contact the Town of Garner about one of the four shelters available for rent.

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We had to take a picture with Dave’s gnome following the ceremony! Apparently the gnome travels with them wherever they go and they take pictures with him. I was honored to get to hold him!

Lake Benson Elopement

I love this family picture of Dave’s brother and his wife, Dave, Michele, her sister and niece. I should point out that Michele had her something new (white pants), something borrowed (bracelet), something old (DAVE!), and something blue (her necklace).

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And of course we had to make it legal! Here are Dave’s brother and Michele’s sister serving as the witnesses on their license (and the gnome!). Congratulations Michele and Dave!

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Chilly Waterside Ceremony at Lake Jordan

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I had the pleasure of marrying Nichole and John in a small, intimate, mid-week ceremony at Lake Jordan on March 26th. The ceremony was attended by just a few family members, including two adorable little two-year olds – John’s daughter and Nichole’s niece. It was a Wednesday so the park was deserted. (And to be honest, I think the temperatures in the 30s may have contributed to that!) Despite being cold, it was a beautiful clear blue-sky day and a beautiful back drop for Nichole and John’s wedding.

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As we stood lakeside, shivering, I tried to go through the ceremony at a little quicker pace than usual. Poor Nichole looked absolutely stunning, but was braving the wind chill to make it through the ceremony while the rest of us were bundled up!

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The family had rented a shelter at the water’s edge for their celebration, but taking the weather into account decided to head somewhere indoors afterwards instead. I can’t say I blame them!

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This wedding was a perfect example of how with a little effort, a small wedding can be really personal and beautiful. They had a lovely location and coordinated the colors in the girl’s dresses and sashes and Nichole’s bouquet with John’s uniform. When put altogether it was really, really nice. If you’re maybe considering a courthouse ceremony but aren’t excited about it, consider something like this instead!

I have to give a shout out to Dart McAdoo at Von Master Videography. He did an awesome job capturing the day (at a really affordable rate!) and was great to work with. All photos in this post were taken by Dart.

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Rainy Blue & Gold Backyard Ceremony

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Have you guys noticed a theme from my blog posts recently? RAIN! That’s what you get with spring in North Carolina…

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Well, it struck again on March 29th for Jessica and Jeff’s backyard ceremony in Raleigh. With a few days to go before the wedding, they realized they were going to need a rain back up plan for what was supposed to be an outdoor ceremony. They ordered a tent for the reception and moved the ceremony inside. When I stepped out their back door and looked out onto a soggy, mud-covered field with a tent sitting in the middle of it…. I’m not gonna lie. I was a little worried! But they knew what they were doing…

Just that morning they spread a dozen hay bails all over the ground under the tent and laid vinyl tiles in a path on the ground leading out to the tent. It worked perfectly to keep guests feet dry and honestly, it added to the atmosphere! When I stepped into the tent my breath was taken away by what a beautiful job they had done. I wish I had snapped some pictures, but hopefully I will get some from their photographer. Their theme was blue & gold (West Virginia fans!) and they did such an awesome job turning the space under the tent into a wedding wonderland. They were married under a blue & gold decorated arch on the dance floor while family sat in chairs in rows up front and friends sat at the round tables meant for the reception later. It was perfect! And such a seamless transition from ceremony to reception.

Their ceremony was living proof that rain does not have to ruin your plans! But with that being said… let’s bring on the sunshine, please!

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Rainy Day Wedding at Lake Wheeler

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Lisa and Josh braved the elements on Sunday, March 23rd to get married at Lake Wheeler in Raleigh. The Saturday before was gorgeous, sunny and 75 degrees, but a cold front brought rain and cold temps overnight and into Sunday. The happy couple didn’t let that put a “damper” on their big day though, and everything went off without a hitch. Of course, a lot of that has to do with a good rain backup plan! The conference room, veranda, and deck at Lake Wheeler can all be rented through the City of Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department. One nice thing about this spot is there is a big shaded playground just behind the main building, which is GREAT for weddings with a lot of kids who will want to run wild during the reception.

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While the original plan was to have the ceremony on the deck, it was easy enough to move everything to inside the conference room. The couple and family were still able to use the covered veranda for their photos, so they had the tranquil lake in the background, which will turn out beautifully!

Lake Wheeler Deck

There is one other spot at in Lake Wheeler Park I wanted to share… there is a little outdoor amphitheater in the middle of one of the parking areas on the left as soon as you enter the park. While this area can’t be formally rented through the city, it is “first come, first served” and would be a great option for the couple on a tight budget and with a small guest list. The only downside is that it is literally in the middle of the parking lot, so you would have cars all around you during the ceremony. On a quiet day like Sunday though, that wouldn’t be an issue. I am told this was an Eagle Scout project. Nicely done!

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Congratulations to Lisa and Josh!

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New Wedding Venue in Clayton!

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If you guys were excited about the Photography Special for small weddings I shared last month from Maya Ana Photography, you’ll be thrilled to hear about a brand new wedding venue located in Clayton that is just perfect for ceremonies with 25 or fewer guests! You may have noticed the gorgeous, historic Finch-Lee house while driving by the corner of Cleveland Road and McLemore Road in Garner. That’s how I found it! My first thought was, “WOW! That should be a wedding venue!” And lucky for all you soon-to-be-brides, now it is! The historic home houses Brandi K. Autry Photography & Design. They also offer wedding planning and coordinating! This affordable package is perfect for the couple who wants a small, intimate wedding, but doesn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for a venue, set up/clean up, chairs, etc…


Jayme is their wedding coordinator and she was kind enough to give me a tour of the Finch-Lee house back in January. Even though it was a very yucky, cold, rainy day, the beauty and history of the house just shone through! I love any venue that offers brides several choices for their ceremony location. The Finch-Lee house does just that with both indoor and outdoor ceremony locations, including in front of a grand fireplace inside the house or under the massive gorgeous tree on the front lawn. With such a beautiful backdrop, minimal decorations are needed to personalize the space for your big day.

If you are interested in learning more about the Finch-Lee house and booking a wedding there, contact Jayme at info@brandiautry.com or give them a call at (919) 772-2040. More info about the package will be up on their website in the coming weeks.

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Honor Thy Mother and Father

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I performed a very sweet at-home elopement in Clayton this past weekend. With the elopement package I usually do not meet the couple in advance and don’t know a whole lot about their story. I always arrive early though and usually get a quick run down of how the day came to be. On this particular day I was seated at the dining room table completing the marriage license while waiting for the festivities to begin. With me were the two witnesses, the Groom’s mother and father. I commented on the beautiful wedding cake in the middle of the table and asked what the writing on it meant. On one side it had the year 1969 and on the other it had 2014. The groom’s mother told me that she and her husband had been married 45 years ago that day! When discussing possible wedding dates with her son she had joked, “You could get married the same day we did!” She wasn’t serious, but her son thought it was a great idea. The cake… well, the cake was just a very sweet surprise for the groom’s parents. The couple wanted to honor them and their anniversary, as well as their new marriage. What a wonderful gesture!

Of course, the men just thought it was great that they would have someone else to help them remember their anniversary!

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A Snowy Valentine’s Day Wedding

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There is a saying around these parts… “If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes!” In this case, the span of 7 days meant the difference between snow and ice on the ground with lows in the 20s to thunderstorms, tornado warnings, and highs in the upper 60s! So even though it may feel like I married Amy and Scott a season ago, it was just last week. On Valentine’s Day, in fact!

I first “met” Amy through an email in which she was asking for advice about smaller venues that would accommodate an intimate mostly-family wedding and on relatively short notice. And as is usually the case, there was a budget to stick to! For these situations I always recommend checking with the Parks and Recreation department in the town where you are getting married. Raleigh Parks and Rec in particular has some absolutely fantastic venues at very affordable rental rates. One of these is St. Mark’s Chapel in Mordecai Park in downtown Raleigh.

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This beautiful little chapel can accommodate up to 55 people, needs minimal decorations, and rents for only $100 per hour if you are a Raleigh resident. When you rent the chapel, you also get the little building next door for the bridal party to get ready. Amy really lucked out, as there was a last minute Valentine’s Day cancellation, so this beauty of a venue was hers for the taking!

When I arrived on the scene last Friday, Scott and Amy had just done their “first peek!” and were taking their formals. Their photographer was none other than Amber of Maya Ana Photography. Amber offers some outrageously good photography deals to my couples having small weddings. Check them out here!

Valentines Day Snow

I loved the intimate feeling inside of the chapel, and Amy did a beautiful job setting the mood with lots of (battery operated!) votive candles on the altar. The ceremony itself was the “Completely Custom” package, meaning it was written especially for Amy and Scott to reflect their personalities, their love story, and include their children in a special sand ceremony. Amy and Scott also chose to write their own vows. I think the best part of the ceremony was when Amy surprised Scott with a song! After she finished reading her vows, I led into the song with: “Victor Hugo once said, ‘Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to remain silent.’ With that in mind, Amy would like to share a special song for Scott…” Amy and Scott are musicians and music is a passion for both of them. It was really the perfect, special gift for Amy to share during the ceremony. I love those personal touches!

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