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Personalizing Your Ceremony: Make it About Family

Martha Stewart Weddings, Spring 2005

Your families play a central role in your lives, so it is only fitting to include them in the proceedings in a meaningful way. "We wanted the ceremony to be a melding of both of our families and not just the joining of David and me," says Anita Wong of her June 2000 wedding in Honolulu to David Spangler. The bride and groom, who both grew up in Hawaii, had their relatives string two giant fresh plumeria leis the night before their nuptials. In the morning, their officiant overlapped them to make a heart shape on the grass in the garden where they wed. "We started the ceremony in the two outer parts of the heart and moved into the middle to say our vows," Anita says. "At that point, the immediate family was invited to join us in the heart as well instead of merely being observers."

If you have children, it's important to make them feel they're a vital part of your day. You might have them stand next to you as you exchange vows, or present them with gifts from each of you at some point during the ceremony: a stuffed animal or book, or perhaps a piece of jewelry.

To honor a relative who has passed away, a bride could leave a flower from her bouquet on the seat where he would have been sitting, or have his favorite song played at a meditative point during the ceremony. When Diana Burtea married James Blaufuss in Milwaukee in June 2000, she remembered her grandfather, a priest in the Romanian Orthodox Church, by having a Greek Orthodox ceremony. "Not only did the priest mention him in his comments, but he used my grandfather's wooden cross to bless us," she says. Using the cross was something James had planned as a surprise for Diana.

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