As I celebrate this month as my fourteenth anniversary of the first time I officiated, I want to honor the two people who are my greatest inspiration: Jim and June Spencer. June had passed a few years before I was asked to co-officiate with her husband, Jim, My dear friend, Emily was getting married in my little mountain town and she asked me if I knew any local wedding officiants. I told her all about how Jim and June used to co-officiate the most beautiful weddings I had ever experienced. And after going on and on about these two beautiful people, Emily asked me, "Would you co-officiate with him?" I was stunned and honored at the same time. "You're clearly passionate about this,!" she added, cheerfully. But I told her she I'd only consider it if she got an "enthusiastic yes" from Jim. To my understanding, he had never co-officiated with anyone other than his wife, and I wanted to be sure he was going to be OK with that.
I had spent years listening in awe to them as they regaled me with countless stories about their weddings. But the first wedding I watched Jim and June officiate together was the best ceremony I'd ever seen. It was for two people I loved and cared about. And it was so exciting to finally see Jim and June in action at the altar.
They were extraordinary. The ceremony felt intimate and brimming with joy and laughter. At the end, all the guests (including me) kept remarking, "Why isn't every wedding like this?" We'd felt so included as guests, yet we hadn’t said a word. The second time I witnessed a wedding of theirs, it was the same. We felt uplifted and renewed in our own lives and relationships even though this ceremony wasn't ours.
Jim and June were two very dear friends. Their own origin story of how they met and married was mind-blowing. We met over a shared love of Shakespeare in a community group and became fast friends. They taught me so much about the depths of love and helped me to overcome challenges with my own sense of confidence and self-esteem in life.
I was deeply honored to be asked over dinner one night if I’d witness them renew their vows. Unbeknownst to me, it was their 25th wedding anniversary. Such an honor! I can't think of two other people who rippled out more love into this world through their own loving relationship. They founded the "Let Go and Live Institute," which continues via a dedicated and loving board working to keep their memory and offerings alive.
I loved the joy that would pour out of Jim and June as they shared about the couples they’d married - interfaith, atheist, humanist, Christian, Mormon, Catholic, Jewish, gay, straight. Their couples came from every background and cultural heritage imaginable. And their loving, enthusiastic tone was the same no matter whose story they were telling. I had no idea during that precious decade that one day, I too would stand as the only other person Jim would ever co-officiate with, a few weeks before his own passing.
I’m deeply honored to carry forward their radiant torch of love! And this is close in my heart with every ceremony I create, officiate myself, or help someone else to officiate.
Interested in carrying this torch too? Join me for my Free Officiant Masterclass: The Secret to Creating the Perfect Wedding Ceremony and my New Officiant Course: Officiate Like A Pro - both available with Instant Access!
As a way to illustrate the joining of two paths into marriage, I created this Rock & River Unity Ceremony for couples as a meaningful symbol to represent the deep commitment they've chosen to make on their wedding day. This is also a wonderful way to connect to the beautiful landscape of their altar. You can add it to your own ceremony!
Here's how it works: Each of you brings a rock to the ceremony - it can be from a place that holds special meaning to you, or you can go out the morning of your wedding to choose a rock. These rocks symbolize the strength and wholeness of each of you as an individual. These stones may also represent things like your love of outdoor activities, your spiritual connection to nature, the adventures you've shared and will share in the future, etc.
As the Officiant, I explain: "When placed in water rocks shine more brightly, show more of their true color, and appear more polished. It is also the turbulence of water that smooths the rougher edges of jagged rocks. When times get tough, may the water be a symbol of the power of divine Love in your lives. May you remember to express more love during the challenging moments, helping each of you – like the rocks – to become less jagged, to shine more, and to be seen for your true colors."
The couple then walks together to the river (or lake, ocean) that is nearby to toss in the rocks. If the ceremony is not taking place near a body of water, you can place the rocks in a bowl of river/lake/ocean water at the altar to be poured back into the body of water it was pulled from. The rest of the ceremony (vow, rings, etc.) can commence from there!
Just as your love is like no other, your marriage will be like no other. We talk about marriage as if it means the same for everyone. However, the elements that make for a strong marital foundation come down to the shared vision and values that are unique to each couple. When working with Brides & Grooms on their ceremony, I always ask for them to create their very own "Foundation of Marriage Statement."
Here are the questions I provide for each couple to help them for design their statement:
Heather Barron - Veteran Wedding Officiant, Marriage Celebrant, Ceremony Design Specialist, Coach for New Officiants & Couples Support Coach
With nearly a decade and a half of officiating I've had the delight and distinct honor of standing at nearly 200 altars. More than anything else this work has taught me that each marriage is as unique as the two people who make up the couple. In the ceremonies I create and officiate, I love highlighting the one-of-a-kind love story of each couple. I write each ceremony from scratch honoring the couple's beliefs, designing ceremony elements that will hold meaning for the couple, and sharing with their loved ones what marriage means to them. I love making guests feel like a part of this important moment helping them feel renewed in their own lives and relationships, and leaving them saying, "Why isn't every wedding like this?"