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Gerald Fierst

Gerald Fierst is a civil celebrant who writes and performs weddings and life ritual ceremonies . He also performs as a storyteller and teaches writing and the creative process throughout the US, Europe, Asia and Australia. Fierst’s audio tapes have received Parent Choice Awards, and he is the rec...

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02/23/2011 11:04am
The Best Weddings

Nationally, the average wedding costs between $20,000 and $30,000. In metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, the cost is far higher. I remember attending a wedding on Long Island that I am sure cost close to $250,000. Obviously, taste and standards vary from person to person. Obviously, the choice is yours, but
I am not comfortable with spending in one night the equivalent of a new car (sometimes a very expensive new car) or the down payment on a home. Ultimately, I believe simplicity and imagination make a stronger statement than pretense. My message is Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and to play with traditions.

For instance, the wedding cake comes from a tradition of fertility. In ancient times, a cake or loaf of bread (the staff of life) was broken over the bride’s head to ensure fertility. In renaissance times, refined sugar was a rare commodity. White sugar icing was put on the cake as a sign of affluence and prosperity. In Victorian times, the tiered cake became popular along with baking techniques to support the weight of multiple tiers. Thus evolved the wedding cake which now can cost several hundred dollars and which is usually inedible.

Keep the wedding cake; change the recipe. I have always appreciated the surprise of cup cake and cream puff cakes, carrot and spice cakes, and home made cakes which offer a reminiscence of the days when weddings really happened in the front parlor. Even an elegant cake from a high end baker need not be a tower. One of the prettiest cakes I’ve seen was a simple two layer circle with a bouquet arrangement in its center. This couple used a sheath of wheat bound with ribbons recalling the origins of the cake tradition.

Tradition evolves from symbolism, superstition, and prestige. With understanding of its origins, however, tradition can continue to evolve to reflect modern attitudes and realities.
For instance, I love the tradition of a garden wedding. The garden goes back to the story of Eden. At a wedding, the couple is, in a sense, the first man and the first woman. The ritual of a ceremony should make us stop and look at the wonder that life is always renewing, and humanity is always starting again; but a garden is more than flowers The rich tradition of the green man is found worldwide and includes in its fertility images fruits and vegetables of many kinds. Vines, grasses and leaves as well flowers can be used to create a decorative story of the life force which is celebrated at a wedding

One of the most elegant weddings I ever attended was at a small Italian restaurant with a large patio overlooking a pond. Lovely tablecloths, candles and white roses transformed the mom and pop place into a trattoria. Floating candles were launched just before the ceremony which was timed with sun set. As the evening approached, the flickering flames played with the golden light, creating a memorable setting for the launching of a new marriage.

But also consider the wonderful spaces that are a part of our urban landscape.
One of my client couples used a factory loft for their wedding. The loft’s windows stretched 180 degrees around three sides of the massive, empty space. One could look from the George Washington Bridge at one end of Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty at the other end of the harbor. Rather than clutter the space with chairs, low banquettes provided seating islands for the ceremony and the ensuing reception. With a path of rose petals winding through the room, we felt like we were in a garden with a view that stretched to the horizon. A bower of red ribbons echoed the color of the flowers scattered across the room and defined the ceremonial space. Red ribbons were then used during the ceremony as guests from all over the world presented them to the couple as a symbol of binding the couple together. Below and around us, the lights of New York with their excitement and glamour made their own testimony to the international story of this couple’s love and became a sparkling fairy


weddings, marriage, ceremony, love, budget, style,
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