Planning your wedding ceremony? My “Spiritual not religious” post continues to ring true for most of the couples I create with. Reposting from 7 years ago!

“. . . a quiet YES: the Divine brought you together, but the two of you did all the heavy lifting, and this is to be acknowledged and honored in a sacred way.”


Spiritual not religious: Navigating the G-word in Your Wedding Ceremony 

“We’re spiritual but not religious.” I’m sitting at my favorite Starbucks with a newly engaged couple. They are getting married next spring and we are meeting for the first time to discuss their wedding ceremony.

We’ve talked about how they met, the proposal, why this is the one person they want to spend the rest of their life with, and some ideas of what they would like to include in their ceremony.
As a wedding minister, I love hearing the story of their relationship and encourage them to weave it into their ceremony so their guests can enjoy it as well.

And then we get to this tricky bit:

When I ask them about their religious background and current spiritual practice, many couples respond, “spiritual but not religious.”

And to my followup question of, “What does ‘spiritual’ mean to you?” the answer gets a little more elusive.

Many couples feel a connection to something greater, yet the traditional religion they grew up with no longer resonates with their sense of values and in living their daily life.
And for their wedding ceremony, the idea of a reading from the Bible or mentioning God makes them feel a little squirmy.

One bride responded: “I think being spiritual is being in touch with the Earth, being good to people, understanding there is something greater that helps you out in hard times.”
Other responses have been, “It is living your life to make a difference, to do your best every day” and “I feel a close spiritual connection when I practice yoga.”

Many couples respond with, “I don’t know.” And that is ok.

If you want a truly secular ceremony, you can find a judge, captain on a boat, or have a friend sign up as deputy for a day to officiate your wedding.

If you are choosing not to include a spiritual element in your ceremony simply because it seems confusing or uncomfortable, maybe it doesn’t have to be.

As a nondenominational minister, I do invoke and invite the Divine, but require no proof or definition of your faith. Whatever spiritual means to you, even if you are grappling with that definition, that is what we create for you in the ceremony.

Perhaps your story of how you met had a serendipitious quality. Does it feel like there was something larger at work, ensuring that you two would meet?

Or, maybe your relationship was hard-won: so many obstacles placed before you that it is a marvel you will finally be walking down the aisle at all. In this instance, maybe it was only your faith in each other, in the face of everything else, that kept you two together.

In both cases, or any variation in between, incorporating that experience through a reading could speak to the nature of the Divine in your story.

Some traditional readings are popular and moving for a reason. For example, Corinthians 1-4: “Love is Patient, Love is Kind,” brings everything back to the simple yet powerful concept of love. “The Art of a Good Marriage” helps you to remember to be your best.

But don’t just toss in a reading because it is familiar or easy. Take some time to find something that really moves you and can deliver your idea of the Divine in a way that articulates what you might not be able to. It could even be a popular song lyric or excerpt from a favorite novel.

At the completion of the wedding ceremony, and before I pronounce a couple married, I always say a blessing. I don’t believe a blessing is a restriction, or an agreement with a certain religious scripture. Rather it is a quiet YES: the Divine brought you together, but the two of you did all the heavy lifting, and this is to be acknowledged and honored in a sacred way.

Just because it may feel ambiguous, inviting the spiritual into your wedding ceremony doesn’t need to be daunting or feel overbearing. It’s ok to not know, because, guess what? Nobody knows for sure. Just go by your true feelings, and Faith, and you can’t go wrong.

No matter how simple or brief, the sacred can still be included in your wedding ceremony in a way that feels right for you.

Gayle Feallock, Ordained Minister and owner of Just Imagine Weddings & Ministry, has officiated wedding ceremonies in Southern California since 2007. With no religious upbringing, she was a spiritual blank slate and eventually discovered her own spirituality thanks to generous teachers, leaders, mentors and schools. She welcomes all faiths and creates a sacred space for two people to celebrate their love and commitment in their wedding ceremony, for dearest friends and family to witness and support. http://www.justimagineweddings.com

“I’ll be there in Spirit” . . . do you really mean it?

You make plans with girlfriends for a fun night out. Something comes up so you have to cancel, and in your text you also say, “but I’ll be there in Spirit!”

Does that mean, for the duration of the event you’re missing, that you will be in prayer or meditation, thinking about your friends and their fun night out?

Or, do you say it just to soften the blow? I get it, you don’t want to offend or dismay your host, and somehow this phrase indicates you’re REALLY sorry.
But, in my view, it’s a cop-out. What is wrong with simply saying, “I won’t be able to attend. I’m so sorry. Hope you have a great time.”

Why do I think this is such a big deal?
Because, tossing this phrase around cheapens it for when you really DO mean it.

spiritFor example, I recently gave a reiki healing to a client on the other side of the country. A long-distance reiki session.
This involved instructing the client to lie down at a specific time, eyes closed, focusing on their issue.
This involved setting up my reiki room and getting into a deep meditative state, intending that the reiki energy was becoming activated in my client.
In this case, I really WAS there in spirit. Focusing completely on engaging on a spiritual level at a long distance. It’s quite powerful. I did some work with reiki on her solar plexus. After the session she told me she experienced a lot of sensation around her stomach area. I didn’t tell her that’s what I was working on.

OR, during ceremony, when someone has passed and is there in spirit.
I’ve had this experience particularly at baby blessings: when a grandparent has passed, and we invoke their name during the baby blessing. For example, the parents of the baby have experienced a hummingbird buzzing by at the moment the grandparent is mentioned.

During a memorial service, at a sacred moment, something goes a little screwy with the A/V equipment. The client experiences that as the one who’s passed is sending a little ‘hello’ – especially if that person had generally been a fun trickster in their lifetime, too.

Words are powerful. Remember that the next time you catch yourself saying “I’ll be there in spirit!”
The truth is, you really do have the power within you to be there in spirit, whether you experience that through prayer, meditation, or simply spending time focusing  good wishes on another person or situation – it’s an incredible feeling, and can actually be experienced by the other person or have a positive impact.

Every year my mother – who lives in Tucson – comes to San Diego for about 6 weeks to escape the summer heat of the Arizona desert.

She stays in a wonderful VRBO down near Balboa Park, and in my free time she and I play tourist in San Diego.

My service as a ceremony officiant takes me all over San Diego County, to beautiful and unique event venues. This past summer it was my pleasure to officiate the wedding ceremony for Joe and Lori at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park.

ceremony site

under the Pagoda by the Koi pond

Since I always attend wedding rehearsal, I invited my mother to meet me at the Gardens after I had completed the rehearsal with the couple. Mom and I had a wonderful time touring the Gardens, enjoying the peace and quiet, and the stunning landscape design.

japanese friendship garden

A view from up top, of the extensive gardens and pathways

For me, it’s special to include my mother in my life this way and she has a better appreciation and understanding of my work.
We can easily take our mothers for granted or we might not even realize how much it means to them when we include them in our lives, even in a small way.

japanese friendship garden

On the bridge with my mother, the rock-lined stream flowing from the top of the Gardens

Traditionally in a wedding ceremony, a father escorts his daughter down the aisle, and mom doesn’t always have a particular role. After nearly 20 years in the world of weddings I have seen, suggested and encouraged many opportunities to include BOTH parents.

Opportunities to honor mom in your wedding ceremony:
~Many more couples are inviting BOTH parents to escort them down the aisle.
~Your mother escorts you down the aisle. Many moms have played the role of both parents in their child’s life, and this is a beautiful way to acknowledge that.
~A Rose of Gratitude: at the beginning of the ceremony, the couple presents a single rose to each mom (stepmothers, too!), in a gesture of gratitude for all the support and love they have received.
~A Reading: invite mom to read a special poem or verse during the ceremony
~Maid/Matron of Honor: there is no reason why your very own mother can’t serve in this very important role as well.
~In Memory: if you mother has passed, there are many ways to honor her in memoriam. Your officiant can acknowledge her during opening remarks. You can leave an empty chair at the front row, perhaps even with a single white rose on it. You can include photos of her at a special “In Memoriam” table at the ceremony.

A very sweet couple sharing their vows by the sea.

Thank you so much to Brian at ABM Photo for these beautiful shots!
Gorgeous florals by Fox & Flora
Stellar coordination efforts courtesy of Taleah Hartsten
And, shoutout to DJ at WeddingBug and A/V tech from L’Auberge for making me sound good!

aisle closeup

Can you imagine a more beautiful view? Cliffside in Del Mar, at Seagrove Park. simple florals mark the wedding aisle

arch florals

This wooden frame arch is beautifully adorned, and just the right look for this late September wedding.

Gayle, I am so thankful we chose you! You were so sweet and did such a great job. . . . I hope you’re doing well! Thank you again from the bottom of my heart.“~Tailor

gayle down the aisle

Heading up the aisle the start the processional. I love to see the smiles and anticipation of friends and family.

memorial sign

A beautiful tribute to those they have lost

ceremony - side

This was a fully destination wedding to San Diego, a small intimate group of friends and family.

ceremony long - fg

Sharing I Dos (as the flowergirl makes a getaway)

tailor smile

All smiles, about to say, “I do!”


They have a very curious witness to their first kiss! 🙂


Congratulations Mr. and Mrs.!

lauberge sunset

A view of their L’Auberge Inn wedding reception

sunset sillhouette

tailor-taylor sign

This couple shares everything – including their name!

The Vital Importance of Time Off

Productivity. Creativity. Goals. Plans. Tasks. To-dos.

We are MACHINEs of doing. Even if we’re not doing, we’re thinking about doing.

I am a master of (and guilty of!) this myself. So much so, that my Shaman training teacher recently prescribed for me a Do-Nothing Day.

If you are in need of the same, here are a few guidelines:

*Do “nothing” that contributes to anything in particular. To the best of my ability, be ok with just being. (If you, like me, feel a sometimes overwhelming and constant push to create and produce, you will know how daunting this prescription sounded.)

*Do nothing is not only in regard to physical activity or productivity. Almost more importantly it is a MENTAL do nothing. It is to keep at bay the pressuring thoughts of obligation and responsibility.

And it isn’t lost on me that, when working with couples to craft their ceremonies, I often remind them that throughout their wedding planning process – creating the ceremony being just one of thousands of their to-dos – it is important to take time off.

cloudTake time to NOT do any wedding planning, and to remember why they fell in love, and to enjoy being engaged. Being engaged is not simply the amount of time it takes to plan a wedding.

Being ENGAGED means exactly that – appreciating each other, noticing, enjoying that time period of transition to marriage.
When approached in this state, being engaged can be a wonderful time of reflection and anticipation.

*In carving out a Do-Nothing Day, I’m not talking about doing nothing because you’re procrastinating. That means something is hanging over your head, and that doesn’t feel good. “I really have to order that color swatch, or decide on a reading, or sort out the seating plan.” If you’re thinking about these things then your Do-Nothing Day has just turned into one of anxiety.

*Rather, PLAN for a Do-Nothing Day in your schedule – BOOK IT OUT. This means you’ve also scheduled time for all of those tasks and appointments on other days. You’ve taken care of your mental health by ensuring you have time to do all of those things on your to-do list.

To prepare for my prescribed day off, the day BEFORE, I got all of my work done in crafting ceremony items and writing and responding to emails. I did some grocery shopping, cleaned my kitchen. I made sure all of those things that might interrupt my Do-Nothing Day were taken care of. And, I had plenty of productivity items scheduled for the day AFTER. In this way I structured giving myself permission to actually ENJOY my day off.

  • I slept in.
  • Upon waking, I meditated for 10 minutes (in itself a mini break since I usually spend closer to 20-30 minutes).
  • I made coffee and a big breakfast.
  • Set myself up on my patio with a good book, and enjoyed the most leisurely breakfast outside with the birds chirping, the quiet of the neighborhood.
  • I watched a movie on Netflix.
  • I made myself some lunch and read some more.
  • I stared up at the clouds (have you ever done that? just look up at the clouds)
  • I binge-watched “Schitt’s Creek” on Netflix.
  • Made myself a snack.
  • Took a very long nap.
  • Sat around.

. . . and any time I started thinking about things I needed to do, I made a concerted effort to change my thoughts. This was probably more challenging then curbing the physical impulse to organize or email or write, etc.

It’s not so easy for us producing-philes. Multiple times throughout my Do-Nothing Day, thoughts crept in: ” . . . I really should do some weeding in the yard,” “I need to go to Target to get those things,” “I should write that email, (letter, FB post, etc.)“. It dogged me. And I took a breath and reminded myself, “I scheduled time for that tomorrow.”

Somehow, the Universe seemed to conspire to support my Do-Nothing Day. My phone and email were eerily quiet. Nobody seemed to need me.

The very next morning I woke up and this entire blog post poured out of me onto the page.

*This, I discovered, is the whole point. Ironically, scheduling a Do-Nothing Day actually has a positive and productive outcome. Your body and brain get to rest, percolate, recharge.
My goal (there is that word again) is to schedule a Do-Nothing Day once a month.

I invite (challenge?) you to do the same over the course of planning your wedding.

On the other hand, when they were planning their wedding, Courtney and Kelsey say, “Don’t designate days to enjoy the engagement, rather designate days to wedding planning and the rest of the time is open to enjoy the engagement.”

Whichever approach works for you, remember to leave time just to BE.

What is my takeaway of a Do-Nothing Day? Surprising benefits:

~a problem that has been dogging you, suddenly the day after a Do-Nothing Day, the solution reveals itself
~you might have a burst of energy the next day, and get everything on your to-do list accomplished within half the time you anticipated
~a little time off allows your mind some creative space – a new idea might pop into your head
~for those of you planning your wedding, you just might fall in love, all over again.

Just imagine . . .