Stories, Traditions and Beliefs

As a professional Life-Cycle Celebrant, Lois Heckman insists that the most important part of a wedding eludes most bridal magazines. “Without the ceremony, nothing else matters,” insists Heckman. “Magazines focus upon the dress, the hair and the food. I help a couple create a ceremony that tells the couple’s personal story and journey and expresses the love and values they share.”

“People should realize they have choices when it comes to ceremonies,” Heckman says. A graduate of the Celebrant Foundation and Institute and with a degree in religious philosophy from Temple University, Heckman draws upon the couple’s cultural, spiritual, and experiential backgrounds to a mark milestone in life.

A Jewish bride and Hindu groom sought out the Saylorsburg celebrant to help design a wedding ceremony to incorporate their rich traditions. Heckman combined the Hindu tradition of lighting a sacred fire to evoke the god Agni to bear witness to the ceremony and the Jewish bride’s circling the groom seven times, as she represents the surrounding light of the household.

“Too often, a secular couple, or a couple of mixed faith, or those no longer affiliated with a denomination do not realize the rich opportunity they have to create a meaningful ceremony,” explains Heckman. Thirty-five years ago, the mayor of Stroudsburg joined Heckman and her husband in marriage. “I remember walking out of the Stroudsburg Municipal Building and thinking, ‘That was my wedding?’” In 2005, she began her role as a Celebrant who offers that meaning. Her ceremonies typically incorporate traditional elements such as the exchanging rings and vows, yet celebrate marriage in an intensely creative way.

Heckman’s deep background in religion and culture aids her incorporating a couple’s beliefs and interests into the ceremony. A theatrical couple said their vows upon a local theater’s stage, while the bridal party basked them in footlights of lit candles. A couple deeply rooted in nature wanted to proclaim their commitment by a river. Friends and family who thought they were attending an annual picnic by the river were pleasantly shocked when the afternoon’s festivities transformed into a wedding ceremony. At the conclusion, each guest selected a pebble from a basket, blessed the stone with a wish for the couple, and tossed it into the river.

Today’s couples are not always “traditional,” and neither are their rituals explains Heckman. One couple placed a necklace around the bride’s daughter’s neck. “If there are children involved in this union, it’s important for them to know that love is infinite. How they are loved will not change,” explains Heckman. Devoted to marriage equality, she assures couples that their circumstances are never a deterrent to their celebration of commitment.

“So many couples cherish their cultural attachments and spiritual beliefs, but do not necessarily adhere to religious tradition,” says Heckman. The spectacular natural setting of Skytop Lodge set the stage for one couple who invoked the four directions. They offered blessings to each direction: earth to the North, for sustenance, fertility, and security; air to the East, for openness and communications; sun to the South for fire, energy and passion; and water to the West, for emotion and joy.

About 75% of Heckman’s ceremonies take place in such traditional wedding settings as Skytop Lodge, Stroudsmoor, Mountain Springs Lake, and Shawnee Inn. For those who want a very personal private setting, Heckman offers her own home and grounds, called “Harmony Garden.”

Lois Heckman is a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant™ officiating weddings, funerals, memorials and other milestones in the Pocono Mountains. She can be reached through her website: LoisHeckman.com

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