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Circle of Love Wedding Ceremonies

Hearts are Bound By: Rev. Shannon Mackay

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Wheelchair bound bride, grooms or guests, not a problem!


Our beaches are accessible friendly, many beach accesses are clearly marked accessible.  There are Beach Wheelchairs available for all users staying in Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Fort Fisher. 


Carolina Beach offers 10 beach wheelchairs at various public beach access points and at the Recreation Center located at 1121-B North Lake Park Blvd, Please call: 910-458-2977

Kure Beach Fire Department provides 5 Beach Wheelchairs located at 114 7th Ave, Please call: 910-458-2014

Fort Fisher Recreation Area has 3 beach wheelchairs available to use on-site only at 1000 Loggerhead Rd, Please call:  910-458-5798


Also, a BIG THANK YOU to Island and their Beach Bound Project for working hard to raise funds to donate these to the island.


Are you in need of wedding planning?


If you need a Wonderful Wedding Planner that will handle every detail, call every vendor, take care of all the details, then you need to call Desi Parker at The Pearl and the Petal 1-910-524-1251 or I have a few other references for you as well.


If you are a DIY Bride I can point you in the right direction.


We can help you create an unforgettable wedding ceremony including suggestions for readings and music. We can write the ceremony of your dreams, you can write your vows yourselves, or we can furnish sample ceremonies for you to choose from or modify, we can create a unique ceremony just for you.


Other services available:

  • Renewal of vows
  • Baby Blessings
  • Memorials
  • Holy Unions
  • Commitment Ceremonies
  • Hand Fasting Ceremony
  • Boat Naming Ceremony
  • Eloping
  • Funerals
  • Pet weddings
  • pet funerals, etc...


When I ask you for your "Love Story" to assist me in getting to know you, don't panic, I don't need you to write a book.  Every couple has a unique and fantastic story of their romance, how did you meet? What did you do on your first date? How long before each of you knew you were in love? At what point did you realize this was THE love? Tell me your proposal story! And what qualities do you see in your intended that make you so sure that you’ve found the perfect person for you?


Also, as I get to know you, I’ll get a feeling for what traditions might be appropriate for you, and ket me know what you’d like to include in your own ceremony.


"Most beloved of the sacraments is the one of marriage. It symbolizes the fulfillment of earth's sweetest dream. Almost any sensitive person can testify to the emergence of power that is broadcast during a marriage ceremony. This force is created by the beauty and intent of the rite itself. The spiritual fusion of two individuals into a bond of love and commitment generates an energy and luminosity that reaches even the most impersonal onlooker."
~from the Symbolic Meaning of Marriage, by Rev. Flower Newhouse


Every time I officiate at a wedding ceremony I am awed by the extraordinary energy that comes alive when two people in love literally step up to commit themselves to sacred union. Because I am frequently called upon to solemnize marriage vows outside of traditional religious settings, I have seen time and again that a holy temple can be created anywhere love is present. All weddings ceremonies have a rhythm, and a life, of their own. The energy comes alive as the bride makes her silent walk to the altar and builds like a symphony with each segment of the ceremony. By the time vows are exchanged, it is as if the heavens open up to rain love upon the gathering. Couples can seize the opportunity to unite not just their hearts, lives and families, but to unite their very beings.


From my perspective, the first dance between the bride and groom begins not at the reception, but when they first set eyes on one another at the altar. It is as if their souls begin to gently swirl in a silent, slow, steady ascension into a higher state of love. I believe in working closely with couples to structure a wedding ceremony that truly allows them to express their love in a personal way, and in offering the support that will enable them to surrender to this sacred moment in a profound and meaningful way.


Although many of us grew up attending traditional weddings, in churches, synagogues, temples and lavish catering halls, in recent years we have seen the emergence of a new type of wedding, where couples marry outside of a formal house of worship. One of the reasons is the increasing numbers of interfaith couplings, which often lead brides and grooms to seek a neutral venue for marriage. Another reason is the soaring numbers of people joining the ranks of the "unaffiliated," or feeling disenfranchised from the faith that they were born into. More and more non-religious people in love are seeking meaningful, personalized and loving ceremony – without dogma or traditional religious fanfare. Spiritually oriented couples are seeking a secular or interfaith approach. Then there are couples so devoted to honoring the sacred nature of their love, and the divine within, that they choose a sacred love ceremony to fully celebrate and seal their union.


The concept of the sacred marriage or sacred love ceremony originated with the ancients, who typically enacted annual ceremonies to bring fertility and prosperity to the people and the land. Many cultures enacted or emulate sexual rites between God and Goddess, or between the Gods and a human who "impersonated" or energetically acted out the role of a deity. The Greeks called it Hieros Gamos. Many mythologies describe it as a marriage between heaven and earth. In ancient Egypt, the marriage between Isis and Osiris was considered sacred union of heaven and earth, of yin and yang, of the feminine and the masculine principles.


In the Hindu tradition, man and woman came to the wedding altar as God and Goddess in human form. To this day, the bride is looked upon as Goddess Lakshmi (divine female who rules abundance, prosperity and beauty) and the groom as Lakshmi’s consort, Lord Vishnu (the Great Preserver, and a God who incarnated as Krishna).


The Celtic tradition brought forth one of the most widely practiced forms of sacred ceremony today -- the hand fasting. It was once a form of "engagement" that committed couples for a year and day. If they found marriage suitable, they’d marry. It grew into a self-initiated ceremony couples would conduct in the days before there was such as thing as a wedding officiate. The custom is still widely practiced by Pagan practitioners. The contemporary hand fasting is presided over by a High Priestess and High Priest to represent male and female energies; often one of them is a clergy registered to perform legal marriages.


Many couples relish the idea of a memorable and special sacred ceremony – but they want to tread lightly on some of the traditions and trimmings that relatives with strong religious beliefs would find upsetting or offensive. They also want ceremonies that are welcoming to loved ones and can easily include the participation of friends and family.


The modern sacred love wedding ceremony is one that has to be crafted by and for each individual couple. It’s rarely something you can just pull out of a book. It’s personalized and has to include elements that will help that couple truly seize on the energy of the moment – such as creating a sanctified space that is like a sacred container for their love and vows. It doesn’t have to look like a Hindu ceremony or a Pagan ceremony or seem like a reenactment of the Celtic Holiday of Beltane, when men and women took to their fields to make love in the name of the Goddess. It can be a groom in a tux and a bride in white who walks down the aisle, or a shoeless couple on a beach. It can contain elements or rituals of existing traditional or non-traditional ceremonies; it can include any religious, spiritual, cultural or family traditions the couple chooses. The main ingredient is their love and their conscious intent to express that love to one another – and share it with their community –in a way that is holy and sacred to them personally.


Keep in mind that when a couple marries outside of a traditional religious institution in the United States, there are very few things that they have to include. Most aspects of the ceremony can be created and selected purely on personal preference. Legally, the requirements are minimal – that is why a civil ceremony is so short. In most states you need two adult witnesses, and a clergy person to sign the license; the officiant has to ask a question that allows the couple to say they have come of their own free will (this is usually implied in the "I do") and they have to be pronounced husband and wife. In a sacred commitment ceremony between a gay or lesbian couple or a couple not opting for a legally recognized marriage, no witnesses, I dos, pronouncement or clergy is needed.


Ceremonial Planning

Some things to consider as you begin to visualize and prepare for your sacred love ceremony that will engage you and your guests:


What should the underlying tone of the service be?
Solemn, light-hearted, free-spirited, etc.

What should the overt tone of the service be?
Non-denominational spiritual ceremony, traditional or contemporary. Religious, Secular, Civil, etc.

What style of service will it be?
Highly formal, semi-formal, informal, casual, extremely casual, relaxed on the beach, sitting in a circle with your guests, guests surrounding you holding hands....etc.


Do you want to include a theme to your ceremony?


Celtic, Renaissance, Victorian, Swing, Forties, Native American, etc.


What role will music have in the service? Will you just let mother nature provide the background music or will you hire a musician(s) to play.


Select an auspicious time, date and length of ceremony


In the Eastern traditions such as Hinduism and Buddhism wedding dates are decided upon with the assistance of professional astrologer. It is firmly believed marriage rites should occur on a day that reflects the most astrologically favorable aspects for love and commitment for both the bride and groom. Many modern couples ask astrologers or clairvoyants to suggest dates. Some pick a symbolic time – the anniversary of the first date, a new moon (great time for fresh starts) or a full moon. It is not recommended that a wedding date be selected to accommodate out of town relatives or the availability of the venue. It is also not a great idea to choose to marry on the anniversary of a sad or inauspicious occasion.


Selecting the venue

Love between a couple is what creates a wedding altar and temple – anywhere. Pick a place that is personally meaningful and sacred. Many couples are married in the same locale as the reception – in a room or area set off from the reception Hall. Some couples opt to have the ceremony in a park, on the beach, in nature or in their own back yard, and then head over to a local restaurant for a celebration.


Selecting your wedding officiate


Obviously, I am biased here and will always recommend my services as a loving, caring, supportive non-denominational wedding officiate. I am from a new genre of independent officiates and interfaith ministers who are trained to create any kind of personalized ceremony. We are hip, open-minded and willing to co-create the ceremony that you truly want.


Coming up with ideas


Some couples want to honor family traditions with a modern spin. Perhaps they want to break the glass to recall Judaic roots or light a unity candle to include Christian heritage. Any rite, ritual or reading can be updated and personalized. For example, instead of breaking the glass and evoking the traditional meaning -- the destruction of the ancient temples and to remind us of the holocaust – it can symbolize closure with the past, or a breaking of glass so that the marriage shall never break. Bride and groom can surf the web and buy books on weddings to give them ideas, and to look around for elements they’d like to include. They might want to search for readings and poetry they’d like the officiate or a loved one to read, or find poetry they’d like to read to each other.


Love and Commitment, Love and Purpose, Love and Rejoicing etc.
Are there any family traditions on either side that should be included in the ceremony?
A unity candle, a particular song, or Rose presentation to your mothers, a Memorial Candle..etc. How about also including your pets.


The writing of your ceremony

Will you write your own or choose from a selection of pre-written vows?
The language of the sacred is subjective and every couple has the right and opportunity to choose the words they’ll utter to each other during their wedding ceremony, as well as all that is spoken and relayed. The actual writing of the ceremony falls to the officiate, who knows how to structure and craft it, but certainly a couple’s input is key. One of the most important considerations is how to call out to the divine. Some couples choose a very personalized ceremony that never utters the word God or spirit, or even offers a prayer. Others want prayers that mention no specific God. Some want to call out specifically to deities, angels, ancestors, spirit guides, and want to honor the four directions either by having friends call to them, or having the officiate evoke them. It is also important to make conscious choices about all the elements in the ceremony. If the commitment results in a blended family, would a separate set of vows for the children be appropriate?


The procession and logistical set up

The procession marks the shift from single to married. Life as it once was ends and new life begins as the bride comes down the aisle. She is usually walked, or presented, to the groom. Some couples like to include that tradition, and consider the bride as a Goddess coming forth to join her God. In hand fasting ceremonies, bride and groom walk from different directions and merge at the altar; the ceremony is conducted in a circle, where they are surrounded by the love of friends and family. The circle has always represented unity, togetherness and eternity. It’s also believed that the circle can better contain the energy. Whether in a circle or theater style, it’s nice if the couple faces one another so all can see them or face the guests, rather than the officiate being the one who faces the guests. Many clergy people are willing to stand to the side, or with their backs to the audience.


Creating sacred space

In Native American ceremonies the environment is smudged with sage, and bride, groom and guests are "cleared" of negative energies so the space can be sanctified. Sometimes a circle is created with salt or cornmeal. The directions are honored and called in. Wiccans' cast a circle, call the directions and evoke the name of God and Goddess, sometimes inviting specific divine energies. Hindus use incense and sacred fire. In the Jewish tradition the bride is purified in a Micvah bath; modern rabbis will give both bride and groom a holy dunk. An officiate can bless a couple with a splash of sacred in the name of the Sprit of Love or the couple can be anointed with oil. Whatever method is chosen is important to sanctify the space and symbolically purify the couple for sacred union. By the same token, the ceremony should be closed with a benediction.


Choosing rituals and rites

Favorite religious rituals and rites can be included, or non-denominational adaptations can be used. Many couples select a wine ceremony of sipping from one cup that represents their newly merged lives or candle lighting rituals or everyone can stand in a unity circle. Some couples opt for a form of hand fasting that is known as hand wrapping, where they hold their hands together in a way that forms a figure eight and the hands are wrapped to symbolize a loving bond when they pull the ends of the cords placed in their hands they officially tie the knot! Most couples exchange rings, sometimes with vows. Some couples enact ancient rituals, such as placing the ring on the middle finger, as it was once believed to be directly connected to the heart. Breaking of the Glass (Jewish), Triple Ring Exchange (Eastern Orthodox), Meher (Muslim), Garland Exchange (Hindu and Hawaiian) etc.


Creating and speaking sacred vows...

A couple’s expression of love and commitment can be expressed throughout the ceremony yet the exchange of vows is the hallmark of a sacred love ceremony. It’s important to really give the vows some thought, and be willing to speak from the heart and soul. Contained within those vows are the seeds of dreams to come true, intentions for a sacred marriage and deep declarations of love. It is particularly meaningful when the couple writes and reads their vows to one another. Some couples print and read them from modern scrolls. Couples can read the same vows to one another, or each create something different.


In the End, the love you take…

In sacred love ceremonies, the emphasis is on an even greater spiritual connection between the couple. Rather than relying on "God above" to create and strengthen their union, the couple is empowered to see their own divinity and the divine light within each other. When two people come together and truly awaken to the depth and the power of their commitment, I can literally sense the Gods and the angels, the ancestors and the spirit guides filling the room. They are there to help the couple feel the power of the moment and to bear witness to their promises so they can guide and help this couple as the years go by. That’s why it is so important to fully utilize the wedding ceremony as not just the start of the big wedding celebration, but as a true rite of passage that takes bride and groom to the next level of their love and gives their relationship a strong foundation to build on over time. Every wedding is a sacred event that holds profound meaning and potential for the two who come before God and witnesses to declare their love. The sacred love ceremony gives marriage and extraordinary start.


Common Ceremony Structure

The key elements utilized in most Western wedding ceremonies can widely range from small private and romantic, to extravagant with many ceremonial flourishes. This opens the opportunity to create a wedding full of personal touches and beauty.


The most common ceremony order is:

1) Processional-- in which the wedding party members enter the ceremonial location, followed by the grand entrance of the bride.


2) The Convocation -- Gathering Words spoken to commence the wedding.

3) Opening, or Invocation -- in which the officiate typically announces the purpose of the gathering, indicates the names of the bride and groom, welcomes the guests and solicits them to participate in the ceremony by their presence and, perhaps, their prayers spoken to call onto God or your Higher Power.

4) Main Body Readings -- The Main Body is sometimes divided into the Interrogation and the Presentation (either may come first). The Interrogation specifically refers to the officiate asking the couple if they come of their own free will to marry. The Presentation is when the bride, or the bride and groom, are presented for marriage by their parent or parents (the familiar, "Who gives this woman").

The officiate may ruminate on the meaning of marriage and the significance of the bride and groom's decision to join together in wedlock. The officiate may also share more casual remarks about the bride and groom as she has come to know them, and about the fitness of their union. This portion of the ceremony might also include religious or other readings by the officiate or by family and friends who have been asked by the bride and groom to speak and reflect memories or wishes for them. The wedding couple may also read a selection of meaningful poetry or song.

5) The Consecration -- The words given help to elevate the message just heard. To consecrate means to make holy.


6) Candle-lighting or on the Beach a Sand Ceremony-- Symbolizes two lives united by one flame or a Wine Ceremony or Sand Ceremony ~ It symbolizes the two people coming together as they form their marriage bond.


7) Introduction to the Vows -- in which the officiate explains the significance of the vows which the couple are going to exchange.


8) The Expression of Intent -- Promises, Renewing of Promises, Family Promises, Affirmation of the Community, here you are invited to make public your desire to wed.

9) Vows -- Your vows are the emotionally and spiritually binding part of the ceremony in which you each individually affirm your commitment to one another, in response to questions posed by the officiate; the responses usually take the form of "I do" or "I will." In the Western Christian tradition, this is the point at which they are officially married.


10) The Blessing and Exchange of Rings -- in which the couple, usually repeating phrases at the officiates direction, declare their commitment to one another by placing a wedding ring on the left hand of their betrothed as a material symbol of the bond that is created in marriage. In the Western Jewish tradition, this is the point at which they are officially married.

11) The Benediction -- The benediction is the final ceremonial flourish of the wedding. With these words you are both sent off with a blessing as a newly married couple.

12) Pronouncement of the Couple -- in which the officiate can announces that the couple is officially wed. This may also include a final prayer or beautiful reading that pronounces your marriage.


13) The Kiss -- This is the delicious part of the ceremony, the moment you claim one another with a kiss the officiate will indicate to the couple that he/they may now "kiss the bride".


14) Presentation of Couple -- The public proclamation that you are married, and the presentation by the officiate of you as husband and wife by your new name for the very first time anywhere.

15) Recessional-- the recession conveys the bride and groom are together at last and there are several ways in which to handle your recessional:


Officiate may announce that there will be a receiving line at the reception hall and directs guests as to where to go next. Bride and groom proceed down isle followed by the wedding party and tuck out of site quickly and then head back to the alter for pictures.


Bride and groom greet each guest at the end of each pew or row of chairs and thank them each for coming.


Bride, Groom, family and wedding party line up usually outside the church and greet each guest as they leave for the reception.


Bride and Groom wait for all to gather outside for a grand send off, excitement can be added here with the throwing of bird seed, lavender, bubbles or dove release, remember it is your day, make it unique to you, have fun!

In no particular order, these have come from years of experience and observation:


Every wedding left to its own devices, will start a minimum of a half hour late. Here’s how to prevent that from happening:

If your invitations say the wedding is at
; they should have the good manners to arrive before then). You can include a little summary of this timeframe if you like, but it’s optional of course:
* all guests MUST be seated no later than 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the ceremony
* grandparents are seated at 10 minutes before the ceremony, followed immediately by the seating of the parents
* the procession will start PROMPTLY at 5 minutes before the ceremony. If some guests have not yet arrived, the ceremony will begin without them, as you don’t know if they’ve had car trouble or are just running late.
* Being on time for a wedding is the same as arriving on time for a business meeting, a movie… you wouldn’t expect them to hold the meeting or the movie for you, would you? Don’t hold up the
ceremony for everyone else.
* The bride starts down the aisle AT the time listed on the invitation. The wedding begins on time.
There is neither humor nor good taste in a bride being late for her own wedding.


Do not salt your food or eat Chinese food (MSG) within 48 hours of your ceremony;
your fingers will swell and your rings won’t go on.


Really young children may look utterly adorable in their teeny tuxedos and lacy dresses, but the odds of them not freaking out in front of all those people is rather slim. That doesn't mean they're not the greatest children in the entire world but, let's face it, a 2 year old does not have the self-control or even the life experience of a 6 year old. I've found that having a middle-school-aged child pull a really young child in a wagon full of toys and balloons solves two problems: the child will be seen by everybody looking utterly adorable, and the child will be oblivious to all those grown-ups looking at him/her because the child is surrounded by things to do (this is best if one or two new toys are placed in the wagon). After they've made it to the front of the aisle and stayed there long enough for the flashbulbs to go off, the wagon can be wheeled to the side where the child or kids can keep playing.


I even had a not-yet-walking "ring bearer" carried down the aisle in a Snugli by his dad, who was named "The Ring Bearer's Bearer"!


The typical sign-in guest book is lovely, but it will also, within weeks of the wedding, be relegated to some drawer. That’s fine—just know that that’s what will happen.

A photo of the bride and groom in a matt with lots of border area on which people can sign their names and wishes, is also lovely. Many couples do, in fact, keep that photo on the wall for many years.

When you interview your DJ or band, make sure they understand that their purpose is to provide background music. I’m continually amazed by how many DJ’s and bands think that your wedding is their concert!
Your guests expect to dance, but they also most definitely expect to be able to chat with the other guests without screaming at the top of their lungs to be heard over the amplifiers. Do yourselves and your guests a favor by making absolutely sure that your DJ or band understands and agrees that this is not a concert at which they are the headliners. Doing so will spare you literal and figurative headaches.

Brides and bridesmaids—nobody is going to be looking at your feet! Wear comfortable shoes or NO Shoes!
Some of my happiest brides have worn flip-flops or ballet-style slippers! By the same token, groomsmen may not complain about their stiff rented shoes if the bridesmaids are in high heels! If you want comfortable shoes, men, go out and buy some nice patent leathers and break them in real well before the wedding!


What to do after the Ceremony...


If your last name is changing:
Update your social security card
Renew your driver's license
Change personal banking information
Change your credit card information
Update home/auto/life insurance policy
Change your telephone information
Contact all utility companies
Inform your employer/payroll department
Update health insurance and 401k account
Send notification to local post office
Update gym membership
Renew library card
Update mortgage or lease info
Contact schools and alumni associations
Update voter registration information
Change your email address (if applicable)
Renew passport
Update magazine subscriptions
Update social media profiles
Request change of school or work ID
Buy new business cards
Buy new address labels
Update personal/business email signature
Update LinkedIn profile

Oh, and don't forget:
Make changes to your beneficiary information
Inform CPA or tax accountant if deciding to joint file
Update car registration coverage
Begin gift registry returns
Finalize your wedding album and portraits
Clean and preserve your wedding gown
Use your guest list to send out Thank You notes


Contact Us:

Hearts are bound by: Shannon Mackay

Carolina Beach, NC28428

Founder of: Pleasure Island Wedding Professional Group

Find us on Facebook: Pleasure Island Wedding Professionals