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Get Married This Sunday And Celebrate Marriage Equality In New Jersey

We're so excited about New Jersey's new marriage equality law that a bunch of us in have got together to create a Pop Up Nuptials Night to provide free wedding ceremonies for couples desiring to make their partnerships legal in the Garden State.

Doug Nevick, a wedding photographer and owner of Douglas James Studios will be on hand to photograph the historic weddings for the couples who choose to get married at the pop up event. "EVERYONE deserves beautiful imagery on his or her wedding day...Oh, I'll be there."
Alisa Tongg performs a wedding with photographer Doug Nevick of Douglas James Studio capturing the candid moments.
Civil wedding ceremonies will be performed for any couple who present a valid New Jersey marriage License by Alisa Tongg, an award-winning wedding Celebrant and an ordained non-denominational minister, "Couples may bring their own vows to exchange, glass to stomp on, broom to jump over, or any other tradition they would like to incorporate. Of course, signing of the marriage license will be a ritual included in each ceremony performed that night."

The newly weds are invited to stick around after they say "I do" to enjoy a complimentary wedding reception, with wedding cake and all, provided by the evening's gracious hosts, 9th and Coles Tavern.

There's currently a 72-hour wait period for a marriage license in the state of New Jersey, so interested couples will need to make arrangements with their local participating courthouse early this week for Sunday's event.


Pop-up Nuptials @ 9th & Coles Tavern
Free Civil Ceremonies Officiated By Alisa Tongg, Celebrant
All couples invited. Must present a valid NJ marriage license.

Bring Your Own: vows, glass to stomp, broom to jump or other wedding ceremony tradition you'd like to include.

First come, first joined in marriage
RSVP to the Facebook Event Page here
9th & Coles Tavern
174 Coles Street
Jersey City, NJ
Sunday, November 3rd 

Read about Nikki + Sue, the first couple who will be getting married at the Pop Up Nuptials Night, and the inspiration behind the event here.

Erin + Andrew, Auspicious Beginning

Erin and Andrew were first introduced through his brother at a party seven years ago while they were both students at Kutztown University. Eventually they became a couple, but they joke that Andrew never actually asked Erin out. This summer they became husband and wife, finally putting an end to a difficult long distance period in their relationship. 
Andrew takes Erin's hand and together they step in to the Circle of Love that their guests created before taking their seats.
When I asked them what emotion or vision they wanted their guests to take away from their ceremony, Erin said she wanted her friends and family to understand how happy "Andrew and I are together and support our marriage. I want them to feel excitement, joy and love.” 

Andrew surprises Erin by promising that he will "give up playing day".
Their wedding was at the scenic Stroudsmoor Country Inn and just as their ceremony was about to begin, the skies opened up and blessed their union with some rain. Many cultures believe that rain on a wedding day brings good luck to the couple. Not only does rain bring life and nourish crops, but there is also a saying that a wet knot (in this case, the marital knot) is impossible to untie.  So on this particular day, Andrew and Erin, their wedding party, their guests and me, all happily experienced the gentle refreshing sprinkle of new beginnings as this bride and groom started their married life together.

Their Ceremony: One of my favorite moments in a ceremony is when the couple faces each other, holds hands and I read aloud unique attribute, feelings and memories that they each have for the other, things that are part of their story or hopes for the future. For Erin and Andrew, this was a tender moment of their ceremony where their friends and family were able to get a glimpse at who they are to the other and what they want most out of life.

About Erin’s Andrew:
“He’s romantic and comical-- He has the ability to make you laugh under any circumstance. He’s adventurous, charming and sometimes a little stubborn too ... And even though, he never “officially” asked you out at the start of your romance, this is the man who wanted to make sure family and friends were close when he got down on his knee and told you that it was with you whom he wants to spend the rest of his life.”

And about Andrew’s Erin:
“These are the hands that will, together with yours, decorate your first home and raise and care for your family ... Erin wants you to know that although being apart from you these last four years has been difficult, she’s been confident that you would spend your lives together ever since you first told her that you loved her on the Fourth of July, three years ago.”

For the future, Erin and Andrew have hopes to buy their own home and start a family.  They decided to take an additional step toward this dream by planting a tree to mark their intentions. Erin’s father, a professional landscaper, helped them choose a beautiful flowering hydrangea for this ritual.

As Erin and Andrew added fresh dirt and water to their potted hydrangea, I said, “as you plant this tree together, realize that in order to keep it healthy, you will need to nurture it—water and feed it.  So too, you will keep your marriage healthy—by nurturing and caring for it together.  May your love grow like this hydrangea, sending roots deep and branches wide and high, strengthening with every season, and nurturing new life in all of your years.”

With a little help from Mother Nature, Erin and Andrew’s marriage got off to an auspicious and memorable start.  “One day” has not yet happened, and at the time of this posting, Andrew says he is still playing Rugby.

Thank you to Will Blochinger Photography for sharing these images from Erin and Andrew’s blessing-filled wedding celebration. For more information please visit

Doug Nevick Wants To Capture The Moment You Make It Legal In New Jersey

Melissa and Ashley engagement. Douglas James Studios

If the idea of a bunch of couples gathering to pledge their faithful love to each other for a lifetime and get legally hitched at a charming neighborhood fixture like 9th and Coles Tavern wasn’t blissful enough, wedding photographer Doug Nevick’s addition to the evening’s line up will definitely tip the scales to full on “blissed out.” 
Doug Nevick, owner of award-winning Douglas James Studios, says he, “definitely wants to share in the moment. EVERYONE deserves beautiful imagery on his or her wedding day…. Oh, I’ll be there.”
Doug will capture the historic and heartfelt moments for the many couples who choose to get married at the November 3rd Pop Up Nuptials Night. I will be providing free civil ceremonies for all couples who present a valid NJ marriage license.   


Pop-up Nuptials @9th & Coles Tavern

Get Married In The Garden State, Make It Legal
Free Civil Ceremonies Officiated By Alisa Tongg, Celebrant
-One Night Only-

All couples invited. Must present a valid NJ marriage license.

BYO: vows, glass to stomp, broom to jump or other wedding ceremony tradition.

First come, first joined in marriage
9th & Coles Tavern
174 Coles Street
Jersey City, NJ
Sunday, November 3rd

For more information about Doug and his studio please visit:

From Married* to Married, New Jersey Edition

Like many other same-sex couples in New Jersey, my sister Nikki and her wife Sue resisted crossing over the NJ-NY state line to legally validate their relationship. Instead they decided to wait to get “married” at home when it became legal.  Despite all the impediments, like many other couples caught in this legal limbo, Nikki and Sue have continued to build and live their lives together as a couple and as a family.  
Sue + Nikki wedded bliss on the north shore of Maui. Kaua Photography
This August, I had the privilege of officiating at their wedding and celebrating the start of their married life together with their closest friends on the island of Maui. Starting Monday, October 21st, same-sex couples in New Jersey will finally be allowed to marry legally.  Sue and Nikki don’t need to be first in line to have their marriage formally recognized by the government, but they are eager to finally make it legal and remove the asterisk they feel has been assigned to their relationship status.

I’m thrilled to celebrate this wonderful moment in history and to complete the job I started back at their August nuptials.  The folks (husbands Tony Frier and Greg Gude) over at 9th and Coles Tavern in Jersey City have offered their charming neighborhood establishment to Nikki and Sue so they can have a short civil ceremony to make it legal in their home state. I’m excited to announce that they have agreed to allow me to marry, (on a first come, first joined in marriage basis), other couples who also want to make their partnerships legal in the state of New Jersey that same night.
Nikki + Sue exchange rings as symbol of their love and devotion. Kaua Photography
Please join us and consider making November 3, 2013 your new Anniversary*.

Pop-up Nuptials @ 9th & Coles Tavern
Get Married In The Garden State, Make It Legal

Free Civil Ceremonies Officiated By Alisa Tongg, Celebrant

-One Night Only-

All couples invited. Must present a valid NJ marriage license.

Bring Your Own: vows, glass to stomp, broom to jump or other wedding ceremony tradition you'd like to include.

First come, first joined in marriage
9th & Coles Tavern
174 Coles Street
Jersey City, NJ
Sunday, November 3rd 

Uma + Benjamin, The Promise

Uma and Benjamin wanted to create a wedding ceremony that would incorporate cultural traditions of both her Bangladeshi and his Judeo-Christian backgrounds while sharing their love story with their friends and family at the beautiful Barn at Boone's Dam. It was an amazing experience for me to take place in this heartfelt and colorful day, rich in tradition and symbolism. 

Love Story Benjamin and Uma met for the first time on pi day at a grand opening luncheon to celebrate the new building for the research department of the hospital they worked at. Their connection was instant and unlike anything either of them had experienced before.
Their courtship consisted of six years filled with romantic dinner picnics along the Susquehanna River, some pretty competitive games of boggle, photo safari driving tours, long soul-to-soul emails and late night heart-to-heart conversations, the stressors and challenges of going to separate graduate schools and living in different cities.


Benjamin says that he’s learned to see the world in new and beautiful ways influenced by Uma’s perspective and passion for photography and architecture. It was her love of art and architecture that inspired the details of his proposal a year ago. 

Benjamin says that “love requires making one’s partner a priority and reaffirming that love like a daily prayer.“  Choosing to be transformed by the power of Love and Relationship--“My blood has changed by being with her” he says.
Benjamin chose “Throne Room” by John Williams for his processional song. He honored the role that both of his parents have played in his life, by walking in with his mother and father.
Wedding guests arrive in colorful and bright sari.

A joining of families, both sets of parents greet each other at the start of the ceremony before taking their seats in the front row.
The beautiful mothers of the Groom and Bride.
Their Ceremony  One of most moving parts of their ceremony was when they adorned each other with beautiful garlands made of carnations and roses, a Bengali tradition meant to bring a couple closer in a sacred bond for a lifetime. They asked me to share a poem Benjamin recited to Uma when he proposed to her at Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece, Falling Water the year before. 
Uma: "With this ring, I gladly marry you and join my life to yours."
In Bangladeshi weddings, there is an emphasis on consent of the bride and groom. Uma and Benjamin wanted to sign their marriage certificate in their ceremony to as a way to show that their commitment was a social contract not only between them but their family and community as well.
This poem was written by the Sufi mystic poet, Rumi in the 13th century.  Rumi’s poem, The Promise, speaks of the importance of steadfastness and devotion in love. 

The Promise,  Rumi
When pain arrives side by side with your love
I promise not to flee
When you ask me for my life
I promise not to fight

I am holding a cup in my hand
By God if you do not come
Till the end of time
I promise not to pour out the wine
Nor to drink a sip

Your bright face is my day
Your dark curls bring the night
If you do not let me near you
I promise not go to sleep…nor rise

Your magnificence has made me a wonder
Your charm has taught me the way of love
I am the progeny of Abraham
I'll find my way through fire

Please, let me drink water from the jug
This love is not a short-lived fancy
It is the daily prayer, the year-after-year fast
I live it, like an act of worship, till the end of my life 

From the very beginning, Benjamin wanted his guests to know how serious his commitment was and is to Uma, "I would like our guests to know that I acknowledge that love requires making one's partner a priority and reaffirming one's love (like a daily prayer) to remain steadfast in one's love."  

Uma has become his daily prayer. And let all the people say, Amen.

Sometimes the glass doesn't break on the first stomp. Looks like Uma and I need to work on our poker faces.
Thank you to Tawnya Hemsarth, a fine art and wedding photographer based in Bloomsburg, PA for capturing these intimate moments and genuine emotion on Uma and Benjamin's day and for allowing me to share these images here.  If you are in the mood to listen to Peter Gabriel's "Salsbury Hill" (I must admit, that I sometimes just keep A Click Photography's website open and listen to this song for a whole hour!) and see some more of her work, please visit

Kelly + Jason, Set It In Stone

 The Ledges in Hawley, PA is a magical place. The boutique hotel is built into the side of a waterfall. Of course I was beyond thrilled to perform Kelly + Jason’s equally breathtaking wedding ceremony in this magnificent environment, surrounded by their closest family and friends. Kelly's vision for their ceremony was romance, she wanted "everyone to fall in love all over again." 

Built into the side of a waterfall, guests gather on ledges to watch the ceremony at Ledges Hotel in Hawley, PA.

 Their Love Story: Love arrived, in their case; at first sight … well at least it did for Jason.  Like in a movie, Jason remembers seeing Kelly for the first time, from across the cafeteria at Jackson Memorial High School. Clearly smitten, he declared to his friends that “one day” she would be his.

Perhaps because of their one-year difference in age-- Kelly was a sophisticated Sophomore and Jason was just a Freshman after all—it took five whole years for Kelly to notice Jason back.

Kelly finally did notice Jason at a Fourth of July party, when as she remembers “the only cute boy” in attendance started gathering his things in preparation to leave early. Determined not let him slip away, she did what any sophisticated woman would do: she asked her friend to ask Jason out for her. 

The romance had officially began, but six months into it, Kelly left for a semester abroad. Already head over heals in love, the distance was difficult for Jason to bear.  Over his Spring Break of that semester, Jason flew to Spain to visit Kelly. Kelly remembers falling in love with Jason while she was away. They spoke everyday, became best friends and developed an incredible bond of trust.

And as F. Scott Fitzgerald once described it, “they slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered.”

Their Ceremony: Spanning over 10 years, it wasn't difficult to integrate their love story into their wedding ceremony.  Their “I do” highlights included a remembrance for Jason’s father, family heirlooms and multiple ways for their friends and family to demonstrate their good wishes for the couple and their marriage.

Kelly chose to honor the memory of her grandmother Clare by wearing her wedding band as her own.
The groomsmen take their turns adding their blessings into the rings before Kelly and Jason exchange them.

Their ceremony started with a Ring Blessing, where their rings are passed through the crowd and guests were invited to add their blessings, hopes and dreams for the couple and their marriage. A powerful influence in her life, Kelly chose to wear her grandmother Clare's wedding band, a cherished family heirloom, as her own.

Jason helps his mother with her yellow corsage, a remembrance and tribute to his late father's favorite color.

In a tribute to his late father, forever close to their hearts, Jason and his mother, wore yellow flowers (his favorite color) as a reminder of how his love is an integral part of their joy and celebration.

Kelly surprised Jason by walking into "Come Away With Me", a special song for them.

On their wedding day, Jason brought a stone from his family’s home in the Poconos--a place that had already played a significant role in their love story. So many special memories and promises have already been set into this stone, like when Jason first told Kelly that he loved her and then again when he asked her to marry him.  When they exchanged vows, both Jason and Kelly placed their hands on their oathing stone and added to the memories and intentions that had already been set into it.

Because of the natural properties of stone, the Celts had a custom that incorporated them into their practice of making agreements. It was believed that an oath just given near a stone was considered more binding because the promises spoken were thought to get “set into the stone.” -Alisa Tongg, Celebrant

"Jason, the woman whose hands you hold loves you very much. She’s fun, hardworking, a loyal friend and approaches life with a sense of determination that astounds you daily. She was, and is still, the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen."--Alisa Tongg, Celebrant

Seven Steps Into The Sunset™: Immediately after they sealed their vows with a kiss, Kelly and Jason took their first seven steps together as a married couple, while I read blessings over them and their friends and family showered them with encouragement.

When I asked Jason what his hopes were for the future, he said, “I expect to be with Kelly forever and have from the start…What our future holds exactly I cannot say, however I know that we will be there with each other every step of the way, to support and love one another and help each other accomplish our goals.” 

Kelly agrees, "I want to live happily ever after. I want to grow and experience life with Jay. He's my best friend and I can't imagine taking this journey with anyone else."

"May peace live always in your hearts and in your home."--Alisa Tongg, Celebrant

A special thanks to JF+AB Photography for capturing the candid action and emotion of this heartfelt day.  Specializing in outdoor and destination wedding photography, Josh Finsel and Amber Breiner are a husband and wife photojournalistic team based in Jim Thorpe, PA.  See more of Kelly + Jason's celebration here on their blog.  

Seven Steps Into The Sunset™, A Modern Twist On Seven Blessings

"I’m going to need everyone’s help as we conclude today’s rite. When I asked Cori what her hopes were for the future, she said, 'I hope that we will continue to grow and change together. I can’t wait to take the next big life-steps with Todd by my side.'"--Alisa Tongg, Celebrant
Many cultures and religious traditions incorporate standard blessings into the structure of a wedding. In the Hindu tradition, the couple walks around a fire seven times while blessings for a strong union are recited over them. Jewish weddings incorporate seven blessings too, but instead of one person saying the blessings over a couple, it has become more common to divide that honor among seven of the couple's most honored guests, each giving one. 

"I’d like to invite you all to shower Cori and Todd with this confetti as a demonstration of your love and support as they take their first seven steps together as a married couple, side by side."--Alisa Tongg, Celebrant
This summer I started performing what I consider to be the grandest of all wedding finales--Seven Steps Into The Sunset™, for couples who wanted to incorporate a modern twist on these traditional blessings. Inspired by the physical action of walking around the fire and the guest participation from Jewish tradition, I created a new wedding blessings ritual that draws attention to the importance of partnership in the marital relationship.

How it works: After the couple seals their vows with a kiss, the assembled guests are instructed to gather their confetti, streamers, rice, lavender, seeds, candy...(whatever the couple wants to use and the venue will allow)... and shower the couple with their encouragement as they take their first seven steps together as a married couple.

"Today, as you take your first steps together as a married couple, let these things be true..."--Alisa Tongg, Celebrant
"May this couple be strong, healthy and able- a source of encouragement to one another."--Alisa Tongg, Celebrant

The newly wed sweethearts take one step back down the aisle for each blessing that is read for them. Their honored guests, sitting along the aisle, stand up one at a time to read their blessing over the couple. It seems that everyone gets caught up in the excitement of the moment and does whatever it takes to make sure that what they are tossing actually reaches the couple. 

"Looking outward, may this couple choose to see beauty in the world around them and find the courage in their partnership to pursue their dreams together."--Alisa Tongg Celebrant

By the end of their first seven steps together, the couple find themselves about halfway back down the aisle, surrounded by their friends and family. Symbolically, that's where their marriage will strive, surrounded by the support and unconditional love of their family and community.

Now comes the "into the sunset" part of this new modern wedding ritual--one more kiss. More rice thrown. Cue the Recessional song. And my sincerest wish that all of these good things will be true.

Thank you to Bob Sanchuk and Chad Sebring at Two Sticks Studio for capturing these joyful moments of Todd + Cori's first steps together as a married couple.  I loved watching their friends and family get up from their seats to find an ideal spot to shower this couple with their best wishes.  To see more of Bob and Chad's work, or more images from Todd + Cori's wedding, please visit