Beyond the sea: Our ceremony

18 February 2013

us coast guard memorial chapel

This is what the Chapel looked like when we pulled up. What a gorgeous, gorgeous sky! I think we arrived around 4pm for our 4:30 ceremony, and there were already guests outside – yikes! I would have liked to arrive a few minutes earlier (per our schedule!), but we were able to sneak in through a side door, so it was okay.

While we waited downstairs (everyone together), guests were treated to a few surprises upstairs. Ladies were invited to take a bell to ring at the end of the ceremony…

bells at wedding ceremony

…and gents, a boutonniere to pin on for extra festiveness. I made all of the boutonnieres out of velvet ribbon and hand wrote the tags – DIY instructions coming soon!

velvet boutonnieres


I designed our two-sided, single sheet ceremony programs in Illustrator and had them printed through UPrinting.

wreath ceremony programs

We had five helpers at the front of the Chapel — my brother in law, John’s brother in law, our friend, and two of my cousins — and between them, they handed out programs, facilitated the bells and bows, and helped guests to their seats.

Soon enough it was time for us to line up. When I was standing next to my Dad in the narthex, I felt the first flip in my stomach. I got another one when the string trio began to play the first song of the processional (more about our music here).

After the last bridesmaid had begun her walk down the aisle, the doors to the sanctuary closed, and my Dad and I moved into position.

blusher veil

I had specifically asked that the doors not be opened until about fifteen seconds into my song, so that we would hit the top of the aisle at the right point in the music. My emotions started to build, and I couldn’t help smiling, while we waited behind the closed doors. When the doors finally opened, I could hear an audible intake of breath from our guests. (That sounds horribly vain, but it’s true!) I think it was in part because I was wearing a blusher veil, which is so unexpected these days but so me, and my Dad looked stunningly handsome in his dress whites (military uniform).

groom waiting at ceremony

horsehair edge veil

blusher veil inspiration

I had my eyes locked on John’s the entire time we walked down the aisle, but when we reached our guests, I had to start taking deep breaths in and out to try and control the impending flood. Once we got a little closer, I could hear the entire row of bridesmaids and entire row of groomsmen sniffling, and that finally opened the flood gates for me. We all had tears rolling down our faces throughout the beginning of our ceremony, so much so that our pastor had to remind everyone to take deep breaths before he began.

coast guard chapel

After Carl’s welcome, our readers took the stage. You can read more about the selections we chose here. They all did a wonderful job!

coast guard chapel wedding

Besides my grandmothers, and John’s relatives who came from as far away as Taipei and Shanghai, our most special guest was our pastor, Carl. He’s the pastor of our church, and has had such a huge impact on our lives and our life together since we met him two years ago. We were so excited and grateful when he agreed to fly north to lead our ceremony. We were equally as devastated when we found out two months before our wedding that he had been diagnosed with cancer. He had surgery about a month before, and happily, was recovered in time to still make the trip. His presence was one of the most special parts of our entire day – our wedding would have felt entirely different (at least to John and me) had he not been a part of it. His address was perfect.

coast guard academy wedding

The next part of our ceremony was our congregational hymn — “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.” It was one of my favorite parts! John and I both like to SING hymns, and apparently it made quite the impression on our guests! :)

Em for Marvelous

military wedding

Next were our vows. We chose to recite personal vows as well as the classic vows — you can read more about our decision here! You can also hear a bit of our vows in our highlights film. For our ring exchange, we used these words: John, I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you in the name of God.

wedding vows

The final component of our ceremony was communion. There’s more about our decision to serve it here, but let me say again how glad we were that we did; many guests told us that it was their favorite part of the day. We served our parents first, and then my grandmothers at their seats.

Em for Marvelous

Em for Marvelous

wedding - communion

Em for Marvelous

All that was left at that point was the kiss! Went off without a hitch, and then we were up the aisle as Mr. & Mrs.

coast guard memorial chapel

walking up the aisle

And out onto the steps, where our guests were waiting with ringing silver bells in hand!

tanja lippert photography

And finally into our oh so elegant chariot for the day. It would have been nice to rent a vintage Rolls Royce, but my beloved SUV did just fine when the budget came up short :)

Em for Marvelous

tanja lippert

With cheers and clapping, we were off to the reception!


P.S. I adored the pom poms, courtesy of our bridal party!

Photographer: Tanja Lippert / Videographer: Inkspot Crow Films / Day-of-Coordinator: Diana Chouinard of Jubilee Events / Ceremony Venue: The United States Coast Guard Memorial Chapel / Ceremony Officiant: Rev. Dr. R. Carl Frazier from First United Methodist Church, Cary / Silver Bells: Factory Direct Craft / Velvet Ribbon and Bouquet Trim: M&J Trimming / Flowers: Blush Floral Design / Hair and Makeup Artist: Tia Reagan / Bride’s Gown: “Brisa” by Christos / Bride’s Earrings: “Toulouse” by Nina / Bride’s Necklace: Blue Nile / Bride’s Veil: Chaviano Couture / Bridesmaid Dresses: “2834” by Dessy / Groom’s Attire: Tuxedo by Tommy Hilfiger from Macy’s / Groom and Groomsmen Bow Ties: Bows N’ Ties / Groom’s Suspenders: J. Crew / Groomsmen Suspenders: The Grunion Run

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February 18, 2013 3:54 pm

Love, love the little bells and the DIY bouts :) You did such a beautiful job! Looks like you had gorgeous wedding the day of as well!

February 18, 2013 11:17 pm

I absolutely adore how creative you were in crafting your ceremony. Such thought and dedication, it’s absolutely stunning. And I seriously still cannot get over your veil, in photos it’s like magic! I’m sharing details this week too, and it’s SOOOO fun!!! I wish we could just do it again!

February 19, 2013 8:28 am

Wow. These images are truly breathtaking. As were you, Em!

February 19, 2013 2:24 pm

Oh how I adore the bows and bells you had for the guests, one of my all time favorite wedding details!! And that veil…STUNNING!!

February 19, 2013 8:43 pm

So glad I got to be there, and walk with you down the aisle — to serve as a suitable prop, because I don’t think too many people were looking at me!

February 23, 2013 7:14 pm

And I’m tearing up just READING this! Beautiful. I too agree with Margaret and Emily above, the bells and bows… perfect. Congratulations.

February 24, 2013 2:31 pm

My favorite part of your whole wedding series has been all the posts about your ceremony. The thought, time and finally the finished “product” was so gorgeous!! It makes me want to tear up just seeing the photos…peaceful perfection!