2013 Trends: Wedding Ceremonies with Lisa Francesca

Happy Fall, everyone!  Our November Trends blog post features the words and wisdom of one of our very favorite officiants, Lisa Francesca. Stacy was first introduced to Lisa by her father, Hank Basayne, who was also an officiant.  Hank was the officiant of the first wedding where Stacy served as an assistant in the Bay Area. Soon after, Hank became a colleague and trusted confidant.

Shortly after Hank’s passing, Stacy began to work more frequently with Lisa. Lisa is kind and has a wonderfully calming presence about her. She is a superb listener and is easy to talk to. Lisa is so well respected in the industry that she is in the process of writing a book, forthcoming in the Fall of 2014, from Chronicle Books.  You can read some samplings of her writing on her website.

Photo by Mark Baumann

Photo by Mark Baumann

First tell us a little bit about yourself, and the scope of your services.

I was born and raised in a multiple-module, multiple-faith family in San Francisco. As such, I began my informal studies on religion and spirituality at the very young age of eight, when I left my home and wandered four blocks to an empty church! I have officiated at weddings and other ceremonies since 2002. My ceremonies range from civil and community-oriented to spiritual to interfaith and intercultural. I believe that love wins, and every adult should be able to marry.

What is your process in terms of getting to know a couple?  How much time do you spend with them prior to their wedding?  How far out are couples hiring you?

I like to spend at least an hour during the initial interview with my couple. We usually meet in person, but often we need to meet by phone or online because they are from other parts of the country.  We often have a second interview to hammer out some parts of the ceremony after they have had time to think about their options. Once I draft the ceremony, I ask them to review it online. I attend the rehearsal and am basically on call for anything they might want to discuss from the first interview through their wedding day.

Ceremonies come in all shapes and sizes.  What are the first steps a couple should take when drafting their ceremony?

I encourage a couple to think about their ceremony from the inside out. An easy first step would be to start thinking about what kind of vows they want to make to each other. That is the kernel, the essence of the ceremony. Everything else is the frosting on the cake.

The second step should be an examination of the outside: how long do they want their ceremony to last? This will depend, frankly, on the comfort of their guests. They can go longer, adding more elements, if their guests are appropriately seated and shaded from the sun.

Photo by Gertrude and Mabel

Photo by Gertrude and Mabel

How much personality do you suggest couples incorporate into their ceremony?  Is there a time when the couple should defer to traditional practices?

Great question! Personally, I am not “married” to traditional practices at all. A legal ceremony can be as brief as “Do you?” “I do.” Any ceremony choices after that should be all about the couple’s unique personalities.

How long do ceremonies typically take place?  What is your ideal length of ceremony?

A typical American wedding takes between ten and forty minutes. If you are in the hot sun at a beach, ten is better. But usually twenty or thirty minutes is best for everyone. Any shorter and they will wonder what just happened. Much longer, and guests might begin to fidget. This is not to disparage wedding masses, which can take hours, and Hindu ceremonies, which can take days.

Photo by Meera Fox

Photo by Meera Fox

What is the most unique ceremony you’ve ever been a part of?

I had to think a long time about this question. I think my own wedding in 2004 was perhaps the most unique in terms of sheer variety in faiths. My Humanist minister father married my husband and me. Our ceremony included readings from a Jewish sister and a Baptist brother, and a Buddhist sibling led Grace at our reception.

What is the one thing you’d advise couples against when they’re working to create their ceremony?

Don’t feel the need to try to memorize your vows. You don’t need to add anything to the pressures of an already exciting day. As the officiant, I always have the vows written down for my couples.

Photo by  Kate Harrison Photography

Photo by Kate Harrison Photography

To write vows, or not to write vows – that is the question.  When do you suggest couples make the decision to write their own vows?

Each participant must feel comfortable reading something personal in front of a group. If one just feels nothing but terror at the prospect, it is far better to just limit the speaking to “I do.”

What is your all time favorite ceremony reading?

A: I wish I had just one, but I keep finding new ones to add to my list of favorites. As I am preparing for a wedding in October, I have been researching Slovenian poets and finding new poems to love.

What should couples keep in mind when choosing their readings?

The readings should enhance the tone you want for your wedding.  What three adjectives describe how you want your ceremony to feel? If you want romance and passion, try poetry by Octavio Paz, or D.H. Lawrence. Or you may prefer the simple, plain-speaking piece of advice from Hugh Prather. If you’re looking for a poem about nature, check out Mary Oliver or Jane Hirschfield. If you’re hoping for more humorous and whimsical literature, try something like Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein.

Here’s a Shel Silverstein poem we’re particularly fond of:


by Shel Silverstein

Thank you, Lisa!

To learn more about Francesca or to contact her directly, please visit her website.

In case you missed it, be sure to read our September installment of Trends, featuring Bridal Party Jewelry with AJ Stout of Stella & Dot