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Personalizing Your Ceremony

Two experts-Maren Berthelsen, the producer of performing-arts programs for the Upper West Side's Symphony Space, and Stephen Mitchell, acclaimed poet and co-editor of Into the Garden: A Wedding Anthology-offer uncommon choices based on a lifetime of listening and reading.




The Park Avenue Bash

The Location
The University Club, the Metropolitan Club, Grand Central Terminal, the Rainbow Room, the Pierre, the Harvard Club, the New York Palace, the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Music
"I'd use the Jupiter movement of Holst's 'The Planets' for the processional," Berthelsen says. "And there's a very well-known Bach cantata called 'Wachet auf, Ruft uns die timme'-I'd use that for the recessional. For the first dance, you want to use a standard that isn't 'Stardust'-maybe 'You Meet the Nicest People in Your Dreams' or 'My Romance.' Or something by Hoagy Carmichael."

The Literature
"The Book of Psalms is the central text of devotional poetry in the Western world," says Mitchell, recommending his radically modern translation of Psalm 1 ("Blessed are the man and the woman / who have grown beyond themselves . Everything they do will succeed"). He also suggests a portion of Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, calling it "one of the most mature descriptions of love ever written."


The Sandals-and-Daisies Wedding

The Location
Central Park's Swedish Cottage and Shakespeare Garden, Merchant's House Museum, the Picnic House in Prospect Park, Lake Placid Lodge, Georgica Beach, Alger House.

The Music
For something a little more out-there, she suggests "this Finnish group called JPP. I'd get their album String Tease, which contains a long piece for a group of fiddlers called Wedding Suite.' And for the first dance, there's a singer named Erin McKeown-sort of folky but very musical." (For more about her, see erinmckeown.com.) Also, "you could always pick an obscure Van Morrison song, or one by Richard and Linda Thompson."

The Literature
About Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussy-Cat," Mitchell says, "Who wouldn't love this rollicking poem about the union of opposites?" And he adds that his co-author, the former poet laureate Robert Hass, suggests members of the wedding party take turns reading stanzas. For a more serious-minded celebration, Mitchell proposes an Apache song that begins, "Now you will feel no rain / for each of you will be a shelter to the other."


The Downtown Avant-Garde Party

The Location
Any Chelsea art gallery, Banchet Flowers, Galapagos Art Space, Pace, Peter White Studio, Loft Eleven, Splashlight Studios, Sky Studios, Studio 450, the National Arts Club.

The Music
"You'd want someone Kronos-like for the processional." (That'd be the Kronos Quartet, the forward-thinking foursome that has been a fixture of new-music circles for nearly three decades.) Or Ethel, a New York chamber-music group that's often compared to Kronos. "For the first dance-if your friend's band won't play-try CocoRosie's 'By Your Side.' "

The Literature
Emily Dickinson's work is "so fresh and honest that it still seems avant-garde," says Mitchell, and her "Of all the Souls that stand create-" is especially so. "We Two, How Long We Were Fool'd," by that supremely fierce Brooklynite Walt Whitman, suggests the start of a realistic marriage. Says Mitchell: "Using this poem takes an understanding that love unites two people in a solitude that includes everything in the universe."


The Elegant Grown-Up Affair

The Location
The Four Seasons, the Chemists' and Midtown Executive clubs, the Campbell Apartment, the '21' Club, the Columbia University Faculty House, Gotham Bar and Grill.

The Music
"There's an a cappella group called the Tallis Scholars, who sing works by liturgical composer Thomas Tallis. I'd get their album The Essential Tallis Scholars and choose something from there." Or someone like Warren Vaché, playing the music of Stan Getz or the Miles Davis Quintet." For the first dance? " 'A Hundred Years From Today,' " an unjustly forgotten tune. Or, she jokes, "You could always do 'When I'm Sixty-Four'!"

The Literature
Mitchell has this to say about Pablo Neruda's "Sonnet XVII": "Although very young people can be transported by the passionate devotion of this poem, its inclusion of the hidden and dark places of the mind makes it particularly appropriate for mature couples." And he also suggests Kuan Tao-Sheng's utterly simple "Married Love," written 700 years ago by the poet-wife of one of China's great painters and calligraphers.

From the Fall 2005 New York Wedding Guide

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