On April 5, I officiated a desert elopement: one of the most extraordinary wedding ceremonies (and no, not just counting the elopements) of my career.
Jenn & Pawel Photography
Well, to back up a little, Jahara and Joe first flew me from Western Massachusetts to Palm Springs, California, arranging for a rental SUV and the most amazing tiny house: a midcentury homesteader on with spectacular uninterrupted views of Indian Cove and Joshua Tree National Park.

But why here, now? 

​Joe had proposed to Jahara in Joshua Tree on that very day, two years earlier. (And today, one year after their desert elopement, they are hosting a celebration of their marriage with all their family and friends.  How cool is that???)

On the day of the wedding, I drove to the private residence Jahara and Joe had rented right on the edge of the Park. Now I knew why they had insisted I have an SUV!

They were listening to music, laughing and slowing getting ready for the ceremony when I arrived. It was the most relaxed, most joyful pre-wedding vibe I had ever experienced.

Joe went outside as Jahara finished dressing in a gorgeous Celia Grace wedding gown, handmade by women’s cooperatives, Fair Trade producers and refugees rebuilding their lives in the US.

I cherished this intimate moment; the sisterly ritual of preparation. Jenn & Pawel Photography, a husband and wife team, quietly captured everything.

When all was ready, Joe and Jahara took five minutes to meditate separately while I made my way to the ceremony site. The couple had prepared the perfect elements to anchor ourselves in the vast desert landscape, making their own wedding arch out of copper piping, as well as an altar table to hold the earth (soil from their home states), fire (smudge stick), water (from their oceanside home) and air (a singing bowl) we used in an opening ritual. Florals from The Bloomin Gypsy graced the space.

What followed was one of the most authentic and loving wedding ceremonies I have ever presided over or participated in. With hearts wide open, we all shared an abundance of both laughter and tears.

Before they exchanged their vows and rings, Jahara and Joe spoke Thich Nhat Hanh’s Four Mantras of True Presence:
Darling, I am here for you.
Darling, I know you are there and it makes me happy.
Darling, I know you suffer and I am here for you.
Darling, I am suffering and I need your help.
Darling, this is a happy moment. ​​
Jenn & Pawel Photography
After the ceremony, Joe and Jahara danced under the desert sky for the first time as husband and wife.
They had ample time then to stroll hand in hand, kissing and laughing and reveling in their happiness while the sun shone, the air sparkled and the wind carried forth a generous blessing of love.

Jenn & Pawel Photography
“Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another – acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another these past few years.

Shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same. For after today you shall say to the world: This is my husband. This is my wife.”

~ Robert Fulghum