Meet our vendors and find out why we're not your average wedding expo.
Valley Wed is a unique wedding show offering couples a handpicked selection of exceptional wedding pros in Western Mass. It's designed especially for couples that want to go their own way, but they don’t want to go it alone.
Meet Rev. Hannah Grace, an ordained Interfaith minister. Hannah is the owner of Grace Ceremonies and the co-creator and coordinator of Valley Wed.
When did you start your business?
I “officially” launched Grace Ceremonies on January 1, 2012. I wouldn’t be ordained as an Interfaith minister until that July but I was clear about my path and had been officiating weddings and other ceremonies since 2010.
Why do you do what you do?
My middle name is Grace. My first name, Hannah, means “Grace of God” in Hebrew. The week before entering seminary I got two tattoos: on the inside of my left wrist, facing toward me, the word “grace” written in fluid script. On the inside of my right wrist, the same word facing out.
I knew this loop – sharing grace – was a big part of my calling and the reason I became a minister. From its Latin roots, to minister is literally to serve. I do what I do because creating and officiating custom ceremonies allows me to feel connected to the flow of grace – receiving and giving – and feels like a meaningful and much needed service to others.
What is your very, very favorite part of your job?
Very, very as in one thing?? That’s too hard. But okay. My very, very favorite part is after all the meetings, phone calls, emails, discussions, reviews, reminders, tips and advice that go into creating a one-of-a-kind ceremony, I love the actual officiating…partaking in the magic of the moment…seeing all the work come to fruition…witnessing people respond and be affected by the ceremony…
It’s goose bumps every time. It’s total magic. I am so lucky.
(Also, I just have to add that I love being an entrepreneur and small-business owner. I cherish the ability to grow and change my business and take it in new directions, and the flexibility is perfect for the mother of a two and a half year old!)
After your first meeting with a new client, what do you want them to leave knowing about you?
I want them to know my work is truly a calling for me. Being a minister and serving people through these ceremonies really is my life’s purpose. I’m still going to be doing it when I’m 80. I’m pretty sure it’s never going to make me rich but it makes me very, very happy.
What makes you different from other officiants?
Based on the feedback I hear from other vendors, and from my clients and guests at a ceremony, many comment on my calm, peaceful presence. I consider my “energy” to be a huge part of what I offer people as an officiant, helping keep them grounded, in-the-moment and openhearted.
I also care deeply and feel deeply. A ceremony for me is never just reading words from a script. My eyes fill up with tears. My voice breaks. I belly laugh. In other words, while holding the space for the ceremony, I also allow myself to be fully present and experience the ceremony as it unfolds. I think people can feel I am personally and genuinely invested, and have said that seeing me helps them also be more present, emotional and engaged.
After the wedding, what would be the best compliment you could hear about your work? What would make you feel great knowing you had accomplished for your client?
After a wedding specifically, I am delighted when a couple tells me how many compliments they received from their guests about the ceremony. I have heard from many couples that the ceremony was their favorite part of the whole wedding day…and that feels like a great accomplishment!
I am always honored to know when I’ve helped someone have the experience they needed. Sometimes that’s a feeling of rest and reconnection, like in a healing ritual, or a sense of being held and supported, like in a mother blessing. Sometimes it’s a sense of awe and celebration, like for a blessing ceremony, and sometimes it’s finally having the space to grieve and fully feel the loss of someone beloved.
Can you tell us something every couple needs to know about planning a wedding or the wedding day itself?
Many people – myself included – advise couples to relax, be present and enjoy. That is a great idea in theory but it can be a bit of a tall order in practice. So I try to help couples find tools and ways to actually do it…mainly s l o w i n g d o w n, breathing, making lots of eye contact, feeling their heels pressing into the ground, letting their shoulders loosen and drop…
Just having a few concrete tips in your pocket goes a long way toward feeling relaxed in and of itself, and the tools are amazingly effective so as soon as you do one thing (like make eye contact), suddenly you’re doing something else that reinforces it (like breathing). Plus, it really helps that I'm also relaxed and present!
Share something you are really proud of…professionally and personally.
Well, I am pretty darn proud of being the co-creator of Valley Wed and pulling off (almost!) this year’s show by myself while also having a record year for Grace Ceremonies.
Personally, hands down I am proud of and so grateful for my marriage and family. Being a conscious partner and parent requires more energy and thought and attention than I ever could have imagined, but the rewards are more love, fulfillment and happiness that I ever thought possible. Like I said before, I am so very lucky.
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