Donna Forsythe of Bethlehem, Pa, started the wonderful Lehigh Valley Celebrants. She is passionate about creating a personal and unique ceremony that fits your dream!
Photography: Silver Pixels Photography
How did you get started in this business?
I had been an educator for many years. In 2014, I was on sabbatical, getting my Masters in Leadership and Administration, as I had planned on becoming a school principal. That year, marriage equality passed here in Pennsylvania. As a favor, I officiated an elopement for two older men who had been together for decades, and never thought they’d have the opportunity to legally marry. It was a life-changing experience. I decided to officiate weddings while on sabbatical, and went through the Humanist Society to become endorsed as a Celebrant. I completed my masters that year, but also realized I no longer wanted to continue that path. The following year, I ‘retired’ from teaching, and did my celebrant work full-time. I now have four celebrants working in my wonderful group, Lehigh Valley Celebrants and plan to have two more join the group this year!
What are some of your favorite aspects of your business?
It is an absolute HONOR to work with couples and plan for the most important day of their lives. Sometimes I feel I need to pinch myself as I can’t believe how fulfilling and fun officiating can be. When I see my couples bursting with joy as they are looking at each other during their ceremony, I am filled with such gratitude.
Photography: Emily Wren Photography
What brought you to the Lehigh Valley?
I grew up outside of Philly. For undergrad, I went to Kutztown, and that is how I ended up in this neck of the woods. I now live in Bethlehem and love it for its ‘livability’. I can usually walk or bike wherever I need to go.
What is your favorite restaurant to eat at in the Lehigh Valley? Your favorite dish to order?
Dining out to me involves enjoying the entire experience. I typically stick close to Bethlehem, as there are tons of great restaurants, and I can walk to most of them. I love Tre Scalini – but hesitate mentioning it, as it is one of the best kept secrets around. The Other Fish, is another favorite, and their garlic tuna…Yum!
Photography: Daniel Moyer Photography
What is your favorite part of a wedding?
Is it wrong for me to say, I never was a big fan of weddings? Most weddings I had attended were in a stiff, uninspiring environment. The ceremony itself was usually a script being read, and we guests had to endure the formalities until cocktail hour, when the fun could begin. That has all flipped since I started officiating weddings. My favorite part is definitely the ceremony! It truly is what the day is all about – and should be the start of the celebration!
What is your best advice for a couple planning their wedding?
Put together your ‘Dream Team’ of wedding professionals. If you surround yourself with people who are amazing at their craft, you will be able to relax and enjoy your entire wedding experience.
Photography: Harper Parker Photography
What song/music is in heavy rotation for you right now?
I looooove music! Back in high school and college, I sang and played guitar in several bands, and still find singing to be a great release of energy. On the way to my weddings, I sing like a wackadoodle to warm up my voice and to ramp up my energy level. Brandi Carlile is one of my absolute faves and I’ve been listening to her new album most recently. (The Story will always be my favorite, though.)
What is your favorite movie and/or book genre?
I am a big historical fiction fan – both movies and books! Have you read, All the Light We Cannot See? Get it from the library now. You’re welcome. And shamelessly admitting I watched every season of Outlander.
Photography: Alexa Nahas Photography
What is a common mistake you see couples make while planning a wedding?
Of course, I’m going to focus on the ceremony, but seriously, the ceremony should not just be a legal transaction. Please don’t bore your friends and family. It’s not nice. ☺ I also don’t recommend having a ‘friend’ officiate. Does your friend know how to create an exceptional ceremony? Just because they know you, doesn’t mean they know how to craft something that is going to be engaging and include interesting and meaningful elements. Is your friend a writer? Are they comfortable with public speaking? Will they be able to help you with your vows? Will they be able to coordinate with all of your other wedding professionals to make sure your ceremony goes off without a hitch? I often have to pick up the pieces of the aftermath of an officiating friend. Some of those ‘secret weddings’ I do, are because the friend never filed the license, or wasn’t legally qualified. Let your friend have the honor of being a friend at your wedding.
Do you have an embarrassing wedding moment? That happened to you/or that you observed?
Are you talking to me?! I am the queen of secrets! So, when it comes to sharing an embarrassing moment, mum’s the word. But speaking of secrets…if you knew how many couples secretly get married, you’d be greatly surprised!
Photography: Rhinehart Photography
What is one of your hobbies?
Hobbies are my jam, as I am not one for sitting still! I love to knit, and just finished a sweet wool sweater for my hubby. I’m now making hats and such from some beautiful hand-spun wool I got in Scotland last summer. But one of my super fabulous and over-the-top fun hobbies is playing the ukulele. I actually formed a uke group just over a year ago, and we get together once a week and play ridiculous songs, sip scotch, and laugh ourselves silly.
What do you like to do in your free time?
The last question offers a start! To add to that, I am also a ‘casual’ runner, bike rider, love to read, work in my vegetable garden, and I try to carve out time throughout the year – especially off-season – to go to the shore. Love to travel, and will be heading to Iceland and Scotland this year. On Sunday evenings, you’ll find me at the Bethlehem Brewworks, catching up with friends and gearing up for the week ahead.
What is your fondest wedding memory-either from your wedding, if you are married, or from a wedding you attended?
My fondest memories are the same for every wedding I attend and/or officiate: They are the moments when a true connection is made in some way. Those happy tears that are shed by a parent or guest. The look in a couple’s eyes as they are listening to vows being shared. Those intimate moments that are fleeting, but so very meaningful.
What do you wish couples knew about your part of the wedding industry?
I wish they realized that we do more than show up for a half hour and read a script.
Photography: Ali and Paul Co.
What does the perfect day look like to you?
I love variety! But any combo of time alone, time outdoors, and time with family/friends is good by me.
What is your favorite season and why?
I love each season for different reasons. Why live in the northeast of you can’t appreciate all seasons? Perhaps I appreciate Spring and Fall most, though, as the temps aren’t as extreme so it’s more comfortable spending time outdoors.
Photography: Photosynthesis Photography
What is the best way for a couple to prepare to meet with you?
Couples often have no idea where to begin when it comes to the ‘ceremony’ part of their wedding day. In most cases, they aren’t even sure what to ask me. So – when I meet with a couple, I share tons of information with them regarding the process I use to work with them to create their ceremony. I tell them they just need to show up, and I will end up answering questions they never even knew they had. After an hour or so, we feel like we’ve known each other for years!
Check out some of our real wedding inspiration: Katie and Brandon: Classic, Elegant City Wedding, Joyful, Festive, Occasion: Laura and Jon’s March Wedding, Molly and Brett: Traditional Elegance with a Touch of Navy, and Sasha and Chris: Movie Themed Rustic Wedding.