NC Secular Weddings is growing and we couldn't be more excited! It is my absolute pleasure to welcome on board, Cynthia Wooten. I met Cynthia through a mutual friend last year and we instantly connected on so many levels. Cynthia is a social activist and social justice warrior. She has experience that only comes from working with people who need the most help and her kindness is legendary.
In 2016, Cynthia agreed to be my emergency officiant contact - I could call her if I was too ill, broke a leg, or couldn't officiate a ceremony for any reason. Fortunately, I haven't had to call Cynthia in as back up, but I find myself referring clients to her when I am booked because Cynthia is the person I would want officiating my wedding if I were getting married today.
We've joined forces and we are thrilled to offer Officiant Services to all who need them. As a secular officiant, I've found that most couples I work with are looking for an Officiant who shares their values and worldview when it comes to important milestones. There are a lot of traditional ministers who will perform secular services, which is great, however, the genuineness that Cynthia and I bring to ceremonies is something the couples we've worked with appreciate. Your spirituality is completely personal and your ceremony should reflect that. Cynthia and I are excited to get to know you and help you create the ceremony of your dreams.
You may notice that our pricing has changed. If you've contacted Kenna or Cynthia regarding your ceremony before March 1st, we will honor the previous pricing. This change reflects our experience and confidence that your wedding ceremony will be spectacular. We have also added a new option for couples - a Choose Your Own Adventure Wedding Ceremony. This is super cool! We present couples with a few different styles of verbiage for each section of their wedding. They get to put their ceremony together and make any additions or changes. This is a more affordable option for couples who want more than a Simple Wedding Ceremony. This is going to be fun!
Last weekend I officiated a wedding for a lovely couple, Paul and Brittany, who had the largest wedding party I've ever worked with - 12 attendants on each side. Counting the family and the bridal party, there were 35 of us to line up for our entrance. The wedding was gorgeous and the mixed-gender attendants were dazzling in gold and aubergine. Brittany and Paul held their wedding at the Life and Science Museum in Durham. This was a stellar venue with a great hall for the ceremony and fantastic exhibits for the reception. If you are looking for a way to connect your sense of wonder and inner science nerd, a museum is an excellent venue for your wedding. Paul proposed to Brittany with a Harry Potter book (her favorite and mine too!) so I was able to squeak in an Albus Dumbledore quote into the ceremony and it was well received.
Personally, I've been under the weather a bit this year. Between viruses and the flu, we've been investing in Lysol for our home. The political scene isn't helping with my depression and anxiety and I've found that I have to temporarily disconnect from politics for self care reasons - finding balance is always challenging and I'm working on finding it here as well. I've been practicing a lot of compassion exercises and meditating on how I see the world. There is so much love and kindness in the world, and it's balance is hate and fear. I'm so saddened by the divisions that run through our communities and homes. Between the election and the inauguration, I was honored to offer free weddings to members of the LGBTQ and immigrant communities as my way of letting people know that you may find yourself part of a group that is marginalized and feel threatened, but you are not alone and you are part of the wider, human community, and I support your right to be married, to be here, and to be loved.
Cynthia is a wonderful person and I couldn't be more thrilled to collaborate with her. I am looking forward to watching her love story with all of you unfold. Because this is what we are doing, love. We get to love the people we work with - how amazing is that, when it's a wedding, we fall in love with the couple and help them organize their thoughts on how they want to celebrate their love. When we officiate a funeral or memorial service, we fall in love with the person who has died and the loved ones who are grieving for their loss - we get to share that time with them, to hear the stories about their loved one, and create a way to celebrate their life and acknowledge the pain of the living. When we officiate a baby naming ceremony, we get to fall in love with a beautiful new life, full of potential, who is being welcomed into their community and family with celebratory fanfare. When we officiate a trans-naming ceremony, we get to fall in love with the person in front of us, the person who has spent so much time becoming themselves and is now ready to publicly declare and celebrate their transition into their true selves. This is excellent work for people who love, and I am certain that Cynthia is my soul sister when it comes to loving people. Welcome Cynthia. I am so glad to know you, to be a part of your life, and have you be in mine.
I've been officiating weddings for a while now and one of the things I've learned along the way is that there is nothing like a wedding officiant photobombing a first kiss. When I meet with couples, I tell them that if there is room, I like to step to the side during their first kiss.
I spend a lot of time watching weddings on YouTube and perusing the overwhelming wedding websites available to stay up on trends and make sure I’m offering couples choices and advice that will improve their wedding ceremony. Every once in awhile I come across an article about wedding Officiants, like this one: 10 Questions to Ask When Interviewing an Officiant
It’s a cool article that talks about getting to know your wedding Officiant. I spend a lot of my energy trying to get to know you and make sure I’m setting the tone and using language that works for you. It’s only fair that you should be able to get to know me too. In an effort to do this, I’m taking the 10 Questions that get to the “soul” of an Officiant from JP Reynolds’ article and answering them here.
When we meet for our in-person meeting or over the phone, even texting or email, please know that you can ask me anything. I'm not shy and if I don't know the answer, I'm really good at finding one for you.
1. What was the most moving wedding you celebrated?
The most moving wedding ceremony I celebrated was held in a correctional facility. This was a wedding between a man and woman who each had nine year old daughters from previous relationships. These girls were so happy to be there and when his daughter saw him, she ran into his arms and he picked her up and held her for a while. Then he hugged his future daughter and the bride melted. Only after the girls had been hugged did he look towards his bride. The way they looked at each other was magical. I’ve never seen two people need to be with the other the way these two were – it was like I was in the middle of a novel. I’m not sure if it’s because he was incarcerated and she was his link to the outside world, or if she was so sure of her decision that their wedding could not wait, but the tenderness in how they held hands through the ceremony was palpable and intense. They shared their own written vows with each other and they were both written from the heart with a need to be heard by the other. I believe love can happen anywhere and to anyone and these folks proved it to me – and I love them for that.
2. What was the biggest wedding mistake you ever made and “vowed” never to repeat?
At the second wedding I performed, I didn’t check to make sure that the witnesses had signed both copies of the marriage license (there are two copies – one for the Office of Vital Statistics and one for the Register of Deeds). The wedding occurred on a Saturday and I realized this while I was standing at the Register of Deeds’ office on Monday afternoon. Oh. My. Goodness. I was so embarrassed. I immediately called the bride and explained what had happened, apologized, and let her know that I would fix this. She texted me the contact information for both her witnesses. I connected both witnesses, who thankfully lived in North Carolina. They each met me halfway that evening and I had the marriage license in the hands of the Register of Deeds the following morning. That was the first and only time that will ever happen!
3. Have you ever turned down a couple’s invitation to perform their ceremony and why?
I haven’t. It’s funny, in all of my meetings over the years, there was one couple that I didn’t feel I clicked with and I thought about letting them know, but before I could call them, they emailed me and very graciously let me know that after speaking with family that they had decided to move in another direction. Whew! When you know it, you know it. This is why I recommend for everyone to schedule an in-person meeting with your wedding Officiant. You are going to know if you work well together. They will too. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a second interview, references, or a sample ceremony.
4. What do you talk about when you meet with couples?
This is a great question. When meeting with a couple, we talk about how they met, their vision for the wedding, and weddings in general. I love observing people and listening to a couple explain how they met is a wonderful time for me to get a feel for a couple and their varying comfort levels. Not everyone is an extrovert and in most couples there is someone who would rather be doing anything than wedding planning. Meeting people where they are is something that comes naturally to me and in our in-person meetings, this is an advantage to me because I’ve been where you are and I think you’ll be in good hands with me. I have a calming sense and also a very playful and fun side. What I love most is geeking out about love.
5. What do you think is your main responsibility as an officiant?
My main responsibility as an Officiant is to show up for the wedding on time. Beyond that, it is to set the tone of your wedding ceremony with my presence and the words we choose for your ceremony. I am in charge of holding the space and making sure the ceremony flows smoothly, with you being married on the other side.
6. What’s the best compliment a wedding guest ever gave you?
I have two favorite compliments I’ve received from wedding guests.
I don’t have a church, but it was such a lovely compliment that led to a wonderful conversation about finding love and inspiration in places you never expected. I have friends who are voice actors and they work really hard, I've thought about it, but it's not in the cards for me right now.
7. What is your biggest challenge when officiating a wedding?
Acoustics are my biggest challenge as a wedding Officiant. I always arrive early to make sure I can work with the DJ or sound person to hook up my lavalier mic or make sure I am comfortable with whatever microphone is available. I don’t always use a microphone, but I prefer using one so I can settle into where my voice is its most velvety. I have no problem projecting, but there is a big difference in my voice when I’m sharing a ceremony by a quiet stream versus the oceanfront on a windy day.
8. What is the funniest or oddest moment in a wedding you celebrated?
There are two moments that jump to mind. The first was during a wedding when the bride and groom were sharing their vows. While the bride was very pragmatic and took and gave directions very well, the groom was really energetic and didn't listen to directions at all. They had decided on using a repeated vow, where I would say the phrase and they would repeat it to their beloved while looking into their eyes. The groom did a great job of repeating, but he looked at me the whole time. The bride cleared her throat and said, 'you were supposed to look at me!'. Everyone laughed and the groom apologized. I asked him if he would like a second try and he said yes. The guests were all smiling and the bride approved, so we did it a second time and he was perfect!
Another funny moment in a wedding I celebrated was recently on a farm in Maryland. There were peacocks, chickens, cows, horses, turkeys, you name it – but it was the cat that had to make an audible appearance. We were coming to the end of the ceremony and this cat wandered into the opening of the tent and started yowling. It yowled once and everyone looked. It yowled twice and everyone tensed up. I was glad I was at a place in the ceremony where I could improvise and said that ‘Even Meow-Meow approves’. Everyone laughed and the cat moved on. Moments like that are wonderful – they make us smile and give us memories.
9. What is your rock bottom wish for every couple?
That you can find a way to honestly communicate with each other. If you can do this, then you’re all set.
10. What do you love about celebrating weddings?
I love so many things about celebrating weddings. I am a lighthouse for two ships at sea. To stand with a couple at the beginning of their long and loving marriage is an honor – to be trusted with this responsibility is truly awesome. When I write personalized ceremonies for wedding couples, I pull from questions they’ve answered, my observations of them, and my own experience. My darling husband and I have been married for 16 years now and we have taught each other so much about love and what it takes to make a marriage work, how love will find a way – even if we have to stay up till 3am discussing how we feel. I get to watch brides and grooms hold hands while they start their next chapter in life – together, with all the potential for love and greatness. Being in the midst of this potential is what I love about celebrating weddings.
This blog was almost titled: "A Little Catch Up" because that's what I feel like I'm doing. October and November have been so full of weddings and joy, but also a few important memorials and sadness. I have to remember that if a balanced life is the goal, then rain helps me enjoy the sunlight, and that the absence of light is a necessary part.
This Thanksgiving I wasn't able to travel to be with my relatives, but I was able to join the family I've chosen, friends, some I've known since childhood. The laughter and good food, conversation, and time was healing.
Yesterday my neighbor called me and let me know that after 19 years of living together, she and her beloved want to officially marry each other. They handfasted and it's been enough, but they are ready to be married and I couldn't be more excited to be a part of their love story.
Today I received an email from an extremely accomplished photographer, Ashley Posthuma @ photographyanthology.com, with photos from an amazing September wedding. Thank you Ashley for these wonderful photos. (Hire her!)
Today I'm off to marry two very beautiful and wonderful people who have been married before. Theirs is a fantastic story about being young and in love, leaving one another, leading a very full life, finding one another again, and being wise and older in love. I am honored to marry them today as they celebrate with family and friends.
I am thankful for my life, for the wonderful people around me, and for the love I receive and give. I am one grateful gal with a mission to lift up love. Thank you for joining me.
Many of the people I serve email me directly. I also use a service called Thumbtack to connect with people looking for non-religious wedding officiants. I responded to one last Monday for a couple looking for a wedding officiant for Saturday. After sending my quote and introduction, I realized that the couple was looking for a spanish speaking officiant. I am not a spanish speaking officiant and quickly contacted the bride to apologize and let her know that I am not fluent in spanish. We started talking and it turns out she was having a hard time finding a bilingual officiant. She talked with her parents about it and they determined that it would be alright. We set the time and date and I sent a copy of the ceremony to her. She loved it and we moved ahead.
I felt so welcomed when I arrived to the ceremony. This was an event that was going to be a justice of the peace wedding and through siblings and family convincing, became something bigger. After meeting with the bride and groom, who were so kind and gracious, I sat with the bride's young niece and we drew pictures in my officiant book while all the guests arrived.
The service was small and intimate. The bride and groom were nervous. The ceremony, one I often use for simple weddings, was beautiful. There were a few people taking pictures and video. After the bride and groom kissed, they stood there - no walk down the aisle. Instead, the most beautiful thing happened. Silently, her parents came up and shook their hands, embraced them, and kissed them. Then his parents came up and shook their hands, embraced them, and kissed them. Still silently, everyone there came up and shook their hands, embraced them, and kissed them. It was magical and I was there to witness this pure and love-driven action.
I don't cry at weddings I'm officiating, there's a switch that flips and my professional face stays put. This was enough to break that down. As I watched everyone line up for their time with the bride and groom, my eyes filled up and I just stood there and watched. The bride's mother and I hugged and I knew that the language of the ceremony didn't matter, that weddings are such an integral part of all cultures - that love is the only sound we heard. And we heard it together.
I had the absolute pleasure and honor of officiating an intimate wedding for two ladies this afternoon. We executed the ceremony in the living room of their beautiful home while two of their friends witnessed. These ladies are in professions where they are not able to be completely out to the world. I respect their privacy and will not use their names or any photos. That’s cool – and it’s something I’ve come across before. There is nothing wrong with asking any of your wedding vendors to respect your privacy. I use social media with pictures of smiling brides, grooms, wedding hashtags, and my own impression of the ceremonies to promote my services, however, there is no self promotion more important than the privacy of those I serve.
This couple invited me to share in their celebration and I am so glad that my schedule allowed for it because I had the most marvelous time. As the wedding officiant, I never assume that I am invited to the reception and am delighted to attend if my schedule permits. The only time I’ve ever had to decline was due to scheduling. Whether to invite your wedding officiant to the reception is completely up to you and your comfort level. Your wedding officiant is not going to have their feelings hurt if no invitation is extended. If you do invite your officiant, you are in no way obligated to entertain them. I’ve attended plenty of wedding and memorial receptions and I always find a connection or three, in fact, it’s my favorite part of receptions.
I love being with people. I like to be human with them – to hear stories, to share my own, to listen to what’s going on in people’s’ lives. I really dig people. Recently I attended a wedding that I didn’t officiate (that was a wonderful experience – it was a Star Wars themed wedding and served as a friend reunion with loved ones we hadn’t seen in 10 years or more) and as guests we were asked to write advice for the grooms. My advice to them was to always try and consider their husband’s point of view and to never turn down a dinner invitation.
Today I took my own advice and had the most wonderful afternoon with these ladies. They are people I would love to spend more time with – just loving and open, the kind of people you want to surround yourself with. We spent time just being human together and it was such a rewarding experience. I am a believer that if we take the time to just be human together, we can learn so much about others and ourselves and little by little – the world will become a much better place.
Time is precious, thank you for yours.
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