It is an Honor to Perform a Wedding Ceremony

Bill and I, as Marriage Officiants, have the honor of performing weddings in New York State and New York City and beyond.  Bill is a Retired Judge and I am a Former Village Mayor, but we are also recognized as Ministers, qualified to perform religious and faith-based wedding ceremonies in addition to civil wedding ceremonies.  When the Bride and Groom surf the Internet to find a qualified Marriage Officiant to perform their wedding ceremony, they encounter a variety of titles and positions, including justice of the peace, judge, justice, town/county clerk, mayor (government officials), commissioner, minister, celebrant, clergyman or clergywoman, rabbi, nondenominational, interdenominational and interfaith minister, priest and more. Note that marriage laws spell out the requirements to qualify to be a Marriage Officiant, and these vary from state to state and city to city nationwide.
No, Bill and I did not go on the Internet and magically become ordained ministers by filling out forms and paying a fee. We attended and graduated from The New Seminary in Manhattan.  After two years of study we were ordained at Synod House, St. John the Devine.  As interfaith ministers we are empowered to perform wedding ceremonies and other ministerial duties. In New York City we registered with the NYC Clerk’s Office and were designated our own official identification numbers.
We decided to study for the ministry because we observed that the men and women planning to marry represented many different cultures, backgrounds, faiths, religions and beliefs.  We wanted to learn more about the different faiths and religions of the world and wanted to create appropriate ceremonies for couples who believe in God and, or have different faith-based systems.  And for couples who request civil or non-faith-based wedding ceremonies as a personal preference, we are duly qualified to create and perform ceremonies that reflect their wishes. Our primary mission is to meet with our Brides and Grooms and work together with them to craft a wedding ceremony that is appropriate, beautiful, genuine and sensitive to their wishes.
There are situations that arise concerning marriage ceremonies that cause couples to become confused and anxious.  Such situations may involve religious teachings or circumstances related to the marriage ceremony itself.  In these cases, we meet and discuss the issues and give counsel, but we don’t make decisions for couples.  We have found that many Officiants do not have the knowledge to guide couples who need critical information to enable them to make their wedding day plans. For example, legitimate Roman Catholic priests can only marry couples in a Roman Catholic Church – not in a garden under a tree or at a fancy venue.  Knowing this fact, may influence a Catholic couple’s plans to be married at the venue where the reception is to be held.
As Wedding Officiants we are prepared to help each couple make their wedding plans and to perform a ceremony that is beautiful, dignified and fitting.  We want every Bride and Groom to have a stress-free, memorable wedding day, the heart of which will forever hold their lifelong promises to each other.

Sealed with a Kiss By Ann V. Corbett

35-712x1024It is customary in our culture for a newly married couple to exchange a kiss at the conclusion of their wedding ceremony.

Some believe that the kiss symbolizes the exchange of souls between the bride and the groom, fulfilling the Biblical scripture that “the two shall become one flesh.”

Philematologists, scientists who study the anatomy and evolutionary aspect of humans, reason that the kiss may have developed by accident – a couple rubbing noses probably slipped and discovered the thrill of lips touching lips.

No one may know when the custom of kissing started. Paris, Prince of Troy, precipitated the 10-year Trojan War when he dared to kiss Menelaus’s wife and became so enthralled by Helen that he had her for his own.

Cleopatra’s kisses have been famous for centuries – historians say they destroyed Mark Anthony and probably sealed the sorry fate of Rome.

Literary evidence for kissing dates back to around 1500 B.C. from India’s Vedic Sanskrit texts, the foundations of the Hindu religion. The word “kiss” is not mentioned, but there are references to “licking,” and “drinking moisture of the lips,”

A Babylonian creation story known as the Enuma Elish, recorded on stone tablets in the seventh century B.C., contains several kisses in greeting and supplication.

The kiss also figures prominently in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament’s “Song of Songs.”  This extravagant celebration of the union of bride and groom begins “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.”

The familiar words in Christian ceremonies,”… therefore, what God has joined together, let not man put asunder,” which comes from the Bible in Matthew 19:6.  However, the words, “You may kiss the bride” have a mixed origin.

The kiss has been a solemn part of the wedding ceremony since the days of the Roman Empire, whereby the exchange of a kiss signified the completion of a contract. It was assumed that the bride and groom would not have previously exchanged a first kiss….so this kiss at their wedding ceremony would have been their first kiss.

It was the custom then to hold a betrothal ceremony in which the bride and groom kissed and joined right hands, after which the woman received a ring; the kiss was a legal bond. In fact, the kiss was the only legal bond – and if one of the engaged pair died before the wedding, the other would keep the presents only if the two had already kissed.

In ancient Rome, it was expected that when people reached an agreement, they kissed to legally seal the contract. This practice extended to marriages as well (which were a form of contracts) and it has remained until today.

In medieval times, there were a lot of illiterate people. Whenever they needed to sign a contract, they would write an “X” on the paper, then “kiss it” as a way to signify that they’ve sealed the contract. Thus the phrase “sealed with a kiss.”

Interestingly, the mark of an “X” is used today to signify a kiss when people text one another. Valentine’s Day cards are sent to lovers and kids signed by the sender followed by one or more “X’s” for kisses and also “Os” for hugs.

Some faiths/religions don’t even approve of the nuptial embrace. Today there even couples who wait until their wedding ceremony to have their first kiss.  Interestingly, guests at these weddings say they experienced a palpable aura of holiness and purity. There is something to be said for waiting until the wedding day for that first kiss. Of course, this also means the couple has placed other intimacies on the back burner.

Kisses are not required for marriage ceremonies, and many cultures have flourished without a single peck.  As marriage officiants we see the “Wedding Kiss” as a radiant moment when the bride’s lips meet the groom’s for the first time after we have had honor to pronounce them “husband and wife.”

Condensed from The Bride by Barbara Tober, Published 1984

Is It Wise To Ask a Friend or Relative to Perform Your Wedding Ceremony?

In The New York Times and other media I have read about marriages performed by a friend or relative of the bride and groom. Rather than retain a professional officiant to perform a wedding ceremony, some couples decide that it’s more chic to give an inexperienced person the honor. However, there is an old adage, “You get what you pay for!”

           After a few decades of performing weddings in a professional capacity, I have my own perspective on this trend. Some may feel my qualifications give me a slanted viewpoint, but the reality is that I have a unique vantage point for assessing the risks involved in having a friend or relative perform the most meaningful ceremony two people in love will share in their lifetime.

I ask married friends if they still keep in touch with the bridesmaids and groomsmen in their wedding party.  It’s fascinating: Most admit that they do not have contact with any of their wedding party. The best man and the maid of honor, once closest friends or relatives, just seem to have drifted away.  Unless related, many do not keep in touch at all.

This revelation led me to the question: Is it wise to have a friend or relative solemnize a wedding ceremony? I’ve concluded that it’s best to engage a traditional Wedding Officiant, Minister, Rabbi or Priest.  A qualified person lends dignity to a wedding and doesn’t have personal ties to either the bride or groom. This is especially important if the unthinkable happens down the road and the marriage ends in divorce. It’s just “too close for comfort” to have a friend or relative charged with the responsibility of trying to be the “one-wedding wonder” facilitated by a downloaded ceremony from cyberspace. There may be a few benefits, but it can also cause a bride and groom unnecessary stress when they are planning their wedding.

The following is a summary of questions every couple contemplating the idea of asking a friend or relative to officiate will want to consider.

 1.        Does the person know what must be included in a wedding ceremony to make it legal? Will the person handle the marriage license properly and legally? Will the marriage bond be questionable if in the future a divorce is considered?

2.         Will the person lack confidence in the role of a one-wedding minister and back out at the last minute? Will you have a backup?

3.         Will the person feel undue pressure to perform? Might the person get emotional, start to cry or even have difficulty performing the ceremony? Would the person be happier simply watching, along with everyone else?

4.         Will the person use the microphone properly? Will the person talk too fast? too low? too loud? too monotone? Will the person’s voice quiver? Does the person have an accent? Will the person get confused, leave something out or make mistakes? In sum, is the person an experienced public speaker.

5.         Will the person carry all out the duties of a marriage officiant? If not, who will? Will the person instruct the maid of honor, best man, father of the bride and others as to their roles? Will the person know how to handle readings or candlelighting, breaking the glass and other ceremonies? Will the person work well with the photographers and videographers? Will the person know to queue the musician(s) or DJ? Is the person aware of any of the taboos related to to religious or cultural elements of a wedding?

6.         Will the wedding lack dignity? Will the person drink alcohol or use drugs before performing the ceremony? Might the person laugh, joke around or act inappropriately? Will person offer impromptu remarks? Will the person upstage the bride or groom, best man or maid/matron of honor, parents or others in vital roles? Will the person take over and dictate the content and flow of the ceremony?

7.          Will the bride and groom have hurt the feelings of others who were not asked to officiate? Does the person have a negative relationship with certain guest(s)? Would the person be better at filling a more appropriate role in the wedding such as reading a special verse, poem or prayer?

8.          Will the person be capable of handling unforeseen circumstances? For example, suppose the flower girl cries and wonders off, the best man drops the wedding ring, a service dog is the ring bearer, the bride faints, the groom is inebriated, a photographer becomes intrusive, the wedding license is missing, a last-minute change to the ceremony is requested, a guest falls in the aisle or one of a million or more other unplanned possibilities occurs?

9.   How will the caterer react to the arrival of an inexperienced officiant? Venue managers don’t want to have to “hold the hand” of an inexperienced officiant.  They expect to deal with professionals who know what to do.

10. Lastly, and most importantly, will the person be able to help the bride and groom craft the perfect ceremony for their special day? Is the person close enough to the couple to have a deep conversation with them about their spiritual or religious traditions and practices and how to translate those traditions into the ceremony of their dreams? Is the guest officiant versed in how to perform an interfaith ceremony if one is needed?

 There are few benefits to having an inexperienced friend or relative perform the marriage instead of a professional. You may enjoy a savings but only if you do not give the person a gift for their time and effort. A savings might mean nicer favors or flowers, but the benefits are unlikely to be worth the burden and uncertainties that are created.

   My husband, Bill Corbett, and I have performed many weddings over the years. We treasure meeting and working with each couple to help make their wedding day truly special.  We are always honored to perform a wedding ceremony and, of course, happy to witness the married couple’s vows and first kiss. To learn more about us and our services, please see our website

                                                                                Ann V. Corbett, Marriage Officiant