I was raised Catholic. I went to Sunday school. I went to church, the later the better. I even went to all girl’s Catholic high school. I led the choir in song every First Friday of the month. I was raised with religion and I always dreamed of it being a part of my wedding day. I wanted to walk down the aisle of a beautiful church with stained glass windows and incense burning, with a fun-loving priest giving joyous blessings to this everlasting love that my husband and I shared.
This was not how it all went down. And I couldn’t be happier about it.
In early 2011, I was looking for a job. I was auditioning for only the right things that came my way and teaching musical theatre and voice. Neither were a sure thing and I wanted something surer. Is that a good word for it? Sure. Er. All of a sudden, I was obsessed with weddings. Yeah, it wasn’t so all of a sudden. I’m pretty certain it comes from the fact that I was madly in love with my boyfriend-turned Hubs OR it could be that I had spent years serving as a bridesmaid, coordinator, and wedding singers for all of my married friends. I had the wedding fever alright. I decided to look for a part-time gig in the wedding industry. I had done the catering and bridal assistant gigs already. I wanted to be a part of the creative process, just something to be a part of it. I started stalking Craigslist and Monster and any other site I could think of that would have something close to the wedding industry. Maybe working in a bridal store or even helping a wedding planner? Then I saw it. An ad about ceremonies or being a part of a wedding ceremony- BAM. I’m on it. I didn’t know all of the details yet but I didn’t care. I had this gut feeling that this was what I was looking for. There were in-depth questions to answer. I answered from the heart and frankly, I was a little lengthy about it but I had a lot to say. The woman who posted the ad wanted to meet me. I had passed her first round. Little did I know, I was going to meet a huge influence on my life.
At a Starbucks not far from home, I waited for a woman named Celia Milton. She was not only a minister and officiant extraordinaire but she has had about nine lives, experience in so many sects of life. She was a business woman, and she married couples their way. She wrote their ceremonies so that couples could have the weddings of their dreams. If they wanted to do a tribal dance as a unity celebration, she was game. Her business was so booming that she was adding people to work with her. When this woman walked through the door, my life changed. I was nervous, which was out of character for me. I knew how to put my best foot forward as an actress/performer. To be myself, it was more nerve-wracking as I really wanted to impress this lady. I told her how passionate I was about details and weddings and having a sustainable side business for all time. I told her about my love of theatre and its meaning in my life, how it literally has etched every part of my life. I told her about how I yearned for a family and a side job that would be there for me no matter what. She told me about what she did, how she got into it and why she did it. I was so impressed with her and the business she was building. We totally fell in love with what each other wanted. She needed trustworthy man power and I needed a side job that would feed my pocket and soul. When Celia said you have to come work with me, I was so thrilled. It truly was a match made in heaven.
For the past three years, I have done weddings galore. From gothic themes to bounce houses to chapels to beaches, I have married the gamut. I’m not only proud of the work I’ve done with my couples but also of the ceremonies I have written. I’m a wedding officiant, a minister. I chat with people about their perfect day, I have them fill out a questionnaire and then I write their story to be shared on one of the biggest days of their lives. Everyone deserves a beautiful ceremony. I also adore working with Celia Milton, my boss, mentor and inspiration, but moreover my friend.
When I first started all of this I was looking for a job, something to bide my time before I got my first Broadway show. This “job” turned out to be so much more; it feels much more like a second calling. I remember sitting at another wedding in a Catholic church not long after I started this endeavor. The priest said divorce 13 times. 13 times. Most awkward wedding ever!!! I remember looking at my boyfriend-turned Hubs. He wasn’t Catholic but if I wanted to get married in the church, he would have. I just didn’t want it anymore and that ceremony was the true turning point. In the Catholic Church, marriage is a sacrament, a church event, and not a party. On this point, I absolutely agree. BUT when I envisioned our wedding day, I couldn’t imagine having any less than what I offered my clients. They can choose any ritual or reading or song or words that they want spoken. They can do anything they want and I make it happen for them. Why wouldn’t I choose the same for the man I loved and for myself? I didn’t want to talk about divorce on a day filled with love and hope. (Besides, getting married on site was ten million times easier and cheaper than getting married in the church.) Our day was filled with love, family, friends, those who are no longer with us, and, for me, God. It makes sense that I got to have the wedding of my dreams. Celia performed our ceremony and gave us everything we could have asked for.
My advice to brides on this topic is simple. Nowadays almost anyone can marry you but would you want them to? It’s YOUR day and it is truly a once in a lifetime experience (hopefully!). Think about what kind of ceremony you want. Think about who you trust. Think about the experience and the ease of your day. No matter where your wedding takes place, it’s about who you are marrying and the love you share. Think about the wedding of your dreams and get it! The person who marries you needs to be able to bring your story to life and you will remember these words forever. I can’t help but say that I chose right and this was how it was supposed to happen. I hope it happens for all of you this way too. Your dreams can change along the way and don’t be afraid to go with your gut feeling. I had a gut feeling in 2011. I got the calling to a new career and a new dream for my wedding day. Dream big. Find your Celia Milton.
(Or Cari or Michael or Dan or Eve, etc! My real advice is if you are getting married in the NY or NJ areas, check us out on http://www.njvowsnow.com.)