A Lid For Every Pot

I know that for many people, one of Life’s Great Fears is the notion that you might not ever find anyone to love. Either you’re afraid that you’re just so picky that you won’t meet anyone who lives up to your standards, or you suspect that you’re somehow so inherently unloveable that nobody is going to want to spend their life with you.

One of the benefits of being a wedding officiant, is that I get to meet LOTS of couples. Sometimes the people are folks I happen to find personally attractive and I completely understand how they could be so into each other. Sometimes, I meet people and think, “Well, not my cup of tea, but clearly they’ve got something going on.” And, sometimes, I’ve met folks and thought, “Wow. Do not get that. At all. But bully for them that they found each other!”

If you think about it, that’s generally how life works. Of course there are the people we run across who we think are paragons of perfection, and that’s fun for a bit. But more often, we have strange and surprising connections with people we never would have expected to meet or know or love. And those connections tend to be more honest and enduring.

When I ask couples what they love about each other, what intrigues me the most is that they rarely spend much time talking about things we think we’re supposed to care about: physical attractiveness, popularity, worldly success, power.

Instead, mostly what they talk about is how they feel when they’re with the other person. I can’t tell you how often someone has said, “I’ve never met anyone more generous and giving” or “I feel so safe and understood when we’re together” or “We communicate really well with each other.”

Qualities of personhood and how the couple interacts and moves through life together are the traits that inevitably win the day.

I’ve also met couples who’ve loved each other as much through transformations of gender as changes in career.

Which says to me that if we’re looking for love, focusing on who you are as a human being – a giving, loving, flawed, curious, compassionate, growing, quirky human being – is far more important than living up to impossible standards of perfection.

So revel in who you are. Be unabashedly, unashamedly who you are. Give, listen, care, feel, and show up fully in your life. Of course there are no guarantees, but with that much unfettered being of yourself, you’re likely to find someone with whom you share just the right amount of everything.

Sitting At The Altar

Maggie and Amanda went to the same college but didn’t meet until Amanda graduated and stayed during the summer to do research. They met through mutual friends, stayed up late talking at Amanda’s apartment on their balcony, and then a few weeks later decided to hang out and go to the Highline together. It happened to be on June 26, 2013 – the day the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down. They ended up going to the Stonewall Inn to celebrate later that night and, coincidentally, were told by a friend of a friend that they would get married.

The wedding they eventually decided on was a small gathering of friends and family at a rented house in Stowe. The only wrinkle was that a few months ago, Amanda got hit with a strange virus, spent several weeks in the hospital, and has been on a slow arc of recovery ever since.

Having spent the last year dealing with a huge health event myself (exploding appendix/sepsis), I completely understood the challenges they’ve been facing.

One of their big concerns was how tired they get, and how they’d handle a whole day of celebration. A solution we came up with was to have them both sit for the ceremony. Easy enough! They settled themselves in facing Adirondack chairs, and we carried on as usual.

An upside to this arrangement was that it made their extremely decorative socks all that much more visible!

Maggie is a biologist, so the African savannah socks were absolutely perfect!

It also turned out Maggie’s brother works at Dobra Tea – one of my fave Burlington haunts. And he was at a wedding I did for another of their Devoteas. This was a legendary ceremony in which one of the attenants – the couple’s dog – threw up just before the vows in a spectacular display of Canine Projectile Hurling.

At any rate, these lovely people were chill, smart, funny, extremely charming, and I wish them all the absolute best!

But Can You Handle…

Photo by Majestic Lukas on Unsplash

I’m closing in on – or have recently just passed – the 400 ceremonies mark. Which allows me to speak with some degree of authority on a variety of wedding-related topics (though admittedly, I rarely confine myself there). It also means that when someone asks me a question which begins with, “But, can you handle…” I can usually answer, “Yes!” with confidence.

However, it might also leave the Curious Person wondering specifically what I’ve had to deal with in the past. What unexpected, untoward, or surprisingly entertaining experiences have I come across in my Official Officiant Tenure?

Well, I’ve seen just about everything from fainting brides to barfing dogs to barfing grooms. I’ve had someone lose the bride’s ring on the way to the ceremony (they found a stunt ring to stand in). I’ve zipped up too-tight dresses, flirted with needy Grandfathers, calmed panicking mothers, and fended off excessively curious cows.

Seriously. I have documentation:

Photo by Karen Pike

Now admittedly, some of the challenges have been all on me. Excessively organized as I try to be, in the long run, I can only (grudgingly) admit to being human. More than once, I’ve been the source of the problem needing to be solved. I have:

  • Brought the wrong ceremony with me (saved by the Best Man who had an extra copy).
  • Worn orange when everyone else was in blue (fortunately, they were complementary colors).
  • Forgot the wrap for the hand-fasting which was made from the bride’s mother’s veil (I made a new wrap by stealing some ribbons off the decor and braiding them together).

I’m also pretty terrible with names, and once, I forgot – in the middle of the ceremony – which groom was Dave and which groom was Chris. To my defense, we’d only just met. But still… Not. Professional!

I was able to fake it by not looking at them when I spoke their names. Then, when we got to the big moment, I said something like, “Dave, this is it. Time for your vows. Please step forward.”

Photo by Jennifer Kiewit – Chris on the left, Dave on the right.

Also, once, I had two brides named Rachel and Jennifer. I was terrified I’d mix them up. I told myself I could remember one particular woman’s name because she had hair like Jennifer Aniston’s on Friends. Kind of like this:

But then I got confused because I didn’t know if I was supposed to remember the actress Jennifer or her character Rachel. I gave up, and faked my way through again.

A Few Fun Facts

  • Shortest initial phone call to ceremony time: 20 minutes
  • Easiest replacement for non-existent rings: Matching temporary tattoos
  • Languages spoken by me in ceremonies: English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Hindi, Hebrew
  • Number of those languages I actually speak: 2
  • Number of weddings I’ve sung at (as an officiant): 3
  • Most unexpected moment: A giant dragonfly landed on the groom’s nose. He didn’t want to bother it, so we just left it there and continued on with the vows.
  • Number of outdoor ceremonies completely rained out: 1
  • Number of gently moist/slightly damp/excessively misty outdoor ceremonies: Too numerous to count.
  • Strangest location for a ceremony: Tossup between a big booth at a coffee shop and the back corner of a Bonsai tree expo.
  • Most urgent wedding: The bride was in active labor, and left for the hospital right after we finished.
  • Greatest size difference between me and the couple:

Biggest Resolvable Concern

“Has anyone ever broken down during a ceremony and not been able to continue because they were so emotional?”

Answer: Yes, it’s happened twice. Both times, it was a teenage girl reading “Oh The Places You’ll Go.” Fortunately, it’s an easy problem to avoid.

Hearts Aflame, Minds Confused, Hands Fasted…

You will note from my previous entry, that my friends Allison and Holly, though excited to be getting married from the love-each-other-very-much perspective, they were more than a little dubious about participating in an institution which, up until very recently, had excluded them from its hallowed halls.

So, we all approached this ceremony a little differently. We, I would say, sauntered thoughtfully towards it.

Rather than sitting down with them to have a big, deep chat about their relationship, and all the different elements of a ceremony from which they might choose, we had a couple of philosophical email exchanges, and then I just showed up at their house with some text that they’d found about the novelist Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, and a couple of props.

We hung out in their kitchen for about an hour just talking about their thoughts, issues, and desires to create a marriage which was reflective of them, and not any societal expectations for how anyone – gay or straight – should run a relationship.

Then we meditated for 10 minutes to ground ourselves, and wandered down a path through the woods behind their house to their Ceremony Tree. We lit a candle, shooed away a few mosquitoes, and began.


Because they’d said they weren’t exchanging rings, I brought a beautiful strip of beaded leather that my best friend Jeannette made for my wedding lo, these many years ago, and turned the heart of the ceremony into a hand-fasting.


Since Allison is a cartoonist and graphic novelist and Holly is a painter who also makes incredible compost bins, it seemed appropriate to focus some attention on their hands – tools with which they make manifest all manner of remarkable creations.

The dance of their partnership also made me think of (and remark upon) what we’ve learned this week about Pluto and Charon.

Pluto, it turns out, isn’t a planet with a moon named Charon. Pluto and Charon are actually a binary planet, as the focal point of their revolutions is between them. So rather than Charon orbiting around Pluto, they orbit around each other.

This seemed like a more than appropriate metaphor for an egalitarian partnership. Plus, you know, space.

Fortunately, everything seems to have worked according to our non-plan, as we made it through the ceremony with senses of both humor and honor intact


It’s a remarkable moment for a person to find herself going from Outsider to Insider status – due to the long arc of history as much as personal development. And I know both these gals gave their choices as much compassion and conscious thought and deep discussion as they could, so that nothing would ever be taken for granted.

I have great faith in their ability to remain wholly themselves. And while in a certain sense they’re now Total Insiders, they still have hard-beating Rebel Hearts. And that – along with their deep regard for each other – is something which will never change.

just married

Hearts Aflame, Minds Confused



Allison and Holly and baseball.

Following the Supreme Court decision allowing same sex marriage, my friends Allison and Holly have finally decided to get hitched, and asked me to perform the ceremony.

They’re both excited to be marrying each other, but more than a little conflicted about entering into the institution itself. As Holly said, “Let us know if you have any words of advice or things to keep in mind. We’re taking this very seriously yet we’re both ambivalent about marriage and not very sentimental, and I think that is bearing out in our approach.”

This is what I said in my reply:

I hear you about your conflicted feelings. I think the thing to remember is that this, first and foremost, is about the two of you. While you may not be very sentimental, you did happen to bump souls, and you’ve chosen, quite happily, to be together as lovers, friends, and life partners. You take joy in hanging out together. You have fun together. You adventure well together. You look awesome in tuxedos together. And you love each other in a way which gives you a universe of intimacy between you.

You’re both brilliant, powerful, seriously no bullshit women, and you have managed to entwine your lives in the same way that whole galaxies can interweave and pass through each other – with eddies of gravitational attraction and total transformation – while still remaining utterly intact. You have a Big Red Love, and that’s what really matters.

No, the government shouldn’t have Word One to say about the “legality” or “legitimacy” of relationships. Nor should any other kind of institution. No, our culture shouldn’t have its undies in a bunch about any kind of sexuality. It’s utterly absurd. But that’s just the way it is. Just like the fact that we have to pay taxes and allow ourselves to age and die with a modicum of grace, and accept the reality of Fox News and doofusy people like Scott Walker, Donald Trump, and the KKK.

Well, you know what? Fuck ’em. Fuck ’em all. Play the game. As Robert Heinlein said, rub blue mud in your bellybutton if that’s what everyone else is doing, and then get on with your lives. You’re at the fulcrum of a remarkable moment in our cultural history. And not only that, you’re an intimate part of it. So, enjoy it. Love each other. Eat cake. Party hard. And then get up in the morning and go do more great things.

It’s truly how I feel. Marriage is what happens between two people as they’re living their lives together, and very little to do with what happens at the altar, or as a consequence of a piece of paper being signed.

However it’s also a part of our culture and legal system and that emotional part of our lizard brain which barely knows from rational.

So, we follow our hearts and make our peace with the contradictions. Some of us make it legal. Some of us could not begin to be bothered.

But life is a hard and challenging and frequently struggle-filled business. Finding someone you love, who makes your toes curl and your heart sing and your life a little happier…that’s something to be celebrated one way or another. It just is.

Donde Estas Yolanda

Yolanda and Dinora came out to my house to get married yesterday. Of course, as a huge Pink Martini fan, I can only think of this song when I hear the name Yolanda!

Well, in the past, that was the case. Now I’ll still be humming that song, but I’ll be thinking about these two as well.

Yolanda and Dinora

Yolanda and Dinora

Yolanda is from Spain, and Dinora’s family is from Mexico. They’ve been together almost 15 years, and have been through an enormous amount, including a transcontinental romance, reactions from the more conservative members of Dinora’s family, as well as Yolanda’s ongoing F2M Transition.

Fortunately, they’re still going strong. So much so, that while they came out to my house to get their marriage license signed, they didn’t really think they’d need a ceremony, just a pen.

To their surprise, in the moment, getting married actually felt like a Seriously Big Deal, and they wanted some kind of spontaneous ceremony after all. Which, of course, was fine by me. I’m up around the 250 mark these days, and if I can’t pull a wedding out of my ear at this point, then maybe I need to find another line of work.

Of course, the tricky part was that Yolanda only speaks Spanish – a language I only have dribs and drabs of, mostly thanks to Sesame Street and a few folk songs like Guantanamera. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t do too much talking in English, and force Dinora to spend her time translating the ceremony for Yolanda.

So, I mostly repeated back the story they’d just told me about their lives, congratulated them for having gotten this far, asked them to speak their vows to each other, and pronounced them married! It was enough to get Dinora (who had been thinking about their wedding only in purely practical terms) crying her eyes out and seriously threatening the integrity of her non-waterproof mascara.

I take no credit, of course, for any of that. They’ve done all the hard work. But, honestly, these two lovely people are exactly the reason why I’m an Officiant. No relationship is easy. Everyone has to work at making love last. Everyone has to participate actively in the creation of a conscious, healthy, functional partnership.

And helping make that hard-won moment of Legal Union as easy, stress-free, and meaningful as I possibly can is a never-ending source of joy.


Buena suerte Yolanda y Dinora!

Polka Dots and Gardening Tips


photo by Karen Pike

I was contacted months ago by Nancy and Stacy from Kentucky. They’ve been together for over 20 years, and finally, after kids raised and homes bought and businesses run, decided to get married. They said they’d be bringing Stacy’s parents along, and might it be possible to get married at my place, given all the great photos they’d seen of the river, the covered bridge, and as my husband likes to call it, The Pretty.

As we were planning the specifics of their wedding (which included dressing up in 1940s swing style – to which I contributed my own sartorial effort) they sent me a message saying that not only were Stacy’s parents coming, but their friends Cherie and Lynn (pronounced Lee-yun, southern style), who have been together 20-something years as well, had decided to come along and get married too!

So on the appointed day, they all showed up! Stacy’s parents were lovely, and gave me a bunch of agricultural advice, including using a mixture of flour and sugar to keep the moths which produce giant green worms off my kale. Stacy’s father was also one of the most handsome 80-something men I’ve ever seen. As you can see, he just rocks a hat (as does his daughter).


Stacy and Nancy had met when their kids were all in band together. Cherie and Lynn, on the other hand, met at a gay bar where Lynn was a bouncer. Even though Lynn was 18 years older than Cherie, they hit it off so well that Cherie moved in with Lynn after the second date.  And BOY! do they still love (and have the hots for) each other! It was an inspiring thing to see.


The other thing which really moved me about meeting them all was an offhand comment Stacy’s mom made about who would have thought she’d ever be in Vermont celebrating her daughter’s lesbian wedding. She and her husband are pretty traditional southern folks, and I imagine they’ve had to do a little mental reorientation over the years. But their love for Stacy and Nancy is very real, and speaks, I think, to the infinite capacity of our hearts to expand and encompass everyone who needs to be loved.


Some people, of course, won’t get there. But many people will, and they’ll surprise you with their gentle acceptance and kindness. And great gardening tips.

Thanks to Karen Pike for once again providing kick-ass photography!


Party At The Pink Pig

Jules and Bree

Jules and Bree, the latest in a long line of ladies coming up from Florida to wed.

Our plan (after some unintended gender confusion on my part), was to meet in Essex, NY at the ferry dock for the ceremony.

However, in early November, it can be – and yesterday absolutely was – rather brisk at the ferry dock!  Not only was I concerned for these gals who’d just left 80 degrees and sunny behind them, but for ME. Even with climate change, in my personal experience, the winters somehow just keep getting colder!

Fortunately, I’d arrived in Essex a little early and found myself getting tea at an adorable coffee shop and Cool Stuff Store called The Pink Pig.

Deb, the proprietress extraordinaire (and Manhattan expat), was incredibly friendly and welcoming. When I told her I was in town for a wedding at the ferry dock, she said she wanted to come and take photos for her blog. So, I suspected that if we showed up on her doorstep, she would welcome our little wedding party with open arms.

And so she did!

Bree and Jules

She rearranged some of her nifty antiques and other lifestyle ornaments to make room for us to do the ceremony, changed the music playing in the store, and took a heap of photos – including the entire wedding party with their friends Lee Ann and Courtney from Plattsburgh. Deb also gave them a couple of coffee mugs as impromptu wedding gifts!

The Whole Group

If you, dear reader, are ever in Essex, NY, go visit Deb at The Pink Pig. She’s open year round. Be sure to show her some gleeful and abundant love!

I also got to learn more about Jules and Bree, who met playing pool. Apparently, Bree’s parents didn’t like the woman she’d been seeing, and so suggested she get out more and join a lesbian pool league. Definitely a guaranteed bastion of fine, upstanding citizens!

Apparently, Bree’s Dad is also THE biggest redneck in town, and approached Jules at one point, asking if she was dating his daughter. Fearing getting her butt kicked, but determined to stand up for herself, she acknowledged that she was. Dad gave a nod and a grunt and walked away. And all their parents have been on board with the relationship ever since!

This morning, I got the most beautiful email from Jules and Bree which, though a little long for a blog post, I want to share in its entirety because it was so moving:

Bree and I just wanted to take a few moments to thank you so much for making today a very special day for us. Bree and I have said for the last couple of years that if and or when getting married would have a legal effect on our lives we would jump at the opportunity. When the federal government, namely the IRS, made the decision, to recognize same sex couples as married any where in the country as long as you were married in a State where it was legal we could not pass up the opportunity to get married.
Then the enormity of the task at hand began to take shape…what state, how do the laws work, who will marry us, will they marry us? How long will we have to be gone. As we had discussed today we have been together for almost 5 years we own a home, have a few pets. Bree is self employed runs a very successful landscaping business and I am a classically and formally trained Chef who five years ago redirected my career and sought some more education in Clinical Nutrition and I now am a Regional Food Service Director for one of the largest Behavioral Healthcare Organizations in the United States and being away from our jobs is not easy for either of us. Honestly, it was not until we found you on line that, marry each other became a realistic and reachable goal.
On the outside looking in today may have appeared to be a nice ceremony for two women in a quaint little cafe, called the Pink Pig, by the water in Essex. Please know, that for Bree, and I, today was a true commitment to each other, based on a culmination events in the last year, that reaffirmed our almost 5 year love affair.
Our Marriage today also provides Bree and I with some basic rights and privileges that without your help, and the State of New York, we would not have, and for that we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
With Warmest Regards,
Jules and Bree Smith

I love my job!

Brain Gone Wrong


I recently got an email from a couple – Jules and Bree – who were coming to upstate New York from Florida to get married. Having just seen their names, I assumed that they were both men.

When we finally spoke on the phone, Jules, who came across as a totally regular, easygoing guy, kept referring to Bree as “her.” I assumed he was using that pronoun in kind of a campy way. I’ve spent most of my life in the theater, so in the moment that seemed like a reasonable assumption.

Then, I started wondering if maybe Bree was transsexual or transgender, and I wanted to be sure about exactly how she was identifying. So I asked what pronouns and other language they wanted to use in the ceremony.

Jules said, “Oh, yeah, wife and wife will be fine.”

At which point I realized that I was talking to two WOMEN, one of whom just happened to have a rather low voice and casual, dude-like demeanor!

Fortunately, when I confessed and apologized for my confusion, they were both incredibly good natured about it, and sent me a pic so I’d know who was who.

Jules and Bree

The plan was that they’d come drive from Plattsburgh, I’d take the ferry over from Charlotte, and we’d all meet in Essex, NY at the ferry dock. We’d do the ceremony looking out over the water, and then roll along with our respective days. An easy and relaxed Friday afternoon.

And how did it go? Stay tuned for more information…

October Surprise

So the other day, I get this random text:


Alice and Terri are a couple of gals from Florida who’ve been together for years, and, like so many other women I’ve been working with of late, decided to take advantage of the demise of DOMA and come get married in Vermont.

Alice and Terri

Apparently, they’d been at the Avis counter at the airport, and when they mentioned that they were here to get married, another couple of women in line, Susan and Gwen, said that they were getting married too, and one thing led to another, and they discovered that they were all getting married by me, and that their cakes was being made by my friend, neighbor, and colleague Julie Almond of Caketopia Cakes.  Lucky gals.

This is Julie.  She's a genius.  No, really.  She's a member of MENSA.

This is Julie. She’s a genius. No, really.
She’s a member of MENSA.

So, I go up to the Comstock Inn in Plainfield to marry Alice and Terri first. I’d spent the morning helping Julie get their cake ready, and boy is it exquisite. Spice cake with maple buttercream frosting, and then bedecked with this totally gorgeous sugar art! I painted some of the flowers. But really, mostly, I washed Julie’s dishes. It’s still an honor.


The gals dress up, we do the ceremony, and they’re happily hitched:

All 3

And THEN they tell me they’re planning to come to my house a few days later for Susan and Gwen’s wedding. And so they do.

Photo by Lindsay Raymondjack

Photo by Lindsay Raymondjack

Susan and Gwen are from Tennessee, and are also having a Dumping DOMA Elopement. And what might have been a quiet little wedding at my house did, in fact, turn into a party. A Tea Party! The good kind.

Photo by Lindsay Raymondjack

Photo by Lindsay Raymondjack

Of course no wedding around here is complete without a Julie Almond Cake Bomb of Gustatory Bliss. This one was a brownie cake with buttercream frosting. Good God! Or as Frank Zappa might say, “Great googly moogly!” The thing was TO DIE FOR!!!!

Photo by Lindsay Raymondjack.  Cake by Caketopia Cakes.

Photo by Lindsay Raymondjack.
Cake by Caketopia Cakes.

It had so much buttery, chocolately goodness that…well… Honestly, this cake could bring about world peace. Seriously. If people ate enough of this stuff, they’d be in too much of a happy sugar coma to ever fight with anyone again. That is, of course, until the cake ran out…

Anyway, welcome to Vermont, where this kind of thing happens all the time.