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, a few folk songs like Guantanamera, and Steve Martin (Just dated myself with a “Let’s Get Small” reference). 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 café, 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.

Pike’s Peek

Debra and Michelle

Debra and Michelle

My friend, photographer Karen Pike (all these photos are hers) hooked me up with Debra and Michelle, a couple of lovely gals up from Texas to get married in muddy Vermont!  They ended up coming out to my house for the ceremony and photo shoot, and had a really fun time – complete with tiny cake from neighbor (and Cake Genius) Julie Almond of Caketopia Cakes.

Julie Almond‘s very, very tasty vanilla/strawberry cakelet.

What I hadn’t realized was that it was the 4th anniversary of Vermont legalizing same sex marriage!  What a joy to be part of a state that has its head on straight about human rights!

But I’ll let Karen tell the rest of the story on her fine blog

Purple Class

Mardi and Misti

Photo by Jeannette LeBlanc

One thing I loved about working with Mardi and Misti was that as utterly gorgeous as they are in their photos, they were also incredibly grounded and down-to-earth as people.  Rather than making a grand entrance, they mingled with their guests until it was time to start the ceremony.  Then they asked everyone to gather in a circle, and we began!  Cermoniously unceremonious, as it were.

They wrote beautiful, honest articulations of their love which were based in the daily reality of their 7-year relationship:

Mardi, I love you because you make me laugh out loud on a daily basis, like when you make up conversations between the cats and each one has their own distinctive voice and when you send me text messages over your lunch break with funny pictures of them saying hi to me.

Their vows, too, were all about knowing who they already are as a couple, and what they understand the ups and downs of long term relationship to be:

Misti, I will make your dreams as important as my own. I will make time for you, enjoy you, and work to know you better every day. Today I promise you that though the world may change and though we may change with it, I will always love you, always treasure you and will always share my life and all that I am with you. When life challenges us, I promise to focus on the resiliency of our love. And if I stumble and fail to live up to my promises, I will look you in the eyes, hold your hands, and apologize with sincerity. I will be my best for you.

Their love for each other was so palpable, so glimmering, and so true.

Mardi and Misti

When Thespians Wed

My friend and colleague – University of Vermont theater design professor Jeff Modreger – recently married his great love Matt Sutkowski.  It was a big treat to go support them – not to mention getting to attend a wedding for a change!

Jeff is one of the most gifted designers with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure to work, so I suspected his wedding would be more than a little…elaborate.  For one thing, it was in UVM’s beautiful Royall Tyler Theater, so they had a leg up on gorgeous right then and there.  Plus, Jeff designed the set and they asked everyone to wear white, so the audience was pretty, too (sorry for the blur – old camera phone doesn’t do well in dim light).

Then, one by one, the stage started being peopled with remarkable musical theater performers singing all manner of heartfelt, throaty love songs.

Finally, they had a whole crew out there, with Jeff and Matt, who had a lot to say and a lot of people to thank!

Then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any more beautiful or moving, they had the whole dang crowd sing “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”  It was a sight to behold!

I should note that Jeff is in his 60s, so for anyone who thinks it’s too late for them, lovewise, do not be fooled by the mean voices in your head.  Anything is possible.  Any time.

Love Lana!

The brilliant film-maker Lana Wachowski was recently given a Human Rights Watch Visibility Award.  Why?  Because she used to be Larry.  She’s an incredibly private person, but agreed to receive the award because she felt that if she could be a role model and a source of hope to other people in the Trans community, then the sacrifice of her carefully-guarded anonymity would be worth it.  Here’s her acceptance speech.  She’s extraordinary.

One Love

I got a call the other day from a woman in Texas named Melissa. She’s in a graduate program in mental health counseling, and she’s writing a research paper on gay marriage.

Melissa comes from a very conservative Christian family, has strong ideas about marriage, and for most of her life, her beliefs and values have run firmly in the direction of one man, one woman, no divorce.

And yet, she’s committed to being an effective counselor for everyone who comes to her door. She knows it’s her responsibility to open her mind and learn about people from other backgrounds and who live lives different from hers.

She came to me in my guise as a wedding officiant. Living in Vermont, of course, I do a large number of same sex marriages – in fact, I’d say they make up about 60% of my business.

I feel very strongly that legalizing same sex marriage is a social justice issue of the highest importance, and for me, ranks right up there with ensuring women’s reproductive rights and combatting climate change.

Melissa didn’t know this when she called, and she certainly walked away with an earful!

She asked some great questions that I’d never thought about before, like how I define the “sanctity of marriage.”  I told her there’s a vast range of marriage styles and marital traditions seen in the long history of humanity: monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, arranged marriages, political marriages, shotgun marriages – even an old Chinese custom of women technically marrying a dead man for the preservation of her property and independence.

Unfortunately, too often, the rules and laws of marriage have benefitted families, dynasties, businesses, and, of course, men, without any regard for the freedom, autonomy, or well-being of women.  And certainly, throughout the ages, many people, both men and women, have been stuck in marriages which should have ended long ago, but for the repressive laws of their societies and cultures.

So to my mind, upholding the sanctity of any marriage means adhering to the ground rules of that particular marriage, and those rules should be set by the couple themselves, and no one else.

Then she asked me the million dollar question: do I think gay marriage is any different from straight marriage. And it was clear she didn’t have a preconceived idea – she really wanted to know.

I said absolutely not. There is no difference whatsoever. Love is love. The joy of finding romance and partnership and making a long term commitment to building a life with someone shines the same way in everybody’s eyes. It’s a soul connecting to a soul and uniting formally in a manner which transforms the relationship – sometimes just legally, but more often in some charismatic, luminous, undefinable way. Gay or straight, the goal is the same: unity with the beloved.

After a few more questions, Melissa asked if I had anything more I wanted to say, and what came out of my mouth surprised us both. It’s an odd thing for a Wedding Officiant to admit, but honestly, I actually think the notion of marriage is a bunch of crap.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of ritual for life’s great moments, and I champion the psycho-spiritual value of formally uniting with another. After all, the truth is that long term relationships are hard work, and you need something to hang on to when things inevitably get rough. Formalizing commitment has great value.

However, the idea that an institution, be it a government or a religious body, has any right to define which marriages are legal and which are illegal is a bunch of sanctimonious, self-serving hogwash. Nobody, other than the people choosing to commit to each other, should decide what’s right and proper.

However, I’m not here to dismantle the system. Even I know how to pick my battles.

So, as long as people (of all stripes and persuasions) want to come to Vermont and get married, I am more than happy to serve.