Photo by Monica Donovan

Now that Vermont has legalized recreational cannabis use (starting July 1), I’ve no doubt that a number of folks will consider Vermont as a destination wedding locale of a very different kind!

Hemp touches adorn a sweetheart table at CynEvan Farm in Addison, VT. Photo by Monica Donovan

Certainly Vermont’s long agricultural history, our numerous artisans, and our deep commitment to social justice will likely make our canna-wedding options as beautiful, luscious, and personable as as the wedding pros of our Brave Little State can muster!

Already we have herbalists like Lauren Andrews of AroMed creating cannabis-based skin care products, food vendors like ZenBarn and Monarch and the Milkweed cooking up CBD-infused delicacies, a number of cannabis-friendly wedding venues, and a wide range of massage therapists and yoga studios that include CBD in their offerings.

Once legalization is official on July 1, no doubt recreational cannabis will enter the nuptial picture in full force.

Photos by Jewels Gray, Photography by Jewels

Still, rules are always changing and as Culture Magazine reported recently, vendors are going to have to bone up on the most current legislation to make sure they’re operating within the scope of the law.

In fact, the challenge in Vermont right now is that while we’ve legalized for personal and medical use, we haven’t yet created a commercial market with a complete system of taxation and regulation.

So, if you’re interested in a cannabis-themed wedding, want a little bud to smooth some jittery pre-wedding nerves, or hope to have smokables and edibles be part of your reception, it’s best to ask your vendors up front about what it will take to responsibly and legally incorporate cannabis products into your day.

As it happens, I have a day job with a cannabis advocacy and news organization called Heady Vermont, and am fairly well connected in the industry. Plus, there’s a growing overlap between wedding folks and the ganja world, and Vermont is already a pretty small place to begin with.

Which is all to say, if you questions, please ask! If I don’t know the answers, I’m probably one degree away from someone who does!

Jewels Gray, Photography by Jewels

Very Wintery Wedding

I just got the sweetest review from Heather and Patrick. They got married in December in the mountains of Southern Vermont, and, as you can see, are immune to weather – so strong is their love:

We are so happy we chose Kathryn to be our officiant. We are both non-religious and wanted our wedding ceremony to be beautiful without being religious, which can be hard to find. We chose Kathryn’s pre-written ceremony which we loved so much we didn’t decide to do anything customized.

It was beautiful and short which we needed as our ceremony was outside in December. Many of our guests commented on how moving her words were and how wonderfully she delivered them. She has a very warm presence, and Patrick was grateful for her company to help calm his nerves as he waited at the alter when there was a bit of a delay getting things started. She also gave us a nicely printed personalized copy of the ceremony to keep, which we absolutely love. We couldn’t be happier we chose Kathryn to officiate our wedding.

I honestly don’t know how she did it.

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.

Officiant Rules To Live By

Paula and Jon got married at The Old Lantern in Charlotte. It was a beautiful breezy day in early June and the grounds couldn’t have been prettier. Not to mention the couple couldn’t have been any cuter!

Given that it was one of the first weddings of the season, I forgot my cardinal rule of outdoor weddings: Don’t wear lip gloss. It’s very thick and sticky and if a breeze blows, you’re gonna be left with large amounts of hair stuck to your mouth. And it’s not polite to do a back-of-the-hand-wipe in the middle of a ceremony.

This is also a good rule for brides, bridesmaids, makeup-loving grooms, flashy wedding attendants of various genders, and anyone whose hair runs the risk of adhering to their kisser!

It also reminded me of the value of microphones at a wedding. It’s certainly a conundrum for the budget-conscious couple, as renting a mic and audio equipment – even from your DJ – could cost you several hundred dollars.

But sound gets swallowed up by wind and trees and sky – or water, if you’re doing it ocean/lake/river-front. Even a big room can suck up sound more than you might expect, and basically, there’s no getting around the fact that folks are going to hear things much more easily with a mic than without one – particularly any guests older than 45 or so.

You might have noticed how a lot of people start using reading glasses in their 40s. Turns out the same thing happens with your hearing. While that happens naturally, most modern adults also have tinnitus and other forms of hearing loss related to ambient or recorded noise.

While I’m a trained actor, I have a naturally light and high voice, which doesn’t carry outdoors over great distances. So much for Shakespeare in the Park…

If you want a mic on the cheap, and find out that you have a friend who’s got some audio equipment you can borrow, you’ll need to make sure to have all the necessary cordage and/or batteries, and someone who can trouble-shoot if anything goes wrong at the last minute. This stuff is notoriously finicky, and while I’ve worked with sound equipment a lot, it’s been as someone with a mic attached to her, not as a tech.

By the way, when I googled “giant ear horn” for the image above, I also came up with this very creative guy:

EXCLUSIVE: Kala Kaiwi from Hawaii just returned from Milan, Italy where he was awarded a Guinness World Record for the largest non-surgically flesh tunnels or earlobes. At 109 mm, his earlobes are so large that one could fit a hand through. Kala was born in Hawaii and trained in Las Vegas in 1999 he moved back to Hawaii to open Sin City Body Modification and Tattoo shop.

Picture by: Tim Wright / Splash News



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 her 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 she’s been facing.

One of their big concerns was how tired she gets, and how she’d handle a whole day of celebration. A solution we came up with was to have them 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 gals were chill, smart, funny, extremely charming, and I wish them all the absolute best!

Need A Wedding, Stat!

I got a call last week from my friend, the kicky wedding photographer Karen Pike. Her mom’s caretaker, Michelle, needed to get married, like, NOW, and could I do the wedding?

Karen said that her mom has Alzheimer’s and that Michelle goes out of her way to keep her calm and happy.

As I cannot imagine a job much harder than Michelle’s, I was more than willing to do whatever Karen wanted to make Michelle’s day!

We rolled out to a secret corner of Shelburne Farms. Michelle, her guy Tim, and their kids were all suited up in matching white, tan, and peach.

We had to make the ceremony quick because the boys were DYING to go flinging themselves up and down the hillside. Which, of course, they did.
All the best to two people who clearly work very hard, and are also (very clearly) such an immense blessing on each other’s lives!

All photos, of course, by Karen Pike.

Money money money money money money money…

I just learned that most couples underestimate the cost of their wedding by 40%, and that the average wedding costs $28,000.

Seriously. This is not necessary. I mean, if you’ve got cash to burn, go ahead, knock yourself out. Let it be lobsters, Belgian lace, and ice sculptures all the way. Load up on monogrammed M&Ms for your guests, hire videographers to make a film-quality documentary of the day, and escape the party in a triple-decker tricked-out limo. But this is not necessary.

Celebrating your love and commitment with heart, beauty, and community doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You won’t be dishonoring yourselves or anyone else by not hiring gold-plated caterers.

I mean, I’ve been to those kinds of extravagant weddings, and they’re beautiful and impressive. But you can do just as well with a bunch of hay bales, a playlist, a potluck, and a cake baked by your best friend’s Mom. You won’t be any less married if you get your dress second hand and have it altered to fit. Heck, buy 3 wedding dresses at Goodwill for $150 and have a seamstress blend them together into an all-new creation!

Or make your own. This dress was made from plastic bags:
All I’m saying is what I say to high school writing students contemplating a career as a pen jockey. Don’t go into debt over this one. Get creative, ask for help, and remember that the most important thing is being lucky enough to find someone you want to spend your life with, and sharing that great fortune with the people you love the most.

The rest is just beautiful, fancy cake frosting.

But Can You Handle…

catinthehatI’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:

Photo by whomever was standing there

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.



Naked Passion

George and Amanda


George and Amanda came out to my house to get married down by the riverside. Despite the ironic fact that Amanda is a divorce lawyer, they’re a classic example of young, hopeful, ambitious people psyched about each other and extremely happy to get married.

Except…they had a thing. Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. No, let me digress and contextualize.

Having performed close to 350 ceremonies at this point, I’ve married A LOT of couples. A lot. I’ve worked with people who care deeply about each other, people who are insanely hot for each other, people who are good friends, people who still can’t figure out how they manage to make a relationship work, people who can barely stand each other but are getting married anyway, people who, in finding each other, have clearly saved each other’s lives.

I’ve married teens and grandparents. I’ve married people who don’t speak English. I’ve married couples who’ve been together a few months and couples who’ve been together 35 years. Gay, straight, trans, and, interestingly enough, a whole lot of dog lovers (though they weren’t marrying the dog).

Ok. You get the picture. I’ve seen a lot of love.

What stood out for me about George and Amanda was Amanda’s complete lack of guardedness when it came to her love for George. She had a kind of unbridled, gazillion-kilowatt passion for him which beamed out of her face like an exploding sun. Nothing tempered or held back about it. It was full-on, shared-with-the-world capital LUV.

Of course, what also stood out for me was the fact that George, who’s a quieter, less demonstrative kind of guy, seemed completely unperturbed by the amount of affection coming towards him. In fact, quite the opposite. He drank it in like a lost desert traveler with his head plunged into the pool at the oasis.

A lot of folks might think it would be great to be loved that much. But, I know people who would be a little overwhelmed by that much energy laser-beamed directly at them. They wouldn’t know how to take it in or how to respond if they weren’t that kind of Beamer themselves. Some might not think they deserved that much affection.

Not George. He’s clearly given her the message that she can’t possibly dig him too much, so go for it, Amanda. Beam til your guts ache and your face falls off. Knock yourself out.

It’s a rather cynical, rambunctiously contentious age we live in. So their juicy, complementary love mojo was an utterly beautiful thing to see.