Cindy and James contacted me in the winter. I was – am – thrilled they soon enlisted my services for their wedding. (Note to future couples: some dates are exceptionally popular for weddings: for June 5th, I received seven firm requests and had to decline all but one other couple who requested me as their officiant on this date.) This worldly couple, who come from Hong Kong and China, met years ago at Pace University. After spending some time wooing Cindy with homework help, James’ doting efforts proved a success and they began dating officially. As Cindy reported, they did “all the usual couple stuff.” Their friendship matured into love, and their shared trust, tenderness, affection, and loyalty lead to an elegant proposal in Honolulu by James. As the wind swirled around Cindy, she accepted.
Ever since I first met them, I looked forward to helping them celebrate their love. Mostly, I respected and genuinely liked this couple, who self-identified as “anti-Bridezilla.” But I was also looking forward to the honor of solemnizing their marriage in a profoundly romantic setting. A classy, soft-spoken couple, they desired an entirely civil wedding ceremony with few simple personal touches that made their ceremony personal.
Despite their secular orientation, they nonetheless chose to marry in St. Paul’s Chapel, which is a superb nondenominational chapel belonging to Columbia University. Although a Humanist (or maybe because I am one), I still greatly appreciated the amazing architecture, brilliantly colorful stained glass windows, and the extraordinary organist whose exquisite music resonated deeply within the cavernous brick structure as guests gathered and the Bridal Party entered the sanctuary. Then, surrounded by family, friends, and a beauty setting, Cindy and James exchanged three set of vows — traditionally civil, personalized, and a contemporary, yet romantic ring exchange vow. Aunt Cathy, to whom the couple is quite close, read a lovely poem by Nita Penfold and a secular blessing by Heather Berry. To conclude the ceremony, they poured separate vials containing “as many sand particles as the unique talents they bring to their union” into a keepsake vase.
Many couples do not realize that it is indeed possible to marry in a chapel without needing to adhere to religious requirements or counseling. In fact, I am happy to make the arrangements for you should you be planning a small wedding. This is an especially great option for winter weddings. In addition to St. Paul’s, some ideas for larger weddings include: Seaman’s Chapel (nondenominational wedding chapel); All Soul’s Church (Unitarian); the UN Chapel (interfaith wedding chapel); Landmark on the Park (Unitarian); Green-wood (as in the famous Cemetery in Brooklyn); and the Historic Chapel (Long Island); and the chapel at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center. You may also want to consider the Desmund Tutu Center (a hotel, but beautiful), New York Ethical Cultural Society, and the Brooklyn Ethical Cultural Society facilities.
Below, scanned photo from Minolta SRT (135).