On being a wedding minister (Brooklyn ceremony)

I offer service tiers.  Most commonly, my couples opt for the “sweet and simple” standard ceremony.  In these cases, the only personalization may include their vows, although many decide to go with more traditional vows.  Here is an example of a very romantic personalized marriage ceremony composed for a couple whom I married at the Pebbles’ Beach in Brooklyn (the old Brooklyn Bridge Park) on September 16th.

I think this ceremony also explains why hiring Uncle Dave or Best Friend Amy to officiate is not the best idea.  It takes a lot of writing skill to cohesively put together favorite quotes.  Even people who are actually writers find composing a ceremony difficult: writing a short story or essay or poem is not even close to the same thing as writing a ceremony.  The ceremony may take fifteen minutes to speak, but it takes much longer to piece together and then to practice.  I’ve witnessed lots of guests stumble painfully through a reading made complicated by its lyricism (Dr. Seuss and e. e. cummings are great examples) because they did not practice –or practiced and then became really nervous when speaking in front of sixty or three hundred people.

No stealing, by the way.

…………Jess and Matt met at college. But mere meeting does not start a relationship. In their case, a laundry card facilitated the growth of their friendship and a chance meeting one day at a diner would align their fates. Although differences are apparent, their essentially identical sense of what is hilarious blends and allows them to overcome perceived strangeness. With proud intimacy does Jess watch as Matt reveals himself in writing and Matt watch as Jess bares her soul on the canvas. All of their days together since have become memories recounted in peaceful bliss.

And so for such reasons, Jess and Matt, I am delighted to be here today. I admire you both as individuals and as a couple. I admittedly adore officiating near the water. But, most of all, I am extra thrilled to be here because you choose this quote by Leo Tolstoy: “The goal of life should not be to find joy in marriage, but to bring more love and truth into the world. We marry each other to assist in this task.”

Beyond the compassion you pledge each other today is a commitment to make your marriage a channel to become better people –to use your talents without too much pretentiousness to increase the happiness of others and contribute to the knowledge of the world. If you genuinely work to fulfill such a noble mission, your marriage will transform auspiciously and strengthen very organically.

Love and commitment will comprise the healthy marriage you need to become even more strikingly refined individuals than you are now. Luckily, these abound in your bond.

Romantic sentiments and gestures expressed by you strive to match the ethereal message of Henry David Thoreau, who depicted love as…the wind, the tide, the waves, the sunshine. Its power is incalculable. It never ceases, it never slackens; it can move the globe without a resting place; it can warm without fire, it can feed without food: it can clothe without garments, it can shelter without roof: it can make a paradise within which will dispense with a paradise without. In love we impart, each to each, in subtlest immaterial form of thought or atmosphere, the best of ourselves – such as commonly vanishes or evaporates in aspirations – and mutually enrich each other. Love tends to purify and sublime itself. It triumphs over the flesh, and the bond of its union is holiness.”

Love is liberating because it emboldens us. Knowing that tender arms await should we need comfort, a loving companionship allows us to explore with courage. Indeed, we read in the I Ching that “when two people are at one in their inmost hearts, they shatter even the strength of iron or bronze. And when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts, their words are sweet and strong, like the fragrance of orchids.”

The second piece of this excerpt about “understanding,” though, is not easy to realize constantly. Already you are fortunate enough to recognize that “listening,” “being honest,” and “putting things into perspective” build trust more than attempting to change each other. Balance graces your friendship beautifully right now. Jess’ dislike of driving is no annoyance for Matt, who is cozy with the chaos of urban traffic and is content to rely upon Jess’ navigation skills.

You respect each other’s independence: while Jess cruises the city to sketch or window-shop, Matt is able to book himself for day of movies. This respect held in common may never be revoked. Remain caring and sympathetic. All present wish no arguments to come your way, but the practical parts of us acknowledge their inevitability. Remember to stay patient with yourselves and one another. Be calm so that “understanding” emerges and the writing of love notes renews.

…………Jess, your distinctively fabulous voice and infectious laugh initiated Matt’s initial crush on you. It is when you awake in the morning that Matt grasps most how you are the most “beautiful woman in his universe” with “eyes that see straight through him.” Fluttering butterflies still radiate in him when he feels you near or even thinks about you. He wants to spend his life with you, the amazing woman you are each day. He marvels at your passion and heroic tenacity for dancing in the subway and willingness to climb a mountain for fun. You may not “mercy laugh” just to be polite, but you will go to “great lengths” to help those entrusted to your care.

In the words of James Weldon Johnson: “The world, for me, and all the world can hold…Is circled by your arms: for me there lies,….Within the lights and shadows of your eyes,…The only beauty that is never old.

Matt, you are the one for Jess; she feels the same electricity as you feel. She has always known she’d fall for someone as creative and passionate as you. From her heart, she cherishes your every smile, laugh, and sense of humor. She appreciates that you are willing to venture out from your comfort zone and push her to focus with confidence on making art that bares her soul. With great passion for life and art, your willingness to brainstorm with her is a gift she treasures. You do not pretend to be anyone else but yourself. You are sweet, expressive, supportive, and have a lovely, unique way of making her feel special. Just as she is your “partner-in-crime,” so too are you her favorite “partner-in-crime.”

In the words of Amy Tan, you are “…. like falling star{s} who have finally found {their} place next to one another in a lovely constellation, where {you} will sparkle in the heavens forever.”

You are each other’s biggest fan and most true confidant. You thrive together because you soothe each other’s fears and encourage each other to grow………….From this day forward, you will be “neither husband nor wife, but the love between the two” (Nisargadatta). Despite occasional and understandable efforts not to do so, you will absorb bits of each other: likes and dislikes may become ever more similar. Still, preserve your individuality – whether perceived endearing quirks or outright irritations – as this will enable space between you so both may grow into wiser, gentler, braver, and more empathetic partners.

May the future years bring a life together in which you enjoy a fantastic brunch daily before starting a lucrative project freed from the shackles of the “powers that be.” May adventures in odd places come your way. May you never encounter stresses you are unable to bear and yet be challenged to learn. May you uncover ways to cope that bequeath real solace when burdens come. May life kindly allow you both to realize your creative visions. May a housing market insider help you find the perfect, serene home. And may you keep on dreaming even after you walk the red carpet and exhale ecstatically after a gallery show.


Hi Judie,

Matt and I wanted to say thank you so much for the wonderful ceremony you created and officiated!  It really was beautiful, and perfect.  Thank goodness for the trains because if they weren’t there I would have sobbed throughout the entire ceremony.  And thank you for the photos, we received them yesterday!  There really is something great and tactile about true film photographs.

Thank you again for everything.

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