Today we met with our lovely wedding officiant, Chaplain Victoria O. Milne. Chaplain Milne is in high demand throughout the Capital Region and beyond as an interfaith wedding officiant, and we can see why. In the midst of planning all of the logistics and important details of a wedding (music, floral arrangements, stationery, colors, food, hotels and everything in between), it's easy to lose sight of the ceremony. Victoria reminded us that the ceremony IS the wedding, and that it requires the utmost respect, care, thought and attention.
During our meeting with her, Chenique and I decided that family, history and honoring all sides of our mixed heritage was of the utmost importance, and so we tasked ourselves with creating an engaging wedding ceremony to honor that diversity. The custom of marriage is a common thread throughout the cultures of the world. Family, unity, love and community, how we commemorate our unions and lay the foundation for our lives together bears a sacred importance, deeply characterizing the human experience. Most cultures have the gift of an unbroken tradition, step-by-step guidebooks of how to honor their unions, passed down through the generations. As Americans, our national and cultural identity is among the youngest in the world, and we lack such a guidebook. The blood that Chenique and I share is a mix of many of the cultures and identities whose triumphs and tragedies, conquests and courage built this great nation.
Without a clear plan passed down to us, we must do our own research, listening closely to the whispers of our ancestors, instructing us how to honor their story while creating our own.
Researching and integrating the various wedding traditions of our African-American, African, French, Italian, Irish, Jewish, Spanish, British and Native American cultures is quite a daunting endeavor. We cannot imagine a more perfect partner and guide in this deeply personal and spiritual journey than Chaplain Milne. We understand why she wants so much time with us to work on the ceremony. It takes months of discussion and reflection to plan how to honor these very different pieces of our souls and collective heritage respectfully.
We met with Victoria at C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios, and she asked us to paint on a tiny canvas in watercolors. Asi painted a Yin Yang sign, to represent the ways that we complement each other so well, the shared elements of our personalities that the other possesses, and how we come together to form a complete circle, a powerful shape with no beginning and end, joining in a perfect seamless union. Chenique drew an intricate, multi-layered heart design representing both the depth and the nuances of our love for one another.
Victoria then asked us to tell her the story of our love, and to think individually and collectively about matters of the heart, as well as discuss the more tangible aspects of planning our union together. It is clear that Victoria cares deeply for every wedding that she presides over. Her insistence on meeting with us right away shows her devotion not only to her profession as an officiant, but to helping to ensure that each and every union that she officiates doesn't join those tragic statistics, but instead is built on a strong foundation of compassion, communication, and collective introspection. These intangibles are what make a marriage successful, and they must not be overshadowed by just a single day of wedding celebration. They must be observed and renewed constantly, with consistent and deliberate effort. This revelation from our in-person meeting and our correspondences with Victoria has already strengthened our union immeasurably, and we can't wait to design our multicultural wedding ceremony with her in the months to come.
Important things to keep in mind when selecting your officiant:
3 Notes from Victoria:
Experience: Look at the number of years the Officiant has been performing weddings, how many ceremonies they have done overall and what kinds of ceremonies do they do (eg: Spiritual, Religious, Custom, etc.)? How do they capture the essence of the couple's relationship to create their ceremony? How do they relate to couples' families, guests and the other wedding professionals? What do the reviews say about their ceremonies? What do their colleagues in the wedding field say about their services?
Expertise: What qualifications, degrees, education and certifications does the officiant possess that they can draw from to create the desired ceremony? What is their career background and how up to date are they on the newest wedding trends, the oldest wedding traditions, the customs people might want or expect to have included from the different cultures and/or faith traditions?
Contingency Plan: For any vendor or service it is important to ask if there is a contingency plan or back up if the professional is, for any reason, unable to fulfill their duties. Who would be providing the agreed upon plan? What experience and expertise do they possess and what guarantees does the officiant/vendor offer in these circumstances?
3 Notes from our Wedding Coordinator Katie O' Weddings and Events:
Whether you choose to have a friend, Justice of Peace or someone like Victoria to perform your ceremony - remember that this is the most important part of your day. So make sure to make planning the ceremony and choosing your officiant just as important as picking your other vendors!
Make sure to meet with your officiant before your hire them. If you can't meet with them, have a phone call or Skype/FaceTime. This person has the most important role of the day and you want to make sure that you like them. You like their style of officiating, level of humor and overall vibe.
The ceremony is a perfect place to include friends and family members that aren't members of the bridal party and make them feel special! You can have them say a reading, hand out programs, or escort grandma down the aisle!