[the reverend]

[the reverend]

Welcome to the LEFT of center

Dana & Mike

October 7, 2012

 

I first met Dana and Mike at a local restaurant. I had received some devastating personal news earlier that day, and by the time they arrived I had been at the bar for over an hour, was three sheets to the wind and barely holding back tears. I suddenly experienced the drunken equivalent of panic, which was really more like a vague thought tinged with regret: Ummm, this probably isn't making the best first impression.

 

Far from being pissed, Dana and Mike were really sympathetic and super-sweet, and despite my inebriated state, we hit it off. Mike is something of a local celebrity here in Queens; he fronts a brutal death metal band called Dehumanized, and in fact it's through the band that he and Dana first met. (Dating Tip: although it worked out for Mike, generally speaking, when a pretty girl asks for your phone number, DO NOT respond by asking her to work the merch table!)

 

 

I was pretty stoked that they were planning to play some metal at the reception, but I was extremely skeptical that your average wedding DJ would have any knowledge of bands like Lamb of God or At The Gates. Were they going to give him tracks and just hope he'd figure out when to play what? "No, no," Dana assured me. "Steve is a metal guy."

 

Wait, a DJ named Steve who was into metal? Well, the world instantly got about a zillion times smaller as I realized that the only guy she could be talking about was my friend Steve, who moonlighted as a DJ and who also just happened to be the drummer for a rock band that I was fronting called Born of Scars. What are the freakin' odds? And why the hell wasn't I *already* friends with Dana and Mike? These are clearly my people! (The answer, of course, is that – outside of weddings – I rarely socialize anymore, and have become something of a homebody. Spending almost 20 years playing in bands, drinking like the rockstar I wasn't and spending 5 or 6 nights a week in clubs and bars promoting your band and your friends' bands will do that to you.)

 

So anyhoo, I'm already totally stoked about doing the wedding, and then Dana and Mike upped the awesome by inviting me and my husband to the reception "if you'd like to come." Ummm, seriously? HELL YES!

 

 

The day of the wedding was unfortunately grey and drizzly, but as the entire service was not only indoors, but all in one place, it didn't really matter. I got to the Astoria Renaissance about an hour early, and really enjoyed the look of the place. That is, until everyone started talking about the processional. You see, I'm often asked to take part in this, and it's not normally a problem for me. The Astoria Renaissance, however, is unique in that the ceremony and reception area is a long, marble staircase DOWN from where the procession would start. And, despite the fact that I do weddings on a fairly regular basis, those are literally the ONLY times I wear high heels. (Shit, I didn't even wear heels to my *own* wedding; I wore knee-high combat boots and was comfortable as hell.) As a result, I am not wholly confident wearing heels; whenever I do *and* I encounter stairs, I walk slower than a convicted man on death row, desperately clinging to the railing with both hands and fully 100% sure that if I don't I will slip and tumble all the way to the bottom, landing on my face in front of a bunch of people and generally making an ass out of myself.

 

 

I am almost hyperventilating at the thought of leading a wedding procession down that wretched stair-flight of what I have thoroughly convinced myself is made of the slipperiest marble known to man, when (once again) I probably should have just freakin' chilled out. Turns out that I will be safe and sound at the altar when the procession starts, and although I have a moment of panic for Dana, I remind myself that most other chicks are much better at being chicks than I am, and that she will probably be fine and not humiliate and injure myself as I most certainly would.

 

Dana finally materializes from the powder room, and she looks fantastic in a slim white strapless dress with a pleated sweetheart neckline and tiered ruffles below a black sash. And there were no combat boots for her; open-toed white pumps with black accents and a matching pedicure firmly cemented her place in the Girl World that I only get to visit from time to time. Mike is wearing a dapper three-piece suit, and yet still manages to look kinda metal. (Gotta be the shaved head!)

 

 

The venue had provided a private area for the wedding party, and Mike and Dana invite me in for photos and to sign the license. There’s also an awful lot of champagne, and by the time the ceremony starts, we’ve managed to polish off quite a bit of it and are feeling fairly confident that this wedding is going to kick everyone’s ass.

 

 

The service did not disappoint, and I did my first-ever vows in another language for all of their guests who spoke metal. (Awesome Alert: Dana’s *Mom* totally speaks metal!!) The cocktail hour saw me tipping the valet an extra ten bucks to park my car somewhere nearby so I could come back by train and pick it up tomorrow; I saw where the rest of this night was going and none of it would involve me driving anywhere.

 

 

The reception was a blast, with great music (that allowed for both copious amounts of air guitar solos as well as the occasional mosh pit) and the most delicious little cupcakes I have ever eaten. Ricky and I were seated at a table with some metal friends that we had in common, so what little awkwardness there might have been went right out the door, and Steve let his partner do some spinning and came downstairs to hang out with us all. I eventually called a cab before Ricky’s liver gave up on him, and we bid everyone goodbye and headed home.

 

 

As usual, I had the time in the cab mostly to myself, and took a moment to think about all of the weddings I’d done so far. Now, I don’t know how other officiants feel about their job; maybe it’s just a job for them and that’s where it ends. I mean, I’m sure they enjoy what they’re doing, but I get the impression that it’s still a lot of, “Hi, I’m your Reverend. Here’s your wedding service. Thanks for your payment, goodbye and have a nice life!” At the end of the day, all business. I guess it kinda should be, really, but I just can’t see myself operating that way. Because at the end of *my* day, I am so incredibly pleased and grateful that my unbridled enthusiasm for every single wedding that I do is not only evident to my couples, but often appreciated to the point of becoming an invited guest. Not just some stranger who is hired, paid, and never seen again. A guest.

 

And, I realized (as Mike and Dana were talking and laughing over drinks in my apartment a few weeks later) sometimes something much more.

 

Sometimes, even a friend.

 

Rock on! \m/

 

Elizabeth & Julian

 

September 30, 2012

 

Elizabeth and Julian had a unique story. They had been married for many years, but went through a recent rough patch and got divorced. Before it was finalized (but too late to stop the process) they realized their mistake, and were now looking to be married again. They were going to City Hall when Elizabeth found me, and, after she explained her situation, said that they wanted something quick and no-fuss, literally five minutes or less. I offered to have the service in my apartment, and procured my husband and friend Jackie as witnesses.

 

On the day of the wedding, I had my apartment scrubbed from top to bottom. I lit candles and incense, and tried my best to make our PeeWee Herman-meets-The Munsters apartment somewhat presentable to two grown adults getting remarried.

 

I shouldn’t have worried. As soon as they arrived, Julian was mentally already out the door again; he explained that they had a car waiting downstairs, and they were going out to dinner immediately following the service. He was clearly frustrated at having to have any service at all, and kept shifting impatiently from foot to foot. Elizabeth, meanwhile, was thoroughly enjoying getting hitched again, even in a somewhat inglorious setting and at lightning speed. The banter between them reflected their wildly different takes on the situation at hand, and their teasing, complaints and eye rolls at each other had me barely containing my laughter; basically, I was looking at myself and Ricky in about 20 years.

 

I raced through the service and signed the license for them, making it official all over again. The once-more happy couple left for their celebratory dinner, and I was left thinking about how good I felt. All I had done, really, was sign a piece of paper. But that piece of paper was the key to freeing themselves from a bad mistake spawned from dark days; it laid all of that to rest. They were going to keep on teasing and nagging each other for a good long time. And hopefully, the next time the ups and downs of marriage lead them to a dark place, they’ll remember that even when they tried to go their separate ways, their hearts had other plans for them.

 

True love, it seems, never dies.

 

But it does roll its eyes at you from time to time.

Ricky & Samantha

August 25, 2012

 

So it’s a week after Lena and Isaac’s wedding, and I find myself sitting in front of historic Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park. I’m here to perform Ricky and Samantha’s “modern Chinese” wedding, and aside from the fact that I had spent a lot of time getting to know the soon-to-be-newlyweds, for the first time ever as an officiant, I feel a bit nervous. Mainly because it suddenly occurred to me that, although Ricky and Sam are thoroughly hip New Yorkers, they had indicated that they have relatives who are decidedly less so, some of whom don’t even speak English. And what the hell are *they* going to think of my sarcastic wit and hopefully humorous insights? The answer (I suspected) was not much. *sigh*

 

I tried to push it out of my mind as I took in the impressive view. Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Brooklyn, I can tell you that a lot of it sucks. In fact, less than a mile or so down the waterline is the start of an ugly industrial area that runs all the way around the edge of the borough to the Gowanus, which you may or may not know is a superfund site that is super-polluted, super-smelly and super-disgusting. The park, however, is nothing of the kind; the carousel sits right on the waterfront between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges facing the lower Manhattan skyline, and the grounds have been landscaped with lush green grass and abundant wildflowers.

 

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It’s a beautiful day, and the park is filled with happy families, kite-flying hipsters and picnicking couples. Much to my dismay, it is also filled with roughly a half-dozen different wedding parties, some of whom are on the farthest side of the park from where I’m sitting. A quick check of my watch indicates that it is at least 10 minutes past the time the wedding was supposed to start, and immediately my nervousness graduates to full-blown panic as I realize that it is entirely possible that I have misunderstood Ricky’s instructions on where to meet, and any one of these distant wedding parties may in fact be *my* wedding party, and that I am therefore a shitty, irresponsible Reverend who is going to be late and ruin two very nice people’s Big Day.

 

Turns out I needn’t have worried. After a flurry of frantic and unanswered text messages, a young Asian family approaches the steps behind the carousel, all of whom are dressed to the nines. The little boy is wearing a tiny tuxedo, the little girl is wearing a party dress, and they are both so cute I want to vomit. I decide not to conclude they’re here for Ricky and Samantha just because they’re dressed up and appear to be Chinese, having learned from a similar mistake my parents once made. (They were on their way to a Pakistani culture and food festival in an unfamiliar part of Jersey when they became lost. They spotted a car with a family who looked decidedly Pakistani, and decided to follow them, assuming they were going to the festival. Yeeeeeah. Turns out, they were going home. So my parents basically stalked some nice family who mercifully didn’t call the cops on them.)

 

At any rate, the two adults quickly set up a sign for the kids to write on, and (much to my great relief) the girl writes “Ricky + Samantha’s Wedding” on it, embellishing it with flowers and a stick figure bride and groom that was probably far better than anything I could have drawn. I introduce myself to the woman; she is indeed a relative and assures me that yes, I am in the right place and that the couple is running late.

 

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I nearly collapse from the relief. Or quite possibly the heat. New York in August, even on the waterfront, is a sticky-hot mess, and that’s in shorts and a t-shirt, never mind dressed up for a fancy affair. I am fairly certain that my makeup is melting off of my face just like that guy’s…well, face melted off of his face in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I pray that I will not be a sweaty, disgusting slob that photobombs all of the ceremony pictures. Another relative arrives with a cooler full of bottled water, and I gratefully accept two and down them in several unattractive gulps like a dying man.

 

More and more guests are arriving, and a bridesmaid shows me the handcrafted felt flower bouquets that Samantha had made. She is also handing out fun flags and streamers (handmade as well) for the guests to cheer with. A few parasols are tied to the gates behind where the couple will stand, and life-sized photo cutouts of their pet bunnies (Carrots and Clover) complete the waterfront altar.

 

Finally, Ricky and Samantha arrive, pausing at the top of the stairs before joining the crowd. Samantha was petite and positively radiant in a strapless white gown with layers of taffeta and lace, while Ricky was sharp and classy in a crisp black suit. Despite the volume of the surroundings, they were no match for a heavy metal frontwoman, and I was able to deliver the service loud enough for at least the first few rows of people to hear me, and managed to elicit smiles and laughs from those that could. Afterward, the newlyweds warmly thanked me, then reminded me that my husband and I were invited to the party later that evening in Flushing. As if I would forget that I was going to my first Chinese wedding banquet in, oh, EVER. Yeah, right. This was gonna be awesome!

 

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Several hours later, I was facedown on the banquet table, praying to die and literally begging the waiters to stop, please stop, for the love of all that is holy PLEASE STOP BRINGING FOOD before my stomach explodes like the fat guy’s in Se7en, the only difference being that no one had been holding a gun to my head and forcing all of that deliciousness down my throat, therefore making me far more gluttonous and disgusting. Ricky was already in the bathroom throwing up, having added roughly 9 or 10 Maker’s Mark Manhattans to the more than 10-course meal that we’d been served over the course of the evening.

 

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Ricky and Samantha, meanwhile, were the only two people in the cavernous room who *weren’t* in a food-induced coma; they had, after entering the hall to the strains of The Muppet Show, had their first dance, posed for hundreds of photos, performed an ancient Chinese tea ceremony, thrown the garter and bouquet and cut the cake. Samantha changed outfits several times, including a traditional red wedding ensemble and a lovely purple gown. She had just changed into yet another dress as I peeled my husband off of the bathroom floor and said my goodbyes.

 

At home, I put Ricky to bed as I scrolled through the pictures I had taken. And while the photos of the food made me more than a little nauseous, the pictures of the park, my couple, myself, and even total strangers brought me great happiness. It really is honor, I thought, to be able to share such a joyous, life-changing moment with someone. Not only that, but to have played an important role in contributing to and amplifying that joy. An honor, truly.

 

See? There is *nothing* about this job that sucks.

 

Except the bouts of bulimia that a few more feasts like today would almost certainly inspire.

 

*barf!*

 

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Lena & Isaac

August 18th, 2012

 

So I just finished Elicia & David’s ceremony, and the wedding party files out of the room and into the cocktail reception area. I, however, make a discreet beeline for the bathroom, wiping off that freakish pink lipstick as if it were napalm and reapplying my blood red pout. *sigh* So much for trying something new.

 

I make my way over to my husband, who (despite knowing absolutely no one at the reception) is already seated at a table with two hot chicks and is chatting away as if he’s known them for years. This is something about Ricky that I find completely endearing; he is so goofily charming and personable that he can come to these weddings with me and (with very little effort) strike up interesting conversations with complete strangers, whereas I (if left to my own devices) would stand around awkwardly, drinking my weight in alcohol and praying for a fire drill. The hot chicks are friends of the bride, and in fact one of them is a hair and makeup person who you should probably hire as soon as you finish reading this post. Or maybe before. Seriously, I’ll wait. (Here’s her website: http://www.marialicari.com/) She’s done amazing hair and makeup for celebrities and everything, yet she doesn’t charge any more than that cheesy wedding salon you found online.

 

Anyhoo, at some point I decide to wander around the room, and eventually run into the ring bearer, Isaac, whom I had met briefly before the ceremony.

He introduces me to his fiancée, Lena, and they tell me that they’d like to meet with me to discuss their wedding, which they warn me “will be nothing like this one. We’re poor.” I assure them that I am nothing if not affordable, and then (after looking around to make sure Ricky can’t hear me) offer them a half-price “friends-and-family” discount. The reason I had to say it on the sly is that Ricky and I are pretty much always butting heads over how much I charge, and by that I mean how *little* I charge. Ricky’s argument is that I’m really good at what I do, and even if I doubled my price, I’d still be half of what other officiants charge. My argument is that the money isn’t important; I really like what I do and I want to stay affordable for as long as possible. And so…hush-hush. (Luckily, he doesn’t read my blog either. So don’t rat me out, people!)

 

At any rate, we agreed to set a date to talk about their upcoming nuptials, and a few weeks later we were getting trashed at a great little dive bar, listening to the regulars argue drunkenly about other drunken regulars as I drunkenly scrawled notes about everything from their relationship to their pets to their pet peeves to their plans for the future. At some point, they must have hired me, because the next morning, I checked my barely-legible notes to read “WOOOOOO-HOOOOO! Puppet Theater wedding!!” scrawled across an entire page. Underneath, it said “liverwurst, licorice, cigars and whiskey,” circled several times with the words “REMEMBER: IMPORTANT!” next to it, which only served to remind me that it was important to probably drink less when taking notes.

 

Fast-forward two months to August 18th, and I find myself at the now sadly-defunct Clockworks Puppet Theater in Brooklyn. An eccentric antique-lover’s dream come true, the space is filled with awesomely weird and random collectibles, not to mention dozens of quirky and adorable hand-made marionettes dangling from the ceiling. Several rows of church pews lead up to the red velvet-curtained stage, and despite the ferocious heat outside, inside it is darkly cool and pleasant.

 
 

 

Old-timey music plays from the speakers overhead as the 20 or so guests seat themselves and I take the stage. An accordion player takes over, and the beautiful bride Lena ascends the stairs, beaming from ear to ear in a strapless sheath of dusky lavender. Despite being so nervous that he was drenched in sweat and his hands were shaking like a British nanny, Isaac managed to read his vows after Lena’s without a hitch, and their short-and-sweet ceremony left everyone charmed and happy for the adorable newlyweds. The service was followed by a lovely dinner at the cozy French restaurant Parigot and then a raucous rooftop party at the Dream Hotel’s Ava Lounge.

    
 

 

 

At some point, Ricky and I managed to stumble out the door and call a cab. He passed out almost immediately and left me to collect my thoughts, most of which involved me wishing the world would stop spinning. And in between the spinning and periodically checking Ricky for a pulse, I kept thinking to myself that being a wedding officiant was probably the most awesome job I’d ever had. I mean, I get to meet amazing and cool people. I get to have a lot of fun while helping them achieve their vision of a perfect wedding, and then I get to be with them as they celebrate the happiest day of their lives. Often, I am asked to stay for the reception (sometimes, even with my husband). And at the end of the day, I make a couple of bucks. Not to mention a couple of new friends. So let me tell you, there is absolutely *nothing* about this job that sucks.

 

Except waiting for the stupid world to stop spinning.

 

Which (bizarrely) was not nearly as painful as my previous wedding’s Adventures in Neutral Lipstick.

 

Sorry, Elicia. ;P

 

Elicia & David

June 2nd, 2012

 

Now, let me state for the record that one of my Reverend promises is that I will honor pretty much any special request, no matter how weird or how wild. To quote my website directly: “You want to get married by a chick in full gothic regalia? Done. Want to get married by Slave Leia? Done. Want an Officiant who tells dirty jokes? Leads a pagan hand-fasting ritual? Dresses like Elvira or a zombie for your Halloween wedding? Reads the entire service in Klingon? You get the idea.” And yet, on June 2nd, a bride asked me to do something so bizarre and so violently against everything that I am that I nearly went back on my word.

 

That’s right. She asked me to wear neutral lipstick.

 

I find it amusing and just a little sad that someone could ask me to dress like a pirate or belt out a song in front of two hundred strangers and I won’t even blink, yet if that same person asks me to go outside of my makeup comfort zone, I almost have a friggin’ stroke. But it is what it is. And since Elicia was such a super-cool chick, I finally agreed to release my death grip on my dark red lips and try something new, no matter how much it freaked me the hell out.

 

I think the trouble started when Elicia sent me a photo for reference. It was a glamour shot of the hot chick from Transformers (I had to look up online who she was) and in it she had heavily made up eyes and pale pink lips. 

 

 

Unfortunately, this is a style that looks fantastic on a gorgeous, twenty-something starlet walking the red carpet, and decidedly less so on an aging goth wedding officiant. But a promise is a promise, so into every CVS, Walgreens, Duane Reade and Rite Aid I went, photo in hand, searching for that elusive and magical shade of pink that would match Megan Fox’s perfect pout and therefore make my bride happy.

 

Three days later, I had almost a dozen lipsticks piled in my bathroom sink like spent shotgun shells, and I was no closer to the right shade of pink than when I started. I finally decided to get some professional help, so I walked to the nearest MAC store to enlist the services of some snarky teenager with foundation so thick it might as well have been applied with a spackle. The place was fairly empty, so as soon as I walked in, I was greeted by a tall, skinny queen with perfectly arched brows and what appeared to be glitter on his eyelashes. I held out my (by now) crumpled printout with relief, thinking that I would finally get what I was looking for. And wouldn’t you know it, Miss Thang took one look at the picture and, before I could say a word, said, “Oh honey, you do NOT look like Megan Fox.”

 

*sigh* Yeah, I knew that. Thanks, buddy.

 

Suffice to say that (despite being a bitchy queen) he was actually able to point me in the right direction, and so I went home with a lipstick that was pretty damn close and put the search to bed. The next problem, however, was my hair.

 

Hair is not normally a problem for most females over the age of 10, who all manage to style their hair on a daily basis without incident. I, however, apparently missed out on all of those How To Be A Girl classes when I was younger, and so even as a grown up, I can do little more than wash it and let it hang around. I can’t even make a decent ponytail; when I try, it’s always lopsided and loose and looks like it was styled by Edward Scissorhands while having a seizure. Don’t get me wrong; the long, wild locks look great on stage when I’m performing with my metal band, but they are lacking a certain amount of class when I have to dress up and pretend to be an adult. So on the morning of June 2nd, off to the salon I went, thinking that an hour should be plenty of time to wash my hair and blow it out into some semblance of order.

 

Two-and-a-half hours later, I was running at full-tilt from the salon to my apartment in a desperate bid to stay on time; having been late to a wedding once (not my fault, but still, I was devastated) I swore it would never happen again. Turns out my hair takes roughly FOREVER to blow dry because it’s so freakin’ long, and even though it looked fabulous, I was pissed as hell at the salon lady for not giving me a heads up on that little tidbit when I made the appointment (in person) a week earlier.

 

I threw on my dress and heels and (as I had mercifully already done my makeup before my hair appointment) prepared to head to the train. But almost as if a force field was preventing me from leaving, I came to a screeching halt at the mirror in the hallway. I turned to leave, then turned back. Turned. And turned back. Turned. And turned back. And suddenly I realized that, no matter how hard I tried, I was simply not going to be able to leave the apartment looking like my mouth was missing.

 

The irony of the situation was not lost on me. I know that most other women would have the exact same reaction if they suddenly had to give up their nudes and pinks and mauves to wear the bloodstained color that I wear every day and consider to be the epitome of normal, but no one was asking them to go outside of their comfort zones and onto the train looking like freaks.

 

To make a long story short, I wore my usual lipstick on the train ride, then sheepishly ducked into the bathroom at Le Parker Meridien to reapply the pink before the bride noticed. But truthfully, I could have been wearing any shade of lipstick or none at all or have been missing a mouth or had been naked and on fire while singing Oh! Susanna when Elicia walked into the room. ‘Cuz that chick looked like she just stepped out of a goddamn magazine.

 

 

 

Since the only designer I wear is T.Arget, I couldn’t tell you whose dress Elicia was wearing. But even a fashion idiot such as myself knows designer duds when she sees them, and this was the real deal. A slim, floor-length sheath in beautiful blush ended with soft wisps of blush and blue. Matching t-strap sandals made her look even taller and thinner, if that were even possible. And most importantly, she was beaming from ear to ear...the best bridal look of all.

 

Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild played on the PA, and as David pushed the wheelchair, Elicia’s father walked her down the aisle.

 

  
  

 

David’s vows were heartfelt and hilarious, meanwhile Elicia’s were summoned up from her Blackberry and ended with a joyous shout of “Let’s do this!” amid laughter and applause. We all filed out and into an indulgent cocktail hour, where my husband and I met and made many new friends. (Don’t believe me? Wait ‘til you read about Lena & Isaac...stay tuned!)

 

 

 

The penthouse of Le Parker Meridien was the setting for the elegant reception, with stunning views of Central Park and a glorious full moon. Elicia, a talented (and published!) children's book author had designed everything from the invites to the wedding programs to the menu. A fun photo booth allowed us all to act like idiots and then preserve the moment forever on film, much to my great shame. And at the end of it all, I went away with some amazing memories, some new friends, another gig on the horizon, and – best of all – a service that made the lovely couple and all of their guests incredibly happy.

 

Not to mention a small arsenal of pink lipsticks. And I’m not afraid to wear ‘em.

 

Okay, so maybe a *little* afraid.

 

Hey, I’m working on it.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

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