So your big day will soon arrive. Venue, catering and honeymoon set. But wait, something is missing.
In the past choosing a minister for your wedding may have been clear-cut.
Now there is a twist, weddings are now a mixture of Las Vegas, religion, spirituality and self.
Weddings off the beaten tract, have become the new mainstream and ministers are vying for your business.
And they are going as far as you would go.
“So far I have not been in a situation where there is a ritual I wouldn’t do,” says Interfaith Minister Rev Annie Lawrence. Notwithstanding, the exchange of vows and rings remain a constant emblem in her weddings.
Lawrence has incorporated everything from Smashing Pumpkins lyrics in vows – to rituals that included blessings around a fire. And you may have already guessed it – she prefers contemporary weddings.
It was five years ago that the minister took her side job of doing weddings to a full-fledged business www.revannielawrence.com, conducting 175 weddings last year.
The first wedding she did was for a friend, dressing in an earth-mother like gold kaftan. “I did it because I knew that I could and I haven’t looked back.”
With some seminary graduates offering these services for free, ministers like Lawrence face stiff competition. She charges a $500 minimum per wedding, but weekend rates are higher depending on the time. “I am making a living, I do not know if I am making a profit. I am working on that.” Since graduating 2002 from The New Seminary, in New York, as an ordained minister, this Allentown, Pennsylvania, native has performed weddings.
For Lawrence, no wedding is just a wedding and her prepping is detail driven.
I don’t want to say something that doesn’t represent their beliefs, she says.
Although she does believe that: “Certainly the more I know about a couple I think the warmer and fabulous the wedding is.”
Also a writer and educator – her own broken heart at watching her parents’ marriage disintegrated at age 10 energizes her to get it right
She normally would ask, “What would you like me to know about the two of you and what can I tell you about wedding ceremonies?” Where a traditional wedding may include some sort of spiritual counseling, Lawrence prefers to stay away from that. She firmly declares that, “I wouldn’t necessarily be the best person for the job…I am a very sensitive person.”
So who are her clients? They include couples that describe themselves as spiritual but not religious, same-sex couples and couples on their third trip down the aisle. She describes her ministry as, “service from the heart,” catering to all. And this is an example of what she means by that: “I was doing same-sex unions before they were legal.” She estimated doing half a dozen such weddings before it was legalized in New York. They are now a third or fourth of all the couples she marries.
“Some people think I marry them, and my perspective is you marry each other.”
Some of the greatest weddings I have done were for people in their 60’s and 70’s, she says, maybe in their second or third marriage. If you are wondering why, her sultry voice at almost a whisper said: “They get it. They get it. And the little things don’t matter.”
That is, the little personality stuff do not matter, they are so open, grateful and delighted to have a companion in their life, she says. And there are those weddings where she goes, “God Bless yah,” adding, “When I first started marrying people I would be afraid to send them anniversary cards because I wasn’t sure if they were still married.”
Nevertheless, she says confidently, “so far I think I have a very high success rate.”