One of the best parts of my job as a wedding photographer is all of the great vendors I get to work with. NYC wedding officiant Rev. Annie Lawrence and I have known each other for a long, long time. I can’t quite remember the first time we worked together…it’s easily been over a decade…
We first bonded over our mutual love of theater and other nerdy topics, but one of the best things about Rev. Annie is how much she absolutely cares about the couples she works with.
What’s your favorite part about the wedding day?
The Love Bubble…when the couple are fully present & even the guests are “tuned in” and we are almost all breathing in sync
Life goes by so fast. That’s why we stop & celebrate holidays, birthdays, our most important moments. So often we rush through life & don’t acknowledge or appreciate each other with kind words, encouragement,and deep listening. A wedding day is an opportunity to tell your loved one, and your family & friends, just how much they mean to you, and how much you really care.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to engaged couples if you had the chance to tell them before they met you?
I can’t tell you how many couples ask me for a short, quick, fast ceremony, as if they find the idea of saying “I Love You” extremely painful, and they want to get it over with like ripping off a band aid. Or brides who tell me they don’t want to cry. Guess what? It’s going to be slow, deep, meaningful, and chances are–you are going to cry. So just relax. I always carry tissues with me. Be present, feel your feelings. This is how we make a beautiful memory.
How did you start doing weddings?
I went to Interfaith seminary in NYC to learn more about the history of world religions. I did this just for me, to be aware & awake & a more conscious human being. When I was ordained, a friend asked, “So can you marry people now?” My 1st wedding was for the niece of a friend. And then suddenly I found myself doing so many weddings, I quit my job to be able to do weddings full time.
What did you do before working weddings?
I’ve been a dorm mother, a waitress, a sales girl for department stores & boutique designers, I’ve been a dancer, an actress, an executive assistant to a Wall Street millionaire and a Tony Award winning designer, I’ve been a dean of students in seminary, and I’m still a “Big Sister” to mentees. I’m a lifelong volunteer & helper. I used to say of myself “Writer, Sister, Seeker.” These days I refer to myself as “Ceremony Artist.”
What would your dream job be if you couldn’t do weddings?
Right now, I’m deeply touched & concerned about the welfare of elders in our country. American assisted living & nursing homes were modeled after hospitals, and there’s a need for a more home-like environment. Our communities are now being flooded by elders who need care, company, support & services. I’m looking for ways to extend my ministry into areas where I can give love & attention to those nearing end of life.
What do you feel you bring to your clients that no one else does?
I’m a sensitive & creative person, and in ritual space it’s very important to be in the moment. I’m not just reading out of a book or cutting & pasting a ceremony I found on the internet. Every ceremony, from elopement to big 5 star wedding has the personal touch, and reflects the couple who are saying “I Do.”
The ceremony is not just the words we say. It’s holding the space for the emotions, the circle of family & friends,and setting intentions & affirmations for the future.
What are you listening to/watching/reading lately that you think other people should check out?
I love pop culture, and always have several books & TV series going at the same time. “Theatre is my church,” and my calendar is full of dates to see Broadway & Off-Broadway, and live music shows. When I want to chill out, I listen to kirtan: Deva & Mitten Premal, Snatam Kaur, Jai Uttal, Krishna Das. The documentary “Alive Inside” transformed my thoughts about people with Alzheimer’s. My winter binge-watching plans include Feud, The Handmaid’s Tale, and the next Outlander book on my list.
How would you advise couples to take care of themselves leading up to the wedding?
Take a few days off before the wedding to get some extra sleep, manicure, massage. Practice mindfulness & gratitude thinking. Visualize everything working out just fine. Save the drinking until after the ceremony–you want to look & feel your best.
On wedding day eat a banana, oatmeal, something to soothe a nervous tummy. Breathe. This is your life happening. Slow down, make the moment last.
What’s your guilty pleasure and why?
Every year, I go to Night of a Thousand Stevies, aka NOTS & dress in costume– or as we say “Stevierealness.” I’m thrilled Will & Grace are back & better than ever. And I confess, I’m fangirling Matt Ashford’s return to Days of Our Lives. Days was my college soap, and Jack & Jennifer are one of my Super Couples!
Do you have anything coming up that you’re really excited about?
Earlier this year I was on Fox 5 during “wedding week,” & also featured in the Stone Fox Bride book! Every year there’s usually a fun interview, TV spot, or feature inside the wedding world that makes me proud of my job & experience as a wedding pro.
What’s your biggest wedding industry pet peeve?
My wedding world pet peeve is when photographers, planners, & bloggers mention the venue, the dress,the florals, the shoes–and leave out the officiant. We were there too! There would be no wedding without us!
Why do people not take the officiant seriously?
A planner contacted me because her “5 star wedding couple” wanted to go with their friend (from another country) to marry them. Does he know what to do? How will he get registered to perform their ceremony?
It’s so much more than signing a license.
More & more non-religious couples are choosing a non-experienced person to marry them, and every month I get calls from panicked couples whose sister/friend/Uncle never registered as an officiant, and did not prepare a ceremony in time. Talk about extra added stress. The City Clerk’s Office told me that half the marriage licenses they receive are not legally valid.
HALF? What? That’s CRAZY!!!
My job is so much more than the words we say. Religious, spiritual, or civil ceremony…my job is the same. The officiant is your scribe, personal playwright, director, & stage manager coordinating with all the other members of the team–planner, photographer, venue, videographer, caterer, DJ, musicians. An experienced & reputable officiant is prepared, puts you at ease, and can deliver the style of ceremony you are looking for. My most frequent inquiry is, “we only need you for 15 minutes.” You may want a short ceremony, but my time & preparation for that 15 minutes adds up to many hours of listening, advising, writing, practicing, preparing, traveling, overseeing & processing documentation, and follow-up.
Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of ceremonies and you can tell when someone just Googled “wedding ceremony”…
I immediately recognize a cut and paste ceremony copied from the internet. You’re paying me to have the personal attention. I’m going to interview you and you’re going to see the ceremony and say “Yea that’s us!”
You’re not getting the guy from The Princess Bride, you’re going to get someone who cares about you and pays attention to you.
Yea, I think that sometimes couples feel that anyone can do it….
It’s not a toast. It’s a magical moment to affirm their love and their future.
I think the couples who find me take love seriously.
A ceremony about a real couple is about ups and downs. It’s not about the ‘perfect picture’
I love that couples I work with see me as a magical fairy godmother. That’s wonderful. It took of hours of training & years of experience for me to make it look so easy!