It is a delightful coincidence that in the last issue of the Bay Times, Howard Steiermann shared how he goes about creating a wedding. I had just interviewed my dear friend, Miriam Senturia, about her process! So here you go: another perspective on putting together your wedding with your chosen officiant.
Here’s my interview with Miriam:
What do you like best about being a wedding officiant?
I delight in helping couples realize their vision of a joyful and memorable wedding ceremony that reflects and celebrates their love, values, and cultural and faith traditions. I enjoy sharing my experience creating personalized Jewish, interfaith, and same-sex wedding ceremonies, along with my warmth, inclusive spirituality, listening skills and joyful singing.
Are there things that are particularly gratifying about marrying lesbian and gay couples?
Yes! I’ve been officiating same-sex weddings for eighteen years. I love working with same-sex couples to create a personalized wedding ceremony that celebrates their love and commitment. Now we’re able to actually sign a marriage license, which is truly wonderful. One lesbian couple had been partnered for decades, but without that piece of paper and all the benefits that go along with it. They took me up on my suggestion that we sign the marriage license under the chuppah (marriage canopy), during the wedding ceremony. Their family and friends all cheered; it was a grand moment. And for newer couples, I’m so happy that now they can have a marriage license, just like any other committed couple.
What do you do in your first meeting with a couple, to help prepare yourself for creating their ceremony? What kinds of things do you and they talk about?
I see the first meeting with a wedding couple as a time to begin to get to know each other and discern if I would be a good fit for them as their wedding officiant. We share a little about our backgrounds, and they answer my favorite question: how they met. They also talk about what they know so far about what they want in their ceremony and their officiant. I describe my process of planning a wedding and my “bottom lines” for wedding ceremonies, which are honesty, integrity, honoring, and that we do the planning together to assure that the ceremony will be deeply meaningful to both of them. I answer any questions they have about me or the process. I also sing for them, to give them a sense of how that would sound in their ceremony.
In our second meeting, we craft their wedding ceremony together, both the elements and the language, such as blessing language, how much Hebrew, etc. We draw on the beauty and wisdom of Jewish tradition in ways that ring true to them. If there is another tradition that is important to them, from another culture or another faith, we weave that in as well.
Afterward, I send them a draft of their wedding ceremony to review. We meet a third time to go through the ceremony and resolve any remaining questions.
On their wedding day, I arrive well before the wedding and stay as long as they need me.
What other things would you like to say about your wedding ministry?
I am based in the East Bay and travel to weddings throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area, Napa and Sonoma. I have worked with couples from near and far and am comfortable meeting in person or by Skype or Google-chat. To wedding couples who seek an experienced rabbi who is warm and open: please see my website and contact me so we can get started!
Rabbi Miriam Senturia, Singing Rabbi, was ordained as a Reconstructionist rabbi and has been officiating weddings since 1996. www.jewishinterfaithweddings.org.
Rev. Elizabeth River is an ordained Interfaith Minister based in the North Bay. For more information, please visit www.marincoastweddings.com.