Frequently Asked Questions
What is the process for creating the ceremony?
This varies from couple to couple. Typically, after a conversation for you to decide whether or not I’m the right person to conduct your ceremony, I ask for a 50% deposit to secure the date. I then provide you with a packet of materials to help you think about what you want your ceremony to look and feel like. It includes information on various rituals, as well as a selection of readings, secular blessings, sample vows and more. The more feedback you provide, the more I can customize your ceremony.
During this time, we speak several times. This can be in person (after Covid is better under control) or via Zoom or phone, so that I can learn about your needs, go over all the different possibilities, and learn more about your relationship and background. We spend time together so that every word in the ceremony ends up being appropriate and carefully chosen to reflect who you are. All of this typically happens before I begin to write the ceremony and it helps me craft a ceremony that is well-written, well-organized, and that works just as well on and off the page. I also take great care with the emotional impact of a ceremony. I want you, your families and your guests to truly enjoy it!
Working together also involves discussing and orchestrating the logistics of your ceremony. I have over 10 years of event-planning experience and this helps in planning the processional, the recessional and the flow of the ceremony. I present a range of options that are consistent with Humanistic and egalitarian values and help you think through your decisions.
Finally, after the ceremony is over, I provide you with a written copy of the ceremony. It’s nice to be able to look it over when you are alone together and more relaxed.
Do you lead the wedding rehearsal?
Yes, frequently. While a rehearsal is not always necessary, unless it is a very small wedding, it is usually helpful and makes everyone involved feel less stressed during the actual ceremony. Since one of my goals is to remove the stress and anxiety from your special day, I will walk you through all the steps and help the wedding party feel comfortable and confident in their roles. And if your wedding venue has an on-site coordinator who leads the rehearsal, I will communicate with them ahead of time, so they know exactly how the processional and recessional will take place.
How much experience do you have?
I have officiated for close to 100 couples who represent a wonderfully diverse group and who hail from all corners of the world: India, Russia, Indonesia, The Gambia, Venezuela, Spain, Venezuela, China, France and more. They have been straight and gay, demonstrative and shy, newly in love, and together for decades. They have both secular and religious backgrounds, and often have wanted to incorporate cultural rituals that come from their various, rich traditions - Jewish, Christian, Hindu and others. I love the fact that each couple is unique! (To read more about my ceremonial background, please visit that page.)
Can you help us choose music for the ceremony?
My colleague, Jennifer Birnbaum, has a Bachelors degree in Music and a Masters degree in Music Education/Ethnomusicology from two of the best music schools in the country. She is an almost life-long resident of Ithaca, well-connected with the local music community, and is my go-to person for ceremonial music.
How do we get a marriage license and what do we have to know?
Once we begin working together, I will provide you with all the information you need to obtain a marriage license in New York State, so you don't have to worry missing something.
What about help in planning the reception and on-site coordination?
For over ten years, Ceremonies and Event Planning of the Finger Lakes offered excellent planning and coordination services. Jennifer Birnbaum, who has been our primary on-site coordinator, continues to offer occasional planning and coordination services for those couples who request it. Barbara no longer offers on-site services, but is available to help with advance planning and coordination.
Are you willing to travel to officiate?
Yes. I have officiated throughout New York State, from Rochester, to Manhattan to the Adirondacks and am able to officiate nation-wide. (I do ask that travel expenses be covered for ceremonies outside of the Finger Lakes.)
How much do you charge?
My typical fee is in the range of $500-$600, with discounts for very simple ceremonies. I also have a sound system available for an extra rental fee of $150.00 (which is typically slightly less than a DJ would charge.)
We don’t really care about having a personal ceremony and we aren't having a bridal party. We just need someone to legally marry us. Do you do that?
Yes. I recognize that couples have different needs and priorities. I do have a short, template-based ceremony that I can use and I offer this service for a reduced fee.
Is there anything else we should know?
Overall, a good officiant will make your ceremony come alive and set the stage for love to be expressed and shared throughout the entire day. I love what I do and feel honored and grateful to play an important role on such a special day. Please don’t hesitate to contact me to ask any other questions you may have.