Q&A with Officiant Extraordinaire, Spike Gillespie

Since making the decision to become a wedding officiant, I've been training with Spike Gillespie, one of Austin's most sought after officiants and writers.  All roads lead to Spike.  You can check out her web site here and make sure to read her blog, she's a hoot!

Spike has been very helpful:  letting me tag along to wedding after wedding, helping me with my writing and marketing, and even saving a stray dog along the way!  The following is a Q&A we did so you can learn more about me as a person and officiant.  It can also be found on Spike's blog here


Meet My New Colleague Sarah Greene Reed

From time to time I train new wedding officiants. Currently I’m working closely with Sarah Greene Reed, an artist, yoga teacher, and deliverer of abundant good energy. We’ve been having a great time talking, attending weddings together, and getting Sarah geared up for her first wedding, which is coming right up. Here’s a little Q&A I conducted with her so you can get to know her better, too. And be sure to check out Sarah's great website: Let's Do It Vows.

Q: What drew you to wedding work?

SGR: I am the type of person who likes to do a lot of things - you know, several fingers in several pies. And, that I have done! My background includes a lot of creative work (collage artist, photographer, graphic designer, illustrator, etc.) and a lot of coordination (event planning, talent coordination, non-profit and gallery management). When I started teaching yoga a few years ago I realized how important it is for me to work *with* people and to meet them at their level. I've always loved weddings, I'm such a fan of love and ritual. So, I figured out that I could combine people work AND weddings by helping couples craft and deliver their vows. It blends my creativity, my planning experience, my people skills, and my yoga training— breathe! don't lock your knees! I love it.

Q: You actually had an incredibly cool wedding yourself. Tell me about that.

SGR: Oh, thanks! Well, I decided early on that I wanted to take the reins of our wedding. I had been to too many impersonal (and ridiculously expensive!) weddings prior to ours. I had also been to some really good ones. So, I sampled and "borrowed" where I could and, otherwise, just made it up as I went along. When two people get married, the ceremony really should be about them as a couple, but, often, they need to acknowledge certain traditions or opinions of other family members and intimate friends. In our situation, I was raised really old school, high church Episcopalian. Chris wasn't particularly religious at all. I hadn't been active in the church for years, but I knew that it meant a lot to my family. I was comfortable with giving them that nod by having the ceremony at Trinity Episcopal Church in Houston.

To fulfill my needs, I did actually tour all of the Episcopal churches in Houston because, being a visual person, I needed to figure out which would best match my idea of what my wedding should look like! Trinity is a beauty, the current building was designed by Cram and Ferguson and dates from 1919. We stuck with a traditional Episcopalian Rite 1 service. It wasn't very personal. But, one way we were able to make it more our own is that we had Bill Miller, then rector of Trinity and the coolest priest around, conduct the service. (He now heads a church in Hawaii and owns a bar in an old funeral home in Marfa, TX, fittingly called "Padre's"!)  Bill understood us and it was nice having him on our side.

As for the ceremony, it was over the top! We just went for it. I had eight bridesmaids, Chris had eight groomsmen. We had a trumpet procession. I wore a freaking tiara. It was fantastic. To contrast this, we decided to give a nod to our Texas lifestyle with the feel of the reception. We drove our friend's red Lincoln convertible with suicide doors to Blanco's, an old Houston roadhouse with chicken wire on the ceiling. Blanco's was kind enough to add "Sarah & Chris" to their sign (just above "Kitchen Open"). We hired the amazing Zydeco Dots band to play and had some really simple beans & rice and jalapeno cornbread catered from a Cajun restaurant. Three kegs, a margarita machine, some plywood on the pool table to hold the cake ... and the reception was ON.

I changed into a 50s inspired polka dot dress and my bridesmaids donned their cowboy hats. The dance floor heated up. My college friends sang a song to the tune of "Deep in the Heart of Texas". (The only line I remember is "Can you make a career on cheese and beer ... Deep in the Heart of Texas?). Our wedding and reception were everything that we could have hoped for and more! They were fancy where we wanted formality and funky where we wanted fun.

Q: What can couples expect when working with you? 

SGR: Great question. One thing that I hear time and time again is that I put people at ease. I'm easy to talk to. In addition to being a teacher, I spent many years as a recruiter. I love meeting people and finding out about them. This skill comes in handy when planning wedding and commitment ceremony vows. With each couple I like to conduct an informal interview to find out their priorities and who they are. I value client input tremendously and want to help each couple plan their vows to reflect themselves, not imposing too much of "me" on them.  

I'm happy to keep it as secular or spiritual as they would like. If a couple would like for me to talk about them, I've found that everyone loves a personal story. This is one place the informal interview comes in handy, we can work to find a little anecdote that represents the couple. A chuckle is usually welcome at some point to calm nerves. Mainly, I want to stress that my clients can expect for me to be present in all ways. I will respect their time and be prompt. I will listen when I'm with them. I will focus on them leading up to and during the ceremony. I will use my years of life and career experience to give my clients what they need, when they need it. I've got their backs!

Q: What's your favorite part of weddings?
SGR: I love to see how special each couple is and I love to watch their union through their eyes and those of their loved ones. It's always surprising to see who cries (my Dad!), who gets shy, who gets the giggles, how the groom looks when he sees his bride, how the bride looks when she hugs her father after he gives her away, etc. There is a certain ritual to most ceremonies and, yet, every story is different. I love that.

Q: You've been married a long time-- best piece of advice you have for couples starting out?
SGR: And, how. I've been married since 2000 and I come from a long line of married people. My parents are celebrating their 50th anniversary next year!

A friend married a Welshman years ago and his East Texas mother-in-law leaned in right after the ceremony and told him "It ain't all roses.” A bit taken aback at this rather refreshing honesty, the groom confided to me later that it was actually good advice! Couples get very caught up in the planning of their weddings (myself included), so the reality of being married is often a rude awakening. All of the sudden you are hitched, coming off the wedding high, and dealing with reality.

You'll have good times and you'll have bad times, let's hope more good than bad. My husband and I have had both! But, honestly, after every conflict, I have felt great relief that I made the commitment to marry Chris. When you're married, it not that easy to bolt! (I'm kidding. Sort of.) To put it more eloquently, marriage allows a relationship the structure and space to work and figure things out when one might not otherwise allow the time. Also, I found it helpful to have friends involved in the wedding. I remember one friend being particularly moved that, during the ceremony, our congregation was asked to support us as a couple. I've actually called her a few times to bring some fresh perspective to some discussions within my marriage. She wholeheartedly committed to our union and still stands true to it.

Oh, and one more thing: people change on their own. You can't change them, nor would you want to.  Meet your partner where they are and revel in them! Marriage is a wonderful thing.

Contact Sarah and "Let's Do It" Vows for more information about her officiant / celebrant services for opposite and same-sex weddings, commitment ceremonies, and vow renewals in Austin, Central Texas, and West Texas.