Is it just me, or is the wedding ceremony itself a bizarrely glossed over part of planning? If you’re not getting married in a religious community that includes pre-marital counseling and ceremony planning, it can just kind of get overlooked by the things that people keep asking about: “Did you buy a dress yet? What kind of dessert are you serving? What’s your décor going to be?”
It wasn’t until around a month before my own wedding that I realized in a panic that I didn’t want the ceremony to be something we all just had to “get through” before getting to the party. We were getting married, for Pete’s sake, I wanted it to feel meaningful! But I was at a loss as to how exactly to pull that off. I had clearly never written a ceremony before. We weren’t part of any kind of religious or spiritual community that offered guidance or officiants, and we didn’t even have a mutual friend with a way-with-words who was an obvious choice to help out.
All I wanted was to be able to hire a non-religious professional who would 1) help create a ceremony and 2) actually officiate, without any awkward questions about our spirituality or inserting mentions of “God” against our wishes. Apparently that was too tall of an order for Google. As luck would have it I eventually found that person on APW, and working with her was exactly the kind of space-holding and support I desperately needed in writing a ceremony and actually doing the thing of standing up in front of an audience and getting married. Our ceremony was beautiful, meaningful, and rooted in who we actually were—and people said lovely things about it afterwards.
My own officiant stopped doing weddings years ago, and it killed me to not have someone in my little black book of NY vendor recommendations. (Once I solve a problem for myself, the least I can do is pass the solution on to everyone else.) All this to explain why I am over the moon that we had a delightful, supportive, down-to-earth officiant (who offers both in-person officiating and virtual ceremony help), Chaplain Claudia Meyer, join The L.O.V.E. Club this fall.WHO: Chaplain Claudia Meyer
WHERE: Based in Albany, NY, Claudia officiates throughout the Capital District, Hudson Valley, Saratoga, and Adirondack regions of New York State, and works with couples on wedding ceremonies virtually throughout the U.S. and beyond.
WHY YOU WANT TO WORK WITH CHAPLAIN CLAUDIA MEYER, TL:DR: Don’t let the title “Chaplain” scare you—Claudia had me at, “Spirituality is important to me, but it doesn’t have to be to you.” Regardless of your spiritual or religious beliefs (of lack thereof), as a chaplain, Claudia is a professional space-holder, which is an incredible benefit on an intensely emotional day like a wedding. As she breaks it down, “officiants are one-part writer, one-part performer, and one-part coach”, and it can be tough to find a friend or family member who fits all three roles. (Claudia has a great blog post on what qualities and skills to look for in either a friend or a pro right here.)
In addition to traditional officiating (which includes the creation of your ceremony), Claudia Meyer works virtually with couples who are DIY-ing it, but need to call in reinforcements. Which, yes, finally someone gets that the vast majority of couples creating their own ceremonies are not professional writers and need a little help, thank you very much. Claudia has all kinds of mix-and-match options for support including coaching and professional feedback/edits for writing a ceremony, more in-depth ceremony planning and writing, and even help with your vows. (Plus! Claudia is offering a special APW TLC discount on all of these, so if you need help STAT, scroll on!)The long version, in Claudia’s words:
I was drawn to APW – and especially Meg’s book – because both were practical and passionate, a mix I really value. I believe APW couples are looking for both the practical and the meaningful, and I embrace them both! I became even more of a fan of APW and Meg when she started posting about her dad’s hospitalization and eventual death because, as a hospital chaplain for ten years (prior to starting my business as an officiant), I really understand and empathize with what she was going through. It reminded me that my personal background informs and actually strengthens my skills as a professional officiant. Every officiant promises to create a “personalized” ceremony, because no one wants generic or cookie-cutter. Personalization is also what drives many couples today to choose to have a friend or family member marry them. What I bring to my couples above and beyond this is a passion for really listening to their hopes and wishes for their wedding, as well as to their story, and putting them at ease in an unfamiliar experience—standing in front of a crowd of their loved ones and getting married!
I worked for ten years as an interfaith chaplain in a hospital, which means that I spent a lot of time listening and getting to know people from all sorts of different backgrounds and faiths and offering them comfort and guidance in a very stressful situation. I also have this really funky combination of being a bit Type A (excelled in school to distinguish myself from my older brothers) and a bit of a ham (grew up singing in church groups and loved theater in high school and college). So I help my couples stay on task in planning their ceremony, but also make sure everyone is relaxed and having fun before the wedding. I love working with couples who value their ceremony, and are intentional about planning a wedding that reflects their values and interests, and aren’t afraid to step outside of the box and be creative.
HOW MUCH: Claudia offers elopement packages starting at $250 (as well as a $900 package that includes all the paperwork and photography), and personalized wedding ceremonies starting at $500. All personalized wedding ceremonies include access to her for support during the planning process and a rehearsal. Add-ons like writing your own vows, including a ritual, or travel are also available. (Most couples end up spending between $600-800 total.) Virtual services like ceremony feedback, officiant coaching, vow consultation, ceremony planning, and writing your ceremony range from $100 – $600.
PLUS! Claudia is offering 25% off any of her virtual services for couples getting married in 2020, which are available to APW readers regardless of where you live.
“Claudia is genuine. That’s not something you can fake. When we met with her, it felt like we were meeting with an old friend. We weren’t just ‘clients,’ she really cared about our ceremony being special, and working with us.”
“Claudia is passionate about her work and took the time to truly understand my husband and I. She asked thought-provoking questions during our first meeting that made their way into a beautifully crafted ceremony script! We used her wedding vow guide as a tool to create personalized vows, held a beautiful rose ceremony for our mothers, and enjoyed her poem and blessing selections throughout. Claudia guided us throughout the entire process and we felt confident with her by our side.”
“Our only regret is that we can’t get married again so we can hang out more. Claudia is a wonderful, compassionate, sincere person, and someone we truly adore as a human, not just the person who did our wedding.”
WHAT NOW: If you’re looking for a relaxed, supportive professional officiant for your Upstate New York wedding or elopement, Chaplain Claudia Meyer is perfect. Go see all her rates, follow her on IG, and reach out here.
OR if you’re overwhelmed by a few aspects of your upcoming ceremony—Claudia can help you make an amazingly meaningful ceremony happen, quite possibly for less than $100—go see all the options for how she can help right here.