Ask an Expert
The Reverend Laurie Sue Brockway, Officiant
Whom do you marry?
I’m a nondenominational officiant, which means I’m trained to deal with people of all faiths. I do weddings of spirit, but they’re not beholden to any specific religion.
What kinds of things do you recommend couples ask themselves when planning their ceremony?
Do you follow a religion, and if so, are you devoted to it? Are you comfortable using the word God? Do you want to inject humor into your vows? My job is to lighten the anxiety load.
Do you see a lot of anxious grooms.
I had one groom who had written notes in the script: “Here’s where Henry faints,” “Here’s where they bring smelling salts.”
Do they ever cry?
Lately every groom’s been crying. I bring tissues.
So, what are the legal logistics of marriage?
To get your license, you go to one of five clerks’ offices in the city. There’s one in each borough. It costs $35 and has to be a money order. Arrive 45 minutes before the office opens to be first on line. On a busy day, you can be stuck there for five hours if you’re not early.
What are your favorite cultural rituals?
I love the Celtic tradition of blessing the hands—tying them together to symbolize the strength of the union. There’s also the jumping of the broom, which is an African-American custom started by slaves. I’ve also been asked to do a Hindu saptapadi, which involves taking seven steps around a sacred fire and making seven sacred vows.
Do couples get really stressed out?
Yes! Some couples have dysfunctional families who pull it together on the day of the wedding. Others don't. So, with just one witness, at my house or in a park, I'll marry them quietly beforehand.