The Officiant

Photo: Danny Kim

Kim Kirkley, Celebrant and Interfaith Minister

What is a celebrant, exactly?
We are professionally trained people who believe in ceremonies. It is our credo never to put our personal beliefs into a ceremony. We listen to what the couple believes in, and we craft something that specifically fits that. They have word-for-word approval of the text.

Do you cater to those who have no religion at all?
Oh, yeah, they are some of our ideal clients. Usually there are underlying values—something that is undergirding their lives—and they don’t have a chance to express it in day-to-day conversation. I’ve had atheist couples who created something extremely meaningful and paid tribute to the love that changed their lives.

How do you strike a balance between emotional and cheeseball?
We don’t use tried-and-true phrases. We strive for authenticity. No cookie-cutter ceremonies.

Why not just skip the officiant altogether and have my best friend get ordained on the Internet by the Universal Life Church?
Well, we are trained in the art of public speaking. We’re able to project our voices without sounding harsh and are able to craft a unique ceremony. Also, we have that sense of professional detachment. We’re not processing our own emotions on the day.

So you never get misty-eyed?
Oh, yeah, I do. There’s something about people coming together with their friends and family and speaking from the heart so bravely and with such depth. I can’t help but be touched by it.

Have you ever had anyone stand up in response to “Speak now or forever hold your peace”?
I have said that before, but no one has ever stood up. That line is a historical remnant.

What’s your advice for finding a great New York officiant?
Check your comfort level with the person. You should feel free to state your requests, even if they’re silly or odd. You should have confidence that the person can hold the space so that guests won’t want to talk over them, to give the sense that this is an actual ceremony even though it’s not in a place of worship. You also want to be mindful of the person’s voice: Is it pleasant? Can you imagine him or her speaking to 200 people outdoors? Would it sound grating?

So avoid the Fran Dreschers.
[Laughs] Yeah. And also, some people just don’t know how to project, so it sounds like shouting. You don’t want a shouting ceremony. Consulting with them over the phone or in person and reading their references and reviews should do it.

So you have to really feel it to do your job well.
I do have to feel it. It’s a privilege to be able to stand up with people from all different backgrounds. My overarching goal is to be that warm place where people can feel okay about their belief system

Consider the Semantics

“If I don’t say God but rather the universe, I can reference a higher power in a way that suits everyone involved.”


The Officiant