Meet The Minister | Weddings | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
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Meet The Minister 

Officially Finding the Wedding Officiant

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Reverend Puja Thompson blesses the rings at a wedding at Liberty View Farm in Highland. - MAGGIE HEINZEL-NEEL
  • Maggie Heinzel-Neel
  • Reverend Puja Thompson blesses the rings at a wedding at Liberty View Farm in Highland.

Creating a Personal Experience

Amy Benedict, life-cycle celebrant and ordained interfaith minister, works with couples to create a lasting memory—before their family and friends—that will inspire them for a lifetime. Most of her weddings take place in natural settings that often hold special meaning for the couple. This could run the gamut from a simple ceremony in a beloved uncle's garden in the Berkshires to a flotilla ceremony on a sailboat surrounded by guests in canoes and kayaks. Benedict's creative concepts have even inspired couples to reinvent a Buddhist water-blessing ceremony where they were married by candlelight on a New England farm. Whatever the concept may be, personal and specialized is a constant. Along the same vein, Reverend Puja Thomson, who was ordained as a Minister of Natural Health and Healing in the Healing Life Center Church, says that her ceremonies are unique for many different reasons: Some are humorous, while others may be sad. She listens carefully to what the couple hopes to express through their ceremony and talks with them about their values that will be reflected in the vows. During a same-sex wedding last fall, Scottish partners, who had family visiting from their homeland, came in wearing silly hats and sunglasses. And while the mood was light and full of laughs as they walked down the aisle, once the ceremony began, it was focused and heartfelt.

Stepping Outside the (Religious) Box

A Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project survey from October 2012 reveals that one-fifth of all adults and one-third of those under the age of 30 are religiously unaffiliated—the highest number today. Benedict notes that her clients are part of this growing demographic and are seeking a meaningful affair, rather than an experience at a house of worship. In addition, Chertoff says that one of the biggest changes he's seen over the years is that couples are moving away from getting married in religious institutions, even if they are religious. "They understand that God is everywhere." And if you're divorced and can't get married by a priest, he'll happily wear a collar for you. Or a monk costume if that floats your boat. He's been a pirate, too. According to Chertoff it's "whatever they want." His only rule for couples: same species.

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