Catie Curtis On Same Sex Marriage
Any gay or lesbian couple that has tied the knot can tell you about the sheer impact that the vow exchange and ceremony can have for every person in attendance. Same sex weddings are visceral experiences. They are real. They are powerful. And, they are meaningful. Especially because gays and lesbians don’t for a single minute take for granted the opportunity to stand up — publicly — and proclaim their love and commitment.
Getting married, whether legally or by consecration of one’s community, is sacred to those same sex couples who choose the road to the altar. Or over the broom. Or to City Hall. It is a privilege and a gift.
Enter, then, popular songwriter, Catie Curtis, who knows this path first-hand and is now expressing her wish to support same sex couples in this journey. And she is doing so by incorporating her talent as a wordsmith with her new status as a licensed marriage officiate.
Her latest endeavor seems a perfect calling given that so many LGBT couples have claimed one of Catie’s songs as “our song,” thanks to her ability to capture the universal and personal moments of finding and falling in love.
And so we ask you to imagine the personal and emotional power of having the artist who has written and performs your favorite love song to stand with you and sing that very song at your ceremony or reception. It’s powerful stuff.
Though I know why Catie is doing this (having discussed her wishes with her before accepting her invitation to promote exclusively her Catie Curtis Wants To Marry You experience in our boutique), I thought it might be helpful for our readers to hear her words first-hand.
So, without further ado, my chat with Catie Curtis:
Q: Let’s cut to the chase: What has inspired you to officiate gay and lesbian wedding ceremonies?
First of all, I am frequently told that my music has been used in all kinds of celebrations of love. Secondly, I know couples who did not have a pastor/reverend/rabbi in their lives who they’d want to officiate when planning their wedding . So who should officiate? Probably someone who stands up for gay relationships, and loves to talk and sing about love in public. And finally, I cry at weddings (not yours, of course). I love to see a couple trusting love enough to make vows to one another. I love to hear the story of how they met and how they got engaged. I love the testimonials to the couple’s trials and tribulations. When I thought of this idea, I immediately felt like this would be a natural extension of what I do as a singer/songwriter and I couldn’t wait to jump in.
Q: Are you seriously licensed to marry people?
Yes! I am ordained as a Universal Life Minister. The Universal Life Church exists online for the purpose of ordaining people to marry. Every county of every state varies slightly in its regulations so it’s important to double check the laws. Sometimes a justice of the peace is needed to sign the marriage certificate, but most often my ordination certificate is enough.
Q: Can you tell us a bit more about how you plan to participate in the weddings of the couples who book you for their weddings?
I will spend two one-hour sessions (via phone, Skype, or in person) discussing the the couple’s plans for what is sung and said at the wedding. I can offer resources and advice to help them pick out appropriate readings and musical selections. I will encourage them to write their own vows, and will offer guidance in that creative process. I want to help couples express their personalities in a unique ceremony, by adapting traditional templates or starting from scratch. On the day of the wedding I will host the ceremony, marry the couple, and offer a spoken piece or a song I have written for them. If desired, I will sing a Wedding Set for the guests at the reception. I might even cry but I’ll try not to!
Q: Why did you want to offer this through GayWeddings.com?
In looking through the resources online, this was the site that I wish I had seen when planning my own wedding. It’s the best site out there, so I hope lots of people will have the chance to look through it while making their plans.
Q: You and your partner, Liz, married in New Hampshire. How much of a role did your own experience play into wanting to develop this opportunity for other couples?
Our wedding was held at a gorgeous but rustic summer camp in New Hampshire, surrounded by mountains and lakes. I am still in awe of how much power the wedding had for us as a couple, and I think, for our community. I’m not someone who ever gave much thought to getting married, since I had assumed all my life that gay people just don’t do that! In retrospect I’d say we were transformed by the experience of writing our vows and saying them out loud with our community as witness. The fact that it wasn’t legally recognized at the time (2000) did not diminish the meaning it had for us. I want others to have access to this experience.
Q: Are you legally married? How did you go about tying the legal knot?
In 2005, after our two international adoptions were completed, we arranged for a Justice of the Peace to come to our home in Massachusetts. She married us in the kitchen. Our witnesses were our baby, our toddler, and few close family members.
Q: Who officiated at your ceremony and/or marriage?
We had co-officiants: My sister Deb and Liz’s sister Meg.
Q: What’s the best advice you would like offer to about nurturing a healthy relationship over time?
As one friend said after her divorce, “You need to treat your marriage like a religion,” by which she meant, devote time, love and material resources to it. Stay spiritually connected. Indulge yourselves sometimes. When we’re justifying the expense of dinner out and a babysitter, we’re thinking hey, it’s a lot more fun and cheaper than divorce.
Q: What’s your favorite wedding planning tip for couples who are just getting started?
Have fun with it. My partner and I planned our wedding over local brew and legal pads at our favorite pub. We’d say, “okay we need to have another wedding summit.” We’d make a date out of it.
Q: Which of your songs do couples most request that you play for them as “their” song?
Q: If you had a ‘first dance” or song played during your ceremony, what was it?
During our ceremony we used “My Love Will Follow You,” by Buddy Miller. We changed a few of the words to make it slightly less dark. Singer/songwriters Jennifer Kimball and Kris Delmhorst sang it for us.
Q: If you could have any recording artist officiate at a vow renewal for you and Liz and then play at the reception who would it be? What songs would you request in the set?
Maybe we would have the Weepies (Deb Talan and Steve Tannen) and they would have to play “Painting by Chagall” which features the line:
Everybody says “you can’t you can’t you can’t /don’t try”
Still everybody says that if they had the chance they’d fly like we do.
Q: Why does marriage matter to you? Why should it matter to everyone?
When the sh*t hits the fan in a relationship it helps a lot to remember that you intentionally vowed to make it through the hard stuff. The legal protections are also important and are a basic matter of equality. Everyone should have access to the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage. As a personal view, I don’t think marriage does or should matter to everyone.
Q: How does Liz feel about your slogan: “Catie Curtis wants to marry you!” Does she have a tag line to add?
Perhaps “*advertised merchandise is currently out of stock”?
Photo credits: Tony Baker
Wedding innovator Kathryn Hamm (@madebykathryn) is co-author of The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography (Amphoto Books, 2014), an Education Expert for WeddingWire and Publisher of GayWeddings.com