Interviews with New England Wedding Vendors – Officiant & JPs Part 1
Today, I’ve interviewed Justice of Peace and officiant Mike Backer, officiant Virginia Bishop, as well as Justice of Peace and officiant Kim Steward. I was especially curious to learn how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the officiant’s aspect of the wedding industry since many couples can still opt to elope or have a small, intimate wedding. Keep reading to learn more!
A little about the interviewees…
Mike is a Justice of the Peace and officiant who offers customized and personalized wedding ceremonies. He also conducts rehearsals to ensure that all details of the wedding go even better than couples expect.
Virginia is an ordained non-denominational officiant. She provides customized ceremonies, weddings, vow renewals, commitment ceremonies, baby naming, and celebrations of life; she also creates religious, non-religious, ethnic, themed, contemporary, and traditional rituals, providing couples with a souvenir keepsake booklet to cherish their ceremony forever. (I love this detail!)
Kim is a Justice of the Peace. She officiates weddings and elopements, and also performs vow renewal ceremonies. She’s been in the officiating industry since 2001, and has performed over 900 ceremonies to date. (Wow!) Aside from New Hampshire, she’s also officiated in Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, and New York.
Now onto the interview…
How has the pandemic affected your business? What’s one positive element of the pandemic?
Kim: A great number of my bookings have postponed their ceremonies until the fall or even next year. Overall, my business is down considerably. Thankfully I have a full-time job and this is not my only income. [For the positive] with some of the elopements that I have performed anyway during the pandemic, the couples have been extremely grateful for my services. Some need to marry for any number of [personal] reasons and if there is a way to make that happen, I will do it. From a personal standpoint, I have quite a bit more free time!
Mike: I’ve done a few more “elopement” ceremonies. However, nearly all the ceremonies that I had booked for March through September 2020 have been rescheduled. There hasn’t been any real positive attribute or opportunity about the pandemic, IMHO. [Though] it has forced, not in a bad way, for couples and vendors alike to be more understanding, flexible and accommodating in order to make the best of a really bad situation.
Virginia: Many [weddings] that had been scheduled were either canceled or rescheduled. I have and am offering small weddings, or weddings via Zoom. It has also impacted my celebrations of life in the same way. [For the positive] the pandemic has allowed us all to know that we are in this together. We offered each other support, and kindness and hope that things will turn around. It gave us a chance to look at our past accomplishments and plan for our future successes. In this industry, there is no real DOWN time, so this was the time to step back, reflect, renew, re-create, make new contacts, and work on making our businesses top-notch when the industry is up and running again.
How do you think the wedding industry will be affected as a whole?
Kim: I think overall the [wedding] industry will take a major hit and it will be slow to return. The area I operate the most in, the Mount Washington Valley of NH, is a real magnet for weddings, especially outdoor ones. We have a large industry here and many have been impacted even more greatly than myself.
Mike: My best guess is that when things return to the new normal, vis a vis, open ceremonies sans masks, gloves, social distancing, etc. couples may rethink the size and scope of their receptions.
Virginia: I personally think people will be more aware and cautious and will provide safe distance seating, they will have no close contact. I think we can all view this as an opportunity to come up with creative ideas for making this all work. I believe the pandemic has taught each and every one of us to value one another and to learn that if we are patient, it will all work out for the best.
What kind of regulations or precautions do you think should be put into place moving forward?
Mike: Because my physical contact with couples is somewhat limited in the amount of time with them AND I can distance myself, I am personally comfortable with being able to maintain current social distancing and other precautions for each and every ceremony, regardless of where it’s held.
Kim: For me, it may mean only that I may or may not wear a mask during my duties [depending] on how close to the couple I am. [For example] I take the marriage license from the couple [and] that is the extent of contact. This is what I have been doing for weddings since the shutdown began in March. I cannot speak of the precautions or regulations that might need to be put in place in the venues I traditionally operate in though.
Virginia: Social distancing, masks, hand sanitizing. Limiting crowd size. Letting guests know ahead of time that will be the case when they arrive. I may consider also having guests sign a COVID waiver [as well].
Though large weddings may not be an option at this time, it’s good to know that there are talented people like Mike, Virginia, and Kim that can still make marriages official – especially in such an uncertain time. Their work proves that love will always prevail, and I think that’s beautiful.
Thank you for reading! Stay tuned for the next interview, which will be a second part to this one, publishing soon.
OFFICIANT/JUSTICE OF PEACE SOCIAL MEDIAS