When she and her husband Kip chose to elope in Manhattan 23 years ago, Marie Tyler Wiley knew they wouldn't be having a traditional wedding ceremony. But she didn't know that what transpired that day would change the course of her life and work.
Their ceremony lasted about 8 seconds, — "thirty seconds would be stretching it," she laughs — and may have been delivered in Swahili. She's still not sure.
"I didn't understand a thing the judge said. I think we said 'I do.' I looked over at Kip and he sort of shrugged. So I looked up at the judge and started to ask, 'Are we marri-' and he shouted, 'NEXT!!!'"
She and Kip were very relieved weeks later when paperwork arrived in the mail, confirming their legal status as husband and wife.
She smiles at the memory now, but says the experience inspired her to become an officiant who works to make weddings memorable for the right reasons.
Wiley has since performed more than 1,000 ceremonies, and racked up accolades in Bride and Modern Bride magazines, and on theknot.com and Wedding Wire sites.
She also has conducted free wedding ceremonies each Valentine's Day in the chapel at Olde Mistick Village since 2007.
"Joyce Resnikoff of Mistick Village has been wonderful to me," she said. "[The ceremonies are] my way of saying 'thank you' to the world," for being able to be a part of a sacred day in so many people's lives.
She also is grateful for the relationships she develops on the job and loves getting to know the couples she works with. Establishing a rapport, she says, not only helps her to write a personal, meaningful ceremony, it helps to reduce the anxiety surrounding the event itself.
"Once they're standing in front of me, it's like everything else disappears. There's this little circle of love."
She writes three complete and different ceremonies for each couple she works with.
"It gives them options," she said. "They can really get a feel for how they want things to go."
Often, couples will incorporate ideas from each proposal and add their own unique twists, which Wiley encourages. Even if they don't always remember the exact words they spoke in their vows, she says, they will remember the moment they promised their lives to each other. Wiley believes that small space in time should have an emotional import that resonates for years to come.
"[A ceremony] doesn't have to be long, but it does have to be special. And that is why I tell my couples: 'Have your wedding ceremony exactly — and only exactly — the way you want it,'" she says.
Many people cry at weddings. After having performed 1,000 ceremonies, does she ever get choked up?
"It's emotional. And I'm a very emotional person. But I've learned how to hold it in," she says, smiling.
IS: A self-described “die-hard
romantic,” mother, wife, poet,
sailor, justice of the peace
and nondenominational minister
PERFORMS: traditional, spiritual, civil union, and same-sex wedding ceremonies in Connecticut
and Rhode Island
HAS: An incredible smile,
a reassuring presence and
a contagious energy, as well as:
planning tips, lists of recommended
venues and vendors, and
examples of ceremonies
available on her website:
Or via email: