Love is what wedding officiant Selena Naumoff believes in, especially if there’s a fandom involved.
Selena decided that instead of throwing a birthday party for herself in 2011, she’d treat herself to attending seminary. Now, she’s just a few classes away from earning a Masters of Divinity. Somewhere along her journey, she decided to be interfaith, which many churches and synagogues won’t touch.
“I think there’s wisdom to be found in all religions,” she said.
As an officiant, Selena performs weddings for any consenting adults, including queer couples. She also lends her services to funerals, baptisms, and blessings, but weddings are something special for her. And while she specializes in interfaith marriages, she also dips her toes into the waters of themed weddings.
A frequenter of Comic Cons in Denver and Phoenix, Selena found a powerful themed wedding program in Phoenix, where she once performed a Dr. Who-style ceremony as well as a Walking Dead theme for a pair of brides.
Conventions are where she’s seen most themed weddings, but she has noticed a shift toward themes outside of the fandom world.
“If you don’t have a church, but you want to be spiritual and combine two different faith — and some Harry Potter — it can be a little difficult,” Selena said. “A lot of ministers take themselves too seriously and won’t dress in a costume, but I totally will.”
Though there are some weddings Selena won’t touch—Betazoid weddings (for non-Trekkies, those are done in the nude) and Red Weddings (if you know Game of Thrones).
“It feels like we’ve shifted from traditional ideas to people just looking for an identity,” she explained. “People are looking to put more ‘them’ in their weddings, and sometimes that just means embracing a fandom.”
Selena recalls seeing themed weddings for the first time back in the ‘70s in Las Vegas, where Star Trek weddings were the rage. Now the most common theme seems to be Renaissance weddings.
“They may not realize they’re doing a themed wedding, but they totally are,” she said.
Where it started for her, though, was during the comic con’s fashion show where she dressed as a Star Wars Empire bride, escorted by a couple of Stormtroopers. Selena noticed there was a geeky wedding void to be filled.
“People can get a little nervous about [themes],” she said. “But if the two of you met over Harry Potter, what a great way to celebrate.”
Even if the decorations are subtle, like wands featured in bouquets or a minister dressed in a wizard’s robe, it is still homage.
One of her favorite weddings took place on the groom’s farm, where he rode in on a tractor and his bride followed on a little John Deere. She’s also performed a small ceremony inside a vintage train car at a railroad museum. However, she’s never done a wedding in a church. Most of her weddings take place in nontraditional settings.
But the role of an officiant is much more than just performing the ceremony. Officiants work with the couple to decide the service of the wedding — including details like religious aspects and song choices — to premarital counseling, where the officiant guides the couple through keeping the experience sacred. But she’s also there to make sure the couple takes a breath and eats something. Essentially, the officiant is a guide.
“It’s a weird business because couples are willing to spend thousands of dollars on flowers, which are dead in a matter of days, but they’re hesitant to spend $200 on an officiant,” she explained, noting that choosing an officiant should be one of the first decisions an engaged couple should make.
“A wedding officiant is not a wedding planner, but they have just as much experience because they’ve done it all and seen it all,” she said. “There’s such a huge opportunity to get your officiant to help you pull together all the pieces.”
Selena says some officiants make sure there are pieces of the ceremony present throughout the rest of their lives. Some use symbolism like flowers, which allows the couple to recall their vow during hard times.
“Good officiants are paying attention to how to make the wedding vows last through the years,” she said.
Especially in this rocky political climate, Selena believes this is time for those who believe in love to take a stand against politicians, who in some states are still trying pass laws making gay and interracial marriages invalid. She hopes every officiant can find the courage to perform certain weddings despite laws.
“Lock me up for it,” she says. “I’m waiting for it.”
Selena’s services can be found on Facebook through Interfaith Connections.