love of art, art for love

Artist Profile: Ann Keeler Evans, The Wedding Priestess

In Artist Profile on April 27, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Ann Keeler Evans, the Wedding Priestess

Meet Ann Keeler Evans, the Wedding Priestess. We are sure you’ll love her as much as we do.

You are a Wedding Priestess. Can you explain a little bit about what that means?

A priest concerns herself with the rituals of life rather than the more pastoral “ministering to people’s needs.” I am most interested in celebrating and supporting the transitions that move people from one segment of life to the next. While I have worked with churches, and with one small congregation for 10 years, I enjoy my work with individuals, couples, families and communities. I work with people wherever they are in their lives, in their souls and in the world.

The term Priestess is a result of both my feminine/feminist bent and a pet name that one of my couples used. It describes both who I am and what I do.I tried it. I liked it. It stuck.

Much of the work I do today is focused on weddings, because people understand the importance of weddings. After their wedding experience with me, a couple’s understanding of ritual grows to include the many other kinds of celebrations of life passages that exist. I love when people realize that they can celebrate their lives all the time, and ask their beloved community for support.

I prepared for ministry in both Mainstream (an M.Div. at Union Theological Seminary) and traditional ways (with Native Teachers, shamans and witches). All of these added to my understanding of the importance of ritual and celebrating life passages. (And I’m sure a lifetime closet addiction to romances hasn’t hurt my ability to think grandly about romance and marriage! Shhh. Don’t tell anyone!)

Ritual matters and it makes a difference. The goal of a good wedding ceremony is to produce a lifelong marriage that the couple can live in happily and healthily forever.

How do you help couples create their own, unique wedding ceremonies?

While I write personal weddings for every couple I work with I follow an outline of what I believe belongs in a ritual very closely. I believe that there are 10 steps that take you from (in the case of wedding ceremonies) engaged to married. The ritual form remains constant whatever ritual is being celebrated.

The wedding becomes unique to the couple when their romance, their values, their personalities and their intentions for marriage begin to form and inform the ceremony.

No wedding happens without at least 4 meetings with the couple and lots of backing and forthing with the wedding document. Together, we edit and add and subtract as they find permission to open up. I blend in ritual activities as they reveal family traditions, personal interests and activities that center them as a couple.

I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years now, so I’ve gotten better at asking the right questions in the initial meeting, but you never know when people are going to tell you something that will lead to an absolutely magical moment in their wedding ceremony.

What kinds of questions do couples usually ask you?

Couples come with a question about price, but proceed with questions about what is possible in wedding ceremonies and how they can celebrate this aspect of who they are.

What was the most unique wedding(s) you ever officiated?

It’s so easy to say it’s the couples who incorporated Thai dancing or personalized song or poetry whose weddings were the most interesting.But what made those weddings interesting was that the art form or the ritual activity fit that couple. When there’s a good match between who people are and what people see, everything works really well at the wedding.

So, really, I specialize in unique weddings: weddings that look exactly like my couples. It’s so fun!

How does art play a role in your business?

My job is to move people. Couples to the possibility and the reality of life-long promises, communities to support of such important endeavors and the world to the understanding that the sacred celebration of people’s goals, intentions and promises makes a difference in society. I might define the making of art as the use of your gifts whether visual or musical or verbal to help folk to see the world differently, appreciate it more greatly, value it more highly.

It demands our being present – present to life and present to it. It doesn’t work unless you put the hours in day after day, hour after hour. I’m a word artist. My words don’t mean much unless I work at the craft of writing, so the wild wondrous stuff has a platform to stand on. (Sort of like marriage, you need strong well-crafted wedding vows as a platform so your marriage can soar!)

And then it becomes great when you start working with other people (people like Chloé or Anna who add their gifts to a ceremony, or people like Gisele Perez who listen to what you say and what you’re doing during the wedding ceremony and carries that out into the reception food!). The combination of arts can explode the transformative possibilities of a wedding exponentially.

How does art influence your life?

Well, aside from my writing, I live with my beloved mom’s fabulous oils all over the apartment. Other artists are a big part of my life. (For instance, Darling Drummer, my beloved husband.) We work together. We hang with people who like to think about their art and talk about it and make it better. Those conversations get blended with what’s happening in the world and how we can use our art to make those things better.

You write a regular column. What have been some of your favoritearticles? Where do you come up with all of the imaginative ideas?

The imaginative ideas come from making connections. You write about this and you start thinking about that. Or you write a sentence and you realize that it is profound and fundamental to what you believe about (in my case) weddings and marriage. That becomes a favorite article for sure. Today I wrote”Marriages aren’t for getting ahead, they’re for getting along and getting on with life.” I didn’t know that I believed that until I wrote it. I’m testing it now to see how true I really think it is.

It’s fun when a wedding article sparks something amusing: last night’s article about a trail-ride wedding considers how to take something that’s a real part of a couple’s life and values. I loved an article I wrote a while ago on creating a wedding for a people with sight disabilities. I wanted to do that wedding so badly. I’m sure someday I will.

Could you share a detail or two about your own wedding?

Darling Drummer and I had such a pageant! It was an amazing combination of the gifts and talents of our beloved community and our own values. My 93 year old father spoke at my wedding ceremony only 6 weeks before he died. A young man danced to two friend’s gift of song. People sang songs I wrote, played music Steve arranged. We didn’t marry legally because we won’t until gay marriage is legal in Pennsylvania where we live. We exchanged gongs rather than rings. (Mine keeps moving into the instrument collection for performances!) A friend served as our elder and wrote the most extraordinary poem. My beloved god-daughter stood up with me and one of Steve’s daughters stood with him.

We had a pot luck. For 300 people! The food was unbelievable. The decorations were done by our community, an artist friend of mine designed wonderful hearts that were scattered everywhere. The one that most captured my heart arrived soon after as a wall sculpture.

14 bands played. A friend made my dress. Others consulted and painted my nails and laughed, oh we laughed. People came from all over the world, all areas of our lives and blessed us beyond belief. Not that we have any intentions of splitting, but can you imagine how desperately disappointed our community of 300 people would be in us if we didn’t make the dream succeed?

We’re both extroverts and show people, so we wanted something grand and extravagant, as big as we are, as big as our love is as rich as our middle-aged history is. I think we made it!

How do people learn more about what you do?

You can find me here. I write also write here and I’m the Philadelphia Marriage Examiner over Examiner.com. There are tools to make your wedding what you want it to be if you’re DIY kinda people. I think there might be a radio show soon. All this moves slowly, so don’t be holding your breath out there, but keep looking!

I’m looking forward to the challenge of making a wedding ceremony for you that is as perfect mine was for me, even if that’s a quiet wedding for two beside a softly burbling stream!

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