Founded by Pastor April Gismondi, The Officiants at Church of Ancient Ways are a team of joyfully diverse professionals ready to fill your wedding day with heartfelt meaning.
Your wedding day is filled with details, from the flowers in your bouquet to each delicate sequin on your gown. But perhaps the most important detail of your day lies in your ceremony – the words that will unite you and your fiancé as you embark on a new life together.
Reverend Joe Iadanza, owner of BOLI Preferred Vendor The Officiants at Church of Ancient Ways, fully understands the intimacy and gravity that’s held in a wedding ceremony. It is why he leads a team of heart-centered officiants, focused on providing ceremonies that speak to each couple’s varied sensibilities and unique love story.
“I never expected in a million years that I could be doing this.” – Rev. Joe Iadanza, The Officiants at Church of Ancient Ways
Rev. Joe didn’t anticipate that his days in the seminary would lead to officiating weddings. “I never expected in a million years that I could be doing this,” he admitted. “For me, it was really more of a personal journey. I went to a seminary in my later life, and it was really more for learning counseling and to guide people in their own inner spiritual work.”
When one of Rev. Joe’s teachers learned of his desire to branch out and try something new, they referred him to Pastor April Gismondi, Church of Ancient Ways’ founder. While their initial meeting didn’t result in an immediate partnership – “She actually told me to get lost at first,” Joe joked – it wasn’t long before Pastor April needed someone with Rev. Joe’s skills. “Two weeks after our meeting, out of the blue, I get a call from her and she said ‘I need a male officiant for something.’”
After a shadowing period, Rev. Joe began performing more ceremonies under The Officiants at Church of Ancient Ways’ banner. Realizing that he was a strong writer who possessed an undeniable warmth and talent, Pastor April was ready to bring him into a leadership position. “At one point, she just turned to me and asked ‘What are you doing for the next 10 years?’” he recounted with a laugh. “And so right around the end of the first year of COVID, she started showing me how she ran the business. And then I took over as owner, officially, a little over a year ago.”
“I love when I meet a couple and there are all these synchronicities that show us yes, we were supposed to work together.” – Rev. Joe Iadanza, The Officiants at Church of Ancient Ways
As owner of The Officiants at Church of Ancient Ways, Rev. Joe leads a group of incredibly capable and diverse professionals. “We have a beautiful team of officiants, from all different backgrounds,” he detailed. “We even have an incredible bilingual officiant in our own Minister Brenda Santana. In addition to being a wonderful writer, she moves fluidly between Spanish and English without unnecessary redundancy. We all work really hard to uphold the quality that Pastor April set. And we do it joyfully. We really pride ourselves on that.”
Many brides feel as if meeting their fiancé was pure destiny, and Rev. Joe feels the same about his clients. “I think there are no accidents to who finds us,” he said. “There are no accidents to who finds me to do their ceremony, or who finds Pastor April, or Reverend Aviva, or any of our other associates. I love when I meet a couple and there are all these synchronicities that show us yes, we were supposed to work together. Whether it means we have similar backgrounds in our families, or sometimes – for example, I have a saint in my family tree, Padre Pio of Pietrelcine, and we’ll find out their family prays to that saint all the time.”
“My favorite thing is making guests feel really, really connected to the couple.” – Rev. Joe Iadanza, The Officiants at Church of Ancient Ways
Different couples will want different aspects to their ceremony, and this is a fact that Rev. Joe recognizes. “There are a few different ways that we work with people,” he said. “There are people that don’t necessarily want to be the center of attention, that don’t want it to be about them, or want something very traditional that fits in a half-hour window. We’ve written some of those kinds of ceremonies already, so oftentimes couples will choose a ceremony from our library for those reasons, which saves them some money too.”
For couples that want something personalized, Rev. Joe and his team will start from scratch. “We have one formal meeting that I break into two pieces,” he described. “First, we talk about what you want structurally in the ceremony and the things you could do within the time that we have; the kind of language we could use if you wanted something religious, or the kind of elements that you want.”
Next, Rev. Joe will take his time getting to know your story. “I dig into the couple, I want to know everything,” he explained. “Tell how you met. Tell me how you fell in love. When did you know? I ask [couples] not to prepare too much in advance, because I really want to see how they interact with each other. I want to see how their banter is. I want to watch them kind of try and figure things out, because it shows me who they are together.”
“What I’m looking for are the things that make them really unique. The things that they connect with that make them special. And also what their energy is like so that I can get that and translate that into words,” Rev. Joe described. “I want everybody in that audience to feel like when they walk out of that ceremony, they know why this couple is getting married. My favorite thing is making their guests feel really, really connected to the couple.”
If your heart is set on an unordained friend or family member performing your ceremony, The Officiants at Church of Ancient Ways can provide an officiant for a signature, or “sit and sign” service, and they have no problem acting as ghostwriters. “Sometimes a couple says ‘We really want Cousin Bill to marry us, but he has no idea how to write a wedding,” Rev. Joe detailed. “We’ve written ceremonies so that a family member could deliver it, and then we privately married them later in the evening. But we were involved with helping them get the ceremony that they could use.”
“I had never done one before. But for them, I went and researched.” – Rev. Joe Iadanza, The Officiants at Church of Ancient Ways
Rev. Joe has officiated some incredibly meaningful unions, but one specific ceremony stood out in his mind. “I did a ceremony for two men that were Greek, and one of them wanted more than anything to get married in a Greek Orthodox ceremony,” he remembered. “It’s a very involved ceremony, and he couldn’t do it because of the Greek Orthodox Church’s stance. His heart was breaking because he had a faith that he wanted to honor, and he couldn’t do it.”
Rev. Joe sprung to action and provided the couple with authenticity. “I had never done one before. But for them, I went and researched,” he said. “I wrote an abridged Greek Orthodox ceremony, less than half an hour, that included the Crowning and all this wonderful symbolic kind of stuff. It was just beautiful. It’s my favorite of all time, still to this date.”
“We love what we do. We love the work.” – Rev. Joe Iadanza, The Officiants at Church of Ancient Ways
Rev. Joe has a few important and practical pieces of advice for brides getting married on Long Island. “Make sure whoever is marrying you is legally allowed to marry you in New York State,” he recommends. “It doesn’t mean you have to come to us. You can go to Town Hall and get married there and have a party at another time. But just make sure that the person who marries you wasn’t ordained online and that they’re from a real organization – either a church, or a judge, or whatever makes them truly legal to marry you.”
He also advises planning ahead and staying organized. “Now’s the time, even if you’re not getting married for a year, to make sure you have the documents you need to prove that you’re legally allowed to be married,” he said. “That may be as simple as an ID – in New York City, that’s all you need. If you’re on Long Island or the rest of New York state, you need a birth certificate or certified copy, and your ID or baptismal certificate. And if you’ve been previously married, have proof that the marriage is dissolved.”
Finally, Rev. Joe says to seek out vendors that make the wedding planning process enjoyable. “Whether it’s us or other vendors, pick people who are going to make your life easy, who are fun to work with, who are always smiling, who say yes,” he suggests. “We always say yes, even if we have to figure out another way to do it, we always try to figure out a way to make it work. Because we love what we do. We love the work.”