If you are reading this my guess is that congratulations are in order!
We are over the moon happy to introduce ourselves as The Officiants at Church of Ancient Ways. We were founded in 1997 by Pastor Marie April Gismondi (better known as "Pastor April") and with Reverend Joe Iadanza (a blood family member to the Catholic Saint Padre Pio) at the helm leading our team of amazing officiants.
We are a team of seasoned professionals, spot on when it comes to the details and organization, creative and well versed in everything from Short and Sweet to Traditional, Fusion, Pop-Culture, Art, Literature and in telling your personal Love Story… Whatever you can dream up, we’re in for all that and more!
Whatever you desire, it is our mission to say “Absolutely!” instead of “Oh… I don’t know about that…'' There are a myriad of themes for a myriad of dreams, but only one of them is yours. We see this as a joyful and exciting collaboration, as fresh as every new story we are privileged to share.
The Wedding Industry
I have to say we are all here completely by accident! We never take for granted that every vendor a couple hires is a real human being chosen to represent them on their wedding day. As officiants, we see marriage as a blessing that extends beyond the wedding day and beyond any thought of wedding work as an industry. What we do stays with you for the rest of your life. Marriage elicits a beautiful array of emotions and promises, not just for you, but for your families as well.
Being able to speak words that connect past, present and future… Weaving the colors and scents… exploring the depths and nuances that make every relationship and marriage unique unto itself... This is beautiful to be part of.
Whether we’re signing a marriage license or writing a whole ceremony from scratch - blending cultures, families and a love story so beautiful it almost doesn't seem real - we’re there with you, standing on the cusp of your forever. It’s a new chapter written by your own hand. And it all begins with a kiss... that yes, we do step out of the way for!
Witnessing this over and over again is our greatest joy. It’s why we do what we do.
The Wedding Memories
With so many great couples and memories it is hard to choose just one. Rev Aviva on the ice and Jumbotron during an Islander Game; Pastor April on top of the Empire State Building for their Valentines Day Event, marrying 14 contest-winning couples back to back; Being at Citi Field for baseball themed and Surprise weddings where the guests didn't even know they were at a wedding till we announced it. We have so many great memories, including a full-on Princess Bride ceremony written in that theme from the first word to last (and done in costume!).
But I think the winner is Steven and Yianni, two gay men who wanted a traditional Greek Orthodox ceremony. Being a gay couple, and having been turned away by their church, they believed this was not an option... Not until they met Rev. Joe, who crafted and delivered a ceremony they believed was beyond their reach. The blessings spoken before their parents and grandparents inspired much more than tears of joy. It was the sacred fulfillment of a heart’s deep desire to stand in truth before their God and to know their love was real and embraced by all. It really was a dream come true. (there’s a video of the ceremony on our website if you want to see how special these two really are!).
We like to say that we hold the mirror up high enough to reflect our couples image and not our own. We are known most for our creative writing and delivery skills, and we also love our more traditional couples. The ceremony needs to be an enjoyable one that we and our couples are all emotionally present for and connected to. We don't really marry people. People marry each other and we want to help make that happen ‘As You Wish’.
Church of Ancient Ways was given 501c3 status in 1997 and is recognized by the State of New York and the US Government as an Interfaith Organization in good standing.
It is our goal to embrace all the world’s Philosophies, Religions and Scientific Principles. We seek goodness and celebrate our common ground as human beings.
The Officiants at Church of Ancient Ways grew organically, starting as a small book club and expanded to becoming a church with weekly services. In time, requests for ceremonies began and it just blossomed from there. We served LGBTQIA+ community long before those couples were able to get a marriage license. We have helped countless religious couples feel the presence of God and have helped thousands of secular and offbeat couples express the connection they share as sacred and beautiful. We have been invited to join some of the most amazing house vendor teams on Long Island and 25 years later, realize that it has spun into something we never imagined, but has been rewarding beyond measure.
The Officiants at Church of Ancient Ways is now being run by Reverend Joe Iadanza. Who brings a fresh perspective, modern technological skills, and a wonderful instinct when it comes to which people will be best suited for which of our team members.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are you legally able to marry us?
A: Yes, we are 100% legal. None of our team are ordained online. Please note that while New York State does not license officiants to marry couples, a proper credential is essential to perform ceremonies. New York City does require officiants to Register with them. However, that registration states right on the face of the issued document that it is only valid for ceremonies that take place physically in New York City. If you are planning a NYC wedding, know that we are all registered with the Office of the City Clerk and are happy to share our ordinations and registrations with you.
Q: "Do you have a Rabbi?"
Q: "Our venue requires a Certificate of Insurance. Can you provide that?"
Q: “How soon before the wedding should we be looking for an officiant?”
A: This really depends on your comfort levels. Many couples book a year and a half to two years in advance, especially if they know their date is a popular one. With an originally written ceremony, many couples like to have plenty of time to go over the draft and fine-tune what will be said. On the other hand, with the world as it is now and with plans changing, shorter notice has also become popular too. Every relationship is different. The golden rule these days is, “Whatever Works!”. But with any vendor you have your heart set on, it is always better to book early.
Q: “Why do we need a professional officiant?”
A: Because we know how to marry people! We have creative writing ability, a knowledge of options, traditions and structure, as well as a talent for public speaking. People think that it will be more personal if a friend or family member marries them…And while they do love you, they have no reference points for the task at hand. The majority of our last minute requests are from couples who enlisted a friend or family member only to realize they were in over their head and have backed out at the last minute. Another big consideration is that in New York State, legislation allowing online-ordained officiants to perform ceremonies (that cannot later be deemed invalid) has failed to pass our state legislature. We understand that many couples don’t like the idea of getting legally married at Town Hall to then have just a symbolic ceremony for family and friends at the venue. So, we offer options for those who have their hearts set on giving someone something special to do that’s more than just a reading.
Q: “Do you require premarital counseling?”
A: No. Every relationship is as unique as the couple themselves and far be it from me to ever try to tell you what will work for you. That being said, two of our Church of Ancient Ways Ministers are also Licensed Clinical Social Workers, and one is a trained spiritual counselor and guide. If you are seeking relationship counseling, we can provide it.
Q: “How long do your ceremonies usually take to perform?”
A: It is up to you but we usually try to run no more than 20 minutes. Any longer than that and we run the risk of sounding like “blah, blah, blah, blah….”
Q: “What kinds of ceremonies do you perform?”
A: All kinds! Civil, Religious, Interfaith and Multi-Cultural Weddings, Commitment Ceremonies, Baby Blessings, Vow Renewals, we can even create new original writings for unique occasions! Twenty years ago, there really wasn’t a name for the kind of writing we were doing, so we started to call them “Couple Centered Ceremonies”, because we keep all the traditional aspects that you are connected to, and toss out the things that make you cringe. We are well versed in religious aspects, are culturally considerate, and have the writing skills to turn your thoughts and feelings into those personal sections that will make everyone present feel closer to you and to one another; sharing a side of you and your relationship that they wouldn’t see on any other day.
Q: “We just want a simple ceremony, do we have to meet with you for that?”
A: Not at all. You don’t have to do - or not do - anything with us. If you see your personal vows to each other as the center of your ceremony, if you are traditional and want the words you have always heard as the ones that make you married, or if you want a short and sweet civil ceremony… These are all great reasons to keep it simple. We even have an Unscripted level of service that may be perfect for your needs.
Q: “We are… a. Second Marriage Catholics, and/or…
b. Of Different Religions
c. More Spiritual than Religious
d. Looking for a Justice of the Peace style Civil Ceremony
e. Planning to include Multi-Cultural aspects
f. Planning to Include Our Children
g. Wondering if you knew any Klingon
…. Is this a problem?"
A: On the contrary, it is a blessing to know who you are and what is important to you. Everything that is important to you is important to us if we are to help you create a ceremony that celebrates your life and your love. We can even learn a few sentences of another language…but if it’s more than that, we recommend choosing someone fluent for the job.
Q: “We have always imagined ourselves being married by a man. Is this wrong?”
A: Not at all. You should have what you want for yourselves!
Q: “We think we want to write our own vows but aren’t sure, is that ok?”
A: Of course it is! I always say that "Life rolls in real time". Write them anyway and if you speak them publicly or privately it will always be your choice.
Q: “How closely do you schedule your ceremonies?”
A: For our top two levels of service, we don’t schedule closer than 3 hours in between events, unless of course they are in the same town or at the same venue. Included in your time on our calendar is a buffer for “just in case”. Know that you will never lose any part of your day because we are late and we will never schedule so closely that you feel rushed in any way.
Q: “What happens if you get sick?”
A: We are very fortunate to have a wonderful team of truly gifted professionals. Should any of us have a fever or be unable to perform, we are replaced immediately with a team member who has everything you have been promised, in print, ready to knock it out of the park for you.
Q: “Do you have any restrictions on photography or video?”
A: Absolutely not, when it comes to working with other professional vendors. We want your photographer to get you the best shots possible. These pictures are how your great-great-grandchildren will know and remember you. Your vendors should all be working together to help give you the best of what we each have to offer. – With that said, many are choosing to have an unplugged ceremony where guests are asked to put their phones and camera away till after cocktail hour. If this is you… We can help!
Q: “What do your typical services include?”
A: Our services are all tailored to fit your needs and usually include:
A meeting that feels like a wonderful conversation and yields your first draft, ready for you to approve or edit.
Or, if you take the "Skip the Meeting Discount", it's a ceremony assembled or chosen from our sample ceremonies section.
All the email and phone support you need.
On the day of the wedding we get to the location 45 minutes to an hour before start time. Seeing us there early helps the day have a relaxed feeling. We also like to be available so that everyone who has a moving part is comfortable, and to coordinate with the other vendors and such.
We all carry our own PA system and even electricity if necessary. Yes, many halls have their own, but if not, we have you covered and ours is free! This is because hearing is important, and yelling is bad.
You get to keep the final printed ceremony book that is read from with a keepsake Certificate of Marriage.
We sign and process the real Marriage License, which is always returned using certified mail, with a copy and a tracking number provided to you.
Q: “Do you charge extra to add candle lighting, a rose element, or other ceremony elements?”
A: Never! We don’t micromanage fees and ceremony content. We’re with you for the same amount of time on the calendar no matter what you include or how big your bridal party is.
Q: “How much contact will we have with you before the wedding?”
A: As much or as little as you want. Some couples edit and finish everything themselves, then send it all back. Others want to talk about the options for every decision they make. Either way is great, however you can expect a check in call every now and then. All calls and emails are answered within 24 hours, quicker midweek when we are in the office and a little slower on the weekends when we are marrying.
Q: “What about the rehearsal?”
A: With a ceremony taking place at a catering hall, the rehearsal is run by the maitre-d. It's usually sometime in the hour before the ceremony starts on the wedding day. That way you have everyone, including us, there already in the real space with the real dress to practice fluffing and so on. Sometimes couples go on a different night, but most don't choose to add the cost of that time to our service. Usually, they get more information from the maitre-d who will also answer any questions you have about the whole event. Most rehearsal dinners don’t include a physical run through. However, your draft will have staging instructions and a diagram of where people stand based on when you walk.
Q: “We have our Marriage License. Can we come over and get married now?”
A: Believe it or not the answer is usually “Yes!”. As long as the 24 hour grace period from issuance that it takes to become valid has passed, you are all set! We have locations in East Northport, Plainview & Sea Cliff. So give me a call and we’ll get you married!
Q: “What do you wear?”
A: We normally dress nice enough to be at a wedding, but we carry judicial robes as well. So, if you want a more formal feel or just don't like the color outfit one of us wears that day, we go with the robe. In short, whatever you want us to wear... wait.... Theme Wedding you say???? YES! We're in and we would love to chat about attire!
Q: “What do you need to know from us to check your availability?”
A: Date, ceremony start time, and Location. Any thoughts you already have about what you want (style, theme, religious/non religious) are welcome too. Please feel free to call any time!
Pastor April - I am incredibly grateful that who I am and what I do have been one and the same for decades. I have been eating, sleeping and breathing, weddings for many years. I LOVE, the energy, the creativity and of course the love. With weddings being my passion for so long I'm a little shy on the hobbies. Yet if I had to make a list, reading, basset hound mamaing, cooking, travel when my husband and I get the chance.
Reverend Joe Iadanza - In my spare time I write and produce music, travel, do yoga and teach meditation and spiritual growth.
Rev Aviva Sala - My greatest joy is raising my two sons, watching them thrive as they become great young men who will leave the world a better place for having been here. I’m a clinical social worker and feel grateful to have two incredibly meaningful careers at the same time, both joining people at pivotal moments in their lives. I’m a die-hard rock / heavy metal fan and spent years freelance writing for a local music and entertainment magazine. If you have a love of pop culture—from GoT, Harry Potter, superhero, to infinity and beyond—I’ve got it covered!
Minister Brenda Santana - I am infinitely grateful for the life I have and am blessed to have three amazing sons and a husband who loves me with all my craziness and whose support is unwavering. I love good food, great friends and treasure my family above all else. I have a performance background and love all music, books, movies, theater, opera… anything that involves creativity—in English and Spanish!
Rev Lorili Henri - As the resident Yoga Instructor for Old Westbury Gardens, Lorili adores the diversity of her students. Inspired by ways to seek out the sacred moments of daily life, her love of Eastern Philosophy and personal fitness has created a well rounded life that could be described as the pursuit of body, mind and spirit.
Rev Deb Viola - With world travel and fine dining put on pause for a while, Deb has been busy in her role as a social worker, yet has made time for kayaking, nature walks, home cooking, and time with family. The latest news is that Deb is taking a Hebrew class online and LOVING it!
Rabbi Sara Shonfeld - Absolutely in love with life, it is her full time job. Sara was a music teacher for many years and has a business called Musical Minds that brings drums and drumming to events and communities. Something that never fails to make her smile is the viral video of a little boy in one of her classes that just could not stop laughing. May joy and laughter be her legacy.
Rabbi Mark Getman - Being a reservist in the National Guard, serving his congregation in Cedarhurst and being a husband and father are all sources of joy to Rabbi Mark, as is getting recognized for playing the role of the Rabbi in The Marvelous Miss Maisel!