Originally published in The Huffington Post
DonnaMarie SanSevero is a New York paramedic by day, but by night? She’s The Reverend D.
As The Reverend D, SanSevero specializes in officiating truly unique, offbeat weddings — think gothic, Halloween nuptials or ceremonies that feature the “Imperial March” from “Star Wars” as the processional song. And if this requires her to dress up like Elvira or quote raunchy lines from “Showgirls” during the service? No problem!
HuffPost Weddings talked with The Reverend D about the craziest weddings she’s performed and why it’s so important to offer couples a quirky, personal ceremony.
What inspired you to start officiating weddings?
When I was going to get married in 2010 I was basically looking for myself as an officiant. I would type into search engines everything that I might want, like “Halloween funny rock ‘n roll wedding officiant” or “sci-fi lesbian zombie officiant.” And the same people would come up over and over again and they all were really generic. Their pages all looked alike, and they all said the exact same thing, which was, “We’ll give you a beautiful and caring ceremony that showcases your love” and blah. It was horrifying. And they all charged a lot of freakin’ money. So I decided to become a reverend and marry myself. But you can’t do that in New York. I ended up having my friend do the ceremony. I hadn’t thought of doing other weddings until a couple months later when a couple friends of mine were getting married and they wanted me to do it. I had such a great time doing it and it was such a positive thing, everyone was laughing and I love performing. I thought, shit, maybe there’s other people who are looking for this, too, not just friends of mine.
How do you decide what to say in the service?
I try to talk to the couple and really get a feel for who they are, and I’ll send out a questionnaire. I think of funny questions like, “What bad habit does your significant other have that you’ll want to strangle them in their sleep 20 years from now.” I want to find out these weird little details. I look over their answers and that tells me what the service is going to be about. I had a couple who met at a concert. He kicked her in the head in a mosh pit, and she met him as she was being dragged out of the pit. So that was what their wedding was about — how love can come from anywhere, and sometimes it sneaks up on you and sometimes it kicks you in the head. So it’s entirely, 100 percent a personal service.
You are also willing to dress up in costumes during the ceremony –- why is that important to you?
I don’t want to say I have no shame — all right, I’ll say it, I have no shame. You want me to wear a stormtrooper costume, you want me to dress up like a zombie, you want to have a pirate-themed wedding, I am so down with that. I’ll accommodate any request, within reason –- it’s your wedding, if you want something like that, I have no problem. I look at is as being very important because your wedding officiant is going to photobomb every picture of the most important moment of your life. [The couples] have complete control over everything and I think that’s only fair. I don’t want them to look at their pictures 10 years from now and say, “I hate what she’s wearing.”
Why do couples choose you as their officiant?
I stand out because my website looks different, right off the bat. Some of my couples go to search engines and type in the same things I was typing in. I had a couple who said they typed in “heavy metal comedian wedding officiant,” and I came up. Another typed “Halloween zombie officiant.” Mind you, these aren’t people who are throwing zombie weddings. These are people who happen to like zombies. They’re just trying to find something different. And also I’m cheap, I admit it. People who are on a lower budget get horrified like I did when they find out how much officiants charge and they find me and they’re like, “Holy crow, this is great.”
What’s the craziest wedding you’ve ever done?
I had two girls fly in from out of state, and they got married on Halloween in Central Park and they wanted me to dress up like Elvira. They wanted my husband in the wedding, so he was a zombie attendant. They wanted me to do this bit from “The Princess Bride.” And they wanted me to play Prince. And they wanted to do a handfasting ritual, and I managed to put it all together and it was great. I have a wedding coming up that’s going to be awesome. The groom is a lawyer and they’re doing it at the New York County Lawyers’ Association, so it’s like a courthouse. They’re going to stage it like a small claims court, and I’m going to be the judge.
What are other officiants not doing that you think they should?
They should be making weddings more personal and they shouldn’t be charging more money for it. There are a lot of officiants who say you get the standard wedding and to personalize it is $200. Really? It doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t know where they’re coming from. Maybe they’re not good writers. But I really think that they should make things more personal. This is a big moment for the couple. If you want someone to read a wedding out of a book I can tell you how you can get your cousin ordained and they can do it. It’ll cost 35 bucks. I don’t understand why anyone would pay someone six, seven or 800 dollars to read a wedding that’s been read to a hundred other couples before.