Denise Drapkin: My Story

I hope you have a few minutes – this is somewhat lengthy.

A long island officiant guides a woman down the aisle at a wedding.
A grand castle with a majestic fountain in front of it, perfect for weddings officiated by trusted Long Island officiants.

Olympus Digital Camera

There are times during our lives when we are faced with various types of personal transitions.

Several years back, I myself was in the midst of such a circumstance when I met a lady while I was at work who had just come back to the States after attending a family wedding at Culzean Castle in Scotland. She described the Round Drawing Room with ornate cornices on its round ceiling and throughout the room, enormous windows with sea views, and a huge crystal chandelier and elaborate furnishings. “Oh” I said, “It sounds lovely.” “It was very much so” she replied with her Scots brogue. “But, what was even lovelier was not what was seen, but what was felt.” “Oh, please explain” I said.

“Well, being summer it was a beautiful day and we arrived early to enjoy strolling the gardens at the castle.”

At about fifteen minutes before the start of the ceremony we went into the beautiful Round Drawing Room. We were serenaded by a string orchestra as we waited. There was a hush among the guests as the wedding officiant and groom came into the room and walked to the front to await the wedding party and bride. We all stood. The bridesmaids, wearing beautiful tartan green colored gowns, were accompanied down the aisle by the grooms’ men who wore kilts, as did the groom. The bride’s eight year old son walked proudly down the aisle carrying the ring pillow. He was followed by the groom’s dog who also wore a mini-sized kilt. Then the Wedding March started and the bride appeared at the entrance and started slowly down the aisle. She was a tiny bit of a thing with green eyes and red hair, gliding along the aisle in a gown she looked ethereal in.

As she stood beside her groom they held hands and looked into each other’s eyes. The wedding officiant asked all to be seated and then the ceremony began. The officiant spoke of how they met. This past January the bride was in Ayr, Scotland visiting with her cousin and family. Deirdre and her cousin Isabel were window shopping in town after having lunch at the local cafe. While they were stopped in front of a shop, Isabel and Deirdre heard a loud noise. As they turned toward it, a furry blur hurdled towards them and landed on Deirdre, pinning her down with large paws and wet kisses. As she was falling she heard a collective shriek from her cousin and the onlookers around them, and a man scream “Mo Charaid (my friend) ye are a dunderhead! (a nice fool), and thought to herself “Thank goodness I wore my heavier coat and this thick hat that Aunt Rosalind knit for me!

On the ground, she shook her head to clear it, opened her eyes, and looked into two turquoise orbs, a blue like the color of the Mediterranean Sea. The man, Alexander, had a long nose that fit his face nicely. That face and those eyes were looking seriously at her, gently asking if she was alright, if anything hurt, could he carry her into the café and sit her at a table to collect herself? Now, becoming very much aware of the crowd that had collected, and, that she was lying on the sidewalk, she started to rise. “No please.” said Alexander and he swooped up Deirdre as easily as if she were a feather and proceeded to clear a path into the café, where he gently placed her on a chair. He asked the waitress for two hot teas, one for her and one for Isabel. “But what about your dog?” Isabel asked. “The dunderhead will wait outside.” said Alexander.

“I have never seen him do that. He never leaves my side when we are outside and he never has done that to anyone but me. I still cannot believe he has done this. I am so sorry. Does anything hurt you; how are you feeling?”

“Actually, I am feeling fine. I was fortunate I had this heavy coat on and my new knit hat from my Aunt Rosalind.” As she looked down, all eyes saw how dirty her coat was. “I will have everything cleaned for you and replaced if it needs be.” said Alexander. “Oh, it is fine.” said Deirdre. They stayed about twenty minutes, just talking incessantly, and then Isabel’s cell rang. “Mom is wondering when we are getting back to the house.” “Oh, yes.” said Deirdre. Alexander gladly drove them home; Mo Charaid thrilled to sit next to Deirdre with his head on her lap.

The month long visit with her family led to a whirlwind courtship that continued overseas with Deirdre’s son “falling in love” with Alexander, as Mo Charaid did with Deirdre. A love that was so sure and strong they knew they were meant to be together. All four of them.

After the officiant told their “love story”, the description that had just been told to me, Deirdre and Alexander had a special ceremony they had planned for Deirdre’s son, Logan, and both sets of parents. Deirdre and Alexander’s parents each lit one of two candles. This represents that they have given life to their children. Then, the couple takes each candle that was lit from their parents’ and light a higher center candle. That candle represents them as a married couple. Next, they called Deirdre’s son into their center, took a smaller candle and the three lit it together. Deirdre and Alexander spoke of their love for Logan, vowing to always be there for him, to provide a loving and safe environment, and to love him unconditionally. Alexander then asked Logan if he would accept him as his dad; to which a smiling Logan said ‘yes’ and Alexander, looking misty eyed(all 6 foot 2 inches of him) answered “Thank you and I am honored.”

Then, the couple recited the vows they had written for each other. In a nutshell:

Deirdre said “You are my true gift from God. At a time in my life when I was beginning to lose all hope of love, He brought you to me. You are my best friend, my soulmate, and my knight in shining armor. I vow to love you forever.”

Tears rolling down his face, Alexander spoke of how he thought he might never find her, and he thanked God and Mo Charaid for bringing her to him. He spoke of a love so true, so right, that he knew the instant they looked into each other’s eyes. He vowed to love her forever.

After they sealed their vows with a kiss, and the officiant pronounced them wed, the officiant said: “Family and friends, Alexander and Deirdre have asked me to speak for them at this moment during their ceremony. Alexander and Deirdre want to thank you all for being here with them on their special day. They thank you all for your love and support over the years and the years to come. May God Bless You All.”

“And now before this newly married couple walks down the aisle they ask to be joined by their son, Logan, and best friend, Mo Charaid to start their celebration.” (Mo Charaid ambles over to Alexander and Logan goes to Deirdre’s side.) They all walk down the aisle together; Mo Charaid wagging his tail vigorously and Logan, smiling from ear to ear.

Of course, as we witnessed this, we were crying and cheering them on at the same time.

Then, the reception was started, and a great time was had by all of us. When it was all over, we went back to our hotel and I stayed a few more days with my sister and cousins. Now I am home, reminiscing about the beauty of that ceremony and sending my heartfelt best wishes their way; for Deirdre is my great-niece.

Silence … a span of 5-6 seconds … and I blinked and said “What a romantic, beautiful love story. I have goose bumps. But, would you mind if I ask a question?” A nod from her was my answer. You have told me such a personal story that I feel I should know your name and you mine; I am Denise. “Rowena is mine.” was the smiled reply.

“Rowena”, I said,” I have to tell you I was mesmorized by this story. I find several correlations with my own love story/marriage”. “May I ask if Deirdre is divorced? “Oh no.” said Rowena. “Unfortunately, her husband was a police officer who died in the line of service when Logan was a newborn.” “How sad” I sighed. “Now I understand the beginning of her vow.”

Well, I myself was divorced and had a child from that marriage. My second husband and I married in 1984. We were of two different faiths and we wanted what would be called today “an interfaith ceremony.” We called several priests and rabbis only to be lectured, reprimanded and shunned by both our religions. No, they wouldn’t marry us, so we were married by a justice of the peace and it was sorely lacking in personalization and creativity. Even though my beloved son was our ring bearer, I would have loved to incorporate that candle ceremony with the three of us and of course, personalized our vows.

I’d never heard of a wedding officiant before this mention that day. “ Do these officiants specialize in ceremonies for specific circumstances or certain religious affiliations?”, I asked her. “They are non-denominational so they can offer a multitude and variety of wedding ceremonies. Just about anything you can think of and in some very creative venues. You should google “wedding officiant” to see what comes up.” she replied. “I will; thank you.” I said. “Now, let’s discuss your project.” I laughed.

After about an hour’s collaboration, we shook hands and said our goodbyes. I thanked her,telling her what a pleasure it was meeting and speaking with her and that I would touch base with her the next day with drawings and estimates. She smiled, and with a twinkle in her eye said “I too enjoyed meeting and speaking with you. I wish you the best of luck and many blessings to you.”

She walked away and I was puzzled. “Best of luck and many blessings?” Oh, well, I must get started…

The next day I took out her file with her card stapled to the inside and dialed her home number where she said she would be. A man answered who said he had never heard of Rowena. When I read back the number it was the same as on her card. Apologizing, I hung up and called the cell number on the card. A woman answered hello and I asked, “Rowena?” “No, she said, This is Catherine. What number are you calling?” When I read it to her, she said “That is the number, but I have had it for over five years.” I apologized and hung up, thinking that Rowena had given me an old business card she had forgotten to throw out. I am sure I will hear from her within a few days.

I never did see or hear from Rowena again. But, she left a lasting impression on me that few ever have in my lifetime; igniting a fire that rages till this day.

That personal transition I mention in the beginning of this section? The profession I was in had been, like so many others, hit hard from the economy. It was only a matter of time before I left, and I had been wracking my brain to find a profession I could truly “be in love with” and express the creativity that had always been a huge part of who I am.
After speaking to Rowena I felt euphoric. I researched wedding officiants that evening and knew I had found the answer. I had been an English major with strong creative writing, punctuation and grammar skills. I also had taken vocal lessons in the past. I couldn’t think of anything more positive and happy than marrying two people in love, or blessing babies and children.

I know in my heart that this is what I was meant to be, to do. Each wedding I write and perform is my own work of art. It is an honor to witness my couples’ love and marry them. They all have a special place in my heart.

I will always be thankful for that meeting with Rowena and the impact she had on me. Many religions speak of guardian angels. I like to think that Rowena was my very own.