Friday, February 26th, 2021

Shopper Client Stories


Wedding officiants will help all couples find the ideal words for their big day

Wedding officiants Rob Lauer and Carey Whitley of CareRobe Expressions

Wedding officiants Rob Lauer and Carey Whitley of CareRobe Expressions

You'd be surprised at what people forget about when planning their wedding," says Dana Clarke Epstein, who, with her husband, Phillip, owns the Grey Goose in Hampton. "Over the years, we've planned and catered countless weddings. Couples will be particular about the venue, the food, the drinks, the décor, and the dress- everything. Then we'll ask who is performing their wedding, and we'll get blank stares. You'd be shocked at how often couples forget to hire someone to officiate- to actually perform the wedding."

When this happens, Dana recommends Carey Whitley and Rob Lauer of CareRobe Expressions. As ordained ministers, Carey and Rob are licensed by the Commonwealth of Virginia to serve as wedding officiants. They offer their services to couples who are either religiously unaffiliated, are entering an interfaith marriage, or having difficulties finding clergy to marry them.

"Recently, Dana directed a couple our way who had planned out their entire wedding--except for finding someone to perform the marriage itself," Carey recalls. "Neither one of them belonged to a church or faith community, so they weren't interested in having a religious ceremony. They wanted a strictly secular ceremony in front of about two dozen family and friends in a banquet hall they had leased for the occasion. After the ceremony, the couple planned to join their guests for a sit-down dinner. The bride told me that she wanted the ceremony to be celebratory, but also quick, sweet, and simple."

"Like a growing number of people who aren't affiliated with a particular faith, this couple hadn't given a lot of thought to the words they wanted to be spoken at their wedding," Rob explained. "They weren't interested in writing their own vows or having a lot of flowery language. They wanted to keep their vows short, simple, and direct. We were happy to oblige. We also presented them with several other elements to incorporate into the ceremony. We suggested beginning the ceremony with a simple but beautiful reading on the nature of love and commitment. We recommended ending it with an Apache wedding blessing. This blessing was not explicitly religious, but it beautifully celebrated the emotional importance of the couple's commitment, as well as their hopes for their future life together. After the ceremony, a number of the guests commented on how moved they had been by this very simple blessing."

Carey and Rob excel at creating
individualized wedding ceremonies
that meet the needs of any couple.

Recently a couple contacted Carey and Rob just two weeks before their wedding. A hall had been rented for the occasion. Caterers had been contracted. Family members from out of state had made travel arrangements. The couple, however, had no one to perform the wedding. The bride had no religious affiliation, but the groom had been raised in a very devout Southern Baptist home. Though he was not currently active in a church, his identity as a Christian was essential to him. He wanted liturgical elements in the ceremony that were explicitly Christian- Bible readings as well as prayers and blessings. The couple had written their own vows. They wanted a candle-lighting ceremony in which each of them took individual candles and lit one single candle, symbolizing their union. The bride also wanted her two teenage daughters to take part in the ceremony.

Carey and Rob were able to customize a wedding liturgy that perfectly met this couple's needs. They presented a wide selection of Biblical readings, Christian prayers, and blessings for the couple's consideration. They listened to their thoughts, offering advice and suggestions as needed. To involve the bride's daughters, they composed a vow for the groom in which he promised to care for the girls as if they were his own children. In turn, the daughters vowed to support the couple in their marriage. This was followed by a sand-pouring ceremony. The groom, the bride, and her daughters each poured separate containers of colored sand into a large glass urn- creating a rainbow that signified the blended nature of their family.

Because so many families now are blended, Carey and Rob are dedicated to helping people celebrate the commitments they are making in ways that resonate with their most deeply-held beliefs and values.

Since the establishment of marriage equality in 2015, same-sex couples often have a difficult time finding clergy who are willing to marry them. "I can't believe how same-sex couples struggle to find ministers who will marry them," Dana Epstein says, shaking her head. "I have actually gotten on the phone myself and called around, trying to find clergy who are willing- or able- to marry my same-sex clients. Now, when those situations arise, I call Carey and Rob. I know they will help everyone."

"Often, people mistakenly assume that same-sex couples are not as devout as opposite-sex couples," Rob says. "This isn't true. One wedding I performed was for a mixed-faith same-sex couple. One gentleman had been raised as Mormon and still identified as such. The other gentleman had been raised as an Evangelical and still believed in important aspects of that faith. I have an extensive background in comparative religious studies and American religious history. So, drawing on my knowledge of these two very diverse religious traditions, I was able to craft a liturgy that articulated and blended the beliefs of both men."

Carey and Rob excel at creating an individualized wedding ceremonies that meets the needs of any couple. A nationally-recognized, award-winning playwright, Rob's inspirational writings have been published in such diverse religious publications such as The Upper Room, Friends Journal, Quaker Life and Sunstone. "I enjoying finding the right words to express a couple's emotions, thoughts and convictions as they commit to one another," he says.

Having previously worked for years as a funeral director, Carey has served people from virtually all religious backgrounds. His understanding of and appreciation for religious diversity is further accentuated by his training in pastoral care, community building, life coaching and liturgical music.

"I always considered my work in the funeral industry to be a part of my ministry," Carey says with a smile. "I was offering advice and solace to people during the most difficult time of their lives- when they lost a loved one. Officiating at a wedding is an expansion of my ministry- one that I happily embrace. It brings me a sense of deep fulfillment to help people- whoever they are, whatever their faith- celebrate one of the most joyous events in life. I am honored to help them consecrate one of the most important commitments they will ever make."

CareRobe Expressions