I think most people think their NYC City Hall ceremony is going to be very dry and to the point. Afterall, you literally take a number and wait your turn when you go in; so it’s hard to imagine in a place that uses the same system for keeping order as a deli counter that there’s going to be a beautiful, heartfelt ceremony at the end. There are three officiants at City Hall that I’ve worked with, and two of them are fine. They do a solid job. You’re married at the end and that’s all that matters. But whatever magic happens in that ceremony is self provided, and again… that’s totally fine. It’s expected.
But the third officiant – and I’m glad to say, the one most often performing ceremonies – is really kind of amazing. And whenever I walk into City Hall with clients and see that he’s the one working, I do a little cheer, because I know my clients are going to get a little more than they would with any other City Hall officiant. This is so embarrassing since I’ve photographed over 50 weddings that he’s officiated, but I don’t actually know his name. I’ve never had the chance to ask. I just refer to him as the Happiest Government Employee in the World because… well… he is.
I love my job. I’m completely obsessed with elopements and the couples I get to work with. But the Happiest Government Employee in the World seriously puts me to shame. Because nobody loves elopements and performing them more than this man. Everyday he’s in a different candy colored shirt and tie, a smile on his face, and I always imagine that when he gets up in the morning and walks to work, he whistles a tune and probably says hello to everyone he meets along the way.
At City Hall they have a script they have to follow – one I pretty much know by heart at this point – but somehow the Happiest Government Employee in the World manages to infuse it with joy and magic every single time. I think he truly understands that even though this is just another day at his job, it’s not just another day for the couples that come in there. It’s a really special day, and he treats every couple as if they were the only ones getting married that day.
He asks my clients how they’re doing, he makes sure to tell me I can take photographs from anywhere in the room, and in a great, booming voice – he gets these two people married. He ends each ceremony with, “And by the laws of the GREAT STATE OF NEW YORK! I now pronounce you married!” Followed by a thundering applause, as if the room were filled with people. He shakes my couples hands, he asks genuine questions about them – tends to give out restaurant recommendations when he realizes they’re from out of town. And then he walks across the hall to the next chapel, the next couple, and does it again… with the same enthusiasm, the same joy. It’s really quite infectious. Couples come in to get married and he gets them MARRIED.
I remember going in there for my first legal same sex wedding last summer. It was the week after the law went into effect, and I was hoping so much that everyone at City Hall would be happy and excited for same sex marriage. And they really were. No bad apples in the bunch at all. When my couple walked in and the Happiest Government Employee in the World married them, he was extra excited, extra loud. At the end he told them how happy he was to be able to finally do this. It was such a genuine moment. A genuine moment in a government office. I just think that’s kind of amazing.
I realize reading this how much my words fall flat when describing this man. How it would be so much easier if I could just show you a video or play a tape of him marrying a couple. Because my words just can’t capture the booming voice and genuine joy of the the Happiest Government Employee in the World. It’s something you just have to witness for yourself, and should you ever get the chance, it’s a lovely experience.
Thanks, Happiest Government Employee in the World for making each of my couples feel so special on their wedding day. Keep on making City Hall a magical place.