Love is in the air! It’s February. It is almost Valentine’s day and it is also almost the anniversary of the Winter of Love when Mayor Gavin Newsom gave a directive to the city-county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The first San Francisco same-sex weddings took place between February 12, 2004 and March 11, 2004.
In honor of the month of love and the anniversary of the Winter of Love, I asked The Reverend Favreault for an interview and she agreed! The reason I asked her is because she has been performing ceremonies for the LGBTQ community since before it was the cool thing to do and she is just generally awesome.
How long have you been performing wedding ceremonies?
The first time I spoke at a wedding, I was 13 years old and read First Corinthian’s (Love is patient and kind…) when my Aunt JoAnne married Uncle Jimmy. I started performing weddings in 1999 as part of my professional work, and have been fortunate to celebrate with many couples over these past 15 years.
Have you always performed ceremonies for the LGBTQ community as well?
Absolutely. When I was in theological school in 1999, I was involved with No on Knight/Prop 22 work with fellow students. For so many years, progressive religious leaders had been blessing “same sex unions” but the public policy issues of marriage equality were finally shifting in the consciousness of congregations in California. It was a great disappointment on election day, but the strategic planning and alliance building from that time really has contributed to so much beautiful change. It’s amazing to think that it’s been 10 years now since the City of San Francisco started issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. Through so many ups and downs on the legal side of things, I’ve been fortunate to stand with many couples affirming their love and partnership. And seeing the love of two people as they exchange rings and vows after 30 years or more of commitment is particularly poignant. I am always honored to bear witness and sign those licenses!
I understand you do creative and customized weddings? Can you share some examples of some of the more memorable ceremonies you performed?
Most couples who find me describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious” and I love the challenge of understanding what that means in their lives. Often, I hear stories of deep respect for elders in the family and desire to honor the customs and values that culture and tradition have inspired. I’ve designed ceremonies with truce bell blessings, tea ceremonies, broom jumping and handfastings. It will be a long time before I forget the ceremony with the New Orleans style brass band that surprised the guests with a procession to the reception. Or the mountain top ceremony that had to happen at a very specific hour because the astrologer had researched the natal charts of the couple. Oh, and Halloween in San Francisco. At the top of a downtown hotel. A sacred celebration on the city’s high holy night!
Where are some nice places to get married in the San Francisco Bay Area?
There are all sorts of nooks and crannies at Golden Gate Park and the Presidio that always manage to be sunny on wedding days. And with wine country and the Monterey coast there are spectacular destination weddings within driving distance. Still, I’m somewhat partial to ceremonies in living rooms and back yards with a close circle of family and friends. The words that a couple share to start their married life are the heart of a wedding, and that can happen any place. The parties are a great time, but the rituals are what sustain the day in day out commitment.
What other services related to wedding ceremonies do you offer?
Most of the couples I meet are not looking for any sort of premarital counseling. They’ve lived together, learned to compromise, pay the bills and figured out how to blend families. So, I find that couples are looking for ways to deepen their spiritual connection or tune up their communication skills. Two ways that I help to support people with those concerns are through relationship coaching and vow writing workshops. In a coaching relationship, I help families figure out how to reset their priorities, incorporate small changes that open up vulnerability and closeness. And I just adore helping couples who want to express their truth by crafting their unique promises to one another. It takes great courage to publicly declare what’s on your heart, but personalized vows can offer a real “wow” to a ceremony and provide a strong touchstone for the marriage that follows.
Because of the weddings I’ve performed, I’ve been able to work with families as their lives change: there’s the joy of blessing babies or creating entrustment rituals at adoptions. At anniversary times there are vow renewal ceremonies that are always sweet. And I’ve been invited to help families with meaningful rites of passage when life’s big changes come. From celebrating a name change at a gender transition ritual or sharing in the tough times of illness, grief and loss. I’m always delighted to walk with people through the real stuff of living a life of integrity and giving words to the sometimes unspeakable joy and sorrow that we hold along the way.
Suggestions for people thinking about getting married…
Consider a mission statement for your married life. What values do you want to lift up in your relationship? Talk about things that really matter to you (both!) early and often. Keep in mind that the wedding is a day, but the marriage is for the long haul. And give yourself the space to be really present to your partner on your wedding day. Let others worry about the flowers or the favors. Showing up with your whole heart will be a great gift to each other for years to come.
Thank you Rev. Michelle!
or on Twitter (where I met her) at @RiteHereNow
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