Welcome to Project Fabulous Femme! Once or twice a month, I'll introduce you to a Fabulous Femme who's inspired me. I invite them to share their perspectives on being a modern woman and other vital corps topics. Please be kind, curious, and open-minded.
The spitfire in me salutes the spitfire in Amanda Brown. I’ve been doing that since my sophomore year of college and always will. After all, this is a friend who half-carried me to University Health Services when a gnarly case of acute gastritis hit me like a thunderbolt. (I fainted.) Instead of watching The X-Files (like the addicts we were), she got to see me projectile vomit until I got a shot in the ass. Amanda is always cool, beyond quick-witted and hysterically funny in absolutely any situation – even gross ones like that. She leads in this entirely magnetic way; you just naturally want to follow. She’s just that original. Amanda will share how she became a Wedding Officiant herself, but I’m so glad she did. All of those amazing qualities just come together so perfectly in that role (among others like Wife, Mom, Daughter, Sister, Feeder of the Dog...). When Craig (or as her son calls him “Greg”) and I decided to get married, there was no one in the entire universe I wanted to marry us more. Thankfully, she agreed! She created a ceremony that had people laughing, crying and laughing to the point of crying from the moment she welcomed everyone to “the wedding of FemmeEphemera and dixiecupdrinkin,” our Match.com screen names. There are a million more stories of her sass and resilience I want to share, but let’s hear from the fabulous femme herself all the way from Shrewsbury, MA. Here’s Amanda!
Q + A
How would you define being a modern woman in 2016? I think the gift of being a modern woman in 2016 is that we get to define ourselves. We have so many options and opportunities that the women who came before us didn’t have. In my line of work, I sometimes stand in front of the crowd and think “Not so long ago, women wouldn’t have been allowed to perform marriages.” I feel so lucky that the time I live in and the country I live in afford me this opportunity. I also love that this time allows some women to stay home and focus on raising their family, if that’s what they want, others to be CEO of Yahoo—and everything else in between. We have choices. What a gift!
What would you like to see modern women give more of a shit about? I think it would be wonderful if women gave more of a shit about trusting their intuition, and finding out what is true for them. I was talking to my husband the other night, and I said “You know, for every 10 articles on the internet telling you things are one way, there are 11 telling you it’s the other way.” No one, and I mean NO ONE has it all figured out. Even “experts” haven’t. This is true for health, beauty, parenting, career, money—everything! As women, we were born with very strong gut instincts, and we can learn to let them guide us. I have a daughter who is 12, and I tell her: Watch out for the word should. This word is a sign that someone is giving you their opinion. Let that word be a trigger for you to stop and decide if what they are saying is really true for YOU. What does your intuition tell you about that? This has been my guiding principle as I built my business. I am not your typical wedding officiant. I tried on that role, and it didn’t feel true for me, so I let my intuition and what felt right guide me to work with couples the way I wanted to. My business has been very successful as a result.
Conversely, what would you like see modern women give less of a shit about? I would like to see women give less of a shit about what other people think. I say this as much to myself as anyone else. When I was preparing for this interview, I worried out loud that I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say. My husband told me to just Google things Emma Watson has said. :) I didn’t—but it was tempting. Social media is so full of messages that everyone else’s life is perfect and yours is not. I’m not sure that comparing my life or business or diet to anyone else’s has ever got me anywhere worth going. Trusting ourselves more and worrying about others less sounds lovely to me.
When did you realize you were meant to be a wedding officiant? How did you discover it? About 7 years ago, I had a 6 month subscription to Yoga Journal magazine. I have no idea how or why I had this subscription, but each month when it arrived in my mailbox. I would flip through it. In every issue there was a small ad that caught my eye for the Celebrant Foundation and Institute. The ad said “Become a Celebrant” and had a picture of a woman (who is now a dear colleague) officiating a wedding. It’s funny that all these years later, I could not tell you about one single other thing that was in any of those YJ issues, but that ad is still crystal clear in my memory. That same year my cousin announced her engagement. I come from a large Irish Catholic family, and until that point, we had all been married in the church. But my cousin decided to buck traditional and have her wedding at a vineyard in Vermont. We were talking one day and she mentioned that the DJ was going to have to do her ceremony because she couldn’t find a priest who would come to the vineyard. The second she said that, the ad from Yoga Journal flashed in my mind and I said “You will NOT have the DJ marry you. I’ll do it. I don’t know how, but I’ll figure it out.” I called the Celebrant Foundation and enrolled in their Life-Cycle Celebrant certification program. I specialized in weddings and I have never looked back. It turns out, I’m quite good at this work, if I’m allowed to say so. It was the job I never knew I wanted and is one of the great, great joys of my life. I am so honored that couples choose me to help them navigate this unforgettable moment in their lives. The feeling of standing with them on their wedding day in the moment that they actually become a married couple cannot be described. It is a privilege I never take for granted.
What’s your favorite non-negotiable act of self-care you do to decompress or recharge on the regular? My most important act of self care is “alone time.” I am a textbook introvert, and being out in the world with people is draining both physically and emotionally for me. If I don’t spend at least a few hours alone with my thoughts daily, everything suffers. When I perform ceremonies, it requires me to pull up my energy and share it freely out in public, which is incredibly draining. After a ceremony, you’ll most likely find me in my sweatpants drinking tea, even if it’s 11AM! It took a long time for me to not feel guilty about needing my space, and it isn’t always well received, but it’s non-negotiable.
Success: How do you measure it for yourself? I like this question. As I’m thinking about the times in my life when I’ve felt most successful, I’m reminded of the beautiful Maya Angelou quote “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” When couples and their families tell me after a wedding how much they loved their ceremony, I know that in a few months or years, they won’t remember the words I spoke, or what I was wearing, but they’ll remember how I made them feel that day. To be someone who helps other people feel love and joy makes me feel very successful indeed.
Who’s a fabulous femme inspiring you? What makes her so fabulous to you? I hope this isn’t a silly answer, but lately I’ve been reading a book series called Outlander. It’s a sci-fi/romance/historical fiction series (stay with me here…) The premise of the story is about a woman named Claire who is thrown back in time from the 20th century to the 18th century Scottish Highlands. She is alone in a time where Scotland is at war with England, and women are nothing more than property. She is a smart, well educated woman who must work through extremely dangerous conditions to ensure her safety and figure out a way to get back to her own time. I love the strength of this woman. She is not afraid to cry, but also not afraid to speak her mind and use her skills and intelligence to ensure her survival. She doesn’t panic. She has an inner strength and determination that I admire. Sometimes during the day when I’m faced with difficult situations, I think “What would Claire do?” I love that there are authors out there writing such strong women characters. Claire reminds me that I can do hard things. We all can.
If another woman wants to connect with you, how would you prefer that happens? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org [Kara note: Her website is http://www.amandabrownceremonies.com if you or someone you know are into “NO BORING SERMONS. NO COOKIE-CUTTER TEXT.” And here's a post post-our atomic 50s luau.]
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