Here are some random things about me, and how I got to being a wedding officiant, in case you’re interested in knowing a little more.
I enjoy time with friends and family, organic gardening, my dog, travel, genealogy, nature, photography, reading, science, artsy craftsy stuff, kayaking, estate sales, and tons of random projects. I’m a huge fan of laughter, comedy, satire, and sarcasm. I love deep conversations, philosophizing and fun debate.
I’m a parent of two teens. When I first wrote this section I talked about creating a career for myself that allowed me to be flexible while my kids were babies. Now they are both taller than me. Time does fly.
Chelsea has been my home for the past dozen years, though I was born in Detroit, grew up in Saline, and have lived near Ann Arbor most of my life. I have an Associates Degree from Washtenaw Community College.
Through most of my twenties I worked for a eco-travel company in Ann Arbor. That was, at the time, my dream job, and my opportunity to travel the world. I planned trips, traveled to and photographed Australia, Ecuador, Galapagos, Peru, the Amazon, Machu Picchu, Argentina, Chile and Antarctica.
As far as beliefs are concerned, I am an atheist and Humanist. I do not believe in any supreme beings. I do believe in the good of people, and that being kind and seeking to understand others is a key to being happy. I am in awe of the vastness of the universe, I marvel at evolution and life on this planet, and I think we still have a lot to discover. My philosophy behind A Simple Ceremony is that I am honest with myself and am genuine in all that I do. From that comes everything else.
I was raised Catholic, decided not to (refused to) go through confirmation, and left the church at about age 12. In my teenage years I experienced a bit of Evangelical Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, and Zen Buddhism, before realizing that while I enjoy learning about religion from an academic viewpoint, I was just not able to actually believe in god or anything supernatural (even though I really tried). I do love mythology, philosophy, psychology and anthropology. Science and nature provide me with enough awe, wonder and unanswered questions balanced with evidence-based reasoning that I don’t feel the need to complicate things any more. I understand the struggle of those who have parted ways with the religion of their parents. Mine still undoubtedly pray for me and think I’m going to hell when I die, though I tell them that I don’t believe in hell, so it’s ok. We can agree to disagree.
Therefore, I don’t perform religious ceremonies simply because it would be insincere for me to do so. I respect the freedom of religion as well as the freedom from religion.
I was ordained as “Reverend” by the Universal Life Church in 2004, on the internet. I am not a practicing minister in any church.* My first wedding was performed in 2004 for a friend and coworker who wanted a quick ceremony on the beach near her house. She convinced me to see if the online ordination was legal (it is) and to sign up (I did.) I hung up my ordination certificate at my desk at work and asked my other coworkers to call me Reverend (jokingly of course). Some things at that first ceremony I didn’t anticipate. That the sound of the water would drown out me talking, and without a microphone no one heard anything. Also, I had previously been deathly afraid of speaking in public, and to my pleasant surprise I made it through the whole thing without choking or passing out. It was actually quite fun.
Nearly five years later in early 2009 I was asked to officiate another two ceremonies. One was for a friend of a friend in a local park with a few family members and a very easy-going vibe. Then, my sister-in-law Karen said she was getting married, and I offered to help. We looked at different readings, traditions, and vows, and also had a rehearsal where I first learned how difficult it can be to get a bunch of adults to pay attention. Her wedding was one of the most beautiful I’d ever seen, and I was honored for them to have me officiate and coordinate their ceremony. That’s really when this all began. I saw the pieces coming together of how being a wedding officiant would actually work with my life and fit with so many of the things I’m good at and really enjoy.
I’ve met so many great people at the variety of weddings I have been a part of, learned much about life and love, and even discovered new things about myself. Every couple and every wedding is unique, and it is so special for me to be welcomed into such a personal moment in people’s lives. By the end of a wedding ceremony and after all is said and done, I almost always feel like part of the family. I really love my job.
-Stacey Swickerath (Rev.)
*Note, I should say I am an atheist minister, and an ordained reverend of the Universal Life Church, and in that capacity my church is my home and my congregation is my family and friends who gather on a regular basis to share in the gospel of reason and science. Perhaps one day I’ll start a non-religious church to get tax-free status that is so unfairly reserved for churches.