~ The following was published in The Floyd Press on May 10, 2007.
On a warm Valentine’s Day in 2005, while shopping at the Harvest Moon Food Store, something unusual caught my eye. I was making my way down a store aisle, filling my basket when I noticed a woman who looked overdressed for grocery shopping. Her short white dress swished as she passed by me. She was wearing jewelry and lipstick. Her pump heels clicked as she walked, and her long curly hair was pulled back with barrettes. I watched curiously as she spoke to Harvest Moon staff member, Katherine Chantal.
I don’t remember if I invited myself or if an invitation was offered, but I ended up taking wedding photos that day. The woman in white was joined by her groom in the front of the Harvest Moon where Katherine pronounced them husband and wife as their young child in a baby carriage looked on.
Most people who know Katherine Chantal know her as an herbalist and the mother of five sons, many of whose names were frequently seen in the sports section of the Floyd Press during their high school years. A lesser known fact about Katherine is that she’s been guiding life passages and ceremonies for the past twenty-five years and that she performs a considerable number of our county’s weddings.
Although Valentine’s Day of 2005 wasn’t the first or last time she took a break from her Harvest Moon duties to marry someone impromptu, the majority of weddings Katherine performs are planned in advance and some happen well beyond the borders of Floyd County. After being flown to Utah to marry one couple, and then later to the coast of Rhode Island to marry Willis residents Ryan Turman and Heather Gordon, she joked about having a business card printed up announcing “have wedding will travel.”
Katherine, who is legally certified in the state of Virginia to perform weddings, has a background in sociology, psychology, philosophy and world religions. As a Rites of Passage Ceremonialist and ordained Priestess, the life events she has facilitated have ranged from those of birth to death. The weddings she has done have drawn from a variety of traditions, including Celtic, Christian, Sufi, Judaic, and Native American (North and South). “Y ofrezco las bodas Espanol tambien,” her website says, which I believe means that she can do weddings in Spanish.
Besides the Harvest Moon garden weddings, she has married couples in trailer parks and national parks. Ten years ago she officiated at my wedding, which took place at the Blue Ridge Parkway Saddle overlook on a blue moon in June. Under her guidance my husband and I were supported to design a meaningful and custom fit ceremony. Wearing a flowing blue velvet dress, she pronounced us united as the setting sun and the rising moon faced each other like a bride and groom in the sky.
“You should write a book!” I recently told her, as we were remembering one wedding she did in a big red barn. Another one, which took place at the Daddy Rabbit’s Campground, had a Scottish theme. “Men wore kilts and a haggis (sheep dish) was cooking over an open fire,” she said.
Her talents have been appreciated in her own family. She has presided over two of her sons weddings, one of which was done twice, once in Spain and then on the Zephyr farm grounds where she lives. Another in Pennsylvania was attended by dozens of Floydians who traveled to be part of the celebration. How did you keep from crying?” I asked her.
She laughed as she answered, “I made a promise I wouldn’t.” She did cry after and before those ceremonies, she admitted.
The wedding season is gearing up and Katherine has been busy. In the last two weeks, she’s performed two weddings on the Harvest Moon lawn. The first was for a couple who were both in their 80’s. More recently, a dozen friends and family members of a young military couple gathered together to witness their marriage. The couple, a marine and a naval servicewoman, graciously allowed me to take photos. “Are you the father?” I asked the man standing next to me who was also snapping photos and appeared to be emotional. “Yes,” he answered, slightly teary-eyed.
Every wedding is unique and the stories so colorful. Katherine recently told me, “I’m working with a couple who are planning a June wedding. They’re thinking of doing it on horseback.”
Post Notes: Photos number 1 is of the April 14th wedding of the military couple mentioned above, performed in front of the Harvest Moon. Photo 2 is of the Turman’s (provided by Katherine). The final photo is of Katherine officiating at her son Rahim and his bride Gema’s wedding at Zephyr Farm in Floyd this past September. It was taken by her youngest son, Rowan. For more information go to Katherine’s website lifeceremoniesbykatherine.com