I am Reverend Samora Smith, a NYC-licensed Wedding Officiant and I am happy to congratulate you on your engagement.
You must be so excited (and possibly overwhelmed) by your upcoming wedding
…and if there’s one thing that we understand, it is that every couple wants and deserves their wedding day to be special, unique and of course, memorable. At Common Ground Ceremonies, we aim to please and want to make this experience as stress-free as possible. Whether you are planning a wedding with 200 guests at a beautiful New York venue or planning a simple, romantic Central Park Wedding with just the two of you, it is your special day! Whenever couples say, “we just want a ceremony that is short and sweet”, it is clear that they are really saying that they don’t want the traditionally long ceremony that puts their guests (or them) to sleep. Well, if this is similar to what you are thinking, then it sounds like we could be a match!
Your ceremony should reflect what makes you special and unique as a couple. Whether it is done through songs, poems, personal vows, it should be all about the two of you. When you choose a customized ceremony, there are so many ways that you can blend your story, your traditions, your beliefs and even your family members (pets, too!!). The possibilities are endless! So, if you prefer a simple, civil ceremony or an outrageous themed wedding, our vow to you is that we will guide you toward creating a heartfelt ceremony that will be remembered for years to come. We consider it a privilege to unite the two of you and your families in marriage and truly look forward to walking this path with you! Let’s Celebrate!
Here are some of the wonderful couples that I have been blessed to marry and get to know during the most exciting time in their lives!
Lisa & Christopher- Chinese-Italian Wedding Banquet
Kris & Will New York City Elopement
Jennifer & Dave Fire Island Wedding
Virginia & Raymond Queens Wedding
Idella & Robbie Bow Bridge Wedding
Vanessa & Donahue
Central Park Elopement
Live Guitar Music
Sanna & Juha Destination Wedding
Alessia & Mara Times Square Elopement
Brian & Gillian Ladies Pavilion Wedding
Tom & Carolina Grand Central Wedding
Christopher & Denise Marina Del Rey Wedding
Randall & Ricky Belvedere Castle Wedding
Will and Dave-Commitment Ceremony
Vanessa & Rich Central Park Wedding
Kristen & Ruddy Military Wedding
Kathy & Me’chele Brooklyn Wedding
Jami & Nicholas Winter Elopement
Many couples ask me how I chose to become a marriage officiant. Why Interfaith? Some people want to know how I feel about Marriage Equality. Here's my story:
I was born in New York City and love everything about it…the people, the culture, and especially the diversity.
What a magical place to get married! There are so many amazing venues, landmarks and beautifully landscaped parks. I am a hopeless romantic and one of my favorite ways to spend my free time is to relax and watch a great love story or listen to some inspiring music. I was born into a multiracial and interfaith family. My mom was raised Jewish (liberal), my father was Muslim (Jazz musician-type) and my stepfather was Catholic. I was the kid who had the Christmas tree and Hanukkah Menorah displayed at the same time. More gifts for me, I guess!! We were by no means a religious family, but I was raised in a spiritual environment. My unique background has really taught me to respect and embrace other people’s beliefs and differences.
From early childhood, I was always performing and involved in the theater…I have worked as a professional musician for the past 15 years!
My artistic background has thankfully exposed me to many different cultures and lifestyles. I have always had many gay friends and growing up, we always spent time with my mother’s gay couple friends. Her two closest friends, Bernie and Frank (my gay uncles) who practically raised me, were together for more than 20 years and never had the legal choice to marry. I am an advocate and active supporter of Marriage Equality. I am so excited to be a part of this important moment in history. Gay marriage is not a moral issue, it’s a civil rights issue. I believe that we should all be allowed to love and marry whomever we choose and I feel so privileged when I am asked to officiate gay weddings. I always knew that it would only be a matter of time before New York would support Marriage Equality and I am looking forward to the day when it is fully recognized as a human right by the rest of the world.
Ordained as an Interfaith Minister (2008) via The New Seminary of Interfaith Studies in NYC.
When I enrolled, I had a deep desire to learn more about the different religions and faiths of the world. I was raising my two young children and many questions about faith were coming up for me. It was a fascinating journey because I was able to experience and study each faith in great detail and much to my surprise, I discovered how similar they all really are. Once I became ordained, I still wasn’t sure what I planned to do with my ministry until a close friend of mine asked me to marry her and her fiance. After writing and performing their wedding, I was hooked! I knew that this was a calling for me and that this would be one of the most exciting and fulfilling careers for me. I had already been working in the wedding industry for 12 years as a professional singer/keyboard player in a very successful Long Island band, so I knew that it would be a welcome career shift and a very smooth transition for me.
As a Wedding Officiant, I specialize in all types of ceremonies.
Traditional and non-traditional weddings, Interfaith weddings, non-denominational/civil ceremonies, spiritual weddings, LGBT weddings, as well as vow renewals. I am located in Manhattan and I am available to travel and perform weddings throughout the five boroughs, as well as the surrounding areas. For the couple who have hired several different vendors and is interested, I also offer services as a “Day Of Wedding Coordinator” where I will be responsible for making sure that all of the vendors are running on schedule according to their contracts and seeing that everything is executed properly so that the event can run as smoothly as possible. (A more detailed description of this service is explained on the services page). And finally, I offer packages that include live music (guitar, strings, piano, vocals, etc.) and photography. Please inquire about my special packages when you contact me!
To set up an appointment with me in person, or by phone or Skype, I can be reached at (646) 709-2090 or email me at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you so that we can begin creating the wedding of your dreams.
Rituals and Unity Ceremonies are a wonderful way to symbolize the joining of two people in marriage. I have chosen an array of rituals (tradition and non-traditional) that you may want to include in your ceremony.
Ideal for outdoor weddings and also symbolizes the joining of the couple in their new family. I often suggest this ritual when there are young children involved and the couple is looking for a ritual to involve the children (featured left).
Wine Box/Love Letter
The couple will write love letters to each other before the wedding which they will seal in an envelope. They will choose their favorite bottle of wine or drink of choice and place these and any other memorabilia in the wine box. During the wedding ceremony, the couple will seal the box and vow not to open the box until their anniversary of choice. The only other time that the box can be unsealed is when they are having thoughts of separating at which time they will drink the wine and read the letters which will hopefully remind them why they fell in love and chose to be together in the first place.
Breaking of the Glass
Used in traditional Jewish weddings signifying the end of the ceremony and the time of celebration.
The couple can either choose to pour one white glass and one red glass to create a blush that they will both drink from or there can be a pouring of one glass that they both will drink from.
An African and Celtic tradition which symbolizes the clearing away of negativity with a sweep of the broom and creating a threshold for the couple to cross over into their new life together.
The couple can choose to present roses to the mothers/grandmothers as a way of showing appreciation for their support. The roses can also be presented as the first gifts that the couple will give to each other.
Doves choose one partner for life and make this commitment until death. It is said that if doves are seen on your wedding day, a happy home is assured. Releasing doves signifies new beginnings.
Hand Wrapping Ceremony
The original meaning of “tying the knot”. A Celtic tradition where the hands are tied with cloth in the shape of the infinity symbol to symbolize the bringing together of the two hearts in a marriage of strength and unity forever.
This ritual has long been used in Catholic weddings, but also holds a universal meaning. It symbolizes the joining of the couple in marriage as well as the joining of their two original families. The couple’s mothers can light their individual candles for them as a symbol to show that they are moving on from their family to create a new family together.
An American Indian Legend says that if you catch a butterfly and make a wish, when you release it your wish will come true. Many people choose to have this ritual performed at the end of their wedding ceremony.
No two weddings are alike. Some couples want to include multiple readings or rituals in their ceremony and some couples want to keep it "short and sweet". I will guide you every step of the way and for those of you who need some additional coordinating assistance on your special day, I offer this service as well.
See some of our services at Common Ground Ceremonies:
Starts at $350 – (Fri/Sat/Sun and holidays $50 additional)
Up to 10 Guests
Pre-written script of your choice (civil/spiritual) performed at your selected venue
Filing of License (legally required)
Witness can be provided if needed ($50 fee)
Starts at $400 – (Fri/Sat/Sun and holidays $100-200 additional)
Simple, customized ceremony (rituals not included) of your choice performed at your selected venue
Written copy of ceremony provided in advance for final approval
Arrival of Wedding Officiant 30 minutes prior to ceremony
Filing of License (legally required)
Fully Customized Ceremony
Starts at $600 – (Fri/Sat/Sun and holidays $100-200 additional)
Customized Ceremony with Personalized script performed at your selected venue
Assistance with Personal Vows (optional)
Unlimited readings (suggestions offered if needed)
1-2 Rituals (traditional, cultural or inspired)
Written copy of ceremony provided in advance for final approval
Arrival of Wedding Officiant one hour prior to ceremony
Filing of License (legally required)
A retainer of $200 is required to hold the date and time
Balance is due on day of ceremony
Additional 'Day Of' Coordinator Services
Starts at $500
Initial Consultation to explain services
Unlimited phone & email from date of contract
Contact all vendors listed on the contract to finalize details one week prior of ceremony
Organize wedding rehearsal (extra fee)
Develop Wedding Day Itinerary
Up to 4 hours of service on your wedding day
Visit ceremony site to make sure all vendors are on time and deliveries are received
Manage wedding vendors per your instructions
Manage wedding party
Manage vendor & decor setup at ceremony & reception sites
Transport, distribute, or arrange programs, table names, place cards, favors, etc.
Visit reception site to make sure all vendors are present and setup
Coordinate entertainment and all announcements/events during reception
Assist with anything else that should come up during the event
A retainer of $200 is required to hold the date and time
Live Instrumentalist (Guitar/Piano/Violin/Vocals) starting at $150/hr
Microphone/Amplifier Setup- $100
Rehearsal Dinner – $150/weeknights and $250/weekends
Travel -$50/per additional 20 miles outside NYC
Park Permit plus administrative fee-$50
Marriage License Information:
How do I go about obtaining a marriage license in New York City? A New York State marriage license is valid for 60 days (except for active military personnel for whom the validity runs for 180 days) and can only be used in the State of New York. All couples must wait a full 24 hours from the time the marriage license is issued before a marriage ceremony can be performed unless a judicial waiver is obtained.
You must remember to bring a valid proof of I.D. (i.e., driver’s license, passport, etc.) and proof of divorce (if applicable). The fee for a Marriage License is $35 by credit card or money order payable to the City Clerk.
Park Permit Information:
Do I need to obtain a permit to have my wedding in a public park? The only time that you will be required to have a permit for your event is when you will have more than 20 people. It takes approximately 30 days to receive the permit, so plan in advance. The permit can be obtained at the following link: https://nyceventpermits.nyc.gov/Parks/
The fee for the Permit is $25. If you prefer for Common Ground Ceremonies to obtain the permit for you, there will be an administrative fee of $25 applied.
I truly love what I do. Each couple I marry remains close to my heart forever! Please enjoy some of the wonderful reviews that I have received from these loving couples.
Jill & Keith
We initially asked the person who introduced us to be our officiant. Due to a work conflict, she had to bail. My husband and I were very disappointed. We went out on a search to find another officiant, asking other friends, and people who we thought would be fun choices, but time and options were running out. While on vacation, my husband decided to just look online. Something that I was very much against. It seemed so impersonal! He looked through many profiles and only showed me people who he thought might make me soften to the idea. When he showed me Rev. Samora, I was instantly intrigued by her. Her multi-faith/multi-ethnic background was a new twist to the bland faces we saw page after page. We set up a meeting to have coffee one rainy afternoon and we hit it off instantly. We needed to look no further! She was the one. The very next day, my husband’s aunt and uncle threw us an engagement party. We thought it would be nice if she came to get to know us better and out families. She came with her 12-year-old daughter, who turned out to be my little dream come true. The wedding was spectacular. The work that she put in was inspiring to us. We were so down about our friend bailing but it was clear that we would have a beautiful ceremony yet! She really zeroed in on who we are as people, and the crazy love that we have for each other. It’s not very often that guests go on and on about how much love that they felt from the ceremony-that it left them feeling loved and feeling the need to love. You’d think our ceremony was small and intimate but we had 200 guests! Samora was so eloquent, and engaging that our friends and family thought we had known her for years. We welcomed her and her daughter as guests at our wedding and we hope to maintain a relationship with her for years to come.
Also- She was instrumental in helping us become the main couple in the vows section of the New York Times the weekend after our wedding.
Jill & Keith, 10/12/13
Carlos & José
There are few occasions in life when things happen to be perfect. Our wedding day was just that, perfect! Perfect location…perfect weather…perfect company…and perfect person to officiate our ceremony! Reverend Samora Smith was perfect from the beginning. My husband, then my fiancé, found her online. I was skeptical. However, it took me just a short phone conversation with her to feel her warmth, her calm, and her love. Rev. Samora gave us just the right amount of pressure, and the right amount of support from our wedding day to be simply perfect. She was prompt to respond to our questions and with a practical understanding of the wedding ceremony, offered us the right options. She found for us the perfect musician and the perfect photographer. On our wedding day, she dressed beautifully and in accordance with our preferred colors, blending discretely and harmoniously. She delivered the ceremony flawlessly, with grace, candor, and love. We are tremendously proud and happy she held our hands that day and blessed our wedding. Thanks once more, Rev. Samora. It was simply perfect.
Carlos & José, 8/25/12
Jessica & Scott
When my fiancé and I began to look at officiants for our wedding, we were very overwhelmed with the many choices out there. With the ceremony being the most important part of the wedding, we wanted to ensure we had someone that could tell our love story and create a special ceremony. After our first meeting with Samora we booked immediately, she was so interested in our story and the overall vision for our wedding, it made us feel that she truly wanted to be a part of our big day. Leading up to the wedding she provided the “script” and was more than willing to make a few iterations to capture exactly what we wanted. She even stopped over to our apartment a few weeks before the wedding to walk through the ceremony details and to make sure we were 100% comfortable. The ceremony itself was beautiful and we are still impressed that someone we had only met once or twice was able to tell a beautiful love story and capture our guests.
Jessica & Scott, 10/19/2013
Stephen & Beau
Where to begin? Obviously Spirit and the Law of Attraction “works” because you showed up in our life like an angel and guided us through what will without a doubt, be the most incredible event in our lives!. If the word “perfect” could fit an occasion, it was our wedding event! We treasure our moments with you for many reasons-not the least being the loving, authentic grace and spirit that you exude. Many have asked where we found you and it is quite difficult to explain how you appeared in our lives at the perfect time and place.
Again, words can hardly communicate our level of gratitude and love for your guidance and loving energy during the most important time in our lives. Quite simply-we are in love with you!!
xoxo Stephen & Beau, 3/10/12
Kristen & Ruddy
Rev. Samora was FANTASTIC!! You can tell how much she loves doing what she does and cares for her clients. She has such a warm, sweet, loving vibe. I would HIGHLY recommend her to anyone. The ceremony was beautiful with her words and the guitar player. We had many complements from our guests on how unique and heart felt it was. My husband and I are very pleased with her services.
Kristen & Ruddy, 4/4/12
Virginia & Raymond
My husband and I had the absolute pleasure of having Rev. Samora Smith perform our wedding ceremony. It was down to earth, heartfelt, and full of love without being “over the top” and “sappy”. The entire planning process was smooth and easy. She was a pleasure to work with and met all of our needs to a “T”. Not to mention she is so sweet and lovely to talk to; our initial meeting was like having coffee with a friend. I would highly recommend her services.
Virginia & Raymond, 6/15/13
Nicholas & Jami
Reverend Samora created an experience that was absolutely beautiful. She was able to provide us with not only a beautiful ceremony but the perfect location as well. Her kindness is so incredibly warm and her presence made the wedding excel to such great heights. Her professionalism and poise was much appreciated as it added an element to our special day that was truly sincere. My wife and I genuinely recommend Reverend Samora for all wedding occasions.
Nicholas & Jami, 1/2/12
Kathy & Me’chele
Rev Samora is the sweetest person my wife and I have ever met. We couldn’t have asked for more on our wedding day. She met every requirement we asked of her and more. She definitely has a passion for what she does and you can see it through the ceremony she conducted. She accepted our love and understood the bond we have… and interpreted into words. If you want to put your ceremony in capable hands Rev. Samora is the officiant for you.
Kathy & Me’chele, 11/11/11
Alex & Lindsey
Absolutely Wonderful! Very flexible, easy to work with, and always available. Samora is very-well spoken and professional. At our first meeting she provided us with great sample ceremonies and readings. We used those as a base, then she customized everything to fit us specifically. She arrived early to the ceremony and helped the Groom and Best Man prepare themselves and gave some tips. She spoke confidently, projected her voice, and annunciated clearly. Our guests complimented her afterwards on the beautiful ceremony, and they are still telling us – weeks later- that is was the best ceremony they have been to! You would be wise to choose her!
Alex & Lindsey, 7/24/11
Kelly & Eric
Reverend Samora was unforgettable! My Husband (fiance at the time) and I were planning a wedding in NY from Boston. This is no easy task, especially with less than three months before the big day. I searched all over the internet to try to find someone who would truly care about us and our big day. I found an officiant who was highly recommended, she unfortunately was not available on our date. She sent me a list of officiants that she recommended, one of which was Rev. Samora. I tried to contact a few of these individuals and I received a call back from a few, their main concern was money and how I could pay them.
Rev. Samora then returned my phone call and didn’t even mention payment until I brought it up. Her first concern was fitting our date into her schedule and wanting to meet us to plan our special day. She impressed me by her first phone call! My husband and I took a trip to NY and planned a date to meet with Rev. Samora. We had coffee at a cafe where Rev. Samora asked questions about us and our family and really got to know us so she could set up the best ceremony for our needs. She was very organized and had drafts of ideas that she had already come up with from our first phone call.
Rev. Samora was in-touch with us through out the next month before our wedding and made sure she had our vows and ceremony just the way we wanted them. She also was helpful with music for the ceremony and a unity ceremony for our children. On the big day Rev. Samora made our dream come true and announced us husband and wife after a beautiful ceremony she preformed. We will never forget her for this and this is why I would suggest her to any couple who is looking for an officiant in NY. Lastly, she fit into our very small budget.
Rev. Samora is truly in her profession for the couples and unlike other officiants I spoke with she made sure the most important thing for us was our day and not her bugging us for payment. I did not want to mention this but with people taking advantage of others now a days I wouldn’t want to see anybody be scammed. Picking Rev. Samora to officiate your special day will assure you that won’t happen.
Kelly & Eric, 9/4/11
Brian & Derek
Rev Samora helped make our nuptials more than we could have ever imagined. She was instrumental in coming up with the perfect words and poems for our ceremony. She defiantly has a vibe about her that is nothing short of magical and special. Thank you Rev Samora, our ceremony is a day we will never forget, Thank you for conducting the ceremony and helping us make it magical.
Sincerely Brian Kudler Derek Chow, 8/19/11
Cheryl & Sarah
Rev. Samora was amazing! We couldn’t have asked for a better person to wed us. She took us last minute, picked a stunning spot in Central Park, and prepared beautiful vows for us. We were honored to have her officiate our special day!
Cheryl & Sarah, 12/17/11
Rich & Vanessa
We had our wedding officiated by Samora on Dec. 31 2011 at the Ladies Pavilion in Central Park. She was professional, informative, suggsestive and accommodating to our needs. When we arrived in Central Park, the plan was to have the ceremony held at Ladies Pavilion, but we had contemplated other more secluded areas of the park. She was completely open to any an all ideas for locations, but we had found that the spot Samora chose was perfect even though there were some people around. I felt somewhat nervous before the ceremony but once it came time, thanks to Samora’s experience and composure, the feeling had disappeared. We also had a guitarist, Diana White, play some songs that we requested- that really helped to make the moment extra special. We wouldn’t have had the wedding any other way. We will remember the day for the rest of our lives.
Rich & Vanessa, 12/31/11
Current wedding trends! New wedding ceremony ideas! Beautiful New York wedding venues! Latest news on Marriage Equality! I am interested in sharing tips and new ideas with you and I look forward to your posts.
Come and join me at Deity Brooklyn for a wonderful evening of food tastings and intimate wedding vendor shopping. Deity Brooklyn has just renovated their cellar and invite you to come and tour their gorgeous, unique venue. Common Ground Ceremonies is offering each couple that books with them, a chance to win a trip for […]
NYC Winter Wedding Officiant Are you working to put together the perfect wedding last minute while snow is still on the ground? Finding the perfect ceremony to fit your love of the winter wonder land can be a difficult challenge for any couple. Fortunately, when it comes to matters of the heart, you can be […]
NYC Wedding Ceremony Officiant If you are looking for a customized wedding ceremony officiant in New York City, the very best company for you to contact is Common Ground Ceremonies. Here at Common Ground Ceremonies, we are here to make your special day dreams come true. We work with all kinds of couples who have […]
Visiting NYC or Times Square this month? Check out this love-themed installation by Stereotank called “Heartbeat”, an interactive love drum. It will be on display until March 8th, 2015 and is a great place to visit this Valentine’s Day. For all of you elopers, please contact “Common Ground Ceremonies” to make your day extra special […]
Thinking about an elopement in New York City this Winter? Central Park is a beautiful location all year round. This Bride and Groom came to NYC from Florida to marry. They opted for the package that also included a photographer and Bridal Bouquet. We held their ceremony at Cop Cot, a rustic wooden atrium located […]
We Won Again!! Thank you to all of my Brides and Grooms for your support and of course, allowing me to be a part of your special day. I have won this award because you took the time out to write a great review and I really appreciate that! Here’s too love and the privilege […]
Midtown Manhattan dove release and butterfly release What better way is there to illustrate how happy you two are and the level of your commitment to each other than a wedding ritual? At Common Ground Ceremonies, we’re dedicated to helping you to do so with symbolic and memorable choices such as dove release and butterfly […]
We are so proud to announce that we have once again been chosen as one of the “Best of Weddings” for The Knot 2015. We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and support from the couples that we have had the pleasure of uniting. Thank you again and we look forward to […]
Central Park is Beautiful all year round. Weekday weddings in the park are ideal because it is less crowded and there are more locations to choose from.
Central Park Weekday Wedding Special (M-TH) $550
Wedding Officiant (Simple spiritual or civil ceremony)
Your choice of Guitarist or Violinist (1-3 Songs/any style)
Filing of Marriage License after the Ceremony (legally required)
Photographer available upon request (starting at $399/hour)
Simple Bridal Bouquet/Boutonniere delivered to hotel ($125 additional)
$100 additional for Friday to Sunday
2014/15 Winter Wedding Discount
$50 discount for weddings booked in Dec./Jan./Feb.
Holidays excluded from special rate (or 12/13/14)
Please mention discount when booking
Not to be combined with other specials
Please give as much detail as possible about your event (Date/Time/Location needed), so that I can give you the most accurate information. I usually respond within 24 hours to your inquiry. I look forward to hearing from you!
Rev. Samora Smith
Common Ground Ceremonies
711 East 11th Street
New York, NY 10009
We specialize in all types of ceremonies. Traditional and non-traditional weddings, civil ceremonies, spiritual weddings, LGBT weddings, as well as vow renewals. We are located in NYC and are available to travel and perform weddings throughout the five boroughs, as well as the surrounding area.