When we think about soap operas, we tend to think about marriages rocked by scandalous extramarital affairs, not stable, long-lasting unions marked by mutual respect and understanding. Even those who love soaps love a happy marriage, though. For Roger Newcomb, the directing editor of the soap opera Web site We Love Soaps, and his partner, Kevin Mulcahy, 18 August was a joyous occasion. It was the day soap opera star Colleen Zenk, known for her role as Barbara Ryan in As The World Turns, performed a wedding ceremony for the couple in the heart of New York City.
The unique ceremony took place atop the famous red staircase above the ticket booth in Duffy Square, the northern triangle of Times Square, at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Broadway in Midtown Manhattan’s bustling theatre district. Zenk, who decided to get ordained online in the Universal Life Church Monastery, asked those who might object to “speak now or forever hold your peace,” in stark contrast to the marital instability of her T.V. alter ego. “As Colleen spoke the line, I looked around a crowded Times Square while flashing back to many of Barbara Ryan’s weddings and other interrupted soap weddings over the years,” said Newcomb at WeLoveSoaps.net, and “I half expected someone to emerge from the TKTS line to speak up,” possibly referring to the same-sex nature of the ceremony. However, the crowd expressed overwhelming support for the couple, and Zenk completed the ceremony without a hitch.
It was not your grandmother’s wedding, either, reflecting the creative, increasingly custom-tailored style of contemporary marriage ceremonies. Eschewing tradition, Newcomb and Mulcahy had Marlo, their twenty-one month-old pet parrot, serve as flower-girl. The lucky parrot was rolled down the aisle in a covered perambulator decorated with flowers until she reached the altar, where the soap star-turned-wedding minister awaited the happy couple. Adding to the offbeat atmosphere was the high-profile celebrity presence. Not only were the couple married by a celebrity minister, but celebrities could be counted among those in attendance–including Jillian Clare, star of Miss Behave, Days of Our Lives, and The Kitchen.
More noteworthy, however, are the sexually heteronormative aspects of Newcomb and Mulcahy’s wedding. In the traditional ceremony one would expect to find at least three things: a bride and groom, a male wedding officiant, and a father to “give away” the bride to her husband. We find none of these things in Newcomb and Mulcahy’s ceremony, which featured two grooms, a female officiant, and the conspicuous absence of a bride to “be given away.” There is nothing inherently wrong with the traditional wedding, of course, but modern wedding ceremonies serve an important purpose in challenging social norms about which roles are played by whom.
The ULC Monastery would like to extend its gratitude to Zenk for helping make online ordination a more visible, socially acceptable means of marrying modern-day couples. Like Conan O’Brien, Fran Drescher, David Byrne, and other high-profile ministers before her, she helps show that traditional minister training in a brick-and-mortar church is not required to validate the love between two committed adults in a legal wedding ceremony. Hopefully more ministers of influence will follow in her footsteps.