An Interview With Officiate Bill Russell


Brother Bill Russell Is the Officiate at Alternative Ceremonies; here is a link to his website:

Q: What is Alternative Ceremonies?
A: I perform ceremonies or celebrations that are in any way outside of the traditional mainstream, or that are spiritual but not “religious.” These could range from pet marriages or funerals, motorcycle blessings, military safety blessings, house cleansings…anything where people feel that rituals and ceremonies will provide comfort or imbue success. But I can also perform traditional marriages that are perfectly valid and legal.
Q: What inspired you to start it?
A: I realized that there is something in the human psyche that values the heightened experience of ceremonies but they don’t always want the pat religious ceremony, or it’s not something a traditional clergyman would do. People desire comfort or affirmation in certain situations that they cannot find in traditional mainstream religious bodies. So, I can provide that for them.

Q: What is your educational background?
A: I originally attended a very conservative Baptist bible college, studying for the ministry. But I realized that they seemed to focus on following their own rules more than being godly or spiritual, so I eventually dropped out. More and more I sensed a correlation between religious beliefs and basic human behavior, so when I eventually completed my degree it was in Behavioral Science.
Q: What are your own religious beliefs?
A: I believe in a Higher Power that is not necessarily a “person.” My concept of God is something between the Judeo-Christian “Jehovah” and the Buddhist beliefs. I believe most “religions” acknowledge this power and have attempted to make it rational to human understanding, which is essentially impossible.

Q: Are there any kind of ceremonies you would refuse to do?
A: Anything that would violate basic morality. Anything involving cruelty or torture, for example. Other than that, I’m pretty open-minded.
Q: Why are ceremonies important to people?
A: Excellent question, and one I’m still trying to fully comprehend myself. Essentially, our brains respond to certain things that elevate the human experience beyond the everyday mundane. Ceremonies give a heightened sense of meaning to situations and experiences. And that in turn imbues those experiences with a feeling of comfort or reassurance or euphoria or whatever. And I feel that people want to believe a higher power has blessed their experience.
Q: What is the most unusual ceremony you have ever performed?
A: Pet weddings always seem strange to me. Usually they involve people who don’t have children but desire the experience of hosting a wedding. Of course you can’t get a marriage license from the county clerk, but I create a “certificate” for them and it conveys a sense of legitimacy. But the most unusual was a guy who wanted to marry his car. The man felt very strongly about his car, a feeling so intense he calls it “love,” and a ceremony and a certificate validates that feeling for him. Makes it more special.

Q: You have a background in hypnotherapy, how do you use it in your current work?
A: A big part of hypnotherapy is understanding how people access and process their feelings and emotions from a psychological perspective. So in many instances, this is easily translated to a ceremony or celebration. For example, if a family’s beloved pet dies after 18 years, I can use guided imagery to provide solace and comfort. I’ll invite them to close their eyes, to mentally celebrate good memories, and to send the pet off to an eternal paradise and when they re-open their eyes they are happy and reassured.
Q: Why do you think people object to gay marriage?
A: Honestly, I think it is that some people object to homosexuality in general, and they feel that legalizing same-sex marriage legitimizes being gay and they believe that is wrong. The problem in my opinion is that marriage in this country is primarily a legal entity and only secondarily a religious one. Which is why a minister or priest has to say “by the power invested in me by the state of…” So to deny marriage equality to someone based on religious beliefs contradicts the constitutional right concerning religious discrimination.
Q: Why should my readers hire you?
A: They should utilize me when they want a ceremony or celebration that is in any way outside the mainstream. I will show up in my tux and use my theatrical appearance and spiritual background to lend meaning to your experience. Whether you desire comfort or reassurance or heightened importance, I will provide that. Also, I’m just a pleasure to be around!

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)


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