Island Weddings

Tying the knot for Hatteras bridal couples
is a labor of love for local minister

By ANNE BOWERS





“I just want to make couples happy,” the minister begins.  “I feel so blessed to be in this business.”

This Avon resident has made a living doing many different things on the island.  Her latest career choice is not typical, especially when ministers are traditionally men.

Bonnie Williams is an ordained non-denominational minister who started Hatteras Wedding Ministries in 2007.  Since that time, she has performed around 200 ceremonies.

When the building boom swarmed Hatteras Island about a decade ago, Williams started an interior design company called Hatteras House Interiors.  This business was born from restoring an 85-year-old Kinnakeet home she and her husband, Charles Williams, purchased.

“I was bit by the bug,” Bonnie describes her excitement about refurbishing this house.  Her enjoyment of restoration the project led her to start the interior design business.  It was a busy seven years for the island local.

As the construction industry on the island stalled, so did Hatteras House Interiors.  After entertaining the thought of moving into the wedding business, Bonnie turned to her brother, Pastor Dwight Burrus, for advice.

For many years, Dwight has been an island preacher and a pilot, known for his blunt honesty and solid advice.  Since Hatteras Island was becoming more popular as a destination location for summer weddings, he was having trouble keeping up with the demand.  Summer is also the busy time for his fightseeing business, Burrus Flying Service, whose slogan is “Straighten up and fly right.”

As an island pastor, Dwight’s ministry is more focused on counseling and felt that he was more needed to help people during times of grief, which compelled him to do more funerals.

Weddings can take a lot of time, which was difficult for Pastor Dwight during the summers.  Some couples just simply want to get married without spiritual consultation.

Since weddings were so popular, “I decided to pick up Dwight’s slack,” says Bonnie.

Bonnie was raised in a Christian environment and became an ordained minister in order to fulfill the requirements set forth by the state of North Carolina to legally marry people.  She chose the title of minister over reverend, pastor, or bishop because she feels that she is ministering when she marries couples.

“I do not counsel,” the minister explains.  “This is strictly a marrying ministry business.”

Most of the time, the couples and Bonnie meet prior to the ceremony to interview and to discuss details of the service.  And, there are times when they meet for the first time at the wedding site just before the ceremony.

She performs formal nuptials that begin with “We are gathered together in the sight of God” but offers other options because she recognizes that religion is not a part of many couples’ relationship.

Hatteras Wedding Ministries offers a variety of ceremony styles.  Engaged coupled can choose from traditional to contemporary, from religious to spiritual.  The betrothed are encouraged to bring in their ideas to make the ceremony more personal.

The Sand Ceremony is popular for beach weddings.  The bride and the groom each hold a vase containing sand.  Simultaneously, they each pour their sand into a single vase while Bonnie says “The blending of each of these vases of sand represents your new life together now.  Just as these grains of sand can never be separated, so will your life be one of love and harmonious blending.”

“Getting married is a serious thing,” says Bonnie, “the most serious thing in a person’s life except for having a child.  My presence is loving and kind.  I want to make couples happy.”

Hatteras Wedding Ministries performs vow renewals, too.

Most of Minister Williams’ ceremonies are done on the beach, primarily in the sand near the edge of the ocean but some couples opt for the sound and its sunset views.  She has also married people in rental homes and occasionally in a local church.     

Bonnie dresses to blend in with the wedding party -- generally clad in a light colored pants suit or a simple black dress.  Bonnie consults with the groom to ask what he is wearing.  What about shoes?

“I am barefoot, of course!” Bonnie states.  “It’s the beach.  I kick off my shoes.  It’s the first thing I do when I walk over the dune.  I am a Hatteras girl – got to get my toes in the sand.”

Many of the couples are barefoot, too.

In spite of the fact that the majority of nuptial ceremonies she performs are outside, very few have been impacted by bad weather.  In three years, only four have been moved inside.

Over this past Labor Day weekend when an evacuation was ordered because of Hurricane Earl, Bonnie had two weddings scheduled. One was in Duck, which didn’t present a problem since she could get off the island even though no one could get on.  The other ceremony was rescheduled for Sunday, one day after the evacuation order was lifted.

Most of Bonnie’s weddings are here on Hatteras Island, but her services extend out to Duck, Manteo, Nags Head and Ocracoke.

Hatteras Wedding Ministries can be found at the annual Outer Banks Wedding Expo, which usually takes place in the winter. 

Her website, www.hatterasweddingministries.com, has been the most used form of contact to date.

Local businesses are getting to know Bonnie as a wedding minister and she is now getting more personal referrals.

“Everyone who has consulted with me has accepted my services,” says Williams.

One of her favorite wedding memories happened this summer when a couple with two young children decided to tie the knot.  Their youngest child was a little boy toddler dressed in a little tux whom Bonnie described as “so friendly.”

During the exchange of vows, the toddler kept tugging on his mother’s wedding dress.  In the middle of ministering the vows, Bonnie picked up the child and balanced him on her hip as she married his parents.

“They sent me the most wonderful thank-you note.”

Even in this struggling economy, the business of getting married is prospering.  According to Bonnie, couples may economize by using fake flowers, foregoing the traditional fancy wedding cake, or maybe having photos taken by a friend who is good with a camera.  But, they are still getting hitched and still need someone to marry them.

For the Hatteras wedding minister, it’s a perfect combination -- weddings are mostly scheduled for the summer while house decorating is done mainly in the off-season. She still maintains her interior decorating business.

Running a business like interior decorating can be complicated, time consuming and involves working around other people’s schedules.  There is so much running around trying to find the perfect wallpaper or piece of furniture.  Weddings are much simpler.

“It’s just me,” Bonnie smiles.  “I just have to have my book.”

She doesn’t see the tension and stress that often comes with planning a wedding.  She doesn’t see the torn dress, the chipped fingernail on the ring finger, or a problem with the flowers.  She is part of the magic moment when the couple says “I do.”

“I don’t see the bad stuff.  When I walk over the dunes, they’re all smiles and everything is lovely.”

Even after a lifetime of living on Hatteras Island, she still marvels every time she sees the ocean.

Bonnie must be good at this wedding thing.  She and her husband have been married for nearly 40 years.



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