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Have Vows – Will Travel

Hicksville’s Rev. Rudy takes romance on the road

Time was when a church wedding was the only thing to do, but times have changed and now saying “I do” offers a palette as rich as the imagination.

Enter Rudy Tufaro, a minister in the nondenominational Universal Life Church. In an interview at the Hicksville Starbucks on a recent Friday afternoon, the 54-year-old reverend with a background in business spoke with the peaceful demeanor of a man who has found his calling.

In fact, Starbucks has figured into his ministry. He said he often meets prospective brides at Starbucks, “neutral territory,” he explained, that’s public and safe yet warm and conducive to personal conversations such as ones between an engaged couple and a prospective officiant.

One Labor Day weekend, he even performed a wedding at a Starbucks in Saratoga Springs. Months later the couple followed that ceremony with one for family and friends at Danforth’s in Port Jefferson.

“He genuinely cares,” said Katie Fournier, a preschool teacher in Astoria where she lives. Most of her family is from Long Island, she said in a telephone interview, so she decided to have her wedding here and found Rev. Rudy on wedding.com. Last April, she married her husband Marc before 140 guests at the Venetian Yacht Club in Babylon.

Her praise for Rev. Rudy, a widower himself— “wonderful, personable, kind, friendly and nice”—was echoed by two other newlyweds in telephone interviews.

Anna Leonard, who runs the e-commerce jewelry site zenaluna.com, married her husband John last July on the rooftop garden at Il Bacco Restaurant in Little Neck. Anna, who lives in Bethpage, was walked down the aisle by her brother. Her dad is deceased, as are her husband’s parents, and she is still moved by the way Rev. Rudy “honored them.” He refers to such elements of the ceremony as “remembrances.” They can involve a candle lighting, or specially chosen spoken words and may also include living family members or friends who are prevented by distance from attending the ceremony.

“I really do believe in him,” said Anna Leonard, underscoring how he works to make each ceremony personal.

Susan Ciancioso, who lives with her husband Anthony in Franklin Square, was married by Rev. Rudy last April at The Westbury Manor.  Her desire for a “nonreligious ceremony” echoed one of Rev. Rudy’s reasons for the popularity of nondenominational weddings. “People are falling away from organized religion,” he said. Yet this does not mean they are falling away from spirituality. Far from it.”

Katie Fournier noted she and her husband aren’t church-goers. Yet her soft voice spoke of the reverence she holds for her wedding day. She and her husband first met Rev. Rudy, a Hicksville resident, at a Starbucks in Astoria. Within days, she said, he wrote their ceremony, and their wedding day was “exactly how we wanted it to be.”

When The Big Day comes, Rev. Rudy said, “It is all about the couple.  Arriving early, he meets with everyone involved and goes over the ceremony. “I always go see the bride and calm them down. Some brides are very nervous.”  

He recalled one bride, mid-ceremony, suddenly looking to the left, then to the right, and his feeling of concern for her. Questioning her later, he said she told him, it only dawned on her then and there that “everyone was looking at her.”

In the four years he’s been officiating, Rev. Rudy says he’s performed more than 100 weddings in venues on Long Island’s North Fork, Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, the boat house in Central Park and a backyard in Levittown, for a couple, he said, who “didn’t want the glitz of a catering hall.” Last summer, he performed a wedding by the ocean in Long Beach. He laughed, recalling how the bride and groom “jumped in the water after they said ‘I do.’”

While simple ceremonies can cost several hundred dollars, he said, many variables go into the price. Length of the service, its complexity, preparation time and travel involved are all factors. And some details are on his website, www. marriedbyrudy.com. “The ceremony,” he said he tells each bride, “should be as unique as your gown.”

He said plans to keep marrying couples for a very long time.

“I’m a romantic,” he said, smiling.

News

Vastra boutique finds a niche

in hand-embroidered dresses

Who says a bride has to wear white on her wedding day? For South Asian brides, no color is off limits including brilliant reds, blues and golds. For the past 17 years, Vastra in Hicksville has been helping brides from New York and across the country find the perfect dress for their special day.

There’s no lack of Indian sari boutiques in Hicksville but according to Marketing Director Prachi Jain, what sets Vastra apart from the others is its emphasis on one of a kind, hand-embroidered Indian dresses.

Many would consider it rude to play with your food. That is unless, you’re participating in the Long Island Potato Festival. The event, which was held in Cutchogue, NY, included a mashed potato sculpting contest which was dominated by Hicksville’s Sarah Tsang, who won first place in the youth division.

Contestants were allowed to use any tools and materials to help bring their creation to life. Sculptures were left on display throughout the day and voted on by festival goers.


Sports

Somehow LSA, the Levittown Swimming Association, has always been a part of our Hicksville summers. My family’s introduction to the organization in 1975 began when our two older daughters tried out for the Parkway Swim Team, one of the nine teams that competed through July and most of August.

It was no small task for the younger girl, swimming her first full lap in the deep end of the pool to qualify at age six, but both girls made the team and donned the coveted gray tee shirts as the trees cast their shadows over the pool water at the end of practice.

I’m convinced that the soul and the center of Hicksville is Cantiague Park. And why not? Every weekend it’s a beehive of activity ranging from tennis matches, hand ball games, basketball and baseball games, swimming, hockey and of course ‘the beautiful game’ called soccer. Cantiague has two professional soccer fields that are perfectly manicured and begging to be played on. And they were. This weekend was the finals of the East Meadow Soccer Tournament which is one of the largest youth soccer tournaments in the nation, sponsored by the US Soccer Federation. There were 18 boys and girls teams in the finals and a large staff of referees.

Two of the refs were Steven Orozco and Randy Vogt who told me how soccer had been growing and has now become the second most popular participation sport in America with 25 million of us watching this year’s World Cup.  I also met and interviewed Joe Codispoti who along with Tim Bradbury is the head coach of Rockville Centre United, a U16 boys club.  This U16 team has a group of standout players led by  Jack Graziano, AJ Codispoti and Pat Basile who have been playing together for six years.


Calendar

Close Encounters with Benevolent ETs and Ascended Masters

August 29

Adventures in Genealogy

September 4

Greek Festival

September 5-7



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com