Oneonta resident Owen Conklin is bringing people together.
The 37-year-old Syracuse native launched Charming Ceremonies, a wedding officiant and pre-martial counseling service, about a year and a half ago.
“I created Charming Ceremonies after getting asked to do weddings repeatedly by friends and family,” said Conklin, who works full time as the assistant director of graduate admissions at SUNY Oneonta. “My occupation was public speaking, so I always got asked and really took an interest in other couples. I started seeing how the wedding industry can be unaffordable and wanting to be much more affordable for couples along the way.”
Though the business is recent, Conklin saidd, he’s been officiating for about five years.
“I decided if I was going to keep doing weddings, I wanted to do it more professionally and more than just word-of-mouth,” he said. “It took on a lot more meaning, and it’s been very successful since.”
Conklin said his background and officiating style facilitate diverse couple demographics.
“You can do (the ordination process) a lot of different ways and I did … it online through Universal Life Church,” he said. “I also belong to a faith — the Methodist Church — that sees everyone administering the faith in a different way, but I wouldn’t call myself denominational. A lot of couples I work with are looking for somewhere in between having a lot of spiritual background versus not. Mixed couples with mixed backgrounds and belief systems are looking for someone in the middle, and that’s what I specialize in. I tell couples, ‘As much or as little God as you would like.’
“I’ll see young couples who are recently engaged, out of college and have families here, or I see folks who are getting remarried and this is not their first rodeo,” he said. “So, it’s a bit of a mix. I’m a people person, so I never really felt like I had to fit in one demographic; I like tailoring the wedding touches to the person, no matter the age or the background.”
Clients, Conklin said, are also far-reaching.
“In the community, I do have a slight following, because I’ve done weddings for members of the community, but it’s expanded beyond that,” he said. “I tend to get a lot of weddings in the city (sic) of Cooperstown because there aren’t as many folks doing it there. I typically work with the Otesaga, but I also travel across the state, and that’s something that’s picked up. I had one (earlier this month) at the Albany Art History Museum. I go out toward the state parks in Ithaca and Horseheads; and up here in the local area I’ve done one up on the Franklin Mountain Hawk Watch. It’s all shapes and sizes, from elopements to the grandiose stuff.”
Though Conklin said the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the industry, he’s hopeful for growth. Charming Ceremonies, he said, was named a winner of the 2022 WeddingWire Couple’s Choice Awards, an honor, according to a media release, given to “top wedding professionals across the board in quality, service, responsiveness and professionalism reviewed by couples on WeddingWire, a leading vendor marketplace.”
“COVID … has moved couples from being strictly indoors to lots of outdoors,” Conklin said. “COVID has devastated people for weddings — from changing places to weddings sizes to moving their weddings, so it makes it hard and it makes a lot of things more difficult. But you’re always out there, advertising to couples, and for me, it’s all about growth and timing. I keep a pretty open schedule … and I am seeing growth, which is why I like to receive this award. It shows the work I do with couples is translating out to them … and I’m getting connected to more venues, not only here, but out through the state.
“I love working with the people,” Conklin continued. “I’ve met some really amazing people through the work I’ve done, and I like seeing the joy it brings them.”