Screen Junkies via YouTube
Screen Junkies via YouTube

12 Celebrities Who Have Officiated Weddings

Screen Junkies via YouTube
Screen Junkies via YouTube

Most people rely on a judge, justice of the peace, or a member of the clergy to perform their wedding ceremony. (Despite what you've seen in movies, a ship's captain is not usually sanctioned to officiate at wedding ceremonies just by virtue of being a captain.) However, almost anyone can officiate a wedding by becoming an ordained minister of the non-denominational Universal Life Church. The process is as simple as registering online—and quite a few celebs have taken the church up on that offer.

1. STEVIE NICKS

Singer Stevie Nicks has long been associated with with the Pagan or Wicca religion because of some of her songs and her fashion sense, but she is no witch. She is ordained through the Universal Life Church, though, and in 2013, Nicks officiated at the wedding of her friends Vanessa Carlton and John McCauley. The wedding of the two musicians was held outdoors at an undisclosed location, and not many details about the ceremony were available—but in an Instagram post, McCauley made clear that Nicks nailed it: "She's a badass reverend. It was an awesome ceremony. Thank you Stevie!"

2. TOM HANKS

When actress Allison Williams of the TV series Girls married College Humor founder Ricky Van Veen last fall, Williams asked Tom Hanks to officiate. Hanks spent $35 to become an ordained minister so he could fulfill her wish. “If you want to call me the Right Reverend Tom Hanks, I think you should,” he joked to Extra’s AJ Calloway. "I'm for rent. If you can afford the honorarium, I'll be there for ya." His advice for all couples? "Don’t be stupid. I think that anybody that gets married is partaking in an act of bravery."

3. GUY FIERI

In February 2015, celebrity chef and TV host Guy Fieri officiated at a mass wedding for 101 same-sex couples in Miami shortly after the state of Florida lifted the ban of same-sex marriage. The event was organized by chef and Florida native Art Smith, and was free for the couples who participated. A third celebrity chef, Duff Goldman, made a seven-tier cake for the occasion.

4. JIMMY KIMMEL

When Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux were wed last summer, the officiant was Jimmy Kimmel. According to Howard Stern, the late night talk show host did "a beautiful job" with the ceremony, which may have had a little something to do with his experience: Kimmel also officiated when Matt Damon and his wife Luciana renewed their vows during a three-day celebration in St. Lucia in 2013.

5. KESHA

#VxF all u need is love

A photo posted by Kesha (@iiswhoiis) on Sep 9, 2015 at 1:57pm PDT

Singer Kesha (now without the dollar sign) became an ordained minister in order to officiate at the 2012 wedding of two female friends. Two years later, she wrote in an essay for CBS News that "It was such an amazing experience to help two beautiful women cement their commitment to each other through marriage." In 2015, she did it again for her hair stylist Vittorio Masecchia and Felipe Noqueira.

6. KEVIN SMITH

Filmmaker and comedian Kevin Smith is known as Silent Bob and host of the TV show Comic Book Men—and he's also an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church. He has officiated at quite a few weddings, usually with a geeky touch. In 2015, he presided over the wedding of a couple of fans during New York Comic Con. The ceremony was on top of a double-decker bus during a city tour, and incorporated vows from the TV show Game of Thrones. At another wedding this year in Nashville, Smith incorporated the oath from the comic book Green Lantern into the vows. The videos for both weddings contain NSFW language.

7. DWAYNE "THE ROCK" JOHNSON

Screen Junkies via YouTube

Screen Junkies reporter Nick Mundy is a friend and fan of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The two actually once made a video together in which Mundy begged The Rock to be the best man at his upcoming wedding. In May 2015, Mundy attended a press appearance in which he was supposed to interview Johnson about his new movie San Andreas. It turned out the event was fake, and was actually a surprise wedding, arranged by Johnson in collaboration with Mundy’s then-fiancée Dilara Karabas. Johnson didn't just attend the wedding—he also became ordained in order to officiate. During the ceremony, Johnson quipped, “Nothing is more powerful than your union, carries more force than a bolt of lightning—or even the world’s largest earthquake,” he said. “Much like the one you’ll see in San Andreas, in theaters May 29th. You can see it in 3D!” The entire event was captured on video, of course.

8. CONAN O'BRIEN

The Marriage Equality Act in New York legalized same-sex marriage as of late July 2011. On November 3 of that year, talk show host Conan O’Brien was in New York to celebrate the first anniversary of his TBS show. On that night's broadcast, he officiated the wedding of Scott Cronick, his long time costume designer, to his partner, UCLA drama professor David Gorshein. The ceremony, held at the Beacon Theatre, is believed to have been the first on-air same-sex wedding. The couple lives in California, where the wedding would have been illegal at the time. O’Brien was ordained through the Universal Life Church, a process he explains in this video.

9. BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH

Sherlock Holmes himself, actor Benedict Cumberbatch, officiated the wedding of his friends Seth Cummings and Rob Rinder in 2013. He became ordained for the ceremony, which took place on a beautiful cliffside on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza.

10. SIR IAN MCKELLEN

Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan have long been friends, and when Stewart married singer Sunny Ozell in 2013, McKellan served as the officiant. It was the second wedding McKellan had officiated after becoming ordained through the Universal Life Church.

11. JONAH HILL

When Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine wed Victoria’s Secret model Behati Prinsloo in 2014 in Mexico, the officiant was Oscar-nominated actor Jonah Hill. Levine and Hill go way back because their fathers went to school together. "Our dads met in the principal's office in junior high," Hill told Howard Stern in 2014. "We were in carpool. We lived at each other's houses."

12. EMMA STONE

During the filming of the movie Gangster Squad, actress Emma Stone introduced her publicist Holly Shakoor to the movie’s director, Ruben Fleischer. The two hit it off, with encouragement from Stone. When the couple got married in 2012, they asked Stone to officiate, which she was happy to do.

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8 Surprising Uses for Peeps
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You can eat marshmallow Peeps, and you can put them in someone's Easter basket. But that's just the beginning of what you can do with those small blobs of sugary goodness. Branch out and use your Peeps in new ways this year.

1. S'MORES

Peeps are marshmallows, and can be toasted over a campfire just like their plain, non-sugar-coated brothers—which means you can make classic S'mores out of them. Best of all: You don't even need a campfire to do it. Serious Eats has a recipe for them that they call S'meeps, which only requires that you pop them in the oven for a short time. If you're a Peeps purist, forget the graham crackers and chocolate and enjoy the unique taste of campfire-toasted Peeps all by themselves.

2. WREATHS

Vanessa Brady at Tried & True has made several Peeps wreaths that are sure to inspire you to do the same. (She even has a tutorial to get you started.)

3. PEEPS-KABOBS

If you want to trick a kid into eating a fruit salad, just serve it up on a stick—with a marshmallow Peep in the middle. Blogger Melodramatic Mom made these for an irresistible after-school snack for her kids.

4. ART SUPPLIES

With their consistent shape and size, and variety of bright colors, Peeps can be used as pixels for larger artworks. Ang Taylor made this Mario jumping a Piranha Plant out of marshmallow chicks and bunnies. To be honest, there are many ways Peeps can be used as an art medium, as we've seen many times before (like in this collection of Peeps dioramas).

5. CAKE TOPPERS

Peeps chicks and bunnies are ready-made decorations that will easily stick to cake frosting and make for desserts that are both seasonal and colorful. If you need a recipe, check out this one for a Marbled Cake with Peeps and M&Ms. See some more cake decorating tips here.

6. PEEPS POPS

There's no danger of misshapen cake pops or drippy lollipops when you start with a Peep on a stick. Michelle from Sugar Swings made these candy pops out of marshmallow Peeps, and using Peeps left her plenty of time to decorate them as Star Wars characters. Michelle has plenty of other Peeps pops ideas you can try out, too.

7. PEEPS KRISPIES TREATS

We've seen that Peeps can be substituted for marshmallows in recipes, but remember that Peeps come in a variety of colors and can be bought in small batches. That makes them really useful for coloring separate portions of your Rice Krispies treat recipe. Kristen at Yellowblissroad has a recipe for Layered Peeps Crispy Treats, and a video of the process at Facebook.

8. DIORAMAS

Using Peeps as characters in a diorama, where you can let your imagination run wild, has become somewhat of an Easter tradition. Kate Ramsayer, Helen Fields, and Joanna Church put their heads together to recreate the Broadway musical Hamilton in marshmallow with a diorama that featured the lyrics to the show's opening number.

While The Washington Post has suspended its annual Peeps Diorama Contest after 10 years, other newspapers—including the Twin Cities Pioneer Press and the Washington City Paper—plus local libraries across the country are carrying on the tradition and holding Peeps diorama contests. But you don't have to enter a contest to have fun making a scene with your family.

This piece originally ran in 2017.

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The Bloody Benders, America's First Serial Killer Family
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In 1870, a group of new families moved to the wind-ravaged plains near what would become Cherryvale, Kansas. They were Spiritualists, a religion that was foreign to the homesteaders already in the new state, but locals tended to accept newcomers without asking too many questions. Two of the families moved away within a year, discouraged by the difficult conditions, and the others kept to themselves. But the Benders were different.

At first, they appeared be a normal family. John Bender, Sr., and his troupe settled near the Great Osage Trail (later known as the Santa Fe Trail) over which innumerable travelers passed on their way to the West. The older Bender, called "Pa," made a claim for 160 acres in what is now Labette County. His son John (sometimes called Thomas) claimed a smaller parcel that adjoined Pa's land, but never lived on or worked it. The Benders also included "Ma" and a daughter named Kate, who advertised herself as Spiritualist medium and healer. Ma and Pa reportedly mostly spoke German, although the younger Benders spoke fluent English.

The group soon built a one-room home equipped with a canvas curtain that divided the space into two areas. The front was a public inn and store, and the family quarters were in the back. Travelers on the trail were welcome to refresh themselves with a meal and resupply their wagons with liquor, tobacco, horse feed, gunpowder, and food. Kate, who was reportedly attractive and outgoing, also drew customers to the inn with her supposed psychic and healing abilities. These men, who usually traveled alone, often spent the night.

The trail was a dangerous place, and there were many reasons for travelers to go missing on their way out West—bandits, accidents, conflicts with Native Americans, disease. But over the course of several years, more and more people went missing around the time they passed through Labette County. It usually took time for such disappearances to draw attention—mail and news traveled slowly—but that all changed in March 1873 after a well-known physician from Independence, Kansas, named Dr. William York seemingly disappeared after getting off the train at Cherryvale. Dr. York had two powerful brothers who were determined to find out what happened to him: Colonel Edward York and Kansas Senator Alexander York.

Colonel York led an investigation in Labette County. When questioned, the Benders denied all knowledge of York's disappearance, although Ma Bender "flew into a violent passion," in the words of The Weekly Kansas Chief, when asked about a report of a woman who had been threatened with pistols and knives at their inn. Ma defended herself by claiming that the visitor had been a witch, a "bad and wicked woman, whom she would kill if ever she came near them again.”

Around the same time, the township held a meeting at the Harmony Grove schoolhouse; both male Benders were in attendance. The townsfolk decided to search every homestead for evidence of the missing—but the weather turned bad, and it was several days before a search could begin.

Eventually, a neighbor noticed starving farm animals wandering the Bender property. When he investigated the inn, he found it empty: The Benders had fled. The volunteers who later arrived for the search noted that the Benders' wagon was gone; little else had been taken from the home besides food and clothing.

Though the house was empty, all else seemed normal—until someone opened a trap door in the floor. What they found beneath it was chilling.

The trap door, located behind the curtain in the Benders' private quarters, led to a foul-smelling cellar, which was drenched with blood. Horrified, the group lifted up the cabin from its foundations and dug into the ground, yet found nothing. The investigation then turned to the garden, which was freshly plowed; neighbors recalled that the garden always seemed freshly plowed.

Working through the night, the volunteers first unearthed York's body. The back of his head had been smashed, and his throat slit. Soon, they found more bodies with similar injuries. Accounts differ about the number of bodies excavated from the site, but totals hover around a dozen. In all, the Benders may have committed as many as 21 murders. Their terrible work garnered the family only a few thousand dollars and some livestock.

Investigators later pieced together the group's modus operandi. It's believed that guests at the inn were urged to sit against the separating curtain, and while dining, would be hit on the head with a hammer from behind the curtain. Their body was then dropped into the trap door to the cellar, where one of the Benders slit their unfortunate victim's throat before stripping the body of its valuables.

One man, a Mr. Wetzell, heard this theory and remembered a time when he had been at the inn and declined to sit in the designated spot near the curtain. His decision had caused Ma Bender to become angry and abusive toward him, and when he saw the male Benders emerge from behind the cloth, he and his companion decided to leave. A traveler named William Pickering told an almost identical story.

The crimes created a sensation in the newspapers, drawing journalists and curiosity-seekers from all over the country. "Altogether the murders are without a parallel," read an account reprinted in The Chicago Tribune. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported over 3000 people at the crime scene, with more trains arriving. A book published in Philadelphia soon after the murders were discovered, The Five Fiends, or, The Bender Hotel Horror in Kansas, described how "large numbers of people arrived upon the scene, who had heard of the ... diabolical acts of bloody murder and rapacious robbery. Hardened men were moved to tears." The house in which the murders took place was disassembled and carried away piece by piece by souvenir seekers.

1873 stereographic photo of the excavated grave of a victim of the Bender murders
An 1873 photo of the excavated grave of a victim of the Bender murders

Senator York offered a $1000 reward for the Benders, and the governor chipped in another $2000, but the reward was never claimed. In the years following the sensational crimes, several women were arrested as Ma or Kate, but none were positively identified. A number of vigilante groups claimed to have found the Benders and murdered them, but none brought back proof. The older Benders were allegedly seen on their way to St. Louis by way of Kansas City, and the younger Benders were supposedly seen heading to an outlaw colony on the border of Texas and New Mexico, but no one knows what ultimately became of them.

Investigators were likely hampered by the group’s deceit: None of the Benders were actually named Bender, and the only members who were likely related were Ma and her daughter Kate. "Pa" was reportedly born John Flickinger in the early 1800s in either Germany or the Netherlands. "Ma" is said to have been born Almira Meik, and her first husband named Griffith, with whom she had 12 children. Ma was married several times before marrying Pa, but each husband before him reportedly died of head wounds. Her daughter Kate was born Eliza Griffith. John Bender, Jr.'s real name was John Gebhardt, and many who knew them in Kansas said he was Kate's husband, not her brother.

Today, nothing remains to indicate the exact location where the Bender house stood, although there is a historical marker at a nearby rest area. Though rumors still surround the case—some say Ma murdered Pa over stolen property soon after they fled, others that Pa committed suicide in Lake Michigan in 1884—after 140 years, we will probably never know what really happened to the Bloody Benders.

A version of this story originally ran in 2013.

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