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From Wedding Officiant to Crime Novelist – Helen Bradley’s New Chapter

Published Wednesday, Aug. 30th, 2023


Officiant & Author Helen P. Bradley, photo by Dreamweaver Photography, courtesy of the author

Wedding Officiant Helen Bradley has lived the kind of life many of us only read about in books – full of zany characters, political intrigue, and wild plot twists – and now she’s written that book, too. 

 

‘Breach of Trust’ marks the start of a brand new chapter for Helen, as she makes the leap from wedding officiant to successful novelist. The story takes readers on a gripping ride through the muddy depths of the criminal justice system when protagonist Anne Gardner, a victim advocate working for the district attorney’s office, learns that a young employee has accused her boss of sexual harassment.

 

  • Buy a copy of 'Breach of Trust' on Bookshop.org to support your local indie bookstore!

 

In her search for the truth, Anne uncovers dangerous political corruption, ethical uncertainty, and even murder. It’s a candid look at the challenges many victims face in search of fairness, but Anne never loses hope… or her sense of humor. 

 

Interestingly, Anne Gardner’s story looks a lot like Helen’s – if you only squint a little. 

 


Author Helen P. Bradley poses with her arms crossed, smiling at the camera, in a beautiful outdoor setting in Savannah, with brightly colored trees behind her. To her right is a superimposed image of her new book, Breach of Trust

Photo:  Dreamweaver Photography / courtesy of the officiant/author

Officiant & Author Helen P. Bradley and her new book, Breach of Trust

➤ Purchase a copy of 'Breach of Trust' here. 

 


See, before Helen became a well-known Savannah wedding officiant, she was a victim advocate, just like Anne. As the director of the Chatham County Victim-Witness Assistance Program, Helen helped crime victims understand their rights, prepare for court appearances, and coordinate with other agencies. She supported numerous pieces of legislation, including the Georgia Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights, and served on the boards of several child advocacy, domestic violence, and sexual assault organizations. She even worked a stint as a newspaper journalist, sleuthing out the truth for The Sumter Item (formerly The Sumter Daily Item and The Daily Item) and The Greenville News.

 

(See what we mean? This Savannah wedding officiant has lived more lives than a cat!)

 

‘Breach of Trust’ was launched in June, creating quite a stir in Savannah’s literary circles. Those familiar with the sultry Southern city have delighted in descriptions of local landmarks, with one reader calling it a “beach read with a bite."

 

September 9th: Meet Helen Bradley at the Islands Farmers’ and Community Market!

 

Helen’s summer was busy with book readings and promotional engagements, but as fall approaches, wedding season in Savannah is heating up. Fall is the most popular time to get married in Savannah, with couples eloping there from all around the country. 

 

Savannah Simple Weddings, Helen’s officiant business, stays busy! She specializes in elopements, military weddings, and “simple, sweet, and affordable” wedding ceremonies in favorite locations across the city – from shady Bonaventure Cemetery, to Savannah's historic squares, to Tybee Beach.

 

She offers a discount for military couples, custom vows and unity ceremonies, and works with local hobbyist photographer Margaret Parker to ensure couples leave with a picture-perfect memory of the day. (Margaret also happens to be Helen’s sister, so she’s fully vetted!)

 

Helen is an ordained minister with American Marriage Ministries and officiates weddings throughout Savannah, Georgia and the surrounding area.

 

I spoke with Helen this week to ask about her success as a wedding officiant and debut novelist, how her love of prose shows up in her custom wedding ceremonies, whether we can expect a wedding themed novel in the future… and much more.

 

Here’s what she told us! 
(Responses have been edited for clarity and flow)


Helen Bradley stands behind the couple as they hold hands and exchange wedding vows during an outdoor elopement in Savannah, GA

Photo (cropped): Margaret Parker via Margaret's Photo Gallery

Helen officiating a sweet elopement in one of the many scenic courtyards in Savannah

 

 

Congratulations on publishing your novel! How has it been? 

 

“I’ve been so overwhelmed with, particularly, local support… My book launch, in June, over a hundred people attended… The bookstore said it broke all records for any one event that she’s had. She sold more books than she ever has, that day, so it’s just been a wonderful time getting this book out in the world.” 

 


Does your literary and storytelling experience influence your wedding ceremony writing, and vice versa?

 

“Well, I certainly like to see what the bride and groom are interested in, and I have some standard vows, but also I…personalize [the ceremony] any way that they like. …I feel like writing and being creative and helping the couple choose their vows is certainly influenced by my writing, my love of writing. 

 

…I just love meeting people and learning about their stories, how they met, what’s happening in their lives, where they live, so I love finding out about people, and I’m like, really nosy, so I ask lots of questions, [like] from my journalism days. (laughing)

 

I’m really nosy! And I just love to hear about people, and their different backgrounds, how they met, how they get together…”

 

 

Do you have plans to write a novel about a wedding officiant? I heard a rumor… (This ‘rumor’ is mentioned on Helen’s author website)

 

"Wellllll, there’s a little something swirling around in my head about that… So yes, I think I may, my next novel may include someone who’s a wedding officiant… ‘cause there’s all sorts of fun stories to tell. And I may even have the person be a wedding planner also, so, I don’t know! But that’s a possibility…”

 

 

Helen P. Bradley poses with a copy of her book, Breach of Trust, at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, Georgia

Photo via Instagram @helenpbradley

Helen poses with a friend and copies of Breach of Trust at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island

 


Can you tell us – are there any real life wedding stories that might inspire that book? Crime, thriller, mystery… weddings?

 

“No, not really crime related… Let’s see, a few months ago I performed a wedding at the airport, at the airstrip at dawn, as the sun was coming up, right there on the runway! That was fun, that was definitely fun.”

 

 

Have you been asked to officiate a literary themed wedding? 

 

“Oh gosh, you’re just giving me all kind of wonderful ideas. Nobody’s asked that, [but] I did love a wedding one time, where the bride and groom asked people to leave their favorite books there – so everybody brought a book!”

 

 

A judge you worked with at the courthouse suggested you become a wedding officiant… How did that come about? 

 

“So, I left my job at Victim Witness Assistance in 2010. I had retired early, so I was still young, and I was just at the courthouse one day… and one of the judges said, ‘Helen, you know, we often get calls to do quick little weddings, people think they can come get their marriage license and then immediately find a judge to marry them.’ But the fact is, judges were often too busy with their court calendars and were not able to do that. 

 

So… the judge suggested that I become a wedding officiant! And I was like, okay that’s an interesting thought! So, I did it and it’s just been a wonderful experience… I’ve gotten a lot of referrals from the courthouse ‘cause people knew me, and of course, you know, online.

 

I meet the most interesting people. A lot of folks actually elope to Savannah because it’s a beautiful city. So I just have the best time.

 

…For years I worked with crime victims, and people in very difficult and stressful situations, and now, I’m officiating weddings and at a happy moment in their lives so that’s been really fun.”

 

 

Helen Bradley officiates a sweet same-sex elopement ceremony outdoors, posing with the two brides as they hold hands to take their vows

Photo: Margaret Parker via Facebook

Helen officiates a sweet same-sex marriage ceremony -- smiles for everyone!

 

 

What should couples know about Savannah Simple Weddings, your officiant business?

 

“My motto is ‘Savannah Simple Weddings – We keep it simple, sweet, and affordable,” and that’s what we like to do! 

 

You know, I just got off the phone thirty minutes ago with a bride who wants to get married in October, an elopement, and she said, ‘You know, we don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a big wedding, we want to spend that on ourselves in a different way, and we want to have a simple wedding, with just family present.’’ So, we try to keep it just simple, sweet, and affordable, that’s my motto really.

 

…Of course we have military bases nearby, so we often have military couples, and sometimes they’re going to maybe have a big wedding later but they need to make everything legal before one of them gets deployed, so I do a lot of military weddings, and I’m always honored to do that.”

 

 

AMM just published an article on haunted wedding venues, including one in Savannah. Savannah has quite the reputation for that… Have you been asked to do any kind of spooky weddings?

 

“I read that article… I sure did. I have certainly done some, they’re not spooky, but I've done some [weddings] in Bonaventure Cemetery, which is a beautiful, beautiful cemetery here. That’s been interesting…

 

And let’s see, I’ve done people dressed up –  a zombie wedding – that was pretty fun.” (laughing)

 


What would be your dream wedding venue to officiate?

 

“Oh my! It would be, certainly, on some beach, by the ocean, probably at sunset, and maybe… Hawaii or some beautiful island… Where the water is clear, and of course there’d have to be a cool breeze. That’s a criteria… We’ve had a hot couple months, I guess that’s why I’m thinking about that.” (laughing)

 

Related: 5 Seaside Unity Ceremony Ideas for Your Beach Wedding or Vow Renewal

 

 

Helen poses with newlyweds after a beach wedding ceremony

Photo (cropped): Margaret Parker via Facebook

Helen and two newlyweds pose during a breezy beach wedding near Savannah

 

 

Do you have a favorite unity ceremony? 

 

“I like the sand ceremony, where different colored sand is poured into the glass, and then it blends and just makes a beautiful new creation… That’s one of my favorites, it’s particularly fun at the beach. But again, it’s just whatever the couple wants to do.”

 

Related: How to Perform a Unity Sand Ceremony (for Wedding Officiants)

 

 

Speaking of interesting stories… I noticed on your website that you enjoy reading obituaries?

 

“I know, I love reading about people. And you know…somebody asked me recently, how did you get the names for the characters in your book, and I said, well one thing is, when I determine what age they are, I go back and research and see what were popular names during that year. And then I said, ‘ Oh! And I read obituaries! (laughing) I get names from obituaries!’

 

It’s fun to read about people. And some of them are very creative obituaries… When I worked with middle school students volunteering, helping them with their writing journey, we picked one really boring obituary, and then we had another one that we had found that was just, you know, great detail, telling about the person, and what they did – It was just fun to show the difference…details can make in any kind of writing. 

 

When I had my first job at a newspaper, if you misspelled somebody’s name in a story, you had to write…the obituaries the next day. So I was very careful to try not to misspell anybody’s name… That was like your punishment.” (laughing)

 

 

What advice would you give a new wedding officiant? 

 

“Enjoy yourself. And be comfortable. Get to know the people and what they want in their ceremony, that’s the main thing. …And also to be flexible, you just never know what people might want… just be flexible, go with the flow.”

 

...

 

Connect with Officiant Helen Bradley &

Savannah Simple Weddings online:

 

Facebook InstagramHelenPBradley.comSavannahSimpleWeddings.com

 

 

Helen poses with newlyweds during an outdoor elopement in Savannah, under the shade of large oak tree covered in moss

Photo: Margaret Parker via Facebook

A sweet elopement ceremony under the shade of a large oak tree

 


 

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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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