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When Carolyn Hawkins, 75, officiates at weddings, sometimes she dresses up and sometimes she dresses down. Way down. Like not at all.

Hawkins is a nudist. She has been a nudist for 38 years. Last year, she performed five nude weddings.

"The bride and groom are usually naked if they want to have a nude wedding, and sometimes they ask me to be," said Hawkins, who has officiated at nearly 20 nude weddings, typically one or two each year, since the early 1990s. "Sometimes I just wear a cover-up. I do whatever they want me to do."

There are 31,000 registered nudists in the United States, according to Hawkins, who is also director of club relations for the American Association for Nude Recreation. She lives in Kissimmee, Fla., at Cypress Cove Nudist Resort, a 300-acre facility with hotel rooms, apartments, campgrounds, restaurants and a clubhouse, where she marries couples.

"Usually they're in their late 20s, 30s, 40s," Hawkins said. "One couple I had last year was 62. They had been together for quite some time and weren't really planning on getting married. One day they approached me: 'Hey if we get our marriage license, would you marry us?'" She did.

Couples who opt for clothing-optional weddings are often nudists, but not always. Some brides and grooms have other motivations.

People become nudists for a variety of reasons: to relax, relieve stress, achieve body image positivity and increase self-esteem, according to the association's website.

"It's different for everybody," said Regis Pearch, 48, a nudist and activities director at Cypress Cove Nudist Resort. Pearch has been visiting the club since he was 15 years old, because he knew the owner's son. "Some people don't like clothes. Some people like the freedom of it. Over time you just get used to it, and it makes sense."

Pearch met his wife at the resort in 2004.

"I came out because I don't like clothes," said Tabitha Pearch, 35, who originally found the destination in a phone book. She works as a bartender at Cheeks Bar & Grill and Scuttlebutts Lounge on the property.

Regis and Tabitha Pearch were married at Cypress Cove Nudist Resort on March 5, 2008. To ensure their families were comfortable, he wore a suit and she wore a dress without regret. However, to celebrate 11 years of marriage, the two renewed their vows in the nude at the resort on Feb. 14.

"I've always wanted to do a nude, barefoot wedding," Tabitha Pearch said. "I got to have my dream wedding!"

Regis Pearch added, "We were just in a wedding that we had to get all dressed up for, and it was a lot more stressful than rolling up wearing nothing."

Typically, 15 to 20 invited guests, including children, attend clothing-optional weddings hosted at Cypress Cove Nudist Resort. However, often, 50 to 60 passers-by take a peek. "We have a lot of residents," Hawkins said. "Once there's a nude wedding happening, and they know, you have a lot of visitors come watch. You end up having a big wedding."

Even though neighbors and strangers show up to nuptials, they don't take pictures.

"Normally we don't allow photographs at nudist resorts, anyway," Hawkins said. "So we ask people to refrain from doing it."

At Green Valley Nudist Camp in Medina, Ohio, photography is prohibited on-site, according to the camp website, and cellphones are not allowed at ceremonies, said Heidi Porta, 44, a Universal Life minister and owner of Exclusively Yours, an event management company in Akron, Ohio. Within the past decade, Porta, who said she had been a member of Green Valley for more than nine years, has officiated at about 350 Ohio- and Pennsylvania-based weddings, including two nude weddings. "This is as comfortable as you're going to be with your spouse or your partner," she said.

But not everyone feels the same ease baring their bodies or seeing others in the nude.

Guests, caterers, DJs and outside vendors are notified of the clothing-optional parameters in advance. "The majority of people are nudists, and we are walking around free as a jaybird," Porta said. "That is our comfort zone."

As stated on the camp's website, every visitor is required to present a government-issued photo ID and is screened through national and state sex offender registries, as a safety precaution, regardless of business affiliations or relation to the couple. Upon entry, friends and family aren't always required to disrobe. Sometimes the couple don't go fully nude either.

In general, visitors at clothing-optional clubs are allowed to keep their clothes on. At clothes-free resorts, the expectation is that guests will undress. If wardrobe requirements are not stated on the invitation, it's best to consult with the bride and groom beforehand. After all, sometimes the couple don't go fully nude either.

High Profile on 03/10/2019

Print Headline: And the bride and groom wore nothing

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