October 1, 2014

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‘Till death do us part’: Couple says ‘I do’ in a funeral parlor on Valentine’s Day

Curt Paul officiates at the wedding of Karen Kirshner and Tad Cowling in the parlor of the Cowling Funeral Home on South Main Street in Oberlin on Thursday.

OBERLIN — After tying the knot Thursday during a ceremony performed at a local funeral home under the theme “Till Death Do Us Part,” Tad Cowling admitted during a champagne toast that he had a casket sealer in his pocket.

The third-generation owner-operator of Oberlin’s Cowling Funeral Home, Cowling held the device in his hand, which drew a big laugh from the family members and friends who turned out to share the big day for Cowling and his bride, Karen Kirshner.

For the record, a casket sealer provides an airtight seal inside a casket to prevent or halt decomposition of human remains.

Many of the ceremony’s attendees doubtless did double-takes when they first heard it was to be in a funeral parlor.

“This is much better than where they originally wanted to get married,” Connie Huber, one of the bride’s sisters, said. “It was an office where they would only allow four or six people.”

“In the end it’s just a building,” Huber said, referring to the funeral home. “All that matters is that they love each other.”

The unorthodox-but-upbeat ceremony saw a lively mix of popular and traditional music by Sarah Vail, 52, a professional organist who performs for Oberlin’s Mount Zion Baptist Church.

As Kirshner walked down the aisle between rows of chairs set up in one of the funeral home’s visitation rooms, Vail incorporated Mendelssohn’s Wedding March with Chopin’s equally well-known Piano Sonata No. 2, better known as the Funeral March.

Despite the decidedly different setting, the ceremony included many familiar touches — an exchange of wedding rings, lighting of a unity candle and the pouring of sand into a vase to signify the blending of two households from previous marriages that include a number of children and grandchildren.

Officiating the wedding was Curt Paul, a friend of the couple, former Oberlin resident and financial adviser.

Paul counseled the pair to “confide in your partner,” to compromise because “it is far better to bend than break,” and to say “‘I love you’ every day.”

Cowling and Kirshner’s original vows mixed humor with poignancy, as when Kirshner professed her love for Cowling “for the way you look and smile, and the fact you beat me in every sport except golf (the couple met on the links).”

Kirshner is the CEO of Health Solutions chiropractic and physical therapy centers in Lorain, Vermilion and Sandusky, according to Cowling.

“Love is commitment, honesty and trust,” Cowling said a few minutes before he drew a big laugh when hesitating before responding with the time-honored “I do.”

“I thought there was more to it,” Cowling said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.