Disney fans are collectively freaking out in the best way possible thanks to the launch of Disney+, a streaming service that rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime, which allows you to play (and re-play) your favorite classic Disney original movies and shows. If you’re wondering why Simply Eloped is celebrating the new launch, it’s because one of our very own members plays a very big role in one of the movies included in the service. Yep, that’s right: all this time, we’ve had a Disney star on our team hiding in plain sight, officiating Colorado elopements incognito. While we know him as officiant Brandon Baker, you might know him by a different name: Johnny Tsunami.
While he’s not quite the Hawaiian surfer whose life is turned upside when his father relocates him to Vermont, Baker says he does have a few similarities with the former character he played. And, while he prefers to keep a low profile when it comes to his celebrity status, some Simply Eloped couples’ minds are completely blown once they realize the star of Johnny Tsunami is the person who is marrying them (and to be honest, who can blame them?).
Baker chatted with Simply Eloped about his former role as Johnny Tsunami, what led him to start officiating weddings, and what it’s like to work for our company – as well as sharing a few funny stories along the way. Check out our interview with Simply Eloped and Johhny Tsunami’s Brandon Baker below!
OK, Johnny Tsunami. What does it feel like to have a hit movie (among many other acting gigs!) under your belt?
It feels great! I’m really proud of the acting career I’ve had, and grateful for all the opportunities, lessons, and experiences I would have never encountered if not for that very unique profession and industry. But specifically, Johnny Tsunami is easily one of the coolest things I’ve done with my life. I actually had a feeling about it at the time that I was supposed to play that role, and that the movie had a chance to be great. The film and the character of Johnny was so aligned with who I was and who I still am to this day. But I had no idea how much of cult favorite it would become. I don’t think any of us did!
It became a total cult classic! Are you excited that the launch of Disney+ will bring back Johnny Tsunami?
I’m definitely excited! I don’t really like watching things that I’ve been in, but I’m glad that people can find it easier now. For people wishing to stroll down memory lane – but also for my grandmas!
What have you learned about yourself since your stardom, and how do you use that knowledge with your current job officiating?
I’ve mostly learned about how be present in any given moment and how to construct an authentic identity. Being present was something I’ve always had a knack for, which was instrumental in my career as an actor. The authenticity component took a lot longer because my career – and a good amount of my identity – was established before I had even hit puberty! Falling into a career that young, and even the career itself (playing different people all the time), made understanding who I was, and what I believed in, a little windier of a path than most.
That authenticity and ability to be present is hugely vital to what I do now, because that’s something that most people can pick up on when I’m up there during a ceremony, that I’m not some guy up there reading a script, but that I’m speaking my truth, and hopefully holding space for the couples to do the same … I can say with radical honesty that I love my job and I’m so happy that’s my truth, and I think that’s palpable and helpful for couples on their big day as well.
Wow, that’s beautiful. What got you into officiating ceremonies in the first place?
My sister asked me to officiate her wedding and, while I was nervous, it went so well that I thought I’d like to try it again. It seemed like a good fit. I’m comfortable being in front of people, I love getting to know people and their stories, and I love love. Like, I had a girlfriend in kindergarten. I’ve always been THAT guy.
We know the type! What would you say is your favorite thing about officiating?
So many things! Being around people in love; being outside in nature, in truly incredible locations. Getting to be a part of a big, heartfelt, real moment in people’s lives. Getting to connect with the couples and help them tell their love story.
Do the couples you marry ever recognize you? If so, what usually happens?
They do sometimes! Sometimes ahead of time they Google me, and other times [they recognize me] on the day of. And they usually freak out a little – or more than a little! It’s pretty cool to see. Obviously, the couples are pretty amped for their big day, and then when it turns out that I am the one marrying them, its often this mind-exploding cherry on top for them. I love getting to see their faces as they figure it out.
That must be so fun! What’s one funny or memorable moment you have from officiating?
I recently had a groom figure out who I was as we were waiting for his bride to walk down the aisle. His best man handed him a phone … and then looked back at me, and then back at the phone, and then quietly said, “Are you Johnny Tsunami?” To which I whispered back, “Yeah.” And then, he erupted back with, “NO F***ING WAY!” That threw everything into a state of chaos … to the point where I had to settle everyone down, tell them to behave themselves so we could marry this bride! We all then took selfies together after the ceremony.
How did you start working with Simply Eloped?
I have a close friend works for Simply Eloped as an officiant as well! I asked if she was enjoying her job and she responded with a resounding yes, so I asked her to put in a good word for me. I interviewed with Janessa, the co-founder of Simply Eloped, the interview went great, and here I am!
What has your experience been like working with us?
Simply Eloped has been awesome. Really supportive and communicative with me, as I’ve been getting the hang of it all. Really nice and honest people – no drama, no hassle. [Simply Eloped is a] company that has valued and invested in me, which feels great. Truly a blessing! Plus my everyday “office” is comprised of the most beautiful lakes, rivers, mountains, forests and vistas that Colorado has to offer. It’s a dream job.
If you could choose a place to elope in one of our markets, which would you choose?
Either Hawaii or Colorado. Hawaii would be incredible for the beaches and all the obvious reasons, but I moved to Colorado from California about three years ago, and stayed on purpose. The crisp mountain air, the vast nature, the expansive vistas were all calling me, and still do.
How has your experience as an actor helped with you with what you do currently as an officiant?
It feels like one of those things that, in retrospect, makes perfect sense, even if I didn’t see it at the time. Some of my favorite parts about acting are my favorite parts of being an officiant. Studying people and connecting with people in a scene was always one of my favorite parts of acting, and now I get to do both in a context that involves actual relationships instead of fictional ones … And now I get to know and understand aspects of a couple’s love story and journey and mirror it back to them, showcasing for them, and any family or friends present, their unique brand of love for each other.
What do you think the coolest thing about eloping is, and what do you think are some common misconceptions about eloping?
Common misconceptions are that it’s a throwaway wedding, or that an elopement isn’t special or meaningful. Obviously every elopement is different, but I have found them to be really beautiful and intimate: two people on top of a mountain speaking the depths of their hearts to one another. Most of the locations where I marry people carry an obvious air of reverence and grandeur that really lend an energy of significance to each ceremony. I don’t think there is any one right way to be in love, let alone get married, but I think an elopement is an incredibly cool way of expressing your relationship and intentions.
OK, one last question. If you could give one piece of advice to all couples on their wedding day, what would it be?
Be yourself, have fun, and don’t over-stress. I know they sound like clichéd responses, but they’re true! You only get one wedding day, so you might as well enjoy it. Your wedding day, your vows, expression of love are all extensions of you and your relationship, so make your day exactly what you want it to be. Good luck, and hope to work with you soon!
All photos from this post are credited to Alisha Light Photography.
Please note that Simply Eloped cannot guarantee your preference of vendor for your ceremony.