Dear engaged couple-
Today I am borrowing from a fellow officiant, named Ben Fong-Torres, whose article, “The Marrying Man” was published in Parade Pagazine on February 12th, 2012. It’s a great article. It speaks to me certainly. Like Mr. Fong-Torres, I too get a real thrill out of officiating at weddings–being part of a couple’s very special and intimate time (even if there are a gazillion guests). I always tell couples that my desire is to create a service that is meaningful and spiritual, but as the author admits–We, the officiants, can’t really take credit that a ceremony seems holy–which they always do. The ceremony itself is as Ben so beautifully articulates, “an outward token of a sacred union of two hearts.” That is, the service is really what the couple makes of it.
Anyway, this article is too good NOT to share. So, Enjoy!
Tony and marissa, dressed as hogwarts students, stood before me at a sci-fi convention and decided to turn their wedding into a costume party. The guests included Batman and Robin, Groucho Marx, the Mad Hatter, and the Queen of Hearts. I was Elvis, in sequined cape, and, as I’ve done at a half-dozen weddings, I sang, “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
But I’m no Elvis impersonator: I’m an ordained minister, and Tony and Marissa’s exchange of vows, which took place in 2007 in Berkeley, California, was my 20th as officiant–though it may have been the wackiest.
So what’s the deal? How did a former rock joiurnalist who once covered Paul McCartney and Bonnie Raitt end up presiding over weddings? Accidentally. I became an ordeained minister of the Universal Life Church in 1969 when I was researching a story. the credentials cost me $3, and I never expected to actually use them. Then, in 1976, my best friend, Tom, asked me to marry him and his girlfriend. They wanted a simple, at-home ceremony. With my own newlywed wife, Dianne, serving as witness, they exchanged vows, and I was on my way as a part-time minister.
Since then, I have officiated at weddings all over the Bay Area, as well as in New York and New Orleans–in settings ranging from idyllic gardens to a karaoke bar. After more than 30 years, I still look forward to every assignment, particularly to hearing how each couple fell in love. Their stoies become the highlights of the ceremonies.
There are firt-date disasters, like Faby’s. She told Andrew she didn’t like chick flicks, but he heard “cheap flicks” and took her to the Pursuit of Happyness, where Faby, a fan of action and horror movies, nodded off. They found happyness anyway. On the other hand, Joan and Juan had such a good time on their first date, chatting and dishing about friends they had in common, that Joan, seated at a sidewalk cafe, literally fell off her chair laughing. It was a good omen. And Randy won Bernadette’s heart with heart. As I told the guests that their wedding in New Orleans: “After five months of courtship, they had just enjoyed a blissful New Orleans Jazz Fest weekend and had begun to talk seriously, though they agreed there was no hurry. But there was. Right after that musical weekend, Bernadette was diagnosed with leukemia. Randy wanted to let her know he wouldn’t abandon her. He showed up at the hospital with a question for Benadette. it was a shiny question, set inside a Tiffany box.”
Some couples tell me they don’t want religion in their service–or want just a token blessing to satisfy parents. The truth is, there always seems to be a spiritual presence. The ceremony itself, I often say, is “an outward token of a sacred union of two hearts.” If this is what they’re signing up for, then I’m their marrying man. My record is pretty good: Of the 30 couldes I’ve married, only five haven’t lasted. Each time I stand with a couple, I feel a mix of honor and responsibility. As Elvis might have sung, this is the moment they’ve waited for, the moment of a lifetime. Sometimes, I’ll spot my Dianne in the audience and think of our own commitment, 36 years and counting. Like me, she loves being a part of these wedidngs and having a backstage pass to one of the most important, exciting events in a close friend’s life. After the vows, the photos, and the beginning of the reception, the couple and I repair to another room, where we sign the marriage certificate. My work is done, and I love it. I do.