After third wedding, officiating getting easier
When Washington state legalized same-sex marriage, my best friend from high school, Beka, and her partner of 15 years, Laurie, immediately got engaged.
“I can marry people,” I told Beka, because I suspected this information might suddenly be of interest. “I’ve been ordained online.”
A couple of months later, Beka asked me to officiate at her wedding, and I said yes.
I love weddings, and I especially love to be involved in them. I’ve been a flower girl, a reader, a maid of honor and officiant. I’m by no means an expert on weddings, but over the years I’ve learned a fair amount about how they’re supposed to work and what makes a wedding satisfying. And I’m finding that officiating gets easier the more you do it.
The first wedding I officiated, for my friends Heather and Davi, was a huge challenge that involved trying (and mostly failing) to get headstrong people to do what I said.
During the rehearsal, I worried that the ceremony would be a total failure — that nobody would be able to hear me over the nearby traffic, that the groomsmen would do something crazy, that my notes would blow away. But the service went extremely well, mainly because everybody kept their mouths shut, listened to me and waited for my cues. This is when I learned that even the most difficult people tend to be respectful and polite (and silent!) during weddings.
I also officiated my sister’s wedding, and it also went quite well. I had learned from my previous officiating experience. I’d gotten better at bossing people around, and I understood that wedding parties, much like children, need guidance and structure.
Beka and Laurie’s wedding, held last weekend in Seattle, was my smoothest yet.
They didn’t have a wedding party, which meant fewer people to organize. And they were fairly clueless, which made it easier for me to present myself as a knowledgeable authority on weddings. When Beka and I discussed the ceremony on the phone, I retrieved my notes from my sister’s wedding and provided a brief sketch of how a typical wedding works.
“If the guests are standing, I’ll ask them to sit down,” I told her. “I’ll welcome them. Then we’ll move into the rest of the ceremony. What do you want that to entail? Anything besides the vows?”
“Hmmm,” Beka said. “It seems like there should be a little more to it. Maybe you could say something about how we met each other. Also, there’s a poem we want you to read.”
We then launched into a discussion of the vows.
“Laurie and I could just read them to each other,” Beka said.
“You could,” I said. “And if that’s what you want to do, I won’t stop you. But it might not be such a great idea.” I explained that the officiant always speaks loudly enough to be heard, which isn’t necessarily true of the couple being married, that holding pieces of paper and reading from them might be cumbersome, and that memorization was risky, because they might forget.
When I went to fetch him shortly before his wedding, he greeted me with a wild-eyed stare and exclaimed, “I don’t remember a single thing I’m supposed to do!” To which I replied, “Just follow me and do exactly what I tell you, and you’ll be fine.”
As Beka and Laurie’s wedding approached, I started to fret about my message. Which stories should I tell? What themes should I emphasize? I opted to follow Beka’s recommendation and begin with the story about how we met: on the first day of high school, when I asked whether I could share her seat on the bus to a soccer game, and she suggested I sit in one of the empty seats near the scary upperclassmen in the rear of the bus. Shortly after I took my seat, Beka approached and asked whether she could sit with me, as the coaches had kicked her out. I graciously moved aside, and later loaned her some money when we stopped at McDonald’s.
This anecdote was easy enough to type up, and I followed it with some remarks about how much I liked Laurie when I met her in college and why Beka and Laurie are perfect for each other.
On the morning of the wedding, I worried that the whole thing would be a dismal failure — that nobody would get my jokes, that we would forget the folder full of readings and papers, that I would suddenly and inexplicably lose my voice.
But I needn’t have worried.
The ceremony was short and sweet and moving. Everybody could hear. People laughed in the appropriate places, and some of them even cried. The poem I read was beautiful. The scenery — a quiet, woodsy beach on Seattle’s Lake Washington — was quite nice. And the rain stopped and the sun came out. All in all, it was about as close to a perfect day as you can get.
This summer, my little sister Lesley and her fiancé John asked me to officiate at their wedding next July. I agreed, of course. And when I got home from Seattle, there was an email from Heather, asking whether I would officiate at her sister Kayla’s wedding in Washington, D.C., next Memorial Day weekend. I gave it about two seconds thought, and then said that, yes, I would be happy to. “Kayla will pay for your hotel,” Heather said, and I refrained from telling her that this is a far more generous gift of appreciation than the creepy-looking stuffed rabbit she and Davi bought for me at a Mexican bazaar.
Of course, Heather and Davi were the first couple I married.
And back then, I had no idea what I was doing.
However, times have changed.
I now have three weddings under my belt, and it’s only natural that my prices go up, at least a little.
I wouldn’t call myself an expert on weddings. But I’m getting pretty good at them.
Foss Forward makes a weekly appearance in print, in The Gazette’s Saturday Lifestyles section. You can email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org.