Last weekend (not the past one, but the one before that) I had the honor of performing the wedding of my oldest brother. The wedding went off without a hitch … although if you think about it, isn’t the whole point of a marriage, to get hitched? With this wedding being the fourth wedding I have performed, I thought for this week’s Smirk I’d take a look as some of the things I’ve learned over the past few weddings.

When my first wedding came up, let’s just say that I was very happy I had been in a wedding prior to it or things may have turned out a little lacking in flow. When I showed up I was planning on simply walking the couple through the ceremony on how it was going to work and showing them the logistics for how a sand ceremony works. As it turned out, the couple wanted their parents and a child from a previous relationship added to the ceremony, so I knew I’d have a few people to direct.

It was when I arrived and walked into the space where the wedding was going to take place and the groom asked, “So what do we do?” that I realized they were going to need a little more direction than just were to stand and the queues they need to wait for before they performed their task in the ceremony… and some reason when you walk into a wedding rehearsal a day (or hours) before the official ceremony, and chaos of people find out you are “the reverend”, pretty much anything you say after that becomes the official law for how things are done for the wedding.

I got to put together the precession for who would be walking down the aisle and in what order. I got to choose the sides that the brides and groom’s family were to sit on, and had them practice the march a few times so that the timing and spacing would work out instead of having everyone shuffle in like a train trying for its quickest time for passenger arrival. The couple did have the wedding march songs picked out, which was helpful, but unfortunately they were not sure when they needed to play those songs.

Here are few things to keep in mind if you every find yourself choosing to become a reverend so you can perform a wedding for a friend or family member.

  • Just because you are a reverend does not mean that people get to confess things to you. For some reason when people hear you hold some sort of title that they associate a kind of authority you hear a fair share of stories from people you know (or don’t know) about things they did that you a) never ever wanted to know, or b) just don’t care about. You really can break someone off in the middle of their confession about accidentally killing their little sister’s pet hamster by putting it in that plastic running ball and letting it make a mad dash down the stairs. I mean you could, but I didn’t want to risk it and have them show up later with a therapy bill they expected me to pay for rejecting their confession half way through.
  • Know the preferred language of the couple getting married, the language of their beliefs I mean. If the couple does not believe in god(s) you really don’t want to use Heavenly Father, Shiva, Yahweh, Buddha, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, Elohim, Zeus, The Holy Ghost, etc. to bless the couple. Likewise, if they do believe in a god(s) make sure you use the right one(s).
  • Your power to bless the couple is endless. No really, it is. You can use anything and everything to bless them with. I’ve used sand, spices, energy, the sun, coconuts, the ocean, a stick. As long as the blessing holds a positive connotation to the couple and union taking place, it’s all good.
  • This brings me when overseeing a wedding ceremony always remember the Boy Scout motto and “be prepared!” This included being prepared for situations that are not your fault, but require you to be cover for someone. For example, at a wedding I did on a beach in Mexico, there was a part in the ceremony where the couple and attendees were to be given a glass of champagne for a toast near the end. The people in charge of getting the drinks out to everyone was a little lacking in their preparedness and when the time came to pass out the glasses, they had not even opened the bottles yet. Hence, I had to stall. This is where the ocean, and sun, and coconuts, and stick, and anything else lying around that I could see were used as objects of reflection and blessing toward the happy couple. And you know what? No one noticed.
  • Now that I’ve brought up the wedding in Mexico … sometimes you have to lie in order to make a wedding happen the way the couple wants it too. Meaning, I had not authority in Mexico to perform a wedding, but my friends wanted a ceremony on a white sand beach, they not only deserved a wedding on a white sand beach, they were going to get a wedding on a white sand beach. It was a beautiful amazing wedding where they wanted, how they wanted, and when it came time to filling out the paper work, turns out they “officially” (wink, wink) got married in my back yard in Utah, on the exact same day we were all in Mexico together. Thus is the magic of matrimony.
  • Never guess on titles, especially on how the bride is choosing her name. The last thing you want is to finish your ceremony by announcing the couple as Mr. and Mrs. James Brown (or whatever the groom’s name is) and have the bride, who as it turns out is a devout feminist set on equality, bring the entire ceremony to a screeching halt by saying, “Excuse me!?!!” while giving you the evil eye.
  • When telling others about performing wedding, it is best to express that you are performing the ceremony and not marrying someone. The amount of confusion and odd looks you get from others is astounding. For example, telling someone “I am marrying my brother next weekend in Arizona.” brings up an entire set of different mental images about you and marriage laws in Arizona than if I were to say, “I am performing ceremony the wedding for my brother in Arizona next weekend.” The only real confusion that might occur in that second statement is that someone might think that both my brother and I perform weddings and that we was supposed to perform one in Arizona and can’t so I am covering for him.
  • Do not abuse your power to control the actions of others during the ceremony, namely the kiss. The couple is waiting for you to give the green light to smooch town and surprisingly they will wait longer than you would expect to get the go ahead from the presiding reverend. Stay focused until they couple exits they ceremony area.
  • Oh yeah, your job is not done until the couple has signed the certificate. Say want about ceremonies and where they take place, in the US all of that is fluff, because you are not married according to the government, until you sign that piece of paper given to you by the state that you are married. Which also brings up and important point, if you get suckered in to performing a wedding for a coworker’s sibling of that you don’t know at all. Get wedding paper signed and get the hell out of there as soon as you can, because being the reverend at a wedding for people you don’t know really kind of sucks, and you don’t want to get stuck at a strangers wedding.

One last thing, creating a wedding ceremony for someone you know well and hold dear in your heart is truly one of the best experiences. The ceremony gets to come from you and is a gift you get to give to them. If you get the opportunity, take it, because when you love the people you are performing the ceremony for, it hold more meaning, emotion, appreciation and power than any ceremony some stranger or vague family acquaintance will ever be able to create and perform for the happy couple.

Also, if there is an ex involved and they contact your with suggestions, smile and nod. Say, “Thank you for that suggestion.” You can even take notes if you want. Just remember that when you get home, burn every note you took and reject every single suggestion they gave … even if it didn’t seem like that bad of an idea … because it was. The end. Don’t even try to second guess it. Just walk away and don’t look back.

Image Sources:
Google Images, keywords: wedding officiant, wedding procession, la la la I can’t hear you, be prepared, telling a fib, signing wedding certificate, and wedding group hug.

© Richard Timothy 2011