I bet a lot of you can join me in a big sigh, saying “WHEW!” The fall + holidays were fun and crazy but I’ve been trying to write since August. So just pretend this is coming at the end of a long, hot summer.
I got to do something really fun that I want to tell you about. About a year and a half ago, the daughter of great friends came to me and asked if I would officiate at her wedding. Now…my husband Jay is the resident pastor-type person in the family, so I was surprised, flattered, terrified and excited, all at once. You really can’t say no to this request so I, with secret trepidation, enthusiastically agreed. The bride, Caroline, explained that it was really her fiancé, Kyle, who came up with the idea to ask me. He and I had bonded over the outstanding Manhattans he makes. Probably not the best criteria for picking the person to marry you! Haha…
Ok, so, I had a year to prepare. I mean how hard can it be? I had been to weddings where friends did the officiating, even one where the friend wore a black t-shirt saying he was the “priest” in charge. Jay had officiated for one of our sons’ weddings and had co-officiated at another. So, I thought this will be a piece of cake. From summertime to Christmas, I didn’t do much to prepare but come January, I thought I better get on the ball.
First stop: google “officiating a wedding.” I knew there were companies out there that provided “credentials” for a fee. They are pretty goofy but make you feel a tiny bit more legit. Just to cover my bases, I got credentialed by two companies (dumb, I know). I also bought all the available, extra study material. One book really came in handy. More on that later.
Next, marriage counseling. Am I supposed to do that too? Yes, I’ve been married almost 40 years but that definitely doesn’t qualify me to counsel! But, I thought, I don’t want this precious young couple to miss out on an opportunity to figure some things out ahead of time. A book could work! After perusing the options on Amazon, I hit the Christian bookstore and found Getting Ready for Marriage by Jim Burns and Doug Fields. It was great. All three of us read it and discussed different parts.
It’s four months until the ceremony and it is starting to burn a hole in my brain. How was I going to make this special and perfect for Caroline and Kyle? Carrie, one of my besties and the mother of the bride had confided in me (and now I am confiding in you😊) that she honestly felt a little weird that I was the officiant instead of an ordained pastor. You might think that would send me to my bed for a few days but I was actually glad she was honest with me and we could talk about it. However…it did add a bit of pressure.
It was time to get serious. The first step I took was to ask people what made their weddings special and what advice they would give newlyweds about marriage. Although it was interesting to hear, it was pretty all-over-the-board. One useful idea was to give the bride and groom questionnaires to fill out. That was fun! I asked things like when the couple met, their first date, who said “I love you” first, what three words would you use to describe your fiancé(e), etc. I got some really sweet, and some funny responses.
Kyle wanted the wedding to be exactly what Caroline wanted it to be, so he was pretty chill and agreeable. Caroline’s biggest concern and especially using me as the officiant, was that I might make it to Jesus-y, which she felt might make Kyle uncomfortable. Kyle’s number one request was that it would be a fun ceremony, where people would get to know them, as a couple. Hmmm…ok….
Back to google. Typing…How to have a fun wedding? How to officiate a wedding? HELP! I’ve been asked to officiate!
It worked. I found this crazy, Canadian, wedding officiant who did it professionally – like four weddings every Saturday! He has done three 20 minute videos on exactly how to do an un-boring wedding. And they are pretty great. I won’t bore YOU by going into it but I did a lot of what he said to do, exactly how he suggested and the service was starting to come together.
Because I can only expect you to stay with me for so long here, let’s just jump over my nervousness, my feeling of insecurity, my angst over what to wear, the rehearsal, the embarrassment of being called the “officiant,” (please say “a friend who happens to be officiating), my determination to make this the last time I ever do this - to the wedding itself.
Despite a last minute venue change, due to weather, everything was lovely and absolutely perfect. When the stunning Caroline and happy-go-lucky Kyle came down the aisle, I greeted them and then asked them to turn and face the audience. I proceeded to introduce the bride to the groom’s side and likewise with the groom to the bride’s side. I had collected answers to four questions from several family members and friends from each side that I used in my introductory comments. There were some laughs and some aww…s (at my mention of Kyle’s answer to Why do you want to get married? He said, “because I feel that every moment without Caroline as my wife is a wasted moment.”). Everyone, including the bride and groom, were relaxed and already having fun.
Then we turned to a more traditional service that the couple and I had put together from that book I mentioned earlier, called Baker’s Handbook to Weddings. This book literally has the complete text for every wedding ceremony from Catholic to contemporary. It has beautiful prayers and lots of suggestions for scripture readings.
I am a Christian and it is important to me. It’s also very important to Caroline and her family, and to a bit lesser degree, Kyle and his family so we had to include Jesus somewhere. During the time for my remarks, I used inspiration from one of our son’s weddings where the priest spoke of the wedding at Cana. This is what I said:
As you probably know, the very first miracle Jesus performed was at a wedding, much like this. Weddings, in those days went on for days and at the last minute on the last day, the father of the bride, ran out of wine. It was also customary to begin the festivities with the best, maybe a fine champagne and when everyone has had plenty to drink and probably hasn’t slept much, bring out the cheap stuff. In Jesus’ time, wine was dipped out of these huge urns, like 20 to 30 gallon size. And every urn had gone completely dry. This was a major embarrassment. A complete faux pas. Jesus’ mother called to Jesus and asked him to do something about the situation. Jesus was probably surprised and unsure… But he proceeded to get the servants to fill a bunch of the urns with water. And then the miraculous happened. Jesus turned the water into wine. And not some wine usually served at the end wedding celebrations, but the finest wine anyone had ever tasted.
I tell this story to remind you that marriage is full of times of celebration and joy but there are hard times too. There are times when nothing either of you can say will make the other one feel better. Nothing ANYone can say will make everything ok. Just like those urns, there are times you will both be empty. This is the time when only God can fill you back up. God is the answer when there seems to be NO answer. He is the only one to fill the void. You have to remember that God is always there for you, whether He is invited or uninvited, God is ready to help. All you have to do is ask or even just reach out your hand. So, let God be there for you. He really wants you to want Him. And what God is ready to give you is the very best, the finest champagne. He is in you corner.
That’s it! Whew! I think it went well. I had fun anyway and was so honored to have been asked. My highest compliment came from Kyle, the groom, when I asked him how I did on the amount of Jesus I inserted and he said, “On the Jesus meter, it was perfect.”