I officiated my niece’s wedding last month.
Cathy and her now husband Pat had met and dated in high school in the 1980s, and as life happened, the pair went on to their own lives and respective marriages.
They reconnected nearly ten years ago, rekindling the fire that never quite went out between them – and on June 24, they made it legal and tied the knot.
Aside from being flattered and honored that they would have thought of me for such a milestone, I also felt unqualified – to say nothing of the fact that I was not an ordained minister.
But I also knew that I could do this. I officiated a wedding at the last minute here in Myrtle Beach a few years ago, when a minister failed to show up to a friend’s wedding. Thankfully, there was a notary on hand to make the deal official – and I did the best I could to drum up an impromptu ceremony. Nothing like a little pressure – but we all know enough about weddings from movies and TV shows we have seen and other weddings we have attended to know the basic routine of a wedding ceremony.
I said yes immediately, thinking that we could replicate the whole notary-on-hand thing. The problem was this: After a quick search on the Web, I discovered that a notarized wedding is not allowed in North Carolina.
Cathy sent me a link to an outfit that ordained folks online – and it was perfectly legit – only I wasn’t particularly down with the oath I was supposed to take before proceeding. This was something to the effect that marriage was only for a man and a woman and I would have to swear that I agreed with all that – including a decisively fundamentalist doctrine.
It should come as no big surprise that I am for marriage equality – and diversity. Call me what you will, but I believe that if they so desire, any two people who love each other should be entitled to marry and to enjoy all the privileges, benefits and yes – the headaches – of married life.
I also believe in God, but I can live without some of His people.
After a brief search, I was happy to find an organization called American marriage Ministries, which more accurately lined up with my beliefs – and after a simple process, I became an ordained minister.
Some states require that officiants register within the counties in which they are to perform marriage ceremonies, but North Carolina is not one of them – so I was good to go.
The cool thing about my ordination is that I am free to design and perform whatever type of ceremony the couple wants – from uber-religious to secular to quirky – and I am not hamstrung by one set of beliefs.
Cathy and Pat opted for a traditional Christian ceremony with an added feature called a sand ceremony, where the officiant and the couple pour different colors of sand into a vessel, signifying the union in a nice visual and symbolic way. The sand ceremony is an alternative to the better-known unity candle ceremony.
The gathering, at my sister’s home in Denver, North Carolina, was attended by friends and loved ones – all in all a beautiful setting.
Saying yes opens doors and paves the way for sometimes unexpected opportunities. I believe that.
I remain honored to have been asked – and happy that I punched another hole in my comfort zone.