Ovid (publius_ovidius) wrote,

Ovid's Quick 'n Dirty Wedding Guide

I've been a minister for 14 years and have been doing weddings for 6. I've been officiating over numerous same-sex weddings for the past couple of days and I think I can offer a bit of insight if you're planning on doing that same. Though this post is aimed at those desiring to perform weddings, it is, of course, free for all to read.

Scene 1. Take 1.

You're walking down the street, your mind a mile away, when you notice a nun on the other side of the street. Your thought process goes something like this:

Crud, I didn't get those forms processed. I wonder if the boss is going to be... hey, nun ...mad.

Scene 1. Take 2.

You're walking down the street, mind a mile away, when you notice a nun on the other side of the street. She's groping another nun. Your thought process goes something like this:

Crud, I didn't get those forms processed. I wonder if the boss is going to be... holy shit! That ain't no nun..

If you got ordained by the ULC a few minutes ago and think you can start rushing off and marrying people, think again. If you have weddings lined up, that's fine. If you want to help out by marrying people lined up on the sidewalk, clean up your damned act. Look neat. Don't look like some skateboard punk with a clerical collar. I mean, there's absolutely nothing wrong with looking like that, but remember, many of these people wanting to get married are scared that any pretext possible will be used to end their marriage. I look very conservative with a pin-striped suit, short haircut and a clerical collar. Despite that, I'm getting grilled by couples who have just received their license. They want to know if I'm for real. Ordinarily, nobody thinks twice about whether or not I'm a real minister. Now they have to. Don't be a "groping nun".

Scene 2. Take 1.

The long-eloquent vows that you have planned are simply beautiful. Everyone is moved to tears. The line is stretching around the block.

Scene 2. Take 2.

You're doing McMarriages. Your weddings are so fast Elizabeth Taylor wants your phone number. Everyone is moved to tears.

This is hardly romantic, but it's a strange situation. Many, perhaps most, of the couples that you marry are scared and they want it done RIGHT NOW before a judge shuts things down. Every couple behind them is thinking the same thing. You might rush their ceremony, but they understand completely. They're likely as not to be on a sidewalk, for crying out loud.

When you meet them, smile, shake hands, and take their paperwork. Make sure it's filled out correctly. Write slowly and carefully if your handwriting is bad. Marriage certificates are now being kicked back for even the slightest flaw. Did you spell Multnomah county wrong? You're going to get a phone call and you might have unhappy news for the happy couple. Do not fuck this up.

If you have someone who can help you with the paperwork, this speeds things up tremendously. Show this person how to do the paperwork while you're working through the following questions:

  • "How would you like to be announced?"

    In other words, when they're introduced as a married couple, do they want to be announced as "Bob and Jim Burford-Hines"?

  • "Do you have rings or other tokens you would like to exchange?"

    Plan your ceremony so that you can go with or without tokens.

  • "Do you have two witnesses?"

    If they don't have two witnesses for the paperwork, grab some people from the crowd. Anyone will do (except you).

  • "For purposes of filling out the paperwork, who will be the groom?"

    At this point, make sure you write their full names at the top of their vows so you can refer to them while performing the ceremony. There is nothing in the world more humiliating than realizing you don't know their names. Presiding over a confused wedding several years ago, I learned this first-hand.

  • "Do you have any last-minute requests or questions?"

    Few do, but some want you to skip the ceremony. Others want to know if this is legal, blah, blah, blah. Just give them the opportunity to ask questions and they'll appreciate it if they have any.

Have them join hands at the start of the vows. Perhaps even have them face each other. This contact can raise the intimacy of the naturally non-intimate sidewalk.

Keep the vows short. Mine only run one page. Each couple is required to say only four words ("I do", once for each person). This minimizes trouble that might stem from having them read vows or try to repeat after you. Years ago, I had a wedding where I had the couple try to read vows and I discovered -- in front of all of the guests -- that the groom was close to functionally illiterate. This is NOT FUN.

Do not refer to bride and groom in the vows, unless they request it (changing vows on the fly is tricky, though). I refer to "betrothed", "wedded partner", and "spouse".

You also might wish to bring tissues. Many will cry.

Scene 3. Take 1.

The happy couple vomits all over you.

Scene 3. Take 2.

The happy couple does not vomit all over you.

Breath mints.

I was married once. I will never forget the preacher's breath; he could have dropped a buzzard at 50 paces. I don't remember much about the wedding, but I remember that fucking breath. Do not forget breath mints or the couple will not forget you. They'll probably write uncharitable things about how your breath can drop a buzzard at 50 paces.

And while we're on the subject of supplies, bring plenty of water. If you do many weddings, your voice will start to give out. You might want cough drops, too.

If you're doing the weddings outside on the sidewalk, bring some lip balm, gloves, hand lotion, an umbrella, and dress warmly.

When you're done, announce them to the crowd. People will probably clap and cheer. Be sure to congratulate the couple and wish them luck. Do not hug them unless they're making a move to be hugged. I'm naturally a hugger, but I have to resist this impulse.

Never stop smiling.

Final note: lawyer. From my understanding of the current state of Oregon law, you merely need to be a minister in good standing with your church and be authorized by them to perform weddings. Years ago, I had to go through the process of filing paperwork with the state and I already have weddings under my belt. I'm rock solid. You are not. Contact Dianne Linn's office, or a lawyer or someone who is capable of giving you sound legal advice. Absolutely, definitely, do not do anything to put anyone's marriage at risk. Same sex couples have enough worries. Don't add to them. If you do, you're a putz.

Currently, at the state level, the 60 marriage certificates a day being processed have risen to about 400. I understand that the load has caused them to reject any certificate with even the slightest problem. Write neatly and double-check your spelling.

I've also heard that there is a possibility of the ministers being taken to court, so be warned. It's illegal for us to perform marriage where the couple on the certificate are not legally entitled to be married. However, I think the law is unclear and the chance of our being defendants is remote. Anyone going after ministers officiating at weddings will soon discover that to be a stunningly bad PR move. Still, I thought you should know.
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