Sunday, June 10, 2007

The role of the officiant at a wedding

I enjoy performing weddings, but it's a mixed bag of an experience. Most of the weddings I do are for couples who do not attend my church---or any other, most of the time. They have chosen a UU minister because neither half of the couple is particularly religious or because one of them has some loose tie to UUism or because they have a conflicted religious past or because they want something "spiritual but not religious".

I have always pastored small churches where engaged couples are few and far between, so I have said yes to most of the outside couples who have asked me to perform their wedding ceremony. I tend to do between five and ten every year and have always enjoyed meeting the couple and their families, putting together their wedding ceremony, rehearsing the wedding party, officiating at the wedding, and enjoying the festivities.

In most cases, the couple and I become rather fond of each other during the whole process. After all, when you're talking about what it takes to make a good marriage and discussing the deep questions of marital life (sex, money, kids), you move somewhat beyond casual status and form a bond, at least until the ceremony is over and the papers signed.

I consider it a real ministry, to offer a UU wedding ceremony customized by the couple's ideas and needs. It's a little like my chaplaincy work, however, in that I rarely see the couple again after our time together is finished and they are successfully wed. I'm reminded, after I've spent an hour praying with the family of a dying patient, that I will probably not see these people again, even though our time together was emotionally charged and I provided a valuable service.

After a wedding, even though I might be invited to the rehearsal dinner and after-ceremony festivities, I'm always conscious of my "employee" status and that I will probably not see these delightful people again, that we have not become friends, that I have provided a valuable service in an emotionally charged time. They couldn't do it without me (or so I like to think), but I have not really entered into their lives beyond the few hours we have spent together.

So I frame it in ways that make me feel useful and appreciated and look forward to the day when our Whidbey congregation grows enough that more engaged couples are part of the community and I can watch their lives develop together in the nurturing environment of our congregation.


Tina T-P said...

Hello "Mz.K" - Rev. Nan forwarded me a link to your blog - actually your post about birthdays, but your wedding officiant hit a spot with me. In my younger days, I sang and played guitar at a little restaurant in Fairhaven here in Bellingham. Mostly folk songs and a lot of "love" songs - so I got asked to sing at a lot of weddings. I clearly know what you mean about being conflicted because you have spent so much time with the couple that you feel like you have begun to make a connection - like you're part of the family - but in the end, the best man gives you that envelope and you fade off into the distance - only to be thought of again on anniversaries and such.

Have a wonderful time being "the MOG" at your son's wedding. If you don't mind, I may stop in once in a while to see what you've been thinking about. Tina

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Tina, it's nice to know that someone understands this peculiar situation! Do stop by every once in awhile.