This week, I became an ordained minister through the Universal Life Church Monastery on the World Wide Web. I am now legally qualified to perform marriages in this county. Or, at least, I will be as soon as I turn in proof of my ordination to the proper authorities. (I didn’t want to pay overnight FedEx fees, so I’m waiting for my $6.95 certificate to come by snail mail. I may be a reverend in all my glory, but I’m still cheap.)
I did this, of course, as research for a story. There is no impending wedding over which I am scheduled to preside, nor did I plan to market my services as “Have vestments, will travel.”
But, after thinking about it, I concluded that officiating marriage ceremonies might be the perfect moonlighting gig for me. After all, I’ve never feared public speaking (except for the time I testified against my crazy next-door neighbor in Overland Park to stop him from operating a breeding kennel for Rottweillers in his backyard.)
Besides, I’m celebrating my 31st anniversary this month. I think that qualifies me to give witness on the ins and outs of wedded life.
In fact, if it were up to me, the traditional marriage ceremony would have an added element of, well, let’s call it case-specific pragmatism.
To wit, the ceremony might go something like this:
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join together this man (or woman) and this woman (or man, because I wouldn’t discriminate, as long as they let me stay for cake) in holy matrimony.”
“We are here to celebrate their union and to honor their commitment to one another. Today, John (or Joan) and Mary (or Barry) proclaim their love to the world and we rejoice with them, knowing full well – and praying they do, too - that marriage is a compromise, full of trade-offs and bargaining and deals with the devil.”
And now, the vows:
“John/Joan, do you take Mary/Barry as your wedded wife/husband? To have and to hold, unless she/he has a headache, in which case the holding must be postponed until the Tylenol kicks in, which will, more than likely, not be tonight?”
“Mary/Barry, will you take John/Joan, for better or for worse? And, by worse, I mean when his/her basketball team loses in the tournament at the buzzer and he/she is awash in self-pity and beer stains and is inconsolable for seven days no matter how hard you try to comfort him/her with meatloaf and potatoes?”
“John/Joan, will you take Mary/Barry for richer or poorer, knowing that, in tight financial times, you may have to sacrifice that new set of golf clubs for cushions for the screened porch furniture? Will you turn a blind eye when she/he adds yet another pair of black shoes to the closet, understanding that last year’s black shoes can’t be expected to hold up to this year’s skinny leg styles?
“Mary/Barry, will you have John/Joan in sickness and in health? And when he/she is sick with a upper respiratory infection and behaving as if the world has come to an end, will you bring him/her chicken soup and Nyquil and nurse him/her with love, and repress the urge to slap him/her upside the head and cry, “Man/Woman up, for God’s sake. It’s only a cold!;”
“And, John/Joan, will you cherish Mary/Barry and be loyal to her/him, even at your 25th high school reunion when you’ve consumed four sake bombs and the former homecoming queen/king whispers how you haven’t changed a bit, except for those cute little love handles?”
Now, the rings…
“May these rings be blessed as the symbol of your sacred unity, two lives now joined in one unbroken circle. Wherever they go – may they always return to one another.”
“And, Mary/Barry, if John/Joan should lose his/her ring while absent-mindedly washing his/her hands in a public restroom, do not despair. Stuff happens. Like everything else in a marriage. Stuff just happens. The challenge and the fun of marriage, is seeing what stuff can happen next.”
“You may kiss the bride/groom. Now, who wants cake?!?”