Well, yes. I officiated at a wedding yesterday. It was my first time so, like the first time I had sex, it was a little awkward. However, I think it went well enough. The groom seemed to be happy enough about the way the ceremony unfolded and that’s really all that counts.
I’m not at all qualified to conduct weddings, at least not legal ones. When one of my former students approached me to do this, I explained that I couldn’t legally marry him to his love. He said that he didn’t care about that, that he didn’t want any preachers or government person marrying him and that he wanted me to do it. He said I was suave and well-spoken and that he wanted me to do it. I had my doubts about my suavity (is this a new word?) and about my well-spokenness (again, my term). Still, he insisted that this is what he and his partner (I don’t like this word) wanted. OK. So I accepted to do it but I wasn’t sure how to do it. In the end, I explained to those present, many of who had no idea what they were about to witness, about why I was officiating not being able to actually legally marry them. I said that because my former student and his love (for lack of a better word) had been living together for some time and already had a baby together that the state already considered them married, so why be redundant and have some unknown marriage commissioner come and ‘legalize’ their marriage relationship? I argued that this wedding was not about legalities, but about community, about the coming together of two people I consider ‘naturally’ in love. When they are together it’s obvious how much they love each other. There’s no strain there, no tension, just acceptance. Now that’s something to celebrate! That’s the idea I tried to convey to those present. I’m not sure everybody at the ceremony ‘got it,’ but that’s to be expected. This wedding was a mixture of conventional and not so conventional features. It would not be surprising for some people to be a little confused. No signing papers afterwards but there were vows, people sat in rows in front of the three of us, standing by a small gazebo close to a beautiful beach in an amazing setting in Royston, BC. There were mothers, grandmothers, assorted brothers, sisters, children and other family members and friends there doing what they would do at any church wedding. Still, nothing legal about this ceremony. It’s not uncommon these days to have a wedding on the beach or at some park-like outdoors venue of some sort. It is uncommon to have a former sociology teacher with no obvious credentials or qualifications to do it, officiate.
This wedding ceremony is a first to my knowledge. Nothing legal about it and in that I think it marks a new way of getting married. Because of current law in this province, people living common-law are considered married for all intents and purposes after a very short time, especially if they have children. So, the legal aspect of the conventional wedding ceremony is somewhat redundant, yet people still want their union to be legitimate and recognized by their community. This ceremony provided the legitimacy and the community recognition of this wonderful relationship without the redundancy that would be there if a marriage commissioner had presided over the event. In that sense it was more ‘real’ than most conventional wedding ceremonies and I was quite proud to be a part of it.
5 thoughts on “You’re doing weddings now?”
Sounds to me like what the concept of marriage was in the early church. The main thing then was the community recognizing the couple as a couple and supporting them as such in practical ways. I don’t know when the state came into the picture, actually, and have been doing a lot of wondering about this. I have a lot of questions about what constitutes a marriage, as so many people are “legally” married, yet after a few short years, wonder who the person is that they have joined themselves to supposedly for life. I was just having a conversation about this with my son, who has suffered for years in an unhappy marriage. He told me tonight that he believes there is no hope for them as a couple. They have been separated off and on a few times, and most of our family feel that his wife only wants him for the pay cheque at this stage. He says he will not withhold money from his children, as he wants the best for them and he loves them. They were too young when they married, as are a lot of people, myself included.
My sister-in-law wrote some family stories and in the story about her parents, she said that her parents were very much in love prior to marriage, but that her dad had told her mom that he was not going to be a “yes” man and that he was going to be the “boss” as he felt his father had been “hen-pecked.” That union was strained throughout their entire lifetime and the hurt affected all the children.
So I agree, marriage is NOT the piece of paper, it is the union between two people who know what love really means and put one another first above others. (That is in the traditional “Christian” vows, but I wonder how many people really hear that?).
Good for you making this couple happy, Roger. I’m sure the ceremony was lovely.
One thing about this couple is that they’d been living together and already have a baby. Not only that, they are both over 30 years old so the intensity of youth has worn off and more level heads prevail. They seem fit for each other. Thanks for your reply, by the way. It’s very thoughtful. You bring up an interesting point about when the state got involved with weddings. I have a 3 volume study of marriage done in the early 20th century. I’ll have a look at that. I can say though that the state and religion were one and the same in Mesopotamia and even earlier in the ‘Far East.’
Three volumes are a lot. If you can give us some idea. I think it’s too bad how rules that even today some people use to judge others by are not for the good of people in many cases.
Very interesting Roger and supportive of you to your former student , sounds like it was a good experience!
Thanks, Sherry. I forget sometimes to respond to comments. I know it’s a basic rule of blogging to always respond to comments, but sometimes I forget. Sorry about that.
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