Love in the Rockies
When my cousin and her fiancé asked if I would officiate her wedding, I was shocked and also honored that they would ask. And then I immediately thought about my brother in law’s wedding eight years earlier. He and his wife had asked me to read a poem during their ceremony. When it was my turn to speak, I was nervous and though I got through the entire piece, I choked back tears and my voice was shaky. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great. The minister, somewhat jokingly, told me to never go into a career that involved public speaking. I was a professor at the time, so I told him that it was a little late for that.
But back to my cousin’s wedding.
This couple was now asking me to officiate their wedding, which was a much bigger deal than reading a poem. I immediately said yes but for the next few days anytime I thought about officiating one thing kept popping into my head – “What if I totally blow this?!?!”
Then I started thinking about what an amazing opportunity I had been given - a chance to help this couple craft a unique wedding ceremony and play an important role in such a big day for them.
First I needed to become ordained.
The process itself wasn’t difficult, and becoming ordained through The Church of the Open Road allowed me to learn more about the church, and in turn, why this church was important to the couple I was going to marry. The broad foundations of the church, things like discovery and curiosity, consciousness and compassion, thinking about family to include the one we are born into as well as the people we choose, those things really resonated with me and they really fit with what I knew about this couple. I started getting really excited during the ordination process and any anxiety I had about the day was beginning to fade.
For the next few of months, I didn’t focus much on the wedding (I had time), but anytime I heard something I liked from a poem or a television show or read a quote that reminded me of my cousin or her fiancé, I wrote it down.
Getting to know you.
Then, a few months before the wedding, I met with my cousin and her fiancé separately and used the couple’s questionnaire on this website as a guide to interview each of them. I got to hear them each tell me their story about how they fell in love and share some of their hopes for the future. I brought my digital recorder to each interview so I wouldn’t miss anything they said. It was a really unique opportunity for me to ask questions that I didn’t necessarily know the answers to and to hear them each talk about the person they chose to marry.
Pen to paper.
Then I came time to start writing. The couple was comfortable with me taking a first crack at it, and while I was excited to have so much freedom, it was also somewhat overwhelming. I started with an outline, basically headings for each of the ‘parts’ of the wedding. That helped a lot. And then I slowly began filling in each of the headings.
I had read through lots of examples of wedding ceremonies online. Some of my favorites were from the website Offbeat Bride, a site I spent a lot of time looking at for my own wedding. I had also emailed back and forth with the couple about what they were looking for, and knowing both of them, I felt like I had a general sense of the type of ceremony that would work. I looked at my notes of little things I had written down over the past months. I went back and listened to their taped interviews and stole a few sweet quotes from that.
And for those of you reading this who are going to officiate a wedding – here’s my practical advice.
Talk to the couple about how they see your role. My cousin and her fiancé were really laid back about the process and allowed me to work on the ceremony myself and then share it with them. That worked for us. Another couple may want you to read a script they’ve prepared together or perhaps you all will work on something together. Have that conversation early on so there’s no confusion.
- Use all the amazing resources on the internet (and elsewhere) to help you prepare. This website has some great examples of wedding ceremony scripts and of course there are hundreds online. I found that reading lots of examples was helpful to determine the type of tone I wanted to strike. And use the couple’s questionnaire to interview the couple and talk to as many people as you can about these two people. It’s fun to hear from the couple and from those people that love them. This was probably one of my favorite parts of the process. It allowed me to get to know my cousin’s fiancé better and discover all the reasons why she fell in love with him.
- Once it’s written, practice your ceremony a million times. And then practice some more. Read it out loud to someone so you can see how it will flow. By the end of this process I basically had my script memorized (which I realized when I said the whole thing out loud in the shower).
- And finally, when the day comes, take a deep breath and enjoy your time officiating. If you’re like me, you will likely never do it again. So enjoy it. Dig in. Because for a few minutes you’re basically a rock star.
Over the course of a few weeks I got something down on paper that was starting to feel like a ceremony so I sent the couple a draft to get some initial thoughts. They liked what I had written – so I kept working. When I was done I felt really good and the couple liked it. The final product was an ‘original’ wedding ceremony script borrowed from a hundred places. I printed it out, put it in a binder, and then put it aside.
A week before the wedding I flipped through the ceremony any time I had a few minutes, reading it aloud and making sure it flowed nicely. I read it to my husband who helped me make a few small tweaks.
And then the wedding day arrived.
My cousin and her fiancé got married in the mountains in Colorado and the best word I can use to describe their day was absolutely magical.
Driving in a bus up to the wedding site, I sat next to the groom’s mom and dad, who told funny and sweet stories about their boy. I felt so honored to be given this opportunity to play such an important role in this day and I felt like every story that people shared with me was a gift.
I got really nervous right before the ceremony but it was the good kind of nervousness, like feeling really amped up right before a big event. I took my place up front and faced all of the wedding guests. Their love and excitement was almost palpable and I actually thought I could hear my own heart beating. It was exhilarating.
I don’t really remember all the details of the ceremony. It went really fast (at least for me). There were parts where people laughed, including the moment the couple thought the wedding was over and started to walk off the stage (I still had to introduce them)! There were really beautiful, tender moments, like the vows that the couple wrote together and shared. There was the moment we all got choked up remembering our loved ones we wished could still be with us. And then it was over.
Thinking back, it was really one of the coolest things I’ve had the chance to be involved in. I felt honored to be asked, and having almost a year to think about the ceremony gave me a chance to really dig in and create something I was really proud of and felt good about. I felt like I was given this amazing gift of looking behind the curtain and getting an intimate glimpse at this amazing couple.
Church of the Open Road Minister, Christine--Colorado