“And still, after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, "You owe me." Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky.”― Hafez
That’s how I started the ceremony, though the poem was a last minute addition to the script. It was my first official officiating, and while I was already an experienced speaker I was still crazy nervous! Church of the Open Road’s online resources helped make the magic that day.
Getting to Know You
The online ordination process was easy-peasy and my certificate came in the mail super quick. I followed COTOR advice: scheduled a meeting with the brides-to-be and emailed them the couples questionnaire. The questions were HUGELY helpful in getting Julie and Amy to put serious thought into what they envisioned for the ceremony. They had venue, decor, and guest list already mapped out, but this piece was an eye-opener.
The wedding was to be a low-key backyard affair with family and a few friends; 25 people tops. Even though their families were from conservative religious backgrounds they were supportive of this same-sex union. The couple gave me carte-blanche on the script. You’ve heard the old expression “Give him enough rope and he’ll hang himself.” That’s exactly how I felt with only bare-bones guidance and absolute trust placed in me.
Creating [You Don't Have to Start From Scratch]
I reviewed sample ceremonies from the COTOR website and they gave me the basics I needed to get started. I had to find a way to honor a sense of tradition for the sake of the family AND embrace some new ways of thinking to honor the couple. The answer wasn’t in developing new ways of doing things, but rather in digging deeper into history by invoking ancient wisdom and ritual. This kind of applied philosophy is my bailiwick and became the framework for their unique and eclectic service.
“Dearly Beloved” was the phrase I grew up hearing that let me know I was at a wedding, so I started with that and then added a bit of redirection: suggesting to the audience that the divine was within in them and that THEY were the beloved ones because they had been chosen to witness this special occasion with limited seating. Furthermore, I challenged them to not only observe what was happening but also to hold the couple accountable for the vows they were making, suggesting that they were invited to provide reminders when times were tough.
By day I lead drum circles as a profession. Julie and Amy had been my students and I knew them in that context only. I teach drumming as a tool to introduce ideas about indigenous philosophy and lifestyle enhancement. Rather than tell a story about the couple from my limited perspective, I told a bigger story: an old story from Celtic traditions about weaving together the threads of life, a story relatable to everyone present. The Irish side of the family loved it!
Julie and Amy wrote their own vows that had us all in tears. Rather than rings, we then used another Celtic tradition: hand-fasting to bind them to their promises and to one another. They wove their own cord using colored strands to represent the values they declared important in their lives together. The audience was asked to verbally acknowledge with an AMEN, HALLELUJAH, or OH YEAH when they heard one they supported, too. This really woke them up and got them engaged. Rather than challenge their beliefs and religious practices, this gave even the most conservative in the crowd a voice and a place for agreement.
The Big Finish
“On this day, October 7, 2017, a day like no other, a day that has never been before and that will never come again, with the authority granted to me by the state of North Carolina and the Church of the Open Road, it is my distinct honor to now pronounce you wife and wife. Julie and Amy, you may kiss your bride.
Through one another you come to life, come alive, more fully. May you fulfill the words of the great poet, Pablo Neruda: “I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry tree.”
Church of The Open Road Minister, Greg -- North Carolina