By Norris Burkes June 4, 2023
Next week, my wife, Becky, and I fly to Peoria, Illinois, to attend a celebration with my newlywed niece and her husband.
Fortunately, they didn’t ask me to perform their ceremony.
I say “fortunately” because most ministers I know would rather officiate a funeral than a wedding.
No, it’s not because we’d rather see someone die than get married. Funerals allow us to demonstrate sympathy, something that well suits our ministerial personality type.
Funerals bring us kudos while weddings seem boobytrapped for mistakes. If you don’t believe me, ask your minister which one she’d rather do.
For instance, I once presided over a funeral where I mistakenly called the deceased by his father’s name. The father kindly whispered the correct name into my ear, and we moved on.
But at a wedding that same year, I mispronounced the bride’s middle name, and she replayed the videotaped faux pas for months to family and friends.
My father, also a minister, was not fond of performing weddings. During the drive to the ceremony, he would jokingly pretend to fumble his lines.
He’d ask my mother, “Does this sound right? ‘Dearly beloved, we’re gathered here to mourn the loss of our dear brother in holy matrimony.’”
My dad had a point. Weddings are complicated. That’s why I have a few rules that I’d like you to share with any couple you know getting married this year.
First rule: “No alcohol before the wedding.”
I don’t have the rule because I’m Baptist, but because I once did a home wedding where the best man had to prop up the inebriated groom.
Not long after that, another groom drove his truck into our church parking lot with a keg in the truck bed. “Don’t worry,” he said with a wink, “that’s for after the ceremony.” He made sure to place air quotes around “after.”
Next rule: “Prepare your minister’s honorarium before the wedding.”
Two incidents inspired this requirement. In the first instance, the groom stopped our procession from entering the sanctuary because he suddenly remembered that he’d forgotten to pay me.
“Wait,” he cried. He pulled a $100 bill from his wallet and extended it toward the end of my nose, saying, “Here ya’ go, Bud!”
At another wedding, I knocked on the bride’s dressing room to signal we were ready to begin. The not-yet-dressed bride, opened the door a crack and passed me a damp check from her bra.
Last rule: “Keep the vow revisions to a minimum.”
Last-minute edits complicate things. I remember one bride-to-be who requested to change the vows to “till love do us part.”
I declined that change and referred the wedding to another clergy friend. Five months after the wedding the groom shipped off on a Navy cruise.
With her love she did ‘part,’ choosing to run off with a landlubber.
However, one bride gave me no choice about changing the traditional wording of the vows. My wife, Becky, was not going to promise to “obey” me. Nor was she going to allow herself to be “given away.”
“I’m not somebody’s property,” she told our pastor dads. Instead of being given away, she would kindly ‘give’ them both a moment to publicly pledge their support of our marriage.
And those were Becky’s rules.
And finally, I encourage you to share with your bride-and-groom friends and their clergy the lesson my mother taught me about wedding grammar.
She was a stickler for the proper wording, so whenever she heard me say I “married a couple,” she stopped me in my tracks.
“You couldn’t have possibly married them. That wouldn’t be legal.”
I always allowed her a respectful moment to deliver her usual line:
“They married each other,” she’d say in boldface type. “You were only there to ‘perform the ceremony.’” (If you missed the distinction, read it over again, slowly.)
I really don’t care to do weddings anymore.
But I have to say congratulations and best wishes to Mr. and Mrs. Robert and Melissa Messenger of Peoria, Illinois.
Visit Norris’ website at www.thechaplain.net to read past columns and buy his books. Email comments to [email protected] or snail mail 10566 Combie Road, Suite 6643, Auburn, CA 95602 or voicemail 843-608-9715.