Well, it’s Super Bowl Sunday, the perfect time to continue the ongoing saga of planning my daughter’s wedding, which will be at the Norwalk Aquarium in October.
Casey has always thought that her long-time friend Jim would perform her wedding ceremony, even though Jim is not a rabbi, a priest, a parson, a pastor, a minister or any other religious official. Nor is he a judge, a mayor or a sea captain. Also, he is not a justice of the peace, and he is not employed as Elvis in a Las Vegas wedding chapel.
But these days, anyone can become an ordained minister by going through a rigorous process of filling out an online form. One such form can be found at the website of the Universal Life Church Monastery, an organization that claims to have “over 20 million ministers ordained,” which is a lot more than McDonalds. According to the website…
The Universal Life Church Monastery strongly believes in the rights of all people from all faiths to practice their religious beliefs, regardless of what those beliefs are, be they Christian, Jew, Gentile, Agnostic, Atheist, Buddhist, Shinto, Pagan, Wiccan, Druid or even Dignity Catholics; so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others and are within the law of the land and one’s conscience.
In other words, the Universal Life Church Monastery is similar to a universal remote control; you can operate any brand of religion. Although you have to wonder why Islam is left off a list of religions that even includes Druids. And I had to look up “Dignity Catholics.” I thought maybe they were all the Catholics that are left over after you eliminate the Disgraced Catholics–the ones involved in child molestation scandals. But it turns out that Dignity Catholics are gay and lesbian Catholics, which led me to reread the ULCM description above and reflect on why they felt the need to add the word “even” before “Dignity Catholics.” It’s as if they’re saying, “Not only does our religion welcome the usual atheists, pagans and witches, we also include people you wouldn’t expect a religion to accept.”
Where was I?
Oh, right. My daughter’s wedding ceremony. My wife Barbara and I had no problem with Casey’s friend Jim doing the honors. As long as certain customs, like breaking a glass, were included in the ceremony, we didn’t much care who performed it, assuming it wasn’t the priest from The Princess Bride (“Wuv, twue wuv…”). Actually, we thought it would be kind of nice for Casey and her fiancé Alex to be married by someone who actually knew them.
The State of Connecticut, however, disagreed.
Unlike many states, Connecticut has an odd phrase in its law that sounds like it was written just for Jim:
…all ordained or licensed clergymen, belonging to this state or any other state, so long as they continue in the work of the ministry may join persons in marriage.
We’re not even sure what the work of the Universal Life Church Monastery is, but Jim wasn’t going to want to have to continue doing it after the wedding.
As with most laws, though, there is a loophole. It turns out that Connecticut doesn’t much care who performs the ceremony, as long as there is someone on hand to make sure the paperwork is done correctly. Barb and I had to admit that making sure the marriage is legal is perhaps not a horrible idea.
So Jim can do the ceremony without even becoming a Universal Life Church monk, which is good, because he’d look silly with one of those monk haircuts. He can do it in a completely made-up language if he likes. He can even dress as a Hobbit (which would certainly give additional significance to “place the ring on her finger”). In fact, the entire ceremony can be done by telepathy if we wish, with everybody just staring at each other until the groom suddenly leaps into action to break the glass.
As long as there is an officiant in the house to make sure everything is kosher.
The Internet is loaded with officiants who are available for your next wedding. Some of them have elaborate websites, like “Weddings by Sarah Ritchie,” a non-denominational minister who bills herself as a “wedding officiant and certified celebrant” and promises to “prepare and provide a ceremony that is beyond your wildest dreams.”
Okay, what the hell is a “certified celebrant?” Is that the wedding equivalent of the old Jewish men who hang around cemeteries like Guatemalan house painters at Home Depot waiting for a funeral that needs to rent a few mourners? Well, let me just say that I don’t mind having to pay for some official to dot the i’s and cross the t’s if it means Jim can do the ceremony, but I’m certainly not paying someone to come in and celebrate! I mean, we’re having enough trouble keeping down the guest list as it is without shelling out more money to have professional guests at the affair. We can handle the celebrating just fine on our own, thank you.
In the end, Casey found some guy in Norwalk who said he would “show up” for $75, thus making him the single cheapest component of this whole affair. We may eventually want to meet him in advance of the wedding, in case he’s totally unpresentable, or allergic to fish. But it’s not really a priority.
Which brings me to Ms. Ritchie’s “ceremony beyond your wildest dreams” line. Do people really dream about the ceremony? I realize we’re only in the beginning phases of planning this wedding, but it seems to me the actual ceremony is pretty far down on the “to do” list. Unusual venue? Check. Delicious food? Check. Shop for gown…listen to bands…interview photographers? Check, check, and check. Block out hotel rooms. Design invitations? Yup.
I think actually getting married is just below “decide on valet parking.”
See you soon.