#12 – ‘I Still Do Weddings.’
(Originally published 8/25/08.)
If you’re a longtime CDP fan, you may remember that I am an ordained Reverend that has previously presided over a wedding ceremony and a baptism. I’m also available for Last Rites, Exorcisms and probably Bris’s, if I could only find what I did with my utility knife.
I got into this side hobby as a joke, honestly, but it has since turned into something that has provided me with some truly happy and unforgettable moments. Oh, and I guess that the wedding party likes it, too. Whatever; I’m only there for the free veggie platter at the reception. I fill my plastic bag-lined pants with celery and ranch dressing and hit those exits in a hurry.
Quick backstory. Two years ago, when my nephew was born, my sister was getting hassled as to when she planned on baptizing him. She was indifferent on the matter, but certain religious family members (read: all of ’em) insisted that Evan get water splashed on his head so his soul wasn’t doomed for all eternity. She obliged, but did not want to do the deed at a church. She needed some advice, so she called about a hundred different ceremonial experts for their take.
And when none of them answered, she called me and I told her I’d take care of everything.
Once I found out that baptisms meant absolutely nothing from a legal standpoint (being raised Catholic, I assumed no baptism meant instant death if discovered by the torch-wielding masses), I also found out that weddings can be officiated in the state of Wisconsin by any ordained witness. Of course, to be ‘ordained,’ you need to do nothing more but have a name and hands by which to sign a marriage license, and even then, I suppose you could sign it with your feet if you were really careful.
Minutes later, I was legally allowed to officiate weddings in the Dairy State. I never planned on actually doing them, of course, I just thought it was a funny little tidbit I could add to the list and share with people, much like my CPR certification. If an actual wedding or actual drowning victim showed up on my porch one morning, I’d assuredly get someone else to take care of them, proper credentials or not.
But in August of 2006, my uncle and future aunt asked me to officiate their nuptials (see the above link; it’s in my book, too), and there was no way I could possibly say no to them. It was an unforgettable experience, and I felt very proud and humbled to be a part of it. Since then, people ask me to do weddings because they know what they’re going to get from me: a professional, non-denominational, casual ceremony that’s unbelievably cheap (I never ask for money) and a tight ten minutes in length. This keeps me in high demand, it would appear.
Which brings me to a few weeks ago. A co-worker had asked me to officiate her upcoming wedding, and she left me in no position to back out. This woman was one of the first friends I made when I joined my current place of employment back in 2004; she was teaching me how to handle phone calls at a reception desk (we were both peons at the time), and we spent a good three months tethered together by a headset with about three inches of cord between the two of us. That was how we lived at work for the entire Summer of 2004, our cheeks essentially pressed against each others, instructing licensed professionals as to what they needed to do to remained licensed.
We’ve both since been promoted, and life is a lot better. Although I’ll go on record in saying that I never minded the whole secretarial bondage thing. Our safe word was ‘wasps.’
I knew we were going to get along with this wedding right away, as after she read my proposed script for the first time, replied with “I don’t want any prayers or God stuff in there, okay?“
Sometimes I wonder why I get myself into situations like this. My social anxiety feels that willingly speaking in front of hundreds of people is sort of counterproductive to my overall well-being, and I’m prone to agree. In the end, I’m a pushover who craves attention, and besides, I get more respect as a Reverend than as any other moniker I’ve adopted in the past 26 years. You know that you carry some power when people start watching their language around you and hiding their alcohol. That’s the sort of intimidation that you can only get by posing as an impostor clergyman, and it never ceases to make me laugh my ass off.
So, the wedding day arrived, and quite frankly, it went perfect. The bride and groom looked wonderful, the guests loved the ceremony and a certain ordained officiate didn’t puke his pants in the courtyard of the Olbrich Botanical Garden. Another job well done, it would seem. Little did I know, I was less than five hours away from ruining a marriage. Sort of.
Feeling pretty good about myself for a job well done, I took it upon myself to partake in a tradition as old as marriage itself: getting drunk at the reception.
All bets are off at a Midwestern wedding reception. The wedding party is drunk. The guests are drunk. Hell, even the kids are drunk. Rules simply don’t apply; adults always allow kids to drink at receptions, in fact, I’d argue that most people get their first taste of beer in a crammed VFW hall while ‘Shout’ blares over the soundsystem. It’s just the way it is; everyone drinks at a wedding reception.
Everyone, that is, except for the Missus. That grrrl is so Straight Edge, CM Punk just asked for her autograph. All the better, for she was my ride home.
I thought that I was off the clock. I thought that my work for the night was through. I thought I was in a position to loosen my tie, fraternize with guests and stumble out after my third piece of cake. Unfortunately, this assumption caused me to put my guard down and get a little sloppy.
At around 10:30pm, one of the bridesmaids picked my sweaty husk up off of my chair, thrust a ballpoint pen in my hand and led me to a table near the back of the hall. “Time to make this official,” she said, presenting me with the marriage license that I needed to fill out to make sure that all of this was legally binding and…you know…actually existing in the eyes of the state.
The lights were bright. The form had very small writing on it. ‘I’m Too Sexy’ was blaring. Someone kept grabbing my ass. I was confused, things were blurry and I was in absolutely no shape or position to fill out a document as important and potentially life-altering as a freaking marriage license. Nonetheless, I trudged forth with the grace and dignity of a chimpanzee flinging a wet turd at a group of stunned tourists.
I would later find out that I made several glaring errors, including writing down my street address incorrectly two times and crossing them out (a huge no-no with the Registrar of Deeds), putting ‘Officiant’ in the box marked ‘Gender,’ and misspelling the word ‘Reverend.’
“Can we go now?” Asked the Missus.
“Not until they play the Humpty Dance!” I slurred back. “I requested it nine times!“
“I’m getting my keys.“
We finally exited at 11pm, and she was more than happy to call it a night. As I laid in bed that evening, room swirling over me, I felt pretty proud of myself. “Another job well done, Tiger…another job well done. That’s how you’re gonna beat ’em, Butch. They just keep underestimating ya’…”
When I walked into work the following Monday, the Bride was waiting for me. I assumed that she wanted to once again praise me for a job well done, and give me a thousand dollars or something. “We have to talk,” she said.
In the storied history of Mankind, there has never been a conversation that started with “We have to talk” and ended on a positive note. It’s never something like, “We have to talk…there’s free muffins in the conference room; plenty for everyone!” Nope, this was important.
“The State isn’t recognizing the Marriage License.”
“Whaa? What happened? Did they change the laws or something?“
“Nope, but it helps if you fill it out correctly, nimrod.” She snarked, and I knew that she found it just as funny as I did when she handed me the garbled-beyond-recognition parchment I boozily emoted over just 48 hours prior. I can assure you that the drunken Marriage License was hilarious; it looked like Michael J. Fox filled it out while riding the Tilt-A-Whirl. After some black ink and about a dozen apologies, I was out of the doghouse and the happy couple were legally married.
That night, as I was recalling all of the events of the wedding with the Missus (along with my subsequent mangling of the legal portion of it), I told her that I thought it was a good time to retire from the Ordained Reverend game. It has gotten too commercial, I remarked, and it was probably a good time to step aside and let a new generation of up-and-comers take the helm.
The Missus cocked her head to the side, either not getting my joke or refusing to acknowledge it. “You’ve only done two weddings, dork.“
“I know. And I’m totally spent.“
She smiled. “Love you.“
“Love you, too.“