This is one of those goals that I added to my list retrospectively. It would have been a lot of pressure to have this on my list proactively. Can you imagine?! The steps leading up to accomplishing it would be:
- Become very important to someone
- Become important to their significant other
- … But important in a very specific way that you’re not actually in the wedding party
- Be good at public speaking (and make sure they know you’re good at public speaking)
- Wait for them to get engaged and ask you the big question!
You can see how that would be a bit unrealistic…
Here’s how it really happened:
- My cousin starting bringing this guy to all our family events and we liked him enough to keep inviting them.
- Said guy proposed to my cousin, who called me right away, resulting in a phone conversation that I imagine must have been extremely painful for any dog unlucky enough to be within earshot! (Yes, lots of squealing.)
- My whole family attended a different cousin’s wedding that my uncle officiated, and, during the reception, we all registered to be ministers simply because we thought it was strangely cool… and funny… and there were T-shirts involved! (https://www.ulc.org/)
- My cousin called me one day to ask me if I would actually use my online certification (but not the Tshirt) and officiate their wedding! This queued another very dramatic phone conversation — quieter this time, only because it’s hard to speak when you’re crying!
- I added ‘Officiate a Wedding’ to my list because I knew right away I was going to fully commit myself to the task at hand and that it would be one of the coolest jobs I will ever do!
My officiant journey was unique and every bit as meaningful as I would have hoped.
I had grown up with this cousin – we read together, we wrote stories, we created endless characters and scenes to act out. As adults, we do our best to keep in touch, but live very separate lives. We now have different interests, different beliefs, and different lifestyles. Sometimes, I worry that – because I am the one who moved away from my family – that I am jeopardizing my relationship with them. I worry about missing important events or, worse, unimportant events – those casual afternoons of barbecues or game nights that come together spontaneously.
So, what she probably doesn’t realize, is that in asking me to play a role in one of the most important days of her life, she also connected me back to my family. She reminded me, and everyone else, that family always overcomes distance, disagreement, and time.
As part of my officiant responsibilities, I also wrote their ceremony for them. They didn’t want to worry about saying their own vows, so they needed a service that felt personal to them. No pressure!
Not knowing quite where to start, I decided to interview them separately so I could understand what was important to each of them. I hoped I would find some themes that would frame the ceremony for me. I asked questions like: How did you meet? What were your first impressions? How have you changed since then? What is your biggest hope for the other person? How can they make you happy? What have you learned?
It was a long list of questions that required healthy pours of wine and whiskey, and a lot of tissues!
By the end of the interviews, I had a good idea of what I needed to say – what was important to them. I also walked away with a fresh perspective on love and marriage.
To be honest, I have had a pretty negative view of those concepts in the last few years. I’m suspicious of “love” and definitely haven’t understood the reason for marriage. But my cousin shared my cynicism and caution for many years. “Love” seemed distracting and unrealistic. I suppose we fancied ourselves the fearless and independent heroines of all the books we read – probably just to feel better!
So to listen to her share her love story, with such honesty and with a sense of peace and purpose… my mind had to change. It was important for me to hear about everything – the silly arguments, the fear, the trust, and the support. I had to see love through her eyes, if I was going to represent her when I spoke at the wedding.
And you know, that may be one of the greatest opportunities anyone will ever give me – to see love through a different lens. To be forced to believe in it. There was no way I could walk away from this without feeling just a little changed, with a new ability to see more clearly what could be; to understand, even briefly, what real life, off-the-page love really looks like.
Congratulations to my brilliant, funny, and kind cousins, Amanda and Justin, on their beautiful day and their most sincere, humbling love. Thank you both for the opportunity to be a part of your life and love, and for the opportunity to learn a bit more about the world and myself.