What is the wedding minister’s function? Am I a spiritual force or a vendor? Do you think the answer is obvious?
As a seminary ordained minister, I view my function this way: I’m the one who will stand with you as the spiritual values you have take form through your legal commitment. I am more than a religious figure, in fact, if you are looking for a religious figure, you probably won’t want me marrying you. Because what I bring to the occasion of your wedding is my spiritual more than religious presence. I’m in love with your being in love. I’m not in love with you believing what I believe.
I am the person you probably don’t know well who will share a time and place with you that is intimate, unforgettable and life-changing.
You must choose me well.
After 23 years of being the “marrying minister”, I’ve learned having an official minister is important to some couples, because the wedding minister holds the sacred space for the spiritual component of the marriage. Others think of the person who is marrying them as a vendor. Their purpose does not need to extend beyond the allotted time of the ceremony.
A vendor supplies a product like the d j brings his or her 10,000 songs to play for the ceremony and reception, or a tuxedo rental company provides the men’s suits with shiny seam stripes. The florist supplies the bouquets. They are vendors.
I don’t think of myself of a vendor, and honestly, it’s tough not to be insulted when I feel like I’m treated like one. I remained for the reception of a wedding of two people whom I’d spent a lot of time with on the phone and by Skype so we would get to know each other better. At the dinner, I was directed to sit at the “vendor’s table.” The table was in the back of the large room, didn’t have table decorations, was missing pieces of silverware, and had folding chairs instead of covered seats. Needless to say, I left before dinner was served. I am proud of my role as a wedding officiant, and expect to be treated with respect, and yes, deference.
It’s not that I don’t understand that some people are so turned off to clergy, or should I say religion, that anything with the words Reverend, minister, or pastor near a name are cause for suspicion. And yet a minister is needed to officiate the ceremony in order to make a relationship legally binding. Until Justices of the Peace are allowed out of the office, let alone to show up for, as an example, a Traverse City beach wedding, a minister in some shape or form is what you will need to get married.
How I view what I do as a minister who was ordained in seminary is my training and my intention behind becoming a minister brings a consciousness of the spiritual meaning of marriage and the importance of making a commitment to love to the ceremony.
But my intent is also to deliver a ceremony that is meaningful not only to the two of you, but to everyone who is there. “Uniting two, inspiring all” is a motto I sometimes use.
Someone who is ordained by the internet, in my experience are more like vendors. He or she will primarily show up a short time before your ceremony, say a few words that may or may not reflect knowledge of you, and direct you to “repeat your vows after me”. They offer you their legal right to join you in marriage. I get it. That’s fine. This approach can be sweet and simple, and it’s certainly a viable alternative at this point. They are providing a product: a legally signed marriage license.
So the choice is yours. You will take your memories with you, and I assure you, I have my very fond memories of my couples too. I love them all, even the ones who thought of me as a vendor.
Just be clear what function you want your wedding officiant to fulfill. Simple and impersonal? Connected and meaningful? Let whatever the answer you come up with be a memory you can look back on as the years go by and say, “Honey, that really was a great day in our life.”