Today was a special day. Because a friend of mine, a wedding photographer, got married this afternoon and I got to perform the ceremony! There’s really more to the story than that, but that’s how it ended.
You see, probably eight years ago or so, a number of us formed a loose coalition of wedding professionals. We assembled the best people we could find and shared office space together; referring brides and grooms to one another. We had a very top drawer DJ, Jeremy, who acted as the facilitator of the group, and had grown his own business to more than 10 other DJ’s who were busy each week. Brandon and his wife, Cybil, were videographers and shot some of the most exclusive weddings in the city and Jack owned a fleet of limos, including a vintage Rolls Royce. We also had a tuxedo rental company, a florist, a honeymoon travel company and two really stellar photographers, Randy and Rich. And I was asked to join the group as our minister.
Each Tuesday evening, we held an open house for brides and grooms to come visit us and discuss their upcoming wedding plans. Many nights, we were quite busy, but there were other times of the year when the wedding business slows down and sometimes we only had one or two brides visit us. Anyway, I learned quite a bit about the “business.” For example, photographers and DJ’s are usually chosen first, while ministers are chosen last. I always found that hard to believe, but people gave little thought, in general, to who would do the ceremony. Nonetheless, with the help of the others, I conducted a fair number of ceremonies. I think for several years I was up in the forties and fifties, but I always required pre-marital counseling and only conducted faith based ceremonies.
There were several people in town who never went to seminary, but got “ordained” on the internet. Sadly, in most states, this still “qualifies” a person to conduct weddings. In fact, there was one guy who conducted more than 300 ceremonies a year and claimed he graduated from seminary. In reality, he never finished high school. It’s sad, but you would be surprised at how many people want to party and don’t care about the actual wedding. Those of us who were professionals always had a difficult time with this, but what can you do? Some people just don’t care to check the credentials of the professionals they use.
During the past several years, I have pretty much given up conducting weddings unless it is for a friend of ours. It takes more than 8 hours to write and prep for a wedding, and that doesn’t include the travel time and the rehearsal, or pre-meetings with the bride and groom. While any chance to conduct a ceremony looks good when you are in school, I quickly found out that people will spend thousands of dollars on liquor before they will spend money to get married. So when those of us who take it seriously get to help one another, it is indeed special.
Imagine my elation when Rich and Paula asked me to conduct their wedding. Rich has had a pretty tough time since his first wife was unfaithful. He loved her, but she ended up having numerous extramarital affairs and never took her vows seriously. It ended badly, and the kids have struggled as a result. Paula is a widow – her first husband died unexpectedly a number of years ago.
What’s more, every one of the core group members from the old days was there – working for Rich and Paula to make their day extra special. Randy was the photographer, Jeremy was in charge of music, Brandon and Cybil were videotaping the entire event, Jack was ready with the Rolls, and I wrote, and conducted, the ceremony. It was all very special. Because we have worked together throughout the years, but never for one of our own; and never with all of us present at the same event! It was awesome.
And the ceremony itself was very special. We all love Rich and are glad that he has finally found joy with someone after all the years he has been alone. Between them, Rich and Paula have 6 children, ranging from 29 down to about 9. We included a sand ceremony, which involves each member of the new family pouring a specific color of sand into a large vase, representing the unique pattern created when all these people choose to become a blended family. And Rich, who is pretty emotional anyway, was really swept away in the moment. What’s more, so were those of us who have loved and cared for one another throughout the years – what a reunion!
But let’s not forget the religious aspect of all this. God ordained marriage, and Christ performed His first miracle at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. Remember the water into wine? Well, that’s when it happened. And believe it or not, if a wedding has an aisle, it is patterned after an Old Testament way of entering into a covenant. If you want the details, you can read Gen. 15, and how God entered into His covenant with Abraham. After gathering the required animals and preparing them according to God’s instruction, Abraham waited for God. That evening, God passed between the animals and entered into the covenant with Abraham. That’s were we get the aisle, and the bride’s and groom’s sides in our wedding ceremonies. And the bride passing between the families to get married while the groom “waits” for her is symbolic of how God made his promise to Abraham. Pretty neat, huh?
The verse for tonight is from John 15:12, a very famous verse used in weddings, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” We are to be reminded that the love that God had for His son; and the love that Christ has for us, is to be the model of our love we have for our spouse and for one another. That’s a tall order, but that’s what we are told. So my encouragement tonight is to remember that Christ loves us with a love we can’t begin to imagine. And my prayer is that you will experience that kind of love in your life. Because life is tough, but we all need to feel loved…. Just ask Rich and Paula.