Ceremonies Are Just as Important As the Wedding Itself, What to Do Next?
By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Faith Columnist—
Sanctifying a union is a humbling honor for any clergy person. One of the questions I’m most often asked as a priest in connection with this responsibility is how to plan a wedding. As of late, I’ve been getting more inquiries than usual.
Here’s a basic guide to help you start planning based on some of the questions I’ve been getting.
Clergy Involvement. In one wedding I solemnized, the couple had a judge preside over the civil ceremony and I ended with a formal religious right. Sometimes the couple will get a license and have the clergy person serve as both religious official and representative of the state.
If the couple is “spiritual,” but not religious a clergy person can still preside, but he or she can accommodate their formal garb for the purpose. Sometimes one person can be very religious, Episcopalian comes to mind, but the partner is atheist, humanist, or Wiccan. You can still blend and balance different backgrounds.
Or a couple can just go to a registry office and get married. They can have a friend or clergy person perform a public marriage rite later.
Finding Clergy. Obviously, start with an Internet search. Identify faith traditions that celebrate same-gender marriages. There might be a clergy person at a local temple or church who may be willing to solemnize the union without you or your partner being a member of the congregation. Unitarians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and the United Church of Christ are among the faith traditions supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
Friends as Officiant. State laws differ. Some states permit a one-day chaplain or a visiting clergy person from out of state. Don’t presume your best friend can officiate at your wedding without checking with the town clerk.
Ceremony. If a clergy person is involved, do you want a homily? It’s basically a special message from the clergy person to the couple. He or she may want to interview both of you. How did you meet, mutual interests, etc?
Are there public vows or messages you want to read to one another? Is there a special song(s) you want sung during the ceremony? Timing? How should this unfold? The wedding party can be large. There is no limit. Three best men? Why not? Remember, it’s your day, so politely set boundaries for the soon-to-be mother-in-law.
Guests. I get this question a lot. You may want a small event and at the same time don’t want to offend anyone. It’s one of the most important days of your life. No one else matters. It’s not about them. It’s only about you and your soon-to-be wife or husband. The day needs to be perfect.
Venue. If you’re planning to do this in a State Park with the backdrop of the Berkshires or Green Mountains, you need to have an address. It’s something to keep in mind when arriving at the town clerk’s office. Call ahead for guidance.
Stress. If it’s not fun, you’re doing it wrong. Although there are things that must be done, try to enjoy the experience. I always tell couples plan a year ahead, even if it will be a small ceremony. Make the plan and work it. Enjoy the process.
Miscellaneous. Do you need a prenuptial agreement? You may not have many assets, but what about pets? How much money do you want to spend on a reception? Think about money spent here versus a down payment for a house or the honeymoon. Avoid debt.
Hopefully, this information re-enforces what you already know or gives you some insights. Whatever you decide, remember it is your day and no one has the right to tell you how it’s done.
*Paul is a lawyer, personal chaplain, and seminary-trained, ordained priest. He is the author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis.” He may be reached at Dilovod@aol.com.
[This column originally ran in the Nov. 11, 2021, issue of The Rainbow Times.]