Sunday, June 8, 2014

I do weddings (maybe even Bar Mitzvahs)

Last weekend, I officiated the wedding of my sister-in-law, Breanna, to her longtime boyfriend, Jon. How did I come to do such a thing, you might ask? I've never done it before. Anybody who knows me at all knows that I'm obviously not a member of any kind of clergy. And who knows if I'll ever get a chance to do it again?

The short answer is that I did it because they asked me to do it. Why did they ask me? Only they could give you their full motivations, but I think that part of it had to do with the fact that neither of them are believers, so they didn't have any interest in any religious figure doing the officiating. Plus, they probably preferred to have somebody who knows them rather than a complete stranger do the job. Aside from that, I'm a decent public speaker, I can write, and I have been known on occasion to make people laugh.

How does one become qualified to officiate? If you live in the state of California, you can take five minutes to fill out one of those online forms via the Universal Life Church or American Marriage Ministries. Honestly though, I don't think that you even have to do that much, as the state doesn't keep any kind of official record of who's ordained. Pretty sure you can declare yourself ordained and that's good enough.

It's probably a good thing that I had a year to let it all settle in, as I got a lot of my more wild ideas out of my system. One of them involved a sombrero. Another involved a cape. There was also an idea to work the name of Satan in there as some sort of ham-handed acronym for what constitutes a good marriage. One of the potentially more amusing ideas was for me to talk about the couple and completely screw up details about their lives. That one got axed because the people who don't know me might get confused and think that I'm a genuine idiot.

A good part of the fun though was throwing out some of these crazy ideas on Facebook. While people knew that I was joking, for the most part, there was a little bit of worry that I might just go through with somethings that were equally absurd. Some of my Facebook status updates in the days before the wedding include:
Officiating a wedding on Saturday - a first for me. Don't think I'm not tempted to do an Andy Kaufmanesque spiel where I read all of "Henry V" or something.

How many references to the fact that we have a Muslim President should I include in this wedding ceremony that I'm officiating?

Okay, finalized the draft for the ceremony, and I'm going to be heading out the door in just a few minutes. I managed to drop the F bombs down to just two, and I've removed almost all of the anti-Semitism. (Much of the racism is still there, but it's subtle, so it's okay.)
When it came to actually writing this thing out, my thought process was to try and write something that was a product of my snarky sense of humor (as I figured that they probably wanted that if they asked me to do this) while still including some sincere bits that were specific to Bre and Jon. When I wrote my second draft, I removed some of the snarky bits, along with some of the references to myself. (I found myself saying "I" too much.)

I figured that actually doing the officiating wouldn't be a big deal, because as a teacher, public speaking is a big part of what I do for a living. However, when I actually got up there and saw everybody looking at me, I got a case of the shaky hands. Also, I had to frequently shift my weight from one leg to the other, as my knees were a bit wobbly as well. I finally did find myself to be relaxed as though I was addressing one of my classes, but by that point I only had a couple of paragraphs left to go. This was because all of the bits that were supposed to be funny were met with laughter. The only thing that I really screwed up is that, even though I had written it down, I forgot the part where I should have announced: "I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Medwid." It seemed like the only person who noticed was the DJ, as that was his cue to start the music.

Forgive me if this comes off as shameless horn-tooting, but the response was better than I could have possibly hoped for. I (and my wife) had a number of people walk up to me during the reception to tell me how much they liked what I did. Also, the groom's father took a moment at the beginning of his toast to offer a bit of praise. Even the DJ complimented me, despite the fact that I botched up his cue. I was hoping that people would like it and that the worst case scenario would be that people would find it to be forgettable.

Okay, enough of that, but I am proud of myself. Every now and then I get stuff right, and I'm glad that I got one of the important things right.

So, what follows is what I wrote. The short underlined bit refers to an ad-lib that I did during the actual ceremony. (The joke was working - decided to milk it a bit.) The bit in italics is what the couple wrote, and honestly I think that it was better than anything that I wrote. As for the part in bold, I got some ideas off of a website, and that's the one that they wanted to go with. The reason why is that they got right one of the key things whenever you write anything - be specific.
Welcome friends and family,

On behalf of Jonathan Thomas Medwid and Breanna Marie Howland, I would like to thank you all for coming. Hopefully you all know why you're here, but just in case some of you weren't really paying attention, we're about to do a wedding right now. A wedding between Jon and Bre. I'm sure that most of you know at least one of them, so this should be pretty exciting for you.

Now, usually this is the part of the ceremony where the priest, rabbi, imam, or guy who took five minutes to get his ordination off the internet asks if anybody has any objections about the two people getting married. This gives everybody their one chance to completely ruin the wedding. Well, sorry, but I'm not going to give you your chance. I was honored to be asked to officiate this ceremony, and I'll be darned if I let one of you ruin what may prove to be a potentially lucrative second career. So, if you have something to say, save it. Nobody's interested.

However, what we do all want to know is who gives this bride to be wed?

We're all here to witness and celebrate as Bre and Jon enter a new phase of their relationship. While they have been together for nearly a decade now, they are soon going to be husband and wife, and they've invited us all here to witness that transition.

Many of you may already know this, but the two of them were brought together by a high and mighty power. That's right – the internet. When the two of them finally arranged to meet in person at a shopping mall, that most holy of holy places, and Jon first set eyes on her, not sure if that was the girl he was supposed to meet, he thought to himself that he would be happy if it was her. As she got closer, and he realized that this pretty girl was in fact the one he was going to meet, he felt extremely lucky.

Similarly, when Bre first set eyes on Jon, some thoughts came to her mind. She worried that this guy might be a douche.

Fortunately for everyone, Bre's first impressions are not as astute as Jon's are. That should be obvious, because here we all are nearly ten years later, getting ready to watch the two of them marry.

There is a lot of talk lately about marriage. What it means. What it should mean. A marriage is an official recognition of a relationship between two people, and relationships are a complex binding of two individuals, each of whom bring their own reasons and motivations to how they live their lives.

We are probably on safe ground to say that at least a great part of this is about love. It's about their love for one another and their love for everybody here. Today's a day where they want to share that with you.

Everybody here who knows Bre and Jon will readily agree that their relationship is a solid and healthy one, and it's easy to see it being one that will stand the test of time. The two of them are good friends, and they both want what's best for the other. One doesn't see any kind of competition between the two of them where one tries to get something over on the other. They're both secure in their own individuality, but it's clear that they are at their most content when in one another's company. I would also go so far as to say, and I think that everybody here is going to agree with me, that I can't think of a couple who are more supportive and accepting of one another than Bre and Jon are. While many of us are older than them, there is much that we can all learn from their example.

Before we begin with Bre and Jon's vows, I would like to suggest some vows for everybody who's watching. You don't need to repeat it all after me – just think it in your head.

Do you (insert your name here) promise to be there for Jon and Bre when they need your help? To support them not just as individuals but as a couple? To provide comfort, a listening ear, encouragement, and a helping hand? To not try and pawn off on them the old knick knacks that you have lying around your house but feel too guilty about just throwing them away yourself? To not bother them about if and when they'll have kids, since that's their business and nobody else's and that sort of thing is really annoying? And if they do have a kid, to not bother them about if and when they'll have a second? Because trust me, that's annoying too.

If you do, say “I do.” If you don't, we know who you are.

Before we begin the vows, Bre and Jon have their own special ceremony that they would like to conduct which involves the foundation of any healthy relationship – hard alcohol. If you don't like this part, send your angry emails to them, as it was totally their idea:

(The couple poured a shot of their favorite drinks into a glass and each took a sip.)

Who ever thought that 10 years ago, a wink on would result in me finding the love of my life, and life long partner. And I bet you thought this day would never come.. but good things are worth waiting for, and trust me... I'm kinda a big deal. But on this day I promise more to you, than just to love you forever. 

I promise to always tickle your feet and rub your back. I promise to always have a shot ready and waiting after a long day. I promise to always love to cook for you... and do the dishes... AND the grocery shopping in the first place... basically anything that has to do with the kitchen... I promise to always remind you who each bearded guy is throughout our endless re-watches of Game of Thrones. I promise endure the monotony of listening to the Hit List music channel while we clean the house. I promise to have an infinite supply of funny faces for our photos. I promise to embrace you, in all your weirdness, and to share all of mine with you. 

I promise to tell you how much more beautiful you look every day. I promise to honor you, and be faithful to you. But most importantly, I DO promise to love you forever and to be the best husband I can be.


I am the luckiest woman in the world to be standing here with you today.  9 and a half years ago, I never imagined I would find such an amazing man, on the internet, nonetheless. From the very beginning of our relationship I knew you were the one for me; there has never been a doubt in my mind.  Thank you for all your support, love and encouragement to grow into the woman I am today. You are the person I want to laugh, cry and share amazing experiences with always!  Not only are you my love, but more importantly my best friend... Someone I want to see daily, wake up to every morning and grow old and wrinkly with…You are someone I just can’t get enough of… I never want to stop falling in love with you.

I promise to always be there to listen, comfort, encourage and support you.
I promise to always flash the “I Love You” sign to you at Arnold Dr. every morning.
I promise to always “clinky” you before eating or drinking… anything... at any time!
I promise to always to love you at the best of times and the hardest of times.
I promise to always love you more than bacon, potatoes and mac & cheese combined... That’s saying a lot!
I promise to always cherish and respect you as a person and partner in life.

Now for the vows:

I, Jon, take you Bre to be my wife, / my partner in life and my one true love. / I will cherish our union / and love you more each day than I did the day before. / I will trust you and respect you, / laugh with you and cry with you, / loving you faithfully through good times and bad, / regardless of the obstacles we may face together. / I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, / from this day forward / for as long as we both shall live.

I, Bre, take you Jon to be my husband, / my partner in life and my one true love. / I will cherish our union / and love you more each day than I did the day before. / I will trust you and respect you, / laugh with you and cry with you, / loving you faithfully through good times and bad, / regardless of the obstacles we may face together. / I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, / from this day forward / for as long as we both shall live.

Most importantly, I promise to always love you and always be the best wife I can be. 

And now, the exchanging of rings.

"I Jon give you Bre this ring as an eternal symbol of my love and commitment to you."

"I Bre give you Jon this ring as an eternal symbol of my love and commitment to you."

By the power vested in me by the extraordinary lax standards of the State of California I now pronounce you husband and wife. Now, kiss one another, so we can all watch.

Friends and family, I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Medwid! (Not actually said by me.)

1 comment:

Ingrid said...

Very nice. If I ever get married again, I'll have you officiate.