AUGUST 9, 2012 11:07AM

Officiating a Wedding After My Divorce

Rate: 9 Flag

“One must learn to love, and go through a good deal of suffering to get to it, and the journey is always towards the other soul.”           -D.H. Lawrence

I’ve been preparing for a strange task lately: I’m collecting material to officiate a wedding. The happy couple is friends I’ve known for a few years. When they became engaged, the bride-to-be took me to lunch, fed me something with tequila in it, and told me she and her betrothed wanted me to marry them. Though stunned, I accepted the request immediately. Before my brain could wrap itself around this, I had said yes.

Signing up with the Universal Life Church online to be a minister was easy. Click, click, click; I was ordained. In my defense, I don’t take anything spiritual lightly; and I’ve had a daily soulful practice since I was a child.  However, my New Age bent is not why they asked me: the bride-to-be said I was good in front of a crowd. I suppose I can be commanding.

This task feels strange in one way because I was recently divorced. If there were a pin-up girl for a successful wife, she wouldn’t be me. Perhaps my failure is a doorway to deeper wisdom on the subject, though, and I’ve spent much time over the last few months thinking about romantic love, and it’s consummation in wedding vows.

Plucking ceremonial rights from different online resources, I’ve meditated on the meaning of the steps. The marriage I’ll be officiating is one for love, pure and simple, and so each movement in the ceremony could be imbued with purpose. I’ll see how it shakes out with the couple, since it’s their vision that matters. But this is what I’ve taken from the preparations:

Procession: this is the bit when the bride and groom find each other at the front of the altar. Historically, the groom came in from the side and waited for the father of the bride to hand her off to him. In my own wedding, my uncle did the honor, and it was incredibly comforting to have him by my side. Now though, couples walk in together quite often. Modern marriage is usually about two adults stepping up to each other, as equals.

Opening: This is the bit when the officiator sets the tone of the ceremony. In romantic relationships, the beginning is important, and can set patterns for the entire time the couple is together.

Reading: As Dumbledore stated in the last Harry Potter movie, “Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic.” I’ll be interest to see what the happy couple selects for this step. The words they agree on will inform the guests why they’re standing there. It’s important to know.

Vows: This is simple, short and sweet; yet without this handful of words, the ceremony isn’t binding. Remember the line about words being magic…

Exchange of rings: Rings are deeply symbolic and socially important. Someone wearing a wedding ring should communicate to a potential suitor to back off…this one is taken. Also, it’s a source of pride for many women, who love jewelry. Tossing my wedding ring into a quickly moving stream was the ceremony I performed to end my marriage. In that moment, I was released; many months before it was made official by the courts. To take on a new ring is to be bound to another: so you’d better like the person!

Unity traditions: I’m seeing this done more often at weddings. Doing a little ritual, like pouring wine into one cup, or circling the altar three times, is a small action performed by the couple to show the journey has begun. This is sort of like conception.

Closing: a brief statement to the now-bored audience we’re almost done.

Declaration of Marriage: “By the power vested in me…I now pronounce you husband and wife…” You know that part, but it’s also legally binding, and so important to do.

Introduction of the Newlyweds: I’ve always liked this part of the ceremony best. When the whole ordeal is over, and the spiritual transfiguration is complete, the minister introduces the two people made new, and different, by the ceremony. This is powerful magic.

Circling through these thoughts of marriage, I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for why it continues to be an important social, personal, and spiritual contract. Also, I more thoroughly understand why the right of gay couples to marry is fundamental, and indisputable by any rational person. All people deserve the right to marry. Period.

Personalizing this experience, I’ve wondered if I’ll ever remarry. Actually, I am probably less likely to do it now that I’ve spent time contemplating it. It’s a serious and somber thing, marriage, and if I’d ever do it again, I would have to be post-rational about my feelings for some chap.

Kudos to all of you successfully married people; the work you do to maintain your relationship is admirable, and so often undervalued. Marriage is precious and worthwhile for those who understand the magic of it… and the ceremony.





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I used to be ordained... but this is way too exciting.
Congrats my friend!
Thanks my friend. I can see you performing weddings. I bet you brought good luck!
Congratulations, you’re going to be wonderful at this upcoming wedding
I know you will do a great job! You are right it is a lot of work. Marriage is something I would do again and I envy people who make it work. There is always hope. sigh.
Thanks for sharing this, Maureen...your friends are so lucky to have you to do this!
Very thoughtful post. I've co-officiated (in my practice, it takes two) at a number of marriages, tho only the religious ceremony (I have no interest in doing the government-recognized thing, which is in some provinces as simple as the Universal thing only thru the government, and much more difficult in others). We think about the whole thing and in consultation with the couple we work out the physical, symbolic actions. Some of our marriages have been virtually standard stuff, mostly for the sake of attending relatives and such, and some were a little more wild and woolly.

Alas, our track record is not too wonderful, in that only a few couples have remained together. My officiating partner and I have agreed not to do any more. Hope you have better luck with this couple!
My son is getting married next week, a garden wedding. He asked me to read and write a poem... i have never read my poems in front of anyone before although I do lectures at conferences, it's quite different. I was pondering on marriage and what to say to them.. I am long time married, and have gone through many struggles, to sometimes come out on the other side.
Best of luck to you, and to them, it's a hard road but there can be moments of deep satisfaction.
I've never been a big fan of weddings - or at least, of the fuss surrounding and leading up to them. Thank you for bringing it all back to the basics here and reminding me that there are some truly beautiful, meaningful moments in these ceremonies. And all my respect for you in doing this for your friends - and, more than that, for being able to look at marriage in such an open, appreciative way, despite your recent divorce. That shows what a strong person you are. If my boyfriend and I ever get married, I hope the person officiating will be just as insightful and eloquent as you!
M.C.S.- thank you. I hope so.

zanelle- hope kindles! And thank you.

clay ball- thanks. I always feel like the lucky one with my friends.

Myriad- You bring up a really good point here! I've wondered what the old pastor who married us would think of my ex and I divorcing. In a pre-wedding counseling appt he called us out on the one problem that proved un-fixable! We should have both worked on it.

rita- Congrats on your son marrying next week. You'll hit it out of the park.

Alysa- thank you. I don't think I ever appreciated weddings until my divorce. Sadly, I had no idea what it was about, really, until it was gone. Marriage really shouldn't be allowed until the age of 30!
So true! " Marriage is precious and worthwhile for those who understand the magic of it… and the ceremony."" Best of luck!!
Olga- thank you! I believe in magic.
Maureen, this was really nice. Surprised me about your wedding ring being tossed into the stream! Great.
You're a good friend to agree to do this.