Monday, July 1, 2013

Handwritten Vows


It was a glorious wedding by any standards. The venue was ideal, the weather pitch-perfect, the people smart, good-looking and fun to talk to. There were the old folks (my crowd) and the young folks, the locals and the come-from-afars, the bride’s side, the groom’s side. All the stars were lined up to be a memorable first wedding with me as an “officiant”— the rather cold clinical term for my status, since I’m neither rabbi, monk, priest or minister. In short, the officiant is the guy who runs the ceremony and marries the couple. And this was my virgin voyage. 

Was I nervous? Not in the least, since I’ve been the self-appointed “officiant” at almost four decades of ceremonies at my school. I’ve helped open and close the school year, host the Martin Luther King ceremony, told the Halloween ritual story, run the campfires on various camping trips, spoken about kids at graduations— including Erik, the groom, as one of his friends discovered pasting that photo on Facebook (making this moment yet more special!). I’ve led a few memorial services, made toasts at formal dinners, been the keynote speaker at music conferences and so on and so on. A lifetime as MC or Minister in the Church of No Dogma, work that fits just right for my way of thinking and my pleasure in public speaking.

The one thing I’ve learned is to use the whole of my personality and character and speak from the bottom of the belly with conviction while remaining transparent to the occasion. Not blocking the view with unnecessary flamboyance or center-stageness, but serving the needs of the moment. Having carefully crafted each word of the ceremony with Erik and Kerry, I felt prepared to shine the light precisely where it belonged— on them.

And when it came time for them to read their vows to each other, the blazing sun on a cloudless summer day in Berkeley was dimmed by the shining light of their beautifully spoken and deeply felt words. The kind that brings tears to the speakers and listeners both. And the one editorial comment that I couldn’t resist throwing in near the end— how moved I was that these were handwritten in pen and pencil on simple lined paper!!! Not typed, not flashing on the screen of a device. Real paper! Real writing! I can’t help but think that this added something to the sincerity and the personal nature of the vows spoken, but hey, that’s just me.

After the Tibetan gongs had been rung, the Unity candle lit, the poem read by Erik’s Dad, the exquisite vows spoken, it was just a matter of two “I do’s”, a slip of the rings on the fingers, the traditional kiss and the glass (light bulb) stomped on and broken. And then all the lovely friends and families arising refreshed, remembering their own vows, whether recent or long ago or yet to come, reminded that Love is real. Everything that a wedding should be. Congrats to Erik and Kerry for a most beautiful ceremony and their continued shared life to come. And thanks for the great honor of inviting me to be the “officiant.”

A friend wrote today, “How does it feel to be defrocked?” as my 24 hour license expired. I’m fine returning to the lay life, but hey, all you readers, I now can get a letter of recommendation if you’re looking for someone and my next 24 hour Ministerhood is just a trip to City Hall away. And I can throw in jazz piano, body music and Bulgarian bagpipe at no extra charge!

There’s only one condition.

You have to handwrite your vows.

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