Of Weddings and Playing Your Part

Yesterday afternoon for the first time, I officiated a wedding. It was that of my niece, Severa. (I have many nieces.)

She first approached me about doing it early this year. She doesn’t belong to a church, and in her view she thought the wedding would be more special if someone in her family conducted it, instead of a cleric or a justice of the peace that knew nothing about her.

I’m ordained in a non-denominational ministry that I discovered online. I filled out the online paper work, sent some processing fees, and bingo I became an ordained minister. In Maryland, you need no further license, so the marriage I conducted here was legal and binding.

It was a good experience. The script, (which the bride provided for me, so I didn’t write any of this) was secular, but poetic. The weather, though overcast and a bit chilly, was dry for the outside ceremony. (We beat Hurricane Sandy’s arrival, thankfully.)

I pride myself on being a clear and expressive public speaker, and I can say I achieved that for this wedding. But for more important for an officiant,  I was presenting an attitude. I felt it was my duty to create an atmosphere of joy and celebration for this important event in my niece’s life. I’m happy to report that I also feel I achieved this goal.

Various branches of my family don’t get along with one another, and while I didn’t feel there would be any open warfare at the ceremony, I was, I confess, somewhat apprehensive about the possible tension filling the air. I can’t say this never happened throughout the day, but for the 25 or so minutes of the ceremony over which I was officiating, it was not the case. That, if nothing else, is a gift I was happy to provide my niece.

It got me thinking. We all have things over which we are in charge at any given time. Often, that of which we are in charge is a mere component of something larger that is inefficient, unfair, or troublesome. We often can’t control or change that larger beast.

Sometimes we must try, of course, such as the Civil Rights Movement. But much of the time, the best we can hope to achieve is making sure our small corner of the machine is working properly. To realize that the step to our left or right may be shit, and people may not enjoy those steps, but that is no reason why they can’t enjoy, or at least tolerate the process when they are right in front of us during our moments of influence.

My niece’s wedding was by no means a disaster. It went well, as did the reception afterward, (which I was not in charge of.) I don’t mean to suggest I am the only thing that went right with the affair. I wasn’t. But I can always say, and so can my niece, that whatever didn’t work about that day, the brief time where I was the master of ceremonies went as desired for them. We all must take that lesson into our lives and know that sometimes all that we have is what is right in front of us, to make good for other people. I have always tried to do so, but something about officiating the wedding made me think about it again.

Since I am still credentialed as a secular minister I am still authorized to conduct marriages in the state of Maryland. I have thought about offering those services up on a small time basis as sort of a side business. With my freelance writing, I could also help draft vows and ceremonies and such. I haven’t given it a lot of thought, but if I decided to do a few weddings a year for a fee, I could contribute to other people what I contributed to my niece yesterday: the promise that no matter what else goes wrong at a wedding, the quality of the officiating won’t be one of those things. I’m sure to a lot of people, that would matter a great deal. Something to think about.

Are you part of a larger “machine” in the things you do in life? If so, do you take pride in making sure at least your little corner of the universe works the way it should for others?


  1. “I pride myself on being a clear and expressive public speaker” <– Channeling Buckingham, were you? 🙂

    That's a very good thought — about making sure our part of the "machine" runs smoothly and benefits others. Sure the system might be f/ed, but we're part of that system whether we like it or not and we can make sure our little corner is slightly less f/ed.

    We often can't control a situation, but we often *can* control how we react to that situation. That's where our power as individuals comes from.

  2. Let’s just say there was a bit of me brought into Buckingham. =)

    Much of it truly is how we react. Because how we react in turn can influence how someone else who is dealing with our little corner of the universe will in turn react. And so on. It doesn’t fix the machine, but perhaps it begins the process of making the machine less bothersome to as many people as before.

    • And then there’s the whole idea of living (and reacting) by example. “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

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