Finding our officiant was the most difficult thing we have had to do in our wedding planning thus far. Which is silly, really. It shouldn’t be that hard, right? Well, we had very specific criteria for our officiant, which made it next to impossible to find a match.
Let me start by explaining that I was raised Catholic. Growing up my family was very active in the Church; my parents sang during mass and taught catechism, and my brother and I were altar servers. Our church was like my second home. After my parents got divorced we stopped going as frequently. As I got older and moved away from home, my attendance at Sunday mass decreased. I never questioned my faith or beliefs and I still consider myself Catholic, but I rarely attend mass anymore.
So naturally with my upbringing, I always imagined myself getting married in the Church. It is pretty much the norm in my family. I think I’ve only attended two weddings in my life that haven’t taken place in a Catholic church. I’m sure most of my family were very surprised when they learned we would not be getting married in a church.
You see, Mr. Castle is an atheist. Before we were even engaged he told me he would not feel comfortable getting married in the Catholic Church. I totally get it and I would never force him do something he wasn’t comfortable with. To clarify: it’s not that he is uncomfortable being in a church. That kind of a setting just didn’t feel right to him for our wedding. And honestly it didn’t feel right to me either. It’s not as big a part of my life as it was when I was younger. It’s still there and it always will be, but when it comes to our wedding we wanted a ceremony we would both be happy with. Something we could personalize and make our own. Something that wouldn’t really be possible if we got married in the Church.
That being said, I still wanted some form of my religion in our ceremony. My parents really wanted it as well. And thus began the nearly impossible search.
Our ceremony compromise was to get married where we wanted but to have our wedding officiated by a Catholic priest. As those of you who are Catholic know, priests won’t marry you outside the Church. But a retired priest may depending on his feelings on the matter. The first priest we found was retired and living in Santa Barbara. He was really awesome and when we chatted on the phone he sounded like the perfect match, until he told us his price: $1,200…ummm next, please!
Then my grandma decided she was going to find us someone. She got me in contact with a retired priest who was a friend of a friend. When I spoke with him he told us he would only marry us if we got married in the Church first. So we would have to get married in the Church and then do a “recreation” ceremony at our venue. With that option we might as well have gotten married in the Church to begin with! This priest was really nice and an extremely funny guy but not what we were looking for…
I then started to panic, freak out, reconsider my feelings about not getting married in the Church. I considered just finding a justice of the peace or someone with no religious ties. I tried come up with a friend or family member we would want to marry us, but I couldn’t think of a single person. I became a messed up stress case, having nightmares, losing sleep, crying, and basically becoming a crazy person.
Then a simple wedding-officiant website saved the day. It was called So Cal Officiants. (They just changed their name to Great Officiants.) They are a database for officiants in Southern California. At this point I was thinking we just needed to find someone, religious or not. While searching this site I clicked on the “about our officiants” tab and saw a selection for Catholic priests! I immediately filled out an availability request.
The site hooked us up with a priest named Father Geoff. His first email to us was very informative with a lot of details including a sample wedding outline and all the information we could ever need to get our marriage license. He was also open to changing any format of the ceremony. He seemed like a very organized guy, which is always a good sign. Now the reason he can marry people outside the Church is because he was suspended from being an active priest. The reason he was suspended was for voicing his opposition to Prop 8 in California. From what I understand he was asked to encourage his parish to vote yes on Prop 8, banning same-sex marriage, and he didn’t feel right doing that and voiced his opinion on the subject during mass. If you’re interested you can read about his story here.
I was very inspired by his story. This is a man who gave up a lot to let his voice be heard. He knew it was against what the Catholic Church believes and he said it anyway. It felt really good to find not only a Catholic priest who could marry us but one who shared the same beliefs as Mr. Castle and me on marriage equality. I was happy and relieved to finally be able to say we found our officiant.
Did you have a hard time choosing an officiant? Has a wedding-related decision turned you into a crazy person?