When Mr. Wellies and I began to plan our wedding, we knew that religion would be a major factor in our decision-making process. I’m Jewish, while Mr. Wellies is studying to convert. There are several denominations of Judaism, ranging from Orthodox (more traditional) to Reform (more liberal). We practice Conservative Judaism, which falls somewhere in between. We believe Jewish life adheres to halakhah (Jewish law); the law can adapt to modern times, yet it shouldn’t go too far and abandon important traditions.
For example: As a Conservative Jewish woman, I can wear a tallis, or prayer shawl, to morning services. In Orthodox Judaism, it is strictly forbidden for women to wear prayer shawls. For breakfast each morning, I eat cereal instead of bacon, because pork is trayf, or not kosher. In Reform Judaism, some Jews choose to eat pork. Generally, Conservative Judaism tends to be more liberal than Orthodox Judaism and more traditional than Reform Judaism.
Image via Michal Fattal
The most important day of the week in Judaism is Shabbat, the holy day of rest. It begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. According to halakhah, Jews are prohibited from working on Shabbat. This includes cooking, using electricity, signing a contract, and transferring an object from one domain to another. As a result, Orthodox and Conservative Jews are unable to get married between Friday night and Saturday night. A wedding requires the aforementioned work; moreover, Jews should “not mix one occasion of rejoicing with the other.” The integrity of each happy occasion should be preserved by keeping them separate.
It’s the truth…I cannot lie. But before you judge me, let me explain.
When Mr. Orchard and I first started talking about the wedding we knew we wanted a very informal feel to the day. I’ve been to so many beautiful formal weddings with everything carefully selected down to the tiniest of details. I love those weddings. But for us, we needed something a little more homegrown. A little more undone. It’s not that we don’t take our impending marriage seriously, but rather that we do—the most important part of the day for us will happen when we stand at the front of the West Virginia building and exchange our vows. The rest is just icing on the cake. No matter what happens on our day, as long as that part goes (mostly) smoothly we’re set.
I’ve been involved with enough weddings to know that even the best and most carefully planned days will have hiccups. It’s inevitable. I’ve seen all kinds of crazy stuff. Here’s a short list of the best of the worst:
5. Missing chair covers
4. Melting cakes
3. Broken-down limos
2. Bridesmaids who mixed up the wedding time and almost missed the ceremony
1. Horrible ministers who threw hissy fits over microphones. Seriously, a full on hissy fit complete with stomping and threats to leave—who does that?!
Hence, my great fear.
Exactly one week after announcing our engagement, we attended an Octoberfest-themed First Friday event with some of our local Meet-Up friends and, unbeknownst to the Road Trips, we were about to be given our first (and possibly most awesome) gift of our wedding: a gift of service.
It’s hardly unusual these days to have a friend or family member officiate a wedding, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it in those first three month of pre-planning, but to ask someone for such a favor seemed like a bit of an imposition. (And, you know, if they said no I’d be really crushed.)
So when Friend L asked who we were planning to have marry us, we said we’d probably just hire a notary to do it (as Florida is one of five states that allows that sort of thing). And that’s when she asked if we would like her to do it.
It’s really tough to find pictures of L without a costume of some sort!
After Mr. Jet and I got engaged and settled on most of the major checklist items, we started thinking about the most important checklist item—who the hell is going to marry us?
Most people who I’ve known get married have known a Justice of the Peace or a priest/minister closely enough that it made sense to ask them to officiate. Mr. Jet and I have no such luck; we’re not affiliated with any church (shame on us lapsed Catholics) and we don’t know anyone in our area that is ordained to perform wedding ceremonies.
I started doing some research on officiants in Massachusetts and came across this article which states that a friend or family member may be designated as an “officiant for the day” through the Commonwealth with an application, letter of reference, and a $25 fee.
Another long-distance-bride problem—where will we get married and who will marry us? We knew we did not want to get married by a stranger, but we really didn’t have an obvious option for a non-stranger. First things first, we decided we needed to finalize where we would get married before settling on who would marry us.
Savannah is known for a lot of things, but most notable is its plethora of beautiful squares. You can’t go more than a few blocks without stumbling into a park—some are grand and fancy, some are just beautiful trees and a few benches. These parks are a favorite place to get married, and I will show you why:
The famous Forsyth Park / Photo by Greg Ceo
Let’s go back in time for a bit, shall we? Back to last spring when the Beanstalks were still planning their wedding! So, we had our venue…the amazing Sundy House in Delray Beach, Florida. The Sundy House was going to be where both our ceremony and reception were going to take place. With that said, we had no idea who was going to actually marry us! You might remember how I posted about my Catholic upbringing and my personal struggle with a church wedding (to have or to have not)…well, even though we ultimately decided not to wed in a house of worship, I still wanted our ceremony to be religious (or have religious aspects). It was going to be an outdoor garden ceremony and I knew finding a Catholic priest was probably not going to happen. But I still wanted our ceremony to reflect the Catholic faith, to an extent.
Back in the springtime, when I broke my foot and was on my leave from work, I spent my days sitting on the couch, doing wedding research online (what else was a soon-to-be-bride supposed to do?). It was during this time that I realized the clock was ticking and we needed to find an officiant and soon! I had just read Real Simple Weddings (highly recommend this magazine to anyone planning a wedding) and used some of their suggested links to help start my search for an officiant. I still had hopes of finding someone with a Catholic affiliation, but kept my options open. I don’t even remember what I searched for, but I stumbled upon Archbishop Sean Alexander’s website. Sean Alexander used to be a Catholic archbishop but had left the church for spiritual reasons. Sean Alexander’s website sums up his religious walk best: He became “bishop of an interdenominational ministry which enabled him to serve all faith communities, including the catholic faith in a different capacity.”
So it turns out that this question gets asked twice during the engagement process. The first time is the most obvious—it’s during the proposal. But you can’t just decide to get married and then it’s done. To make it legal, there’s got to be that special person known as the “officiant” involved. And when you find the right one, you’ll have to ask the question again.
Image from 143 Bridal
Mr. Whale and I didn’t even consider a religious ceremony for a second. He was raised Catholic. I was raised Methodist. But neither of us practices any kind of Christian religion. (We don’t technically practice any other religion either, but Mr. Whale is fairly spiritual, so I don’t want to say that he’s not religious at all.) Overall, the ceremony is very important to both of us, so we really aren’t willing to compromise at all on the things that we want.
We seemed to be having the most difficulty picking an officiant for our wedding. We have contacted the most people during this search and I’m starting to feel like Goldilocks when looking officiants.
At the end of this search, we managed to contact nine different people, meet with three of them, and ultimately, I think we’ve found the one that is perfect for us.
|Photo by: Paul Von Reiter on Wedding Chicks via Lover.ly|
I was amazed, though maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised, at just how many people weren’t available on the date more than seven(!) months out. Unlike in the beginning of our engagement when every vendor was more or less still available, we seem to be at the middle of the pack in terms of finding an officiant. We ultimately contacted people in three groups of three, and out of each group of three, only one was able to meet with us for an initial consultation.
*hangs head in shame*
I distinctly remember talking about catering. How it was the last “big thing” to do for the wedding. The last big decision, big vendor, the last big thing to figure out…
…well, here I am, hive, head hung in shame, because uh…I forgot a kind of big thing. You know, um…that person that actually marries us? Yep, forgot about that.
Image via She Finds / Featured in an article about choosing a wedding officiant…tips that I clearly need *uh hum*
Contrary to what everyone told me*, last week I called one of the register offices in town. I found the number online and called in the morning; a surprisingly nice lady attended and answered all my questions and, to my surprise, passed me on to the judge.
So, I got to chat with the judge a bit. She’s in charge of the first register office in town (meaning it is the most important one), so she’s aware of everything. When I voiced my concerns about getting someone who is just there to do the paperwork, she assured me that although others might do that, she likes to make a nice heartfelt, special ceremony; in her words, “The ones who do that are men. We women like to do something with feelings involved.”
As far as our ceremony goes, Wolfman and I are not planning anything super religious, so we needed to find someone to marry us. Our first thought was to go to a friend, Joey Tribiani style.
(Photo via Fan Pop / Friends)
We even got to the point of asking one of Wolfman’s old coworkers, but only then I looked at all the rules for someone to be a legal officiant in DC. It was kind of a lot—basically, you have to prove that you are a minister of a real religious group that meets regularly. I know we could have done the friend thing and do the paperwork separately, but I wanted it to be legit at the time of the ceremony.
In an ideal world I’d have the ceremony I want, I would walk down the aisle with my dad in a beautiful garden, the judge would officiate a true ceremony instead of just babbling legal things and making us sign the license, we’d have readings and a small ceremony inside the ceremony, we’d write our own vows and have an emotional “now we’re married” moment. It’d be memorable.
Back to reality. Chances are we’re not having a ceremony remotely close to what I want. For starters there’s the judge thing. We need a real judge that’ll go to our venue and marry us there. I’m hopeful that I’ll find someone who’ll be willing to play along and will give a chance for readings and a small ceremony—someone who’ll allow me to walk down the aisle and will not want to just get there, sign the papers, and be done with it.
In the summer of 2008, my sister (who is now my maid of honor) and I went on a pilgrimage to Australia.
**all photos in this post are personal**
We traveled with a small group of youth from the Diocese of Richmond to Sydney for World Youth Day to meet and worship with Catholic youth from around the world, be witnesses to the faith in a global setting, and see the Holy Father in person (albeit from very far away in a crowd of thousands).
When it came time to decide who was going to officiate our ceremony, Mr. Dalmatian and I were a little bit lost. Neither of us are religious, nor are we getting married in a religious setting, so that did not provide an easy answer for us.
Nor do we have a friend like Joey who could become ordained on the internet.
|Image via Nickatnite.com|
So, feeling a little lost, I turned to what I had found to be a great resource: the Favorite Links page on our venue’s website (any Nashville brides out there, I recommend you check it out). From here, we found Bill Covington. He has evidently performed a crazy amount of ceremonies of all shapes and sizes here in Nashville. Great! But then we had another decision to make…
The fee that he charges appeared to be reasonable compared to others that we researched, but there was also an additional fee for any meetings before the wedding.
My first instinct was that there was no question – we had to pay this extra fee and meet him before the wedding. But as the countdown has decreased and the “wedding money spent” column on our spreadsheet has increased, my stance on the situation has changed.
Mr. Dragon and I are not affiliated with a religion in particular. I’m more of an agnostic type of person myself, whereas he’s a believer in a higher power without the organized aspect. Add in an outdoor wedding in a town where neither of us has any network, and we might have been looking at a tricky situation when it came to finding an officiant.
In Ontario, there are two ways to get married. You can have a religious marriage, “performed by an official of a recognized religion who has received authorization from the Office of the Registrar General to perform marriages in Ontario,” as the government explains. A civil marriage is the other option, as performed by an Ontario judge, justice of the peace, or municipal clerk. There really aren’t any creative options like you see in some of the States, where people ordained online can officiate.
Enter FFIL Dragon.
Photo by FBIL/GM Jesse
He’s not just a bush plane pilot—he’s on the Religious Officials Authorized to Solemnize Marriage list, too.
FFIL Dragon extended an offer to officiate pretty much the moment Mr. Dragon called to let him know we were engaged. While it was basically a given that we would choose him, we actually just made the official phone call to ask him on the weekend and, lucky for us, he said he’d jump at the chance.
This is a good thing for so many reasons!