It used to be pretty routine for me, officiating weddings for people I didn’t know. Part of the job, goes with the territory, that’s what ministers do, etc. I’d guess that over half of the weddings I’ve done since 1975 were for people I’d never even met until they decided they wanted a legal union.
The very first couple I married was over twice my age, each’s previous union having been severed by death years and years before. I did the wedding in the living room of the groom’s son. The next one was for a teenage couple. Then, there was one for a couple who seemed selected to reinforce every Hollywood notion of the backwoods pair. I guess those stereotypes do come from somewhere.
He was gangly and tall, missing a couple of teeth on the left side, (at least it wasn’t the front), and her with strawy hair and a prominent swelling of the abdomen. They certainly had the most fun of any two I ever hitched. During the reception at the Holiday Inn, they smeared cake in each other’s face and ended up chasing each other through the lobby.
Over the four decades that I’ve been doing this, I’ve done weddings in backyards, country clubs, living rooms, chapels and churches. I’ve married some couples that pledged and kept their pledges. Some that divorced a few years later. Many of them, I’ve had no contact with since the wedding. Some seemed genuinely grateful and appreciative of my efforts to make the ceremony something more than empty ritual. A few seemed barely tolerant of me as if I were nothing more than a necessary mechanism.
Which kind of brings me to an interesting question. Well, at least one that interests me: If you don’t even know a preacher or a priest, then what difference should it make to you whether or not you get married by one?
Funny thing is, I know the answer. In the areas where I have lived my life, thus far, it is a definitely prevalent notion that weddings are supposed to be in churches. Of course, there are the exceptions of home, forest, baseball diamond and tennis court weddings, but by and large, there’s supposed be a steeple standing over you when you exchange your “I do’s.” Since most people can’t rent Churchill Downs, they end up in some local church standing in front of their family and friends and a preacher they just met.
For many of them, it’ll be the last time they’re in church, at least until someone else they know gets married or dies. But, in some cases, it’ll be the start of a changed life. I know this, God’s commitment to blessing them and their marriage will match whatever commitment they make to Him and to each other.