Make Sure Your Wedding Fits You

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Pre the swinging ’60s, when your grandparents were young adults, the idea of living together before marriage was socially unacceptable. While some couples dared to try it, they dared not do so openly – for the judgment of society could be cruel. Gay couples also were in jeopardy of social condemnation.

In 2014, however, living together before marriage has become more the rule than the exception – the “new normal.” And gay relationships too are becoming mainstream in the eyes of most Americans. Recognizing this cultural shift is important for Justices of the Peace who help couples design their wedding ceremonies. Often the old words and assumptions underlying the “traditional” wedding ceremony don’t work anymore and need to be updated.

In the last few years, every couple I have married lived together before tying the knot. Some brought children to the wedding. We worked to bring these little ones into the ceremony. While traditional wedding verbiage might still work in these cases, the modern wedding ceremony should be able to accommodate the reality of children born before wedlock, or the realities of second or third marriages. The outdated Victorian notions of the “virgin” bride and groom – and one marriage for life – rarely reflect the circumstances of couples getting married today, who deserve nevertheless to have a wedding that honors them.

In addition, same-gender couples are entitled to feel that the modern wedding ceremony captures and respects their experience. I worked with an older same-gender couple a few weeks ago to remove heterosexual biases from the language of their wedding script. After 25 years together, with two children entering high school, the laws of their state and country have finally recognized the legitimacy of their union. They deserve to have a wedding ceremony that befits and validates their deep love and commitment to one another and their family.

With the turn of the 21st century, our culture has turned a corner in our views of sexuality and marriage. Today, many young couples test the waters with each other before taking those serious steps down the aisle, and gay couples are delighting in their freedom to participate fully in our societal rites and customs.

If you are gay, have children, contemplating your second, third or fourth marriage, or simply have a different idea about what your marriage ceremony should look like, don’t be shy about asking your Justice of the Peace to modify the language of your ceremony to fit your circumstances and ideas. Of course, most JPs are more than willing to adapt your ceremony in any way that feels meaningful to you. But make sure you select the JP that you feel respects your need to be fully “you” in your wedding ceremony.

(This blog was originally posted on the FindaJP.com blog. FindaJP.com is THE site to find advice and guidance about wedding officiants.)

A simple but profound symbol, the rainbow

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This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations. I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and all the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-13)

I wear one of those rubber bracelets on my right wrist. It is rainbow-colored with the word EQUALITY stamped on it. I forget about it, but I would guess that two or three people a day notice it, probably without thinking about what it might represent. If they asked, here is what it means for me: no one can define loving relationships for anyone else. Who loves whom is personal to the lovers, society must not define that. In my opinion, there should never have been any question about people of the same gender being married.

The profile picture for my social media presence has the rainbow flag for background.

Warren Turner, Wedding Officiant & Humanist Celebrant

Marriage Equality Supporter


As a result, some couples seeking a wedding officiant have contacted me specifically because they wanted to make sure there was no question about same gender ceremonies or gay and lesbian participants in their weddings. That pleases me because that is exactly the message I hope to convey.

I love to see rainbows. Once in a while, there is a complete arc across the sky. I try to pull off the road and watch it and always think of the leprechaun sitting on the top of a pot of gold at the end and wonder. Once, when I was flying a small plane across rural Wisconsin there were little puffs of clouds everywhere, most of them smaller than my aircraft. Since I could see all around them and knew it was safe, I flew directly into one. For that second of entering before I popped out the other side, I saw a complete rainbow circle. Wow. Thankfully there were many more so I could do it again a few more times.

Humans have always reacted to this weather phenomenon with wonder. The Jewish scripture quote above gives an ultimate meaning to the rainbow but whatever religious outlook one has, there is still a kind of awe and gratitude. Is it any mystery then why those of us who believe in marriage equality fly the rainbow flag? We are celebrating the greatest of hopes, that love wins over all.

Wonderful NH Wedding couple, Sunny and John

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At Sunny and John’s wedding set at their beautiful flower-surrounded home in the New Hampshire hills along the Connecticut River valley, I talked about serendipity. How was it that I was a part of such a great group of friends on a Monday evening performing a ceremony for Dartmouth profs both of whom are teaching and exploring the emotional and spiritual depths of the human spirit? It had to be pretty much of an accident but isn’t that the way we often find ourselves in the best of places? I know, for me, I could have never have planned the for the most important and fulfilling things that happened in my life, for the deepest relationships, for the broadest opportunities. They just were. Could it be that thinking we control what will be our future is a fool’s game? Of course, after all “We plan, God laughs.”

Who will perform our wedding ceremony?

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When I am first contacted by someone getting married it usually starts off with a bit of awkward stumbling. The caller isn’t really sure what to ask or where to start. I try to put them at ease by asking about dates and locations and offering to send sample ceremonies because if I wait too long it may be even more uncomfortable.

Monk's Robe Several times, the first question was “How much do you charge?” Once, a bride wanted to know right away “What do you wear to perform weddings?” (That one was fun because I could tell the story about the time I wore a monk’s robe for a couple with a medieval theme to their wedding)

Karen Loucks Rinedollar (adoresamore.com and karenloucks.com) did a great job of answering this question in the WedPlan article titled How to Choose the Right Officiant for Your Wedding. Every point she makes is important, but if it were me, my main question would be this one: “Is the wedding officiant warm and helpful during your phone/email/in person questioning?” There are probably plenty of folks who could legalize a marriage but relatively few who are really invested in you as a couple. (I would like to think I am and I am willing to bet Karen Loucks Rinedollar is as well.)

If you plan to be married don’t put the choosing of an officiant way down on the list of priorities. She or he can make all the difference in the words and feel of the ceremony.

Insane City Wedding

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I have performed wedding ceremonies of just about every shape and variety. Early on, I officiated at my sister’s wedding in the sanctuary of the church in which we grew up. A couple of weeks ago the family and friends of a California couple climbed a New Hampshire hill to share in a ceremony surrounded by verdant meadows with an incredible view of the Connecticut River valley. One time I waited under trees with the groom while the bride rode up on a horse. Every once in a while a couple will come to our simple chapel and have the ceremony with just the three of us. And on and on.

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Each time is special, without a doubt. The public vows and the signing of the official license declare “We love each other and want the world to know”. Whether the ceremony is elaborate or simple matters not. For the two persons it is unique.

Having said that, I sometimes find myself a bit embarrassed to be a part of the so-called wedding industry. In Dave Barry’s very funny book, Insane City, a couple from DC plan an extravagant destination wedding in Miami. In spite of the woman’s social justice activism and since her parents are beyond wealthy, she becomes, in Barry’s words, a classic “bridezilla”. As you read and laugh out loud, you keep thinking there is no way this happens in real life. Well, I am here to tell you, his tale is so close to what actually happens that I caught myself thinking, “Wait a minute. Why am I laughing?”

The present average cost of a wedding is estimated to be $25,656 and, as one site so helpfully points out, this doesn’t include the honeymoon. (For most of us, trying to spend that kind of money makes for a very short honeymoon period indeed) How could this be? Who in the world needs such an exorbitant budget just to “tie the knot? These are rhetorical questions, of course, because as is true of many things in this “insane” society of ours, weddings will just become more and more elaborate while their cost escalates. So? Well, I will leave that up to you for now.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t too long ago that a bride with a reception booked at our most expensive venue, tried to negotiate my fee downward. But that’s another blog.

P.S. Then, when your team’s mascot shows up, you are supposed to laugh.

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