Meddling Ministers, Pushy Priests, and other Obnoxious Officiants
As we’ve learned from all the other posts on this blog, most couples put a lot of thought into just about every detail of their wedding day, trying to achieve perfection or something close to it. But sometimes the source of a nuptial nightmare is completely unexpected, rising up just as everything seems to be turning out fine. Every wedding fantasy boils down to the moment when the couple look into each others eyes and pledge to spend the rest of their lives together, come what may. It’s one of the most intimate and vital moments of their lives, and nothing should distract them from their attention to each other. At that instant, no one else in the room (or under the sky) matters.
Which is why I can’t understand what gets into some people who are there solely to put the official stamp of approval on the union of these two lovers. There’s always a third person who has to be standing there with them, making sure they exchange vows and rings and end up married. It can be a member of the clergy, or someone anointed with that power for only a day (you can do that in Massachusetts, for instance). In Maine, you can even get your local state rep to preside. But the bottom line is that they are there to serve a specific, well defined purpose: make sure it’s legal.
I’ve been to more weddings than I would like to count where the officiant went way beyond the limits of their responsibilities to dominate and intrude on the proceedings. Sometimes it happens out of a bloated sense of duty, sometimes from ego, and sometimes just because they really like to hear the sound of their own voice.
The worst I saw was the big Catholic wedding where the priest decided he was a poor man’s Tony Bennett and inserted two songs (a capella solos performed by him) into the service. These numbers were unrehearsed, unanticipated, and unapproved by the couple, who had to stand by livid as this guy exercised his vocal stylings for hundreds of guests squirming in their seats.
Then there are the times I’ve been told just as the bride was making her entrance that there were no pictures allowed during the ceremony. Now I realize these people claim a more direct connection to a Higher Power, but whether or not the wedding is going to be photographed is a decision for the bride and groom, not for a minister or priest or rabbi. Because these people are not perfect themselves.
I’ve seen ceremonies where the officiant has forgotten:
- The exchange of rings
- The name of the bride
- A song to be sung by a family member
- The folder with their prepared remarks and the wedding vows
So my advice is to make sure the person performing the ceremony knows exactly what’s expected, and that it’s your wedding, not their show. They may have “the authority vested in me,” but you’re the bride, and there’s no higher power than that.
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