I believe that I have mentioned before that Maggi was engaged to Brian and that a wedding was planned for this spring. The happy couple were both quite desirous of having a SPRING wedding because virtually every other "close" family celebration on BOTH sides occurs between Labor Day and the end of the year, and, of course, so does Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve. They both really wanted to be able to celebrate their anniversary at a time when it wouldn't get lost in the mad shuffle of other events. I confess that Bonnie and I supported that idea wholeheartedly as our anniversary (Dec. 27) is normally lost in the holiday shuffle, so we understood the concern.
So, the wedding was planned for May 16 (to try to avoid Mother's Day and Graduation time as much as possible, and still allow for flowers to be blooming, etc. The venue was to be "Joslyn Castle," a Scottish baronial style mansion built by George and Sarah Joslyn in 1903. After belonging to the City of Omaha and the State of Nebraska, it has become an Omaha Landmark Historic Structure and is on the National Register of Historic Places for its national significance. The grounds are part of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum and a trust has been established which is restoring the building to something like its original grandeur. I think it can be best described as having some resemblance to the Biltmore House, which IS from about the same timeframe, but on a smaller scale and Scottish, not French influenced. It is a lovely place and we were all looking forward to having the wedding there. See picture of the exterior below:
At some point, I forget exactly when, they decided that they were going to go ahead and get married at our house (probably on our, covered, back deck) on the planned day and deal with the reception-party stuff after things settled down and they could have the get together with family and friends that they really wanted. They thought that they might even do a "dramatic reenactment" of the wedding ceremony on that occasion. So now, THIS, new, event had to be planned.
We "menfolk" could just get by with wearing suits, but the women still needed "appropriate" dresses and the originally planned wedding dress was really not "right" for a "backyard" wedding. Oddly enough, even I agreed with that. Bonnie had something appropriately "mother-of-the-brideish" which she could make work, but Maggi really didn't have a "proper" dress for this, changed, occasion. So, after considerably more shopping than I thought advisable, they found an "inexpensive" wedding dress which could be made to fit and adapted to suit with a good deal of work by Bonnie. So, the dress was bought, and the work began. This would, ultimately, take several weeks of massive work on Bonnie's part in order to: 1.) make the dress fit properly, and; 2.) decorate it with embroidered flowers and butterflies so that it wouldn't be so plain and would make both mother and daughter happy. Here's a picture of the dress which doesn't really do it justice, but it does show the dress and some of the embroidery.
M & B had arranged for a friend to "officiate" for their wedding, since they weren't having a "traditional church" wedding in a church, since they are not really into traditional religious practices, and having a friend made the whole thing more personal and special. So, things were proceeding.... Both the Officiant and the planned attendants were concerned about COVID-19 because of family considerations, but all were trying their best to make it work. Eventually, only one of the "attendants" was able to make it, but late in the game, I think it was the evening of May 7, the Officiant decided that she just couldn't risk getting sick or passing it along to her children. I must confess, while that was a disappointment to Maggi and Brian, none of us really blamed her. But someone to officiate was needed and the wedding was only nine days away. This was a potential difficulty.
Now Maggi knew that it was possible to be "ordained" online (I believe that that's how the planned Officiant was ordained) and I had heard of that idea, although I hadn't ever really looked into it. But I was not going to let my daughter down. If I had to get ordained and perform the ceremony myself, so be it. I was NOT going to let the coronavirus force them to wait until some unknown future timeframe. This was MY daughter and her fiancé. If they wished to get married, I was going to see that it happened!
So, I went online and discovered the "Universal Life Church." I think I have mentioned before that, as a child, I attended the Unitarian Church Sunday school while my folks attended services, and that I later joined a Methodist Church in Evanston as a teenager, but I have not been an active churchgoer for a long time, mostly because I have never felt comfortable with the idea that it was okay for any religion to argue that their beliefs should be dominant or be made into law. I'm unconvinced that any, specific, religion has an absolute corner on Truth. So, when I found the Universal Life Church online, I recognized it as being unlike anything I had previously encountered as a "religion." It also would ordain folks instantly and espoused beliefs which I could support. They state that:
"The Universal Life Church was founded on the basic belief that we are all children of the same universe and, derived from that basic belief, has established two core tenets by which it expects its ministers to conduct themselves:
- Do only that which is right.
- Every individual is free to practice their religion in the manner of their choosing, as mandated by the First Amendment, so long as that expression does not impinge upon the rights or freedoms of others and is in accordance with the government’s laws.
I strongly agree with both of these ideas , so I had no problem in ascribing to them. I suppose that one could argue that this is not really a religion, but a "freedom of religion" organization. Still, constitutionally, it does qualify as a "religion," at least to the extent that it can ordain "ministers" who can carry out ministerial practices within the legal restrictions of the vast majority of states (and probably should be able to do so in all states, etc.). I confess that I also really like the motto/emblem of the ULC shown below.
Since folks, including Brian's parents, couldn't come to Omaha (COVID again), M & B decided to stage the wedding on Zoom, so that more than the roughly 6-8 people on the back deck could "attend." That meant that the deck had to have a bit more of a suitable "wedding" set," we had to have a "script" (which I was working on), I needed a suitable "costume" (the others had theirs and I wanted to be able to differentiate between "Father of the Bride" and "Officiant"). So, flowers were purchased and arranged, a suitable "script" was drafted, including a "prologue" to explain what I was doing and why I was doing it, etc. It took several drafts to get it all worked out, but, by Saturday morning (a couple of hours before the ceremony) we had a text we all liked, my academic gown would serve as "ministerial robes" (they ARE much the same) with the addition of a stole Bonnie made for the occasion, and the deck was decorated. The actual ceremony was short; but covered both the legalities and their desires. And so, they were married.
Following the ceremony, we had a small cake cutting and toasting and then the rain shower pretty much stopped. This was good, since M & B had invited friends to do a "drive-by wedding parade," if they wished and Bonnie had invited some of her friends from her book club, etc. to join in. We had set up a canopy in our driveway to provide some shelter for the wedding party in case of rain (which was anticipated), and the "parade" was, perhaps, more "drive-by" than "parade," but I do believe that a good time was had by all. Even the rain quickly tapered off to just a little drizzle.
All in all, it was quite a celebration and, as I (as "Officiant") said at the time, "'celebration' is the right term, I think, because a ceremony, such as this, does not create a marriage, it acknowledges that such a relationship exists." A ceremony may be required to satisfy legal requirements, but I've been watching Maggi (and Brian) for a good while now and I firmly believe that in every sense but legally, they have been married for some time. Their relationship clearly makes them both happier and more complete than they were before and I, for one, am very happy that they found each other.
So, now I am a Minister with nothing much to do and little real interest in "ministering." I guess my payoff for this (other than seeing the joy on Maggi's face) was having both of my daughters refer to me as "Reverend Doctor Daddy." I confess that that is something that I would never have predicted, and it still makes me smile. I guess if you live long enough....
I'll be back in a couple of weeks with something more normal, I expect. Of course, these days, one never knows ....
P.S. I will also confess that the whole experience was a bit like having a flashback to playing the Stage Manager in Our Town, but with fewer lines and no rehearsal. Not like when Kate and Ty were married and all I had to do was put on a tux and walk her down the aisle. Still, both experiences are quite special for me, and always will be.