How To Earn Almost $21 Officiating Marriages


Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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33 Responses

  1. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Damn, Sam. Not only is your chili more popular than mine, you’ve also made nearly $21 more than I have officiating marriage ceremonies.

    I am not worthy.Report

  2. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    As for your remarks, my advice is: keep them short. People are hungry.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Burt Likko says:

      And they want to dance, too.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Someone should really mention this to the Catholic Church.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Seriously, anyone who complains about the length of Christian weddings has not been to a traditional south Indian Brahmin (TSIB) wedding. You guys have it easy with the ceremony taking at most what 4 hours. A TSIB wedding takes place over three days. And the first day involves waking up at some ungodly hour in the morning (everything is supposed to start before the sun rises) and about 8 hours of fasting and chanting prayers in front of a sacrificial fire.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I went to my first non-Jewish wedding during Summer 2013 and it was a Catholic ceremony. I was surprised by the length and told it was short as Catholic weddings go because we were back to back with another ceremony and needed to be on a bit of a quick pace.

        Jewish ceremonies are about 20-30 minutes long.

        The converse is that all my protestant friends are shocked when I say that services for the High Holidays last about three hours or more and really religious Jews will stay in prayer all day. I’m told that Protestant services are usually about 45 minutes to an hour.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Why the desire to make weddings miserable?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @will-truman : Truth in advertising?


      • Avatar Murali in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        If you’re going to have such a short wedding ceremony, why not just elope?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I remember the one jewish wedding i went to taking a long time (at least an hour, probably more like an hour and a half. maybe more). Might have had something to do with being bilingual, though.Report

    • Avatar Sam in reply to Burt Likko says:

      My plan was to limit my presentation about how unlikely it is that the two people standing before the crowd stay married thanks to the evils of gay marriage to a 200-slide Power Point presentation and then quickly work through the vows.Report

  3. Avatar zic says:

    there’s no right way to be married. Or perhaps, there are an infinite number of right ways to be married. Or perhaps, the only right way to be married is what works for the two people who are married.

    Loud applause.

    I know couples who aren’t ‘married,’ but they sure are in a life-long committed relationship, and are, in every sense of my notion of committed relationship, married in their hearts. Some don’t want the institutions of state involved. Others, can’t have that institutional blessing — either because their variant of married isn’t legal or they’ve got an old legal marriage on the books that’s long since dissolved. To me, marriage is in the heart and the living life together, and it won’t easily line up with a rule book.

    Nice post, Sam. Thank you. And I, too prefer casual weddings where the focus is not on the ceremony but the living.Report

  4. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    The best officiating comment I ever heard was from a Rabi, who essentially said:

    “You two may remember when you came to me and asked me to marry you, that I instructed you to look at each other with fully open eyes from that moment till today, to make sure that you knew what you were getting yourselves into. And now, today, I want to tell you to spend the rest of your lives with your eyes half closed, because trust me, it’s easier that way and you’ll be a lot happier.”Report

  5. Avatar Maribou says:

    “My parents came, because they would have murdered me if they hadn’t been invited…”

    Jaybird’s mama was our sole attendee for the same reason. Well, actually, she wouldn’t have murdered us, but she did *literally* threaten to hex us. Also we needed a witness, might as well be the hex-threatenin’ lady.

    (She later managed to forget all about said hexing. Which really caused me problems because I’d been relying on her witness to trump Jay in the “whether Maribou said obey in her wedding vows” argument (I didn’t, obvs.), and once she demonstrated her unreliability in witnessing matters by forgetting about the hexing, I was forced to fall back on, “I MOST CERTAINLY DID NOT KNOCK IT OFF RIGHT NOW,” which wasn’t nearly as much fun.)Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Maribou says:

      but she did *literally* threaten to hex us.

      She wouldn’t really. But I bet she’d have totally threatened it, and that you both took it seriously.

      /one hedgewitch saluting another.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to zic says:

        It’s a lot of fun to tease her with it, especially since she was raised fundamentalist and still is evangelical.

        “Ma, really, I still can’t believe that you FORCED us to LIVE IN SIN!!!”

        “I never!”


        “Oh, that.”


      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        four days?

        That’s not a sin. Once your intended, and the joining is imminent, it’s okay. Just like it’s okay if the baby’s born six or seven months after the wedding.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to zic says:

        ehheheheheh. it’s like she’s in the room with us! 😀Report

  6. Avatar Kim says:

    No parents attended my wedding.
    I may have already stated it was at the county jail
    (the judge offered to officiate in a jail cell…)Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Kim says:



      • Avatar Kim in reply to zic says:

        Oh, no, the details get better.
        They required exact change in order to get the judge to officiate.
        It’s over $50 and they want exact change.
        Obviously, we don’t have that on us…

        Did I mention the computer system went down?
        They weren’t sure they were actually allowed to let us get married…
        (and we weren’t sure it was actually entered into “the system”)Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to zic says:

        Hi, Mom, I’m getting married!
        “April 15th.”
        Mom starts to look at next april the 15th, alongside one of her “best friends”.
        “Oh, no, you can’t possibly get married then — Teri’s already got something planned! How about next June?”
        “No, mom, in a month.”
        (She didn’t believe me.)Report

  7. Avatar zic says:

    You know, my sweetie and I, we’re not very romantic in traditional ways. Our idea of a hot date is a used book store, an antique store (one with old buttons and knitting needles and ham radio equipment, please!), a beach with sea glass, foraging for something in the woods.

    And we didn’t have a big deal wedding; I refused to hide and make a big appearance and walk down the isle. We got married at our house, and I wanted to greet my friends and family as they arrived. When everybody was gathered, we stood in a circle and said our vows in the sunshine on our deck. A friend played and sang a song I wrote, you can listen to it here, without a vocal part; that’s my sweetie on piano.

    We’ve always said we’d like to do it again. Stand somewhere we love, and re-pledge our lives together.

    I wondered if anyone else had considered this?Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to zic says:

      Since none of my family could be at our wedding, Jay and I talked about renewing our vows on our 5th anniversary, back home where I grew up, so that everyone could come… then it became 10th… then 15th… then my brother decided to get married on the 15th year… then everything familial imploded rather, and now, I don’t know. We might some day. Maybe for our 25th?Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

      Yes, that anniversary creep happens incredibly fast. We’re coming up on 34, yet the wedding seems like it was just a few weeks ago.Report

  8. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    My experience was quite a bit different than what the rest of you mentioned. The size of our wedding was largely dictated by my in-laws when they slid a piece of paper with our budget across the table one night after dinner at their house. When I saw the number and realized it was about the same amount that my parents paid for their first house, I knew I was in for a long 10 months of planning. Some background: My mother-in-law has been helping with wedding planning at their church for many years and has seen a LOT of weddings. My wife is also their only daughter. The biggest factor was also that they have no family in Louisville. It’s just them and my wife. So they really wanted to bring all of their family together in their adopted hometown just one time and throw a hell of a party.

    So our wedding had about 200 attendees and it was quite a production. The audacity of it didn’t change the importance of what we said to each other during the ceremony. The vows meant a lot to us and of course they would have been just as powerful in front of a few relatives in a barn. But in some ways it did feel more powerful because we were making these promises in front of so many witnesses.

    One little logistical detail I recommend: See your spouse-to-be before the wedding. It’s a silly tradition to not do so. I insisted on this and after some coaxing my wife agreed. We met in a small chapel in the back of the church and had a few minutes alone. It really helped with the nerves. Afterwards we went ahead and took most of our photos which I think the guests appreciated when they didn’t have to wait so long for us at the reception.

    And have a private table at the reception for just the two of you. Guests will actually leave you alone so you can eat and the wedding party can just sit with their spouses or friends instead of trying to make small talk with people they met the day before at rehearsal.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      I insisted on this and after some coaxing my wife agreed. We met in a small chapel in the back of the church and had a few minutes alone. It really helped with the nerves.

      This is such a wonderful suggestion.

      Afterwards we went ahead and took most of our photos which I think the guests appreciated when they didn’t have to wait so long for us at the reception.

      You mean you had the photos take when you met, before the wedding? That’s a wonderful suggestion, too. In many of the weddings I’ve attended recently, so much time is given to staging the photos that the bride and groom seem to miss the event. This makes me very sad.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to zic says:

        We took probably 90% of the photos before the wedding. All we had to do afterwards were a few quick photos with some relatives that showed up late. I think we made it to the reception about 40 minutes after the guests which is pretty quick compared to other experiences I have had. I went to one wedding where it was over 2 hours and the guests were all half-ripped on free drinks before the bride & groom arrived. They paid very little attention to the big entrance and it just went downhill from there.Report

  9. Avatar Stella B. says:

    We reserved a spot on the beach (free), paid the county to deputize a friend as deputy county recorder for the day ($50) and walked over to a nice restaurant for lunch afterwards (~20 guests at about $40 per plus cake cutting fee). Now we have a nice restaurant pre-selected for anniversary dinners.Report

  10. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    You must be terrible. 😉
    My friend Lori got licensed for roughly the same reason and got roped into three more in the same year. I don’t think anyone has ever paid her though. She could have made $80 by now!Report

  11. Avatar Damon says:

    I’d been living with my future wife for a number of years when we decided to get married. We’d already bought the house, so…

    We got married on a beach in the Carribean. Most of the cost of the “wedding” was actually the honeymoon since we were there a week, got married right after the minimum stay and the required time needed to notify the locals in case they wanted to object. The entire wedding took 40 mins, 20 for the pictures. Best idea ever. No one but us the officiant, photographer, and a witness.Report

  12. Avatar Matty says:

    I believe I’ve mentioned in the past I’m a big fan of the approach in continental Europe, my brother got married in the Netherlands and the entire ceremony consisted of the officiant explaining in English what he was about to ask in Dutch then asking it. The questions themselves.

    “Do you A take B to be your husband/wife, and do you accept the responsibilities the law places on married persons?”

    That’s it – I would estimate with the translation, getting people seated etc the whole thing took 10 minutes tops. The rest of the day was for the couple to celebrate how they wanted to.Report