Reflections on Being the Celebrant

Those of you who know me well know that I always reflect on the experiences of my life — wanting, I suppose, to wring every last ounce of meaning out of what comes my way.

Mary, mother-of-the-bride and Catholic like me in background, reminded me that “celebrant” is a very Catholic term. “Officiant” might have been more secular and not lead anyone to think I was going to come up with grace before the reception dinner. 🙂

Whatever it’s called, the chance to be part of a young couple’s most important day is a wonderful experience. If you ever have a chance to do it, don’t hesitate. There are models online to help you help the couple put something together. The Universal Life Church Monastery will give you the credential you need to legally officiate in most states. Getting ordained is free; you then pay for various wedding celebrant packages and for state-specific requirements. Minnesota asked for a notarized letter from ULC stating that my ordination is in current good standing; $18. You don’t have to meet a minimum education level to get ordained, or say you believe anything in particular, or pass a test. You just have to affirm the spirituality within all of us. That means checking a box. You don’t, I suppose, even have to mean it. No one asks.

When I began working with Dustin and Emily, I said that they might expect 20 or 30 or 50 or more years together. So what, exactly, were they committing to in getting married? That prompted a deep and meaningful conversation, which culminated in their wedding last Saturday. I’m eager to post pics of me conducting the ceremony, and will when the official wedding photographers produce their copious work. That, apparently, may take some months.

Inevitably, their wedding took me back to my 32 year marriage to Jerry. That number stopped in 2002 with his sudden death. But I thought about what we’d committed to, although I’m not sure either of us could have articulated it at the time. We committed to having each other’s back, always and forever and with deepest love.

At some point, really hard things come to all of us. Life is just like that. No matter how strong we are, how self-sufficient, how brave, there are events in life that threaten to take us down. In that moment, we turn to the person we trust most in all the world — perhaps a spouse, but not always — as a safe place to share our vulnerability and pain, and to be comforted and held and assured that it’s going to be all right, that this too shall pass, that one day we will feel joy again. Whether we are married or have lifelong partners or trusted siblings or dear friends, that’s the person to whom we reach out.

Jerry and I committed to be that person for each other, to be the person who says, “You are loved. You are not alone. And it will be all right.”

What it didn’t know, couldn’t have known until Jerry died, is that such an assurance, once given, does not vanish with death. Once you know that you are loved in that way, the assurance that you are not alone transcends even death.

I didn’t say that at Emily and Dustin’s wedding, because who wants a Gloomy Gus celebrant who talks about death. But I’m saying it here, because I saw in them the same kind of commitment that Jerry and I made to each other. I know that Emily reads the blog, so here it is.

I wish you and Dustin fair winds in your marriage, and when those winds turn momentarily hard and cold, I know that you will turn to each other, and that your need will be met with love and assurance and comfort. I know that what you promised each other last Saturday is there for good; it will never end.

Blessings on you both, with love from Jerry and Pam.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on Being the Celebrant

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